The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday 15 May 2016

Biod an Fhithich, The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine

(Note: I know I’ve wittered on far too much in this post. I was minded to write a short version for the blog and a long version for myself, but as I use my blog as my main resource to remember stuff that I’ve done, I’ve decided to post the long version. For those who want the short version, here’s a one sentence summary: A walk in which I thoroughly exhausted myself visiting the three Marilyns named above (two of which are also Munros) on the most perfect of mountain days.)

Saturday 14 May


Biod an Fhithich (NG951148; 644m), The Saddle (NG934131; 1010m), Sgurr na Sgine (NG946113; 946m)

Waking too early and peeking out of a window, it was immediately clear that my planned 3.5 hour outing up a nearby Corbett was going to be a waste of another fine day. A replan was had over breakfast with the decision that I would go up The Saddle (a very striking Munro which we had passed at close quarters on our Dover to Cape Wrath walk in 2011) and either the Marilyn of Biod an Fhithich (which we had also come very close to in 2011) or a second Munro (Sgurr na Sgine).

By twenty to eight, I was out walking, and took to the Loch Quoich path assuming that there would be a trodden line taking me over to the path I wanted, a few hundred yards distant. If there was such a trodden line then I missed it and thus what was already to be quite a demanding day was made more so when I found myself yomping uphill for half a mile, finally joining the path after half an hour/1 mile/230m of ascent.

At the col between Meall Odhar and my Marilyn of Biod an Fhithich, a decision had to be made as to which two hills out of the three I was going to do and as I was standing so close to this one it would have been silly to pass it by. I have no idea what the definition of a Graham is, but this hill is on that list as well, which perhaps explains why there was a surprisingly well trodden line leading up to its summit.

Up to this point, not a soul in the world knew where I was (and, in fact, as I type this they probably still don’t, because Mick doesn’t appear to have found any phone reception yet on his TGOC route), so I paused to text Mick with my plan for the day (assessing the chance of me going up Sgurr na Sgine as ‘probably won’t’), before heading down to rejoin the path up to The Saddle.

The Forcan Ridge is apparently a fine scrambling route with plenty of exposure. I don’t do exposure if I can help it, and I definitely don’t do it when I’m by myself and not a soul in the world knows where I am. So, past the Forcan Ridge turn I went and the long way round was taken to get me up The Saddle. With snow lying over the upper reaches of the path, it was a steep by-passing route in places, and I must have been using my walking poles too much to heave myself up, as I managed to pull my tricep. It was, and still is, quite sore in certain movements.


Atop The Saddle, with part of the Forcan Ridge behind me.

My heart did fall a little on reaching the trig point at the top to realise that the pointy bit at the top of the Forcan Ridge looked higher (I’ve since checked and I was right), so over to it I had to go. It was easy enough, except for a couple of steps (one bypassing a snow patch) where the drop sent me all weak at the knees.

By the time I was on the descent (oooh, that was a bit of a knee-killer as I bypassed the snow again at the top), I was eyeing up Sgurr an Sgine and talking myself into it. It was only 250m of extra ascent, after all (ha! Completely overlooked the extra ascent which would be needed to get back to Colin from there!), and it was only just over a kilometre from the Bealach Coire Mhalagain (which lies between it and The Saddle). Lunch was had at the bealach, then upwards I plodded.


Atop Sgurr na Sgine, with The Saddle behind me.

Reaching the top, I was really quite fatigued, and to get down I needed to go back over the hill’s NW summit then ascend the gorgeous looking Faochag ridge (which is actually a lovely gentle slope for most of its distance).

Five people were met at the top of Faochag. I’d seen various people up on the Forcan Ridge as I’d lunched at the bealach, and a whole group (who I think were probably TGO Challengers, and probably American by the way they were whooping about reaching the col) who reached my lunch spot about ten minutes after I’d vacated it, but these were the first people I’d seen close enough to talk to. The weather featured in conversation, and justifiably so on such a glorious afternoon.


Squeezing The Saddle and Biod an Fhithich into one slightly elongated photo.

Somehow, I’d pictured the descent route as a nice gentle stroll, which was a bit naive of me considering it drops the best part of 900m in 2km. By half way down I was so fatigued that I just wanted to be teletransported back to Colin, moreover as I’d run out of water a while before (crossing a good stream on my way up The Saddle I’d thought ‘I’ll fill my water bottle on the way back down’. I forgot and didn’t pass another opportunity until ten minutes before Colin). In the absence of a handy teletransportation machine in my pack, I had to walk, promising my poor weary legs that their ordeal was almost over.

Finally the road was before me, and Colin awaited just a minute away. Reaching him with my legs shaking with muscle fatigue, my first priority preparing myself a litre of electrolyte drink, followed swiftly by the inhalation of half a bag of jelly babies.

The distance for this outing wasn’t that far – 10.2 miles. It was the 5600’ of ascent, on top of the efforts of the preceding 9 days which put it into the ‘quite tiring’ category. However, I have no regrets about tiring myself out so. The conditions I enjoyed really were perfect for that outing.

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