Hills: Sgiath Chuil
When: Sunday 29th May 2016
Who: self, melancton
Weather: absolutely glorious!
Conditions underfoot: dry bog and tussocks (mostly)
Path factor: largely non-existent
Sadly absent: sunscreen
Sadly present: sunburn, the usual transport debacle
Post walk drink: shandy, chardonnay, Isle of Jura Superstition (no not in the same glass!)
After we finally hit the big 100 on Beinn Bhreac back in October, there hasn’t really been much Scottish walking from the English Regiment. This has been down to a variety of factors, including needing a bit of a break, work, and getting side tracked by Wainwrights. Plus, my back hasn’t been great recently; from time to time it does like to remind me that I have a (thankfully fixed) spinal injury which whilst it doesn’t preclude me getting out and about, isn’t ever going to be 100% better. We did manage a nice walk to Sandwood Bay over Christmas, which was also a nice reminder that there is more to walking in Scotland than just hills.
On looking at the weather forecast at Luton Airport on Friday 27th May I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. Settled high pressure in Scotland? With it being better to be in the West than the East? Unbelievable! The last time I can remember that sort of thing had been 8 years previously, when the late May bank holiday had seen us do our first Munro, 4 years to the day since the operation to stabilise my back (and insert metal screws into it, which created issues with me triggering security alarms at airports for several years. It doesn’t seem to any more, not really sure if I should be worried about that). I always like to try and get up a hill around the anniversary, as it reminds me how far I’ve come, and that I’ve a lot to be grateful for that I can climb hills at all. We were staying in the always excellent Coach House in Killin, and still have a fair few hills to do in that area despite having stayed there quite a lot over the years.
Easyjet, however, had other ideas. Our flight was badly delayed getting out of Luton and then it took a while for our taxi to turn up at the other end, meaning we didn’t get to bed at Stuart’s parents until 2am. After a tiring week at work we were both also knackered and combined with the lack of sleep far too knackered to contemplate getting up early and pushing for a walk on the Saturday. We settled for a leisurely drive up to Killin then hitting the maps and working out options. The long lay off from the Munros, plus a risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon, meant that something relatively short and relatively local seemed the best option. Our tendency to end up doing only one out of a couple of hills usually done as a pair, leaving an annoying repeat visit to mop up the straggler, meant that Sgiath Chuil was still on our to do list; we’d had a really nice day on Meall Glas when I’d been a bit below par and decided that SC looked a decent bet for the day. 10am saw us parked up at the car park just short of Kenknock and we were kitted up and on the move by about 10.15.
The initial part of the route is up a Landrover track which zigzags up through forestry before popping out at a pump house. The track was easily graded and this part of the walk was pretty quick, though a couple of deer fence stiles had to be negotiated. I absolutely hate the things but fortunately these ones were in pretty good nick and not shoogly like some are. Once the pump house is reached, the route goes past the top of the plantation on a fairly serviceable path to cross the Allt Innis-Daimh at a bridge above a small dam and just below a rather pretty little waterfall.
After crossing over, however, the path disappears – and doesn’t really reappearuntil almost at the top of the hill. The North ridge is pretty complex with lots of little ups and downs over ground that must be truly awful to try and walk on when not dry – bog, tussocks and heather. The only saving grace was that it was reasonably dry apart from the odd patch, but the terrain was still a pain and it seemed to take ages to make any sort of forward progress. Bits of path kept appearing and just as quickly disappearing but this bit was not much fun. The ridge does become better defined higher up, but there was still nothing much resembling a path; it was simply a question of head down and keep plodding up. It was much harder work than it should have been, but the ground combined with the warm weather was pretty energy sapping and it was becoming clear water would be a concern despite having taken a full 2 litres each plus Capri-Sun. We eventually hit the Top, Meall a’Churain, at about 12.40 which given the circumstances we didn’t feel was too bad at all.
The ridge then drops a fair bit before a gradual rise to the true summit of Sgiath Chuil, which is a cairn situated on a rocky outcrop and is a fantastic viewpoint. Despite groaning at having to go down in order to go up (always a nuisance) the walk along the ridge was really nice with something resembling a path finally appearing. On the summit around 1, to some fantastic views all round.
We took an extended break at the summit, just drinking in the views and looking around us (and taking about a million photos). There was almost no wind, and it was nice to be able to just sit and relax and look around us. These are supposed to be dull hills, and whilst I hadn’t enjoyed the ascent all that much the views more than compensated. Another example I think of hills people think are dull because they slog up them on a bad day, or when the ground is wet, and miss what the hills have to offer – in the case of these hills, the view’s the thing, and I expect Meall Ghaordaidh (another ‘dull hill’ we’ve yet to do) will be the same.
We finally got moving at 1.30 and headed off down the ridge, taking a bit of a fferent route back; rather than following the ridge the whole way back and then cutting across to the dam, we dropped down to the Allt Innis-Daimh and followed that out most of the way, which enabled water bladders to be refilled. We had to gain a bit of height shortly before the dam as the stream drops into a gorge, and the ground still wasn’t great but was generally better than what we’d had to deal with on the ascent, plus there was a picturesque waterfall shortly before the dam.
Once over the dam, it simply remained to plod back down the zigzags… and realise we were going to need to find a chemist for some after-sun. Having completely neglected to pack any sunscreen we were both lobster and getting quite sore! Back at the car at 4, and drove back to Killin where the Co-Op was thankfully able to supply the necessary before we headed back to the Coach House where the inevitable post walk drinks were waiting. It was far too warm to drink Malbec or Rioja so normal walk protocol was breached in favour of a pint of shandy to rehydrate followed by some Chardonnay! Then some whisky..
All in all a good day on the hill, though I’m glad we did this one when the ground was dry so the vertical bog factor was mitigated somewhat. Not a dull hill at all! And the ongoing transport debacle… another delayed flight on the way home meaning not getting to bed till nearly 2am – again. Roll on the invention of the teleporter… please!!