Hiking up to Caisteal Abhail

On 28 October 2018 I did the route around from North Glen Sannox to Caisteal Abhail and down what I believe is called Hunters Ridge. I set off early, though not quite early enough as it was already daylight when I left. Not to worry – it was an absolutely amazing day.

I got to the car park just before 9 and made it back for 4, so one hour longer than the previous time, but that time the whole walk was in cloud with rain belting off me the whole way round. This time was rather different!

It was interesting following the moon and watching it set.

It was really cold to start with. I had to layer up and put my gloves on, but by the time I got to the gate in the coire I was well warmed up.

In the coire. I came down the rock ridge from just left of the middle down towards the right.

That was my route, up towards the moon then turn left up the ridge to the peak of Sail an Im.

Poppy, my trusty companion.

There was a lot ice as we got higher. It made the descent pretty treacherous down the other side.

Now it’s really starting to get interesting. Looking down into the coire, towards Caisteal Abhail.

Rocking the shades! It was cold, but such an amazing day.

That’s the ridge I’m climbing. This is where I bumped into Ranger Kate going the other way. She’d lost her lens cap and asked me to look out for it. I only bloom’ found it! Ha ha. Kate’s one of the rangers for the National Trust for Scotland and knows this terrain probably better than anybody!

Creag Dhubh, back the way I’ve just come.

Looking back over the way I’ve just come.

Getting closer to the top. The views are just about to blow me away…

Aha, now we’re getting some views to be sure. Not quite at the top yet though. Just a little further.

Looking down towards Blackwaterfoot and the Kintyre peninsula.

Some rocky tors that give this area its name of the castles.

Oh mama. Are we there yet?

Poppy finds an icy pond. It did crack eventually, though it wasn’t so deep as it look and she had a long drink from the water that came up from below.

And just when you think it can’t get any better, Cìr Mhòr appears in all its majesty.

Some more of those rocky tors at the summit. It’s always weird to puff and pant all the way to a summit and find it relatively flat at the top. Nice, but weird.

Cìr Mhòr with the ridge going down to the saddle between Glen Rosa and Glen Sannox, then up to North Goatfell and then the ridge to Goatfell itself. That looks like a tricky route, though one I’d like to try, possibly with a camp in between?

It was amazing to see for the first time how all the peaks join up with ridges. The Ridge from Caisteal Abhail where I was to Cìr Mhòr looks fairly straight forward, although the walk to the summit looks helluva steep. The next ridge coming down from Cìr Mhòr is called A’Chir and it leads to the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn. I’ll need to talk to my pal Kirstie about routes.

My ever-faithful companion Poppy the Akita.

The Witch’s Step from above. It looks like you could actually bypass it. It doesn’t look quite so scary from where I was, but that could be deceptive. I’ve always been kinda afraid of that particular place, but I could probably do it; then round to the summit of Suidhe Fhearghas. I wonder?

Lunch break. That Highlander stove is really good. There’s nothing quite like drinking coffee at the top of a mountain! I had a trio of chicken sandwiches from the Co-op, shared with Poppy of course, and a Boost bar. One of the best lunches I ever had!

A few more photos before heading back down again.

How’s that for a view, Poppy? Magic, innit?

D’you think dogs care about stuff like that? I wonder, ha ha.

Ra-oooo, says Poppy. Check out the icicles on the rocks on the right. Brrrrr.

The other side of the Witch’s Step as I start making my way down the horrible rocky, slippery ridge.

Looking over the peak of Suidhe Fhearghas towards the mainland and the islands in the Firth of Clyde. This is one of my favourite images from the day.

The rocky minefield I had to pick my way through to get back down. You can see how slippery they are in the foreground. Although the route was shorter, I think it would have been quicker to have gone back the way I came up because the terrain was so much easier underfoot.

The ridge I came down is called Hunters Ridge I think. According to the OS map it’s called Cuithe Mheadhonach, which might be Gaelic for Hunters Ridge. Dunno.

The Witch’s Step starting to look scary again. See what I mean? Is it actually as hard as it seems from below?

Nearly back down to the burn. Nice view of the jaggy tors that I’ve just come down from, and the rocky minefield in Garbh Choire. Man that was tough going.

And we’re down!

Conclusion

This is without a doubt the most enjoyable walk I’ve even done. Seven hours start to finish. I dressed right, I took the right food, I judged the time and daylight hours right. The one thing I need to do is learn to use a compass again. I used to know, but need a refresher. I do have a map.

Poppy was amazing company the whole way too. One of the most memorable moments was when Peter Gabriel Signal to Noise came on the AirPods just as Cìr Mhòr came into view and I was in utter heaven. The mountains can be harsh and brutal, as they were last time I did this route, but they can reward you like nothing else can if the conditions are right.

I kinda started getting the bug at the beginning of this summer and it’s growing as I explore more with my dog and my camera. Look out for more as spring comes in; I’m not quite ready for winter hikes yet.

And lastly, a moment of gratitude if I may. I fell from a cliff in 1989 whilst on exercise in the Lake District in England with the British Army. I almost lost my right leg; it bothers me a lot still and is actually getting worse now as I get older. But look at what I still get to do!

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