3 April 2013
Emboldened by our half day on Stac Pollaidh, we decided to “go for it”, and climb Suilven the following day, in case the weather gave out later in the week. Previously, back in 1997, I had a glorious day on Suilven, starting at Glencanisp Lodge, and had hoped we could repeat that route. However, we had seen that the north side of the hill was plastered with snow and ice, and so we had to revise our plans, and climb from the south.
The advantage was that the southern route started at Inverkirkaig car park, about a mile from our log cabin. The disdvantage was that it was a longer router on a rougher path. Undaunted, we set off at 9.30am up the track below Achin’s bookshop (highly recommended!)
After yesterday’s clear, blue skies, the day was disappointingly grey and overcast. We made steady progress up the path alongside the River Kirkaig, passing the Kirkaig Falls, which we had visited on a previous holiday, so by-passed them this time, continuing straight on at the path junction.
Half a mile further, we cut off to the left across some bumpy ground, and had our first clear view of Suilven, only 2 miles away.
Unfortunately, Fionn Loch barred any direct approach, and we had to follow the tortuous path looping first north west around the end of the loch, then south east, up over two low bealachs to regain the north shore of the loch.
Unfortunately, what looked like a good path ahead was just a raised beach of dry grass, so although level, the walk along the lochside was hard work. Just before the second major burn crossing, the path turned uphill toward the mountain. It had taken us about an hour longer than we had expected to get this far, so we pushed on up the wee valley towards the foot of the hill, before pausing to take stock of where we were.
We stopped for a quick lunch at 12.30, having covered around 10km, and now at 200m, just below the steep climb up to Suilven’s Bealach Mor. The climb ahead looked daunting!
The loose scree-covered path strikes straight up the steep slope, then slants right across below the bealach, before a final very steep haul up to the bealach: 350m ascent in 1 km – hard going!
We reached the bealach at 2pm.
Peering down the north side, we could see that it would have been very unsafe to come up that way, as we were looking down a 300m ice-filled gully.
Heading along the ridge to the west, we made good progress, following the path through the “gate” in the dry-stane dyke, and up a series of rocky outcrops. Looking back, Meall Mheadhonach looked extremely impressive.
Just before the last climb to the main summit (Caisteal Liath – the grey castle), the ridge narrows to a neck between gullies on the north and south side. Here, the path was iced up, and required care. Anne decided she didn’t fancy it, so returned to the bealach. I picked my way carefully along the icy path, and was soon climbing more easily on to the snow-covered summit dome, with grand views down to Lochinver and out to sea.
No time to linger, though, as it was now 2.30pm, and we still had a long way home. I returned to the bealach, where Anne was waiting patiently, then together we headed back down the loose path, where we met another group still heading upwards.
It was along weary trek back along the shore, round the west end of the Fionn Loch, then down past the Falls to Kirkaig, reaching the car, tired, at 7.15pm, and glad we didn’t have to walk the final mile back to our cosy cabin.
Strength restored with Lochinver pies for tea!
22 km walk
750 m climb
9 hours 45 mins
|Bealach Mor (550m)||14:00|
|Suilven – Caisteal Liath (731m)||14:30|
|Bealach Mor (550m)||15:00|
(written and uploaded 14/12/13)