Five Sisters of Kintail

Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, Sgurr nan Carnachan and Sgurr Fhuaran
by Jackie Carson

Start Point: Car park at Glen Sheil
Grid Reference: OS Sheet 33, GR NH005136
Time: Estimated time 6 to 8 hours. We took 10. The weather was so good we sat on the summits for ages soaking up the sun and taking in the views.
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Introduction

For those who have read my summary of An Teallach in mid July you'll know my problem was with clegs. This time it was midges. Camping in Glen Shiel mid August in what has been described as the worst year ever for midges was not a good idea. Next time it will be a B&B. Fortunately my precautions of taking vitamin B12 (yeast tablets) seemed to work. No bites for me. The sheer number of midges however meant they were everywhere, in my eyes and up my nose. You couldn't breath without inhaling them. They were battering against my face so much it felt like a rain shower. Tent went up in record time.

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My companions weren't quite so lucky. They got eaten alive. The heavy duty Zambian mosquito repellent had no effect. The only solution was full waterproofs and a great deal of swearing. Jackie standing in the field in shorts laughing probably didn't help. Hadn't even got to the hill and a rebellion was already brewing.
 

Route

  • Start from the car park in Glen Sheil at GR 005136. From here a gate leads into the edge of a recently felled forest. An obvious track leads off up the hill but you will be on the wrong side of the new deer fence. Instead head a few metres E along the road and pick up another track running to the East of another set of the trees.
  • Follow this track which is very well defined in places to the Bealach na Lapain, 730 m, GR 007145. It's a slog up 550 m of very steep ground. The bealach was a welcome site. Not just because it meant an end to the steep angle but it also afforded a slight breeze. Just enough to blow away the hoard of midges hovering above my head. Vitamin B12 was still working so no bites so far.


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  • From the col there are fantastic views of the route ahead. Sgurr Fhuaran looking particularly interesting (and steep). Follow the well trodden path WNW towards the summit of Sgurr Spainteach, 990 m, GR 991151.
  • Continue along the ridge heading towards the first munro, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe. Descend steeply from Sgurr Spainteach. Some simple scrambling is required here. The route is well defined and there are plenty of hand holds available. After scrambling down a climb of around 100 m is all that remains to reach the summit, 1027 m, GR 984150. The summit is a reasonably sized plateau with a large cairn which presented an ideal photo opportunity.
  • From the summit we descended W off the plateau then contoured NW below the main summit ridge picking up a faint track. The path disappeared here and there as we ran into a short boulder field. Once through the boulders we picked the path up again and descended to the col, 900 m, GR 978155.
  • The path continues up the S flank of Sgurr nan Carnachan, 1002 m, GR 978159. At this point the views over Loch Duich and into Skye came into their own.
  • The final munro, Sgurr Fhuaran lies less that a km away, with the col at 860 m this meant the route ahead would be steep. The path did it's best to pick the easiest angle but when you've got to go up you've got to go up.
  • Another large cairn greets you at the summit of Sgurr Fhuaran, 1067 m, GR 979167. From this vantage point it was possible to look back over the route and into to top of Coire Domhain.


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  • From Sgurr Fhuaran it is possible to descend very steeply into Glen Sheil. As we planned to walk the whole ridge our second car was left at Sheil Bridge so we carried on to Sgurr nan Saighead, 929m GR 975178 simply following the track.
  • Our final summit was Beinn Bhuidhe, 869 m GR 970182. Although a good deal lower than the other summits this hill gave a great view back to Sgurr Fhuaran over Sgurr nan Saighead. A final short section of scrambling was required to reach the summit. If desired this hill could be bypassed by following a track running to the South.
  • To descend back to Sheil bridge we headed W the NW off the summit dropping in sections to the foot of Sgurr an t-Searraich. From here we picked up a track contouring below the hill which eventually returned to the road opposite the filling station.

All the guidebooks describe this as a classic day out on the Scottish hills. A classic day required classic weather. We got just that, blue skies and views as far as the eye could see in all directions. In low cloud care should be taken descending from Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe but otherwise a very well defined track can be followed.

We chose to descend to Sheil bridge but if desired a car could be left further along the A87 at Ault a' Chruinn, GR 946203. A path leads to here from the base of Beinn Bhuidhe following the N side of the Allt a' Chruinn. A final option would be to climb the 5th Sister Sgurr na Moraich, 876 m, GR 965194.

 
Two cars (or a very fit companion) are essential for this route otherwise you face a long haul back to the start point. The City Link bus service could be used or possibly the enterprising taxi company that left their business cards stapled to the fences in the car parks along Glen Sheil.

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