Normally when it comes to our Munro journey, we are happy to bag just one or two in a day. However, on this day we set out to complete seven Munros in under 12 hours. That’s right, SEVEN! You might be wondering how on earth we managed seven as bagging one is hard enough! With a little experience, determination and grit it’s something you could do too! Read on to learn more about the South Glen Shiel Ridge.
The South Glen Shiel ridge consists of 7 Munro’s linked over a distance of 13km. While the ridge itself is only 13K the entire hike is around double that distance. The peaks are joined together by a ridge with varying but manageable descents and ascents between each summit. This challenge, while achievable, still makes for a very long day and a good level of fitness, prior experience and route finding skills are all required. I would give yourself at least 12 hours of day light to complete it. It took us 12 hours which included a stop for lunch and many photo stops throughout the day. You can read the Walkhighlands route description and view or print the route map here.
The hike starts at the parking area next to the Cluanie Inn in the Kintail region of North West Scotland. Some people choose to wild camp near here the night before in order to get an early start on the challenge ahead. We stay in Inverness which isn’t too far away so we opted for a comfortable bed, a relatively short drive and a flask of coffee before we tackled the South Glen Shiel Ridge.
It’s handy to take two cars if possible so one car can be left at the end of the route. We didn’t fancy a long walk (9km) after completing the hike and luckily we had a few friends joining us on the adventure so we were able to leave a car at both the start and end of the hike. Some other walkers were hitch hiking back or carrying their camping gear so they could camp at the end. After 12 fairly gruelling hours we were extremely grateful to have a car waiting for us at the end!
Summit 1: Creag a’Mhàim
We started our hike at 8am. The weather wasn’t fantastic and as we set off the mountain ridge was covered by cloud and mist. However, it was forecast to clear up later so we didn’t let that dent our enthusiasm. The midges, galvanised by the damp and humid weather, were also out in force. Pushing us forward in a futile attempt to escape their relentless bites.
We followed a gradual wide track until we reached a small cairn signalling the start of the ascent up to the South Glen Shiel Ridge. We turned right and started our zig zag ascent up grassy slopes to the first Munro Creag a’Mhàim. It’s a bit of a slog to reach the 947-metre summit but once you get to the top that’s a large part of the climb done for the day. As we looked back, we were rewarded with fantastic views over Loch Loyne.
Summit 2: Druim Shionnach
Once on the ridge we made our way along to the second Munro – Druim Shionnach at 987m. It’s a short descent and then the traverse becomes quite narrow on the ascent. There is a small amount of scrambling required on this section. The drops to either side of the ridge got our hearts racing a bit but didn’t pose any massive problems. The weather had started to lift which allowed us to experience some beautiful panoramic views, however it also made us all the more aware of exposed sections of the ridge.
Summit 3: Aonach Air Chrith
Aonach Air Chrith was our third Munro summit of the day. It is the highest out of all seven Munro’s at 1021 metres. There’s 3km between the second and third Munro with perhaps the narrowest section of ridge of the whole route. There are also a few easy scrambles thrown in for good measure but together we managed to soldier on in good time. The weather had started to clear by this point and the ridge stretched ahead of us in all its glory. It was a beautiful, if slightly daunting sight.
Summit 4: Maol chinn-dearg
We debated stopping at peak 3 for our lunch but decided to hold off and continue onto the fourth Munro – Maol chinn-dearg. This Munro stands at 981 metres high and from here there is a stalkers path that can be followed to the A87 if you want to call it a day at this stage. This allows the option of splitting the ridge into two shorter days and I have to admit it was very tempting. After some lunch and a well-deserved rest we continued along the ridge to Munro number five.
Summit 5: Sgùrr an Doire Leathain
It was a long and slow ascent to the next Munro – Sgùrr an Doire Leathain. It is 1010 metres high and requires a very short detour from the main ridge to reach its summit. This section felt a little slow going, especially as we had managed to navigate the first four peaks at a very good pace. When we finally reached the summit of peak five we were rewarded with fantastic views of the next Munro, Sgùrr an Lochain. The weather was being a little temperamental so it was very much a case of jackets on, jackets off during this stage.
Summit 6: Sgurr an Lochain
The sun came out in time for us reaching the summit of the sixth Munro, Sgurr an Lochain at 1004 metres. This is regarded as the finest peak out of the seven by many and we were lucky to get such amazing weather for this one. You can see the small Lochan from here which is where the Munro gets it’s name. You are also rewarded with fabulous panoramic views of the entire area. We were literally surrounded by mountains at every turn. It was a beautiful experience and we stopped for a moment to take it all in!
The final summit: Creag nan Dàmh
At 918 metres the final Munro, Creag nan Dàmh, only just meets the criteria for Munro status. On the way to this Munro you encounter another peak. You can bypass the summit of Sgurr Beag as this is not a Munro, but feel free to go to the top of it if you want. Many avid hikers make sure to include it. With our weary legs in mind, we followed the faint path to by-pass this top, and continued on with our final push to ascend Creag Nan Damh.
It was a great feeling when we reached the final summit! We couldn’t believe we had just completed seven Munro’s in one day. When trying to bag all 282 Munro’s it’s an unbelievably good feeling to get seven ticked off in one go!
We celebrated and took some pictures before continuing on the ridge for another 2km. However, our celebrations were perhaps a little hasty. Just when we thought the hard part was over, we were faced with what was undoubtedly our most difficult scramble of the day. We had to climb up a fairly steep rock section in order to continue along the ridge. The obstacle would be classed as relatively easy scrambling but it took us by surprise and our tired legs weren’t thrilled about the unexpected climb. It is definitely worth noting before you set off. We made it past the scramble without incident and agreed we were glad we didn’t need to downclimb that part. Every cloud and all that!
We followed an old stone wall for some time until we reached a small cairn that signalled for us to turn right and start the descent. The terrain was becoming quite stony and slow-going and fatigue was setting in. The distant road looked impossibly far away and we knew that our hike was far from over. It was time to grit our teeth and get on with it.
The Descent from Hell!
The journey from the final summit to reach the A87 took us almost three hours. For most of us this was by far the most arduous stretch of the hike. There is little warning in any of the route descriptions of this! Fatigue certainly played a part in slowing our pace, but the rocky uneven path did nothing to help our cause. Every step felt laboured and heavy and for the longest time the road appeared to remain fixed in the distance. Our knees and hips ached with every impact on the harsh path. By the time the road finally came into touching distance (and for a period of time it genuinely felt like we would never reach it!) the relief was palpable.
We drove home in exhausted silence, munching on some spare chocolate and downing some remaining water gifted to us by our friends. Quietly reflecting on the challenge that we had all just completed. I can honestly say I have never been so glad to fall into bed as I was after completing the South Glen Shiel Ridge.
From start to finish we had an incredible day and it’s one we won’t forget! We enjoyed seven clear summits, fun and exciting scrambles, and fantastic company for our ridge walk. A day with friends, surrounded by some of Scotland’s best scenery in the heart of the rugged highlands…what more could you ask for? Perhaps an easier descent…
If you are not quite ready to tackle 7 in a day yet but would like to try some less arduous Munros click here to check out our blog on Munros more suitable for beginners!
To find out more about hikes and adventures join our growing list of subscribers.