Peter Walker: Track 4528 in area near Sgurr na Forcan, Glen Shiel to Loch Hourn and Loch Quoich (Britain)
The Forcan Ridge of The Saddle. Oh, and Sgurr na Sgine
Length: 14.5km, Creator time taken: 6h15m, Ascent: 1228m, Descent: 1228m
Places:Start at NG96776 14429, Sgurr na Forcan, The Saddle East Top [1974: Sgurr nan Forcan], The Saddle, The Saddle - Trig Point, Sgurr na Sgine NW Top, Sgurr na Sgine, Faochag West Top, Faochag, end at Start Logged as completed by 3
The Saddle is a somewhat prosaically-monikered peak rising across Glen Shiel from the much-photographed Five Sisters of Kintail. It sits slightly back from the road, and this situation renders the passing motorist largely unaware of its appeal; its scalloped spurs, steep slopes, deep corries and many summits. And most of all, a route of ascent that takes in one of Scotland's greatest mountain scrambles: the Forcan Ridge.
Having allowed myself a whole day of recovery from the travails of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, I parked up in the glen on another day of 'initial cloud that should clear later'. Having gone through the ritual of sunblock and Jungle Formula application, and spent a while doing the necessary surgery (ok then...applied a load of plasters) on my ruined heels, I essayed the highest risk manouevre of the day...getting across the A87, one of Britain's most spectacularly sited racetracks. This accomplished, I found the beginning of the stalkers path on the south side of the road and started upwards.
This path is glorious, meandering on the flat then zig-zagging up the steep and finally taking a determined traverse line to the col under the impressive little cone of Biod an Fhithich. The effort is relatively slight (as is the case with all good stalkers paths) and the views across and down to the glen are wonderful. At the col a relatively brief diversion would net you that peak, but I turned south along the hillwalkers path. The going is still straightforward, but gradually the Forcan Ridge starts to muster a conical form ahead.
At a steepening the timid could take the more straightforward route to The Saddle that contours under the ridge on its south side. But I'd been thinking about this route for more than 30 years so there'd be no sneaking round the side for me: initial slabs got me used to the feeling of rock in my hands before a (relative) levelling. Looking ahead the Forcan Ridge reared up formidably into the clouds (still in situ, unfortunately); a prospect that has made many aspirants wonder if this route is really 'just' scrambling?
Continuing a short way makes turns the diagonal view that's so intimidating into a head-on view that's impressive but more amenable. Up and up you go: direct up the crest has some great and somewhat exposed scrambling (in terms of seriousness I would categorise this as being similar to Kerry's Big Gun tackled directly, but a fair bit longer) but the hand and footwork can be softened a bit by taking the bypass paths that often exist on the right. Many tunes were hummed during this section, and the word 'feet!' uttered aloud quite often to remind myself of the main thing on which I needed to concentrate. Too soon you arrive at the tiny summit of Sgurr na Forcan itself, and just past this is the formidable Bad Step; a definite sharp drop on the crest. Aware of my solo situation, I elected to take the bypass on the left (south): an obvious narrow path leading down a steep slope to enter a gully that deposits you at the foot of the Bad Step's impressive prow.
The scrambling was a bit easier now, in and out of the mist but more importantly under or over some impressive rock crests (depending on mood). A steep path up the side of a more grassy promontory led up to the actual summit of The Saddle, with the slightly lower trig point a short way beyond across another narrow crest.
It's a superb belvedere from which to wander back and forth and go frantic trying to nail a good photo of the great route you've just climbed.
Anywhere else Sgurr na Sgine would seem to be a fine peak; here, alas, it feels slightly like an afterthought. Still: I picked my way down to the Bealach Coire Mhalagain with its sweet little lochans, before climbing the thin track up to the ridge south of Faochag. From here an up and down and in and out traverse leads to the cairn on Sgurr na Sgine. Steps were retraced before the brief ascent of Faochag...the last summit of the day and indeed the holiday. This peak looks hugely impressive from Glen Shiel, and it can be quite difficult to square that with its benign nature when approached from this direction.
That impression of cuddliness is quickly butchered once you leave its summit; the descent to Glen Shiel down its north-east ridge is a knee-meltingly unremitting 3000ft (I could say 900m but 3000ft feels like it better describes the experience). Toes were repeatedly rammed into the front of boots, sensation soon departed from my feet, all good character-building stuff, and at least this meant my heels weren't taking any more punishment. It's a descent that puts manners in you, but it ends eventually, and it's a short walk along the road (take care!) to get back to the start.
An excellent day, and no mistake.
Uploaded on: Thu, 15 Jul 2021 (16:56:09) Linkback: https://mountainviews.ie/track/4528/ To download GPS tracks you must be enrolled and logged in. See "Login or enrol", top right - quick and easy.
Comment created by simon3 Jul-20
osullivanm and I did the Forcan Ridge in, I think, 2002. Our landlady kindly told us that one of a party that had stayed with her earlier that year had fallen and died. It's hairy in places. :-)
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