A magnificent glen, to me rivalling Glencoe in many ways, wilder and more remote.The mountains around here on each side of the glen are superb – and are a tough slog up as the start is from sea level.In total, around 1010m of ascent for the Saddle alone and 8km return.It took us around 2.5 hours to the top and with (short) breaks around 4.5 -5 hours return.
The Saddle is renowned in Scotland as offering one of the finest, most exposed ridge ascents on the mainland – the Forcan Ridge – but for those with fainter hearts (i.e. me) there is a very easy alternative.This is truly wild , spectacular mountain country with superlative views all around.The going can be boggy in places however.
It’s a good few years since we were up here. In fact, looking at the photos it must be 10 years ago – we look a fair bit younger! Chris has also done the Forcan Ridge and got a t-shirt especially made after he and his brothers, a long time ago, completed it.The front says ‘Forcan crazy?” and the back reads ‘Forcan right!’ He always says he found it more challenging than the fearsome Aonach Eagach ridge in Glencoe.
We parked on an overcast day in the pull in area on the A87 at the bottom of Glen Shiel.From here, the start of the route is very visible – an excellent stalkers track that heads up the hillside at an angle.It took us around an hour to reach the top of this path below Meagan Odhar.The going then got boggier and in fact very wet in places as we threaded our way over knolls and round small crags.
A very unusual feature of the mountain lies below the Forcan Ridge – a drystone dyke wall – and this in fact shows the way for those who do not want to enjoy the exposure and challenges of the classic ascent.I was delighted to take the alternative path though it is very unpleasant going, over little boulders and quite awkward.Still, we were soon up at a lovely wild lochan where we had a break to have a drink and demolish some fruit and chocolate. It had been pretty hard going.We were now at the Bealach Coire Mhalagain, a beautiful spot.
The final 30 minutes or so was a tough pull up onto a steepish grassy shoulder which led us easily to the summit.There was, in early May, a little snow and the mountains hadn’t greened up yet and were still in tawny and golden colours.But what a place! It was stunning.
We didn’t have time to go on to another Munro – Sgurr na Sgine – which is often completed at the same time.The weather had come in a bit too so we lost the views at the top – we’ll just need to do it again! We were around 2.5 hours to this point.Not much hanging about with it getting so damp.
That route also offers a knee crunchingly steep descent down Feochag – the Whelk – a name well earned when seen from Glen Shiel itself.
Any hill walk in Glen Shiel will delight – the South Glen Shiel ridge itself or the famed Five Sisters walk, all of which are on a parallel at least with the wonderful mountains of Glencoe further south.