Slioch would have shone in better weather – [# 274]

Slioch (981m)

  • Pronunciation:             Shlierch
  • Translation:                  (possibly) The Spear
  • Total distance:              19.4km
  • Total time:                     6hrs 14mins
  • Total ascent:                  1245m
  • Weather:                        Blustery and wet. Gale force winds and severe wind-chill at the summit
  • Start / end location:     Parking at Incheril just off the A832 by Kinlochewe. [OS Map Sheet 19 – Grid Ref: NH 037 624]
  • Map:                                A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

A spectacular rainbow forms in front of a stormy Slioch - Munro in the background

Slioch, when seen from the opposite side of Loch Maree, is a spectacular mountain. Its lower slopes rise steeply from the loch-side to reach a high rocky escarpment, where a precipitous ring of cliffs guards its upper reaches. These cliffs look all but impenetrable from the west.

Between the showers - looking west across the Kinlochewe River to the mountains of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

Wild goats on the slopes of Slioch

This was the glorious view that we got two days ago when we travelled over from Gairloch on the west coast to Kinlochewe where we’ve camped for the last couple of nights. We had hoped to climb Slioch yesterday but the weather was simply atrocious with heavy rain all day coupled with bouts of thunder, lightning and hail. It was so bad that it would actually have been foolhardy to have ventured out.

However, as we now have so few days remaining to complete our last nine Munros, we can’t afford to put off any further ascents due to the “inclement” weather. So, today, despite the conditions remaining very windy and wet, we left the ‘van at the Kinlochewe campsite and headed a kilometre east along the A832 to the tiny hamlet of Incheril and the start of our ascent of Slioch.

From the car park at the road end just passed Incheril primary school, we joined the footpath that ran from Kinlochewe to the coastal village of Gairloch. Under “normal” circumstances this path would have been excellent underfoot – but after the extraordinary amount of rain we’ve had the path was actually flowing like a shallow burn due to the surface water run-off.

The Abhainn an Fhasaigh river rages and boils its way through a deep canyon

We walked along the north side of the Kinlochewe River for just over 3km, passing through groves of alder and rowan as well as tall bracken that was just beginning to turn various hues of auburn. We had to cross several fast flowing burns although none caused us any difficulty. At the Allt Chnaimhean burn, which was quite wide, we came across a herd of wild goats also trying to cross. These are normally extremely surefooted animals completely at home as they move effortlessly on steep slopes and rocky crags – but for once I think that we made a better job of crossing the boulder stepping-stones that they did. We watched as one or two of the goats slipped off the wet rocks and ended up taking a dip in the burn whilst many others seemed to decide it would be more prudent to try and cross the burn higher up – perhaps where it wasn’t as deep.

We crossed without incident and carried on to where the river entered the south-east head of Loch Maree – this loch has often been recognised as the “most beautiful in Scotland” on account of its situation nestled beneath the hills of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve on one side and Slioch on the other, and home to a number of pretty islands clad in Caledonian Pines.

The nose of Sgurr Dubh on the southern flank of Slioch seen from Gleann Bianasdail

On the north side of the loch we followed the path around a tiny bay or inlet and then just beyond reached another river draining into the loch, the Abhainn Fhasaigh. Unlike the meandering course of the Kinlochewe River, the waters of the Abhainn Fhasaigh were being powered through a steep-sided canyon as it followed its course through Gleann Bianasdail high above. It was cascading down countless waterfalls in a boiling fury with its roar reaching a crescendo as we neared its eastern banks. Luckily there was a sturdy footbridge spanning the river, as without it there would have been absolutely no hope of crossing.

Ascending from Coire na Sleaghaich with Sgurr an Tuill Bhain in the background

As soon as we crossed the Fhasaigh we turned NE off the main path and began the straightforward, but always wet and muddy, climb into Gleann Bianasdail. Our route followed the course of the river for a kilometre until we neared a craggy rock face that forced the river and the path to kink to the right. This was the point that signalled us to leave the path on a heading due north and to climb to the col between Sgurr Dubh (738m) and Meall Each (525m). As we ascended, the showers returned as the surrounding peaks became once again firmly shrouded in very thick mist and cloud.

A small lochan between Sgurr Dubh and Slioch catches the light with the hills of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve shrouded in cloud in the back

From the col at 490m we passed beneath the nose of Sgurr Dubh on its eastern side. It certainly looked possible to make an ascent directly up Sgurr Dubh (although it would have been quite steep), and from there to have gained access to the upper slopes of Slioch. However, today, we decided to swing round beneath Sgurr Dubh and then ascend westward into Coire na Sleaghaich. From the back end of the corrie a couple of straightforward approaches (on either side of a small peak) could be climbed to gain access to the broad ridge that connected Sgurr Dubh to Slioch. We chose to climb to the northern side of the little peak via an easy-angled diagonally traversing path, which brought us out on the ridge beside a couple of small lochans. The wind speed had increased noticeably, gusting gale-force, as we entered Coire na Steaghaich and then again as when reached the ridgeline.

The Trig Point on Slioch - which is actually 1m lower than the true summit 250m away to the north

Once on the ridge, we passed to the east (right hand side) of the eastern most lochan and zigzagged our way up the rocky, scree ridge to reach an easy-angled plateau, where we then turned to the NW and climbed to Slioch’s Trig Point at 980m. The Trig Point, however, is actually 1m lower than the true summit of Slioch that lay 250m away to the north. So, in deteriorating weather we continued northward, descending a little before re-ascending to reach the summit cairn at 981m or 3,218ft.

Elaine at a bleak, wet, cold and very windy cairn on the summit of Slioch

We didn’t linger on the summit any longer than to take a photograph before we retraced our route passed the Trig Point and back to the col by the two lochans. We descended back through Coire na Sleaghaich and then down to the bridge across Abhainn Fhasaigh river, where we paused on the bridge to admire the sheer power that was cascading through the canyon beneath our feet. A mixture of bright interludes and showers accompanied us back along the Kinlochewe River until we reached the end of our walk at Incheril.

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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1 Response to Slioch would have shone in better weather – [# 274]

  1. Hi Cammy and Elaine,

    I hope my ‘comment’ finds you well and in good spirits.
    I remember reading an ealier comment that you were still considering your careers post munro’ing. Could you email as I may have some opportunities in the birmingham area for both of you.

    Look forward to hearing from you

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