THE South Glen Shiel ridge is a Munroist’s dream, seven peaks that can be ticked off in one day.
Most walkers do it east to west, starting on a track near the Cluanie Inn.
Creag a’ Mhaim is the first target, then a rollercoaster walk over five other Munros until the descent from the final peak of Creag nan Damh.
The smart ones will have transport arranged to avoid the long slog back up the road to the starting point, otherwise there will be a lot of thumbs getting a lot of exercise.
Hitching a lift usually isn’t a problem though with so many walkers and climbers around.
But it’s a shame the way the Munro-bagging game often blinds the walker to better routes.
The first time I did this ridge my eyes were only on getting seven more ticks on my list.
The next time, I was accompanying a group of friends intent only on getting seven ticks on their list.
But in more recent visits I have taken these hills in far more interesting and less frantic ways.
In the first half of the ridge, there are good routes up Druim Shionnach and Maol Chinn-dearg for instance and an alternative approach to Creag a’ Mhaim.
If you take the trade track from the Cluanie, instead of cutting off at the bridge and trudging your way up steeply in what can at times be a vertical trench, you can pass under the mountain and then swing round on to its east ridge to find a good path to the summit.
From there it’s over Druim Shionnach and Aonach Air Chrith to descend by the grassy Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach ridge off Maol Chinn-dearg to the roadside.
The second half of the ridge can be saved for the next day, with a wonderful ascent of the Druim Thollaidh on to the lesser peak of Sgurr Coire na Fienne, before continuing over Sgurr an Doire Leathain, and Sgurr an Lochain to finish on Creag nan Damh.
The alternative descent at the end of the ridge is also wonderful. Instead of dropping south-east into Am Fraoch-choire continue on west down to the Bealach Duibh Leac.
From there a zigzag path drops below towering walls to reach the waters of the Allt Mhalagain and then down to the road.
Both routes rely on a friendly passing motorist but I struck it lucky at the first attempt both times, and I suspect this is not unusual. There are a lot of sympathetic walkers in this area.
One time I was picked up by the first passing car. Turned out the guy was heading home to Manchester after having completed his Munros the day before. Another day I was picked up early in the morning by a folk band and their entourage as they headed to a festival in Skye in a rickety old camper van.
One wee tip though. Watch out for the sting in the tail on Creag nan Damh.
The big cairn you come to first is reckoned not to be the summit marker. A much smaller pile of stones on a rock rib a little further on is the favourite.
It would be a real shame to go home thinking you’d bagged seven Munros only to find later that you hadn’t really done the last one.
(First published Daily Record, July 18, 2013)