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Peter Walker: Track 4706 in area near Meall Aonghais, Durness to Loch Shin (Britain)
Arkle - Splendid peak, superlative steeplechaser
Length: 18.1km, Creator time taken: 4h45m, Ascent: 998m,
Descent: 998m

Places: Start at NC29779 40187, Meall Aonghais, Arkle South Top, Arkle, end at Start
Logged as completed by 1

Having sacked off the notion of a full traverse of Foinaven (for this holiday, anyway) with not enough in the tank to provide sufficient margin for error/incompetance on such a long and serious day, I settled for its smaller twin, Arkle. Both mountains gave their names to legendary racehorses, but while Foinaven was a 100-1 shot who was the beneficiary of the biggest pile-up in Grand National history in 1967, Arkle was (by common consent as well as by the Timeform indicator) the greatest steeplechaser of all time.

Arkle from the approach
So it was that the theme from 'Black Beauty' was rocking on my internal jukebox as I left the small parking spot off the A838 just south of Loch Stack. It was overcast but the impressive-looking Arkle seemed free of cloud, but it was obviously going to be a bit of a blowy one. A private road (usable on foot) lead above the east shore of the loch, past the house at Airdachuillin, then became a clear vehicular track as far as the cottages at Lone. Past the cottages the track forked, and I went left, through an impressive gateway of two huge boulders (where a family were enjoying a bit of a clamber) into a pinewood. Now the uphill began, through and out of the wood and alongside the stream of the Allt Horn as it flowed through an impressive gorge. The initial level stretch seemed to have warmed my legs up, and the climb seemed less debilitating than the efforts of the previous day.

The summit ridge of Arkle from the south top
The gradient eased and a short drop led to a stream crossing, and a level stretch to another stream. The main ascent is usually carried out up the hillside between these two streams, and I picked a line overlooking the nearside bank of the second one. There were the odd traces of a path to aid progress, so while steep initially it was not too onerous a task. The slope slackened as the stream gave out, and a slant up to the left took me over the lesser summit of Meall Aonghais. From here it seemed sensible to cut over to the line of the first stream, which was following an attractive course over various pavements of quartzite. Very nice it was too, eventually depositing me on a plateau adjacent to Arkle's south top, where the mountain's rocky character became predominant over any vestige of grass. From here the main summit can be seen at the other end of a curving ridge, sheets of rubble plunging down on either side with very impressive undercut cliffs decorating the headwall of the huge corrie on the east side. It was quite a scene, but Foinaven further east looked even more prodigious and forbidding, and definitely worth a return in better health.

Loch Stack from the narrow section of the ridge
Anyway, onward. A steep descent led to the lowest point of the ridge, and then a bouldery kilometre led to the top. The ridge is what some folk would consider 'narrow' for much of the way, and this seemed especially relevant in the periodically VERY strong wind; care was necessary, particularly during a section along a gorgeous rocky pavement. Alas/fortunately there was only about a kilometre of it before the cairn on the main summit. A few quick photos were taken, but then I scarpered, as the weather looked like it might worsen; smaller relative of Foinaven this might be, but it is still a serious mountain demanding respect.

On the descent I followed the first stream down the whole way back to the path along the Allt Horn; this proved to be a much more aesthetic line than that of the ascent, and managed to be both rockier and easier, somehow. Once back down it was an easy few miles back to the start (apart from the wind) as the heavens generously decided against opening.

Ben Stack

Uploaded on: Tue, 19 Jul 2022 (12:21:25)
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NOTE: ALL information such as Ascent, Length and Creator time taken etc should be regarded as approximate. The creator's comments are opinions and may not be accurate or still correct.
Your time to complete will depend on your speed plus break time and your mode of transport. For walkers: Naismith's rule, an approximate though often inaccurate estimate, suggests a time of 5h 17m + time stopped for breaks
NOTE: It is up to you to ensure that your route is appropriate for you and your party to follow bearing in mind all factors such as safety, weather conditions, experience and access permission.

* Note: A GPS Height in the elevation profile is sourced from the device that recorded the track. An "SRTM" height is derived from a model of elevations for parts of the earth. More detail

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Some mapping:
Open Street Map
(Various variations used.)
British summit data courtesy:
Database of British & Irish Hills
(Creative Commons Licence), a Hill-walking Website for the island of Ireland. 2100 Summiteers, 1400 Contributors, Monthly Newsletter since 2007