Picking my way up through the steep sandstone cliffs the ‘path’ soon disappeared and the gradient increased sharply. Soon, I realised the only way up was to grab great handfuls of heather and hope they were well dug in. I put away my walking poles to concentrate on the task in hand. I was now committed … to some pretty serious scrambling.
There were several hair-raising moves. Looking down I could see the waves crashing against the rocks below. The wind was gusting up the cliffs. Yep, whenever you see a guidebook that mentions the word “airy”, you know it’s code for knee-trembling, adrenaline-fueled moments like this.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this of course. The WalkHighlands route description notes that the approach is “quite intimidating“. But it goes on to explain that “the initial broken crags are ascended slightly to the right and then the climb continues very steeply up the ridge“. I did go right, but to the right of what? It was certainly steep but I’d describe it more as a heather-covered cliff than a ridge.
All I can say is, if you’re approaching Ben More Coigach from the Culnacraig / Achiltibuie side, just take a few moments to suss out alternative routes up through the rocky outcrops!
Having wild camped on Quinag the previous day I opted for a slightly shorter circuit (around 5 hours) of Ben More Coigach. It’s not a Munro or even a Corbett. But it’s testament to the rule that in the North West Highlands the best hills are not the tallest.
There’s a superb sandstone ridge that gives fantastic views to the Summer Isles, to An Teallach’s rocky spires and across the panorama of the glorious Assynt peaks. If you’ve already skinned your hands clutching on to fistfuls of heather on the way up, the fairly exposed ridge will seem like a walk in the park. The trickiest bits can all be bypassed on easier paths.
The view north opens out as your approach the summit itself (743m). And what a spectacular view. Not a bad place to rest and enjoy some lunch.
I dropped down to the bealach on a curving line before the short climb up to the slightly lower (705m) summit of Sgurr an Fhidhleir. It gives a rocky promontory with a huge drop below and is arguably the better summit for views. I stopped for a while to soak in the scenery.
The weather wasn’t playing ball that day unfortunately. The odd patch of blue sky opened up but the rare gaps didn’t become large enough for the sun to break through and transform the landscape. I gave up waiting and returned to Culnacraig via the subsidiary peak of Beinn nan Caorach; a steep hillside but at least I was saved another heather-grabbing descent.