Forcan Ridge weekend, Part Two

October 2, 2018 0 By NatalieM
Forcan Ridge weekend, Part Two

In Part One of this narration, I described how we climbed up the Forcan Ridge and onto The Saddle (1010m), and then set up camp on the summit.

This was the first time I had ever camped on top of a mountain! And it was a very cold night. I had very little sleep, as I tossed and turned, trying to warm myself up.

In the morning, there were no glorious sunrise views to be enjoyed. The sunlight was obscured by low cloud, and as I slowly came to life, I realised that the pitter-patter sound from outside was not rain falling onto my tent, but snow.

My tent was buckling under the weight of it!

I got up as quickly as I could, and put on my boots without allowing any moisture to get into the tent.

Two of the others got up, but there was no sound from my friend Karen, who is almost always an early riser. I started to worry that she might have died of cold in the night!

Our snowy tents at 7am.

I walked over to Karen’s tent and asked if she was OK. Thankfully she replied, saying that she was so warm and snuggly, she didn’t want to move! Later on she told me that her three-season sleeping bag, silk liner, outer liner and foil layer underneath her self-inflating sleeping mat had kept her as warm as toast. These are on the shopping list for my next wild camping trip!

After I’d shaken the snow off my tent, I was surprised at how easy it was to pack everything up. It took about half an hour. I then heated up some snow on my Primus stove. I’d bought a coffee bag filter with me, for a single cup of coffee. It tasted amazing!

After that, I made some snow porridge.

Snow porridge with dates and walnuts. It was delicious – trust me!

Then we started to make our way back down the mountain.

The snow line was at high altitude, so we were soon back on snow-free ground. At 700m, we reached the bealach – the lowest point between The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine. The next stage was a short, steep climb up to a ridge.

Solo ascent of Sgurr na Sgine

At this point, my three friends decided that they’d had enough climbing and were going back down. But I was back in Bagging mode, so I decided to carry on alone.

Me ready to set off for the next Munro, Sgurr na Sgine.

The climb up to the ridge was covered in rocks and a bit tricky, but wasn’t long before Sgurr na Sgine was in full misty view.

It was an easy climb, although there were a few false summits before I reached the top.

There were some gorgeous views along the way.

Gleann Dubh Lochain in the distance.

I didn’t spend long at the summit, not wanting to keep my friends waiting too long back at the car.

A difficult descent

The route back went over a steep hill called Faochag, which apparently means “periwinkle”.

From the summit of Faochag, the A87 looked a long way down!

There was a great view of the Forcan Ridge to the west.

The descent down Faochag was very steep and rocky, so I had to go slowly and take great care. It was relentlessly tiring, but the views were spectacular.

Loch Duich and Biod an Fhitich (“Peak of the Raven”).

Biod an Fhitich and the A87.

It took me about two hours to descend the 900 metres to ground level. I thought that descent was never going to end! I was so relieved to be walking along relativey flat ground at last, and the road was just a couple of hundred metres away.

The final challenge!

However, there was one more challenge to be faced first. The path went right up to a river, the Allt Mhalagain, and then clearly continued from the other side. But the Allt Mhalagain was in spate. There were lots of big boulders in the river, but no safe place to cross the fast-flowing river without falling in.

I realised I would have to walk downriver, however that meant crossing another river, the Allt Coire Mhalagain, which was feeding into the Allt Mhalagain. It was also in spate.

Once I found the most suitable place to cross it, I did it mostly sitting down or crawling on all fours. I had sprained my ankle four weeks earlier while trying to cross a river, and I did not want to risk doing that again!

Once on the other side, I still couldn’t see anywhere suitable to cross the bigger river! Eventually I found what looked like a good spot, and started to cross. By this time I was totally exhausted!

Into the river…

Halfway across, I realised that there was too big a gap between the remaining stepping stones. I would either have to retreat in the other direction, carefully inching my way over the slippy boulders again, or… just jump in and wade through. I chose to do the latter.

When my waterproof trouser-clad legs entered the icy water, I was almost swept downstream by the force of the fast-flowing river, but I clung on and managed to pull myself through to the other side. I emerged dripping wet from the thighs down.

Doh! moment

OK, I was very tired. That’s my excuse for not bothering to read the guide, which was in the side pocket of my backpack. If I’d read it, I would have found out that I didn’t need to cross the second river at all. I could have walked a bit further east and emerged just beyond the road bridge!

Anyway, it wasn’t long before I was back on the tarmac surface of the A87.

It had started to rain again, but I hardly cared!

The first thing I did was to send a text to my friends. I had tried earlier, but couldn’t get a signal. It turned out that they had been driving up and down the road looking out for me for the past 10 minutes, and then they headed back to Shiel Bridge, 5km down the road, where they managed to get a signal, and received my text. They’d already had a sandwich and coffee there, while waiting for me.

I dried off and got stuck into the food I’d kept in the car, and we set off for home, laughing and chatting about our adventure.

What a weekend!

And by the way, those two Munros I did took my tally up to 89. My Serious Bagging challenge is now back on!