||Saileag, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe,
Sgurr na Carnach and Sgurr Fhuaran
|The ridge leading to Sgurr
||Location: Glen Shiel.
||Accommodation: Cluanie Inn at the east end of the
glen. Youth Hostel at
Ratagan (2.5km along Loch Duich from Shiel Bridge) Kintail Lodge (hotel) at
Inversheil. Campsite at Shiel Bridge.
||Transport: The A87 runs along Glen Shiel with a number
of buses per day.
||Trip Date: 30 June 1993
A classic day out on the Scottish hills is the traverse of the Five
Sisters of Kintail. This range forms the rugged and steep north wall of Glen
Shiel. The slopes dropping into Glen Sheil rise in great sweeps of heather and
grass up to scree and crags on the tops. Luckily for the walker there are
several long ridges climbing onto the range and a couple of accessible bealachs
(cols). The Five Sisters consist of 3 Munros, a Top (above 914m but not
considered separate peaks) and a hill - Sgurr na Moraich at 876m. The Munros
Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe (peak of the black chest, 1027m)
Sgurr Fhuaran (meaning obscure, 1068m). and
Sgurr na Carnach (1002m - a new Munro in August 1997).
The Top is Sgurr nan Saighead (peak of the arrows, 929m).
This route includes the Munro of Saileag (little heel, 959m) and so may
make the day a bit strenuous - thus a couple of exit routes avoiding the last
couple of Sisters are included.
The day starts at a point along the A87 about 1.75 kilometres east of
the bridge at the site of the 1719 Battle of Glenshiel. Here there is a wide
break in the blanket of spruce that stretches from the bridge to almost Cluanie
Inn. If you are based at the Ratagan Youth Hostel the day will start earlier with a walk
along the shores of Loch Duich on a country road to Shiel Bridge. A bus can be
There is a bit of a path heading directly north up onto the open
hillside. This continues steeply and indistinctly up grass slopes until the top
of the ridge is gained at Bealach an Lapain (723m). I found it slightly easier
to traverse east a bit until over the spruce trees and then ascend (just as
steeply) up a wee ridge.
From the col, turn your back on the Five Sisters and head east up easy
grassy slopes on a well-defined path. Within an hour the broad top of Saileag
is reached. This gives a good view back westwards to the rest of the days
walking. Fit walkers can continue along the ridge to bag Sgurr a'Bhealaich
Dheirg (peak of the red pass, 1038m). The detour will add at least an hour to
the journey (3 kilometres of walking with 130m of ascent for the round trip).
Return from Saileag to the col - in mist make sure that you don't head off down
the north ridge from Saileag. The detour to Saileag will add less than 1.5
hours to the day with 240m of climbing.
|The summit cairn of Sgurr na Ciste
A distinct path wanders west along a narrower ridge from the col to the
Top of Sgurr nan Spainteach (peak of the Spaniards, c.990m). This is not
counted as one of the Five Sisters. Further on the ridge drops more abruptly to
the next col with a short rocky pitch giving some variety. Before the climb to
Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe is reached, the ridge develops a curious double crest
which may be confusing in misty weather. However by carefully following the
path there should be no difficulties. Your second Munro of the day is reached
up steep stony slopes to a large cairn.
Continue west and then NW down to the Bealach na Gaoithe (850m). The
path climbs north up a broad ridge to Sgurr na Carnach (your third Munro of the
day) and then descends its rather steep north side on a broad, ill-defined
ridge to the Bealach na Carnach (868m). The steep and bouldery south face of
Sgurr Fhuaran looks daunting but the path makes an easier than expected zigzag
progress up to the summit of the Munro.
If you are just bagging Munros or want to shorten your day then Glen
Shiel can be quickly reached down the west ridge from Sgurr Fhuaran - a fairly
steep descent over stoney and then grassy ground. Once level ground is reached,
walk downstream to the bridge just short of Loch Shiel and cross it to get to
the A87 road.
|Finally, the clouds part to show
Sheil Bridge, Loch Duich and Ratagan (YH)
To continue along the ridge, drop down the west ridge and then NW across
the northwest face of Sgurr Fhuaran to a grassy col. The more adventurous can
take a direct route straight down the west edge of the northwest face. This
starts with a scramble down a rocky gully and then a pathless descent through
boulders and little crags until the col is reached. Beyond the col, the path
climbs up steadily to Sgurr nan Saighead with an interesting little drop on the
east. Over the sharp summit of the Top, a fine narrow ridge drops down and then
up to Beinn Bhuidhe - the steep drop to the left is easily appreciated via the
views down the several clefts that the path skirts.
Beinn Bhuidhe provides another short-cut back to Glen Shiel by dropping
down its NW ridge to a col at 443m. A steep grassy slope then drops to Loch
Shiel, the bridge across River Shiel and the A87 road. A slightly better route
is to descend west to the Allt a'Chruinn to pick up a path that follows the
stream. This allows you to inspect the waterfall on the steep lower slopes of
Sgurr na Moraich above the head of Loch Duich. Another advantage is that once
you have gained the A87 there is a hotel just down the road towards Shiel
To complete the traverse of the Five Sisters, descend NNE from Beinn
Bhuidhe to a small col and then climb up the south-east ridge of Sgurr na
Moraich to its rounded, grassy summit. Glen Shiel is reached by following the
Allt a'Chruinn. You can drop down to the path by the stream by either
descending south and then west to below the 443m col or by descending sharply
WNW to get to the path just above the waterfall.