Corbett Bagging in Sutherland

Monday 03 June 2013:

Ben Loyal (13.4 km, 801 m)

Tuesday 04 June 2013:

Cranstackie + Beinn Spionnaidh (14.4 km, 1052 m)

Wednesday 05 June 2013:

Arkle (17.3 km, 956 m)

Day 1, Monday 03 June 2013

Ben Loyal

13.4 km/801 m/05:30 hrs

Corbett: Ben Loyal (No. 50)

The spell of nice warm weather continued, and I had not been up North for a long time, so I took the opportunity to tackle the most northerly Corbetts. I drove up the A836 via Altnaharra, and got the first view of Ben Hope on the way to Tongue.

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Above the Kyle of Tongue I had to stop for a photo, I had completely forgotten how beautiful it was up here!

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At the start of the private road to Ribigill I squeezed into the last parking space and was on my way at 11:45. A good track leads past Ribigill farm and onto open moorland, and Ben Loyal ahead looks impressive.

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The footbridge across the Allt Lòn Malmsgaig at Cunside that is marked on the Explorer map doesn’t exist, but in the dry weather the water level was very low and I could easily get across with dry feet.

Sgòr Chaonasaid.

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First I followed a clear path up, but then it seemed to contour around the hill instead of ascending. I left the path and climbed straight up the hillside towards Sgòr Chaonasaid.

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Just like last week on Maol Odhar, I came across several large pieces of an aircraft wreckage.

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View E.

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Almost there…

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Eventually I arrived on the ridge and climbed on top of the “summit tor” of Sgòr Chaonasaid. Ben Loyal ridge with An Caisteal in the distance.

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Creag Riabhach and Loch na Creige Riabhaich.

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The Kyle of Tongue.

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Looking back to Sgòr Chaonasaid.

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An Caisteal, the summit of Ben Loyal – from this perspective it looks almost impenetrable, but there is an easy path up around the back.

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Ben Loyal summit trig point with Ben Hope in the distance.

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Loch na Creige Riabhaich.

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View SW.

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Sgòr Chaonasaid with the Kyle of Tongue in the background.

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Looking back to An Caisteal.

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Creag Riabhach.

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I didn’t find the start of the descent path, but could see it further down, so I just headed towards it. Soon my way was blocked by some large crags, but after making a few detours around them, I could join the path I had used on the way up.

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I took a break by the stream crossing near Cunside and enjoyed sitting in the sun for a while before I returned to the car park.

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I drove to Durness and checked into the Sango Sands Campsite for two nights. After pitching my “car camping tent”, and having a quick shower, I went over to the pub for a bar meal and a few drinks.

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Day 2, Tuesday 04 June 2013

Cranstackie + Beinn Spionnaidh

14.4 km/1052 m/07:15 hrs

Corbetts: Cranstackie + Beinn Spionnaidh (Nos. 51 + 52)

First light at 04:30.

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From the campsite I drove down the A838 and parked at the disused quarry one km S of Carbreck. I followed the track to Rhigolter and climbed up the hillside behind the farm buildings.

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Allt Chalbhach Coire.

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Calbhach Coire.

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At the head of the corrie, I ascended over boulders and grass to the bealach between the two Corbetts.

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Coire an Uinnseinn.

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Beinn Spionnaidh.

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The ascent to Cranstackie – grassy at first, but further up the terrain becomes bouldery.

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Crags above Coire an Uinnseinn.

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Boulder field near the summit.

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Cranstackie summit.

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Faraid Head and Balnakeil Bay.

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Foinaven.

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Descent to the bealach.

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On the bealach.

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Just like Cranstackie, the lower slopes of Beinn Spionnaidh are easy-angled and covered with grass.

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Looking back to Cranstackie.

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Hillwalkers on the summit (zoomed).

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I had been hoping that the approach to Beinn Spionnaidh’s summit would be easier going than its neighbour’s, but again, a boulder field has to be negotiated.

This cairn marks the start of the descent route, not the summit unfortunately!

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The summit is a few hundred metres further along the plateau.

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Beinn Spionnaidh summit trig point.

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My descent route along the NW spur and Cioch Mhòr.

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View back up from the bealach.

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In the meantime, the weather had improved and it was sunny and warm. I sat down by the tiny lochan on the bealach for an extended break in the sun.

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When it was time to move on, I continued along the wide grassy ridge back down to Rhigolter Farm.

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View from the River Dionard to Foinaven.

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Last look back to Beinn Spionnaidh and Cranstackie.

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It was just before 17:00 when I got back to my car, and I rushed back to Durness because I wanted to visit Cocoa Mountain at the Balnakeil Craft Village, but didn’t know what time they would be closing. Luckily, the shop is open until 18:00, and I could buy a couple of gift boxes (and a small one for myself :mrgreen:).

When I got back to the campsite, I took a short walk to the beach until it was time for the pub.

Sango Bay.

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Viewing platform.

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Sango Bay.

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Then it was back to Sango Sands Oasis for a bar meal, this time I got a table by the window and was being watched by a black-headed gull…

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Day 3, Wednesday 05 June 2013

Arkle

17.3 km/956 m/06:30 hrs

Corbett: Arkle (No. 53)

In July 2010 I had spent a couple of days at the campsite in Scourie and had climbed Foinaven during this stay. Since then I had not been so far up north again, and now was the perfect occasion to climb its direct neighbour Arkle, at last!

I parked in the small parking area halfway between Achfary and the S end of Loch Stack, and while I was walking along the private road towards Airdachuilinn, a car drove past and the driver offered me a lift to Lone. I declined politely, as it was such a lovely day and I was enjoying the walk (at the end of the day and with tired legs, I might have accepted it).

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Rhododendrons at Airdachuilinn.

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Two large boulders form an “entrance gate” to a short section through forestry.

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Crags around Coir Uairidh.

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Ben Stack.

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After the ford across the Allt na Dige Mòire I left the track and climbed up the hillside towards Meall Aonghais over a mixture of rock slabs, heather and grass.

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The upper part of the Allt na Dige Mòire looks as if it has been dried out for a long time.

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When I reached the bealach NW of Meall Aonghais, the views down the other side were breathtaking!

Foinaven and Loch an Easain Uaine.

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Lochan na Faoileige.

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Arkle’s SE top.

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The views across to Foinaven were stunning – the summit Ganu Mòr on the left with a cloud cap on…

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… and Coir’ a’ Chruiteir, already clear of clouds.

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Heading towards the summit.

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Arkle’s summit lies roughly in the middle of this long ridge.

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Ben Stack.

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Near the summit, the ridge becomes narrower.

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Am Bàthaich and Loch an Easain Uaine.

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Short and straightforward scrambling section before the summit.

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View NW.

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Arkle summit cairn.

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After a long break, sheltering from the wind behind the cairn, I returned along the ridge.

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Foinaven, now cloud-free!

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Instead of returning the same way around the top of Meall Aonghais, I decided to walk close to the dried-out stream bed because the going on the grass was a lot easier than on the stony ridge.

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The grassy slope becomes even easier further down, and there are a few cairns marking the best route.

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Eventually, the small cairns lead to a proper path which joins the track along the Allt Horn.

Looking back up the descent route.

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The next time I would use this route for the ascent as well, it is more direct and the terrain is easier. The start of it is marked by a little cairn beside the track.

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View back to Arkle.

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The (locked) bothy at Lone.

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Last look to Arkle.

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Another successful trip with great weather and four Corbetts (and with Ben Loyal and Arkle two very attractive ones) “in the bag” 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Corbett Bagging in Sutherland

  1. Fabulous photos of beautiful country. I love this area and your post has done it justice.

    Meall Horn and Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill together make another great hike in this area. If MLCMD was in the Lakes, boots would have worn it a couple of feet lower.

    • Many thanks for your comment!

      Actually, I’m planning a five-day backpacking trip over some Corbetts and Grahams in Sutherland and Assynt, including Meall Horn and MLCMD, I just need a long enough spell of good weather for it!

      I’m really looking forward to getting to know this area better 🙂

  2. Beautiful photos of a beautiful area. We had a week up at Durness to do the Munros and I did some of the Corbetts and Ben Stack. I did Ben Spionnaidh and Cranstackie from Loch ‘Oribul as I call it – was a bit tedious from that side but I wanted to be different I think 😉

    Can’t wait to do Arkle – what a lovely peak – I’ve been wanting to do that for years (and Foinaven) – even before I started peak-bagging in Scotland and used to go up with my mother in the camping van.

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