A baking hot day – [# 218]

Sgurr Mor (1003m)

  • Pronunciation:             Skoor More
  • Translation:                  Big Peak
  • Total distance:             20.3km
  • Total time:                    6hrs 28mins
  • Total ascent:                 1343m
  • Weather:                       Glorious and sunny. Cloudless in the morning with only a few clouds developing in the afternoon. Extremely warm.
  • Start / end location:    Off-road parking at the head of Loch Arkaig – just 1km east of Strathan. [OS Map Sheet 33 – Grid Ref: NM 989 918]
  • Map:                                A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Strathan cottage at the head of Loch Arkaig with Streap (L) and Sgurr Thuilm (R) in the background

After a great week spent back down at our house in the Midlands, where we were able to catch up with many of our friends, it was now time for us to head back north and hit the Munro bagging trail once more.

Cameron cycling west along Glen Dessarry - Glendessarry Lodge can be seen on the hillside ahead

Sgurr Mor (L) and Sgurr an Fhuarain (R) from the bealach above Glendessarry Lodge

Yesterday we picked up our ‘van that we’d left parked at my parents house in Fort William and this morning we travelled a few miles north to just beyond the village of Spean Bridge on the A82. We found a suitable parking spot for the ‘van just a few hundred metres from the famous “Commando Memorial” – a fantastic larger-than-life bronze sculpture of three World War II commandos that commemorates the units that trained in the Lochaber area during the war.

From this parking spot we then used the car to travel westward along the entire length of Loch Arkaig. The road along the loch side is an especially narrow single-track road that winds and undulates wildly and where visibility is hampered by the tall thick bracken and shrubbery pressing in along the edges. Although it was a bit of a challenge driving along the road it would be fantastic on a bike.

At the end of the loch the public road stops and gives way to a private estate track that services the one or two houses that are situated beyond. A few cars were already parked on the verge at the end of the road so we found a suitable spot for our car a few hundred metres before the road end. From here we jumped on our bikes and cycled a few kilometres westward along Glen Dessarry.

Looking west from the summit of Sgurr Mor with Garbh Choich Mhor and Sgurr nn Ciche in the background

Just before we reached Glendessarry Lodge we arrived at a footpath that branched off the estate track on the right. Here we locked our bikes and headed north up the grassy slopes to the right hand side (east) of the Allt na Feithe burn. Our path was actually a set of twin indentations left by an all-terrain vehicle, which led us up to the broad bealach situated between Fraoch Bheinn (858m) on the left and Sgurr Mhurlagain (880m) on the right. This flat bealach could have been a very wet place indeed if the weather hadn’t been so dry for the past week or so. As it was, it was quite easy walking through deep grass and heather, despite the faint path being rather intermittent in places.

A close-up of Garbh Choich Mhor (L), Sgurr na Ciche (C) and Meall Buidhe (R) from the summit of Sgurr Mor

As we crossed northwards over the plateau of the bealach we were presented with an excellent view of Sgurr Mor and the neighbouring peak of Sgurr an Fhurain. A 2.5km ridge joined the two peaks and threw down a south-facing flank that dropped steeply from the crest-line right to the tributary of the River Kingie far below. Directly below the summit of Sgurr Mor a steep corrie (Cadha Riabhach) was etched into the hillside and from our vantage point at the bealach on the opposite side of Glen Kingie we could make out potential routes to the summit on either side of the corrie.

Cameron at the summit of Sgurr Mor

From the bealach we dropped to the tributary burn that fed into the River Kingie. En route we were plagued by biting clegs (a nasty type of horsefly) about 8-12mm in length. The females suck blood from horses and cattle – and with mouthparts capable of penetrating animal hide are more than capable of biting through human skin. Over the years that we’ve been enjoying the outdoors the only way that we’ve found of dealing with clegs is to let them first land on you where they then become quite easy to swat. The problem is that they can bite through your base-layer garments with ease (as I found out to my cost) and so we found ourselves in a constant state of paranoia as we kept a watchful eye out for any landing.

From the summit of Sgurr Mor ENE to Loch Quoich and beyond

When we reached the tributary burn we found it easy to cross after the spell of dry weather and once on the opposite side (northern bank) we followed a pathless course directly towards Cadha Riabhach, the steep-sided but shallow corrie below Sgurr Mor’s summit. Once we’d reached the lip of the corrie floor we chose to veer NE to reach the low point of the ridge connecting the summit to its neighbour of Sgurr an Fhuarain. It was a very hard slog up the relentless steep slopes to reach the ridgeline in the baking hot sunshine. Eventually the gradient of the slope eased as we approached the ridge, where we then turned left (west) and climbed the narrower ridge to the summit of Sgurr Mor at 1003m or 3,291ft.

East from the summit of Sgurr Mor towards Gairlich (R) and with Loch Quoich on the left

From the summit cairn we were provided with outstanding views in all directions. Not too far away the three peaks of Sgurr nan Coireachan, Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche that we climbed quite recently dominated the skyline to the west. To the northeast the Munros standing above Loch Quoich were all clearly visible with the seven peaks of the South Shiel Ridge poking through behind. The islands of Eigg, Rum and Skye could be viewed on the western horizon.

We stayed on the summit for a while and enjoyed our lunch before we descended steeply SW to the col below Sgurr Beag (890m). This col sat above the western edge of the corrie below Sgurr Mor’s summit where we followed a straightforward course down to the floor of the corrie before we regained our earlier upward route, which this time we followed back to reach the tributary of the River Kingie below. Once back across the burn we climbed slowly back up southward to reach the bealach that took us back over to Glen Dessarry and our locked bikes. We replenished our water supply from the Allt na Feithe burn before a very short bike ride of around 3km brought us back to our car – a bit dehydrated but glad to have completed the final Glen Dessarry Munro.

Elaine had the “pleasure” of driving the challenging Loch Arkaig road back to where we’d parked the ‘van and after a quick brew up of tea we drove further north to the excellent campsite at Morvich near Glen Shiel: ready for the next leg of our Munro-bagging adventure.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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