Walk Report: Schiehallion

Date: 11th Oct 2008
Stats: 6.5 miles, 2500 feet
Weather: Warm in the valley, very windy and cold on the summit
Trig Points: 1: TP6943 – Wild Boar Fell
Munros: 1: Schiehallion
Other Info: Free car park, no toilets (that I could see) at GR: NN 75318 55697
Summary: Car park, path to summit, car park

Key to symbols:
= Munro Summit

The weather guessers had predicted some reasonable weather in Scotland and as the wife was working all weekend I took the opportunity to scoot up north and bag a couple of Munros. I didn’t book anywhere, I had the car and it was getting towards the end of the season, so even if I didn’t manage to find any accommodation, which I thought was unlikely, I could always sleep in the car. This is the first of the two day walks.

I picked two “headline” hills, probably very popular and both with reasonable paths into and off the hill. Today I was visiting Schiehallion, a lonely lump of rock on the eastern edge of Rannoch Moor. Schiehallion’s chief claim to fame is that it was the mountain on which contour lines were developed. It’s looks a bit like a monk; heather covered lower slopes with a boulder strewn bald patch on top.

I set off from home at 05:30 and took a chance that the motorway police were all tucked up in bed like sensible people and hammered up the empty M6 and M74 to Glasgow. I stopped at Hamilton services for petrol and a pee and then took it reasonably easy up the A roads to Perth, Crieff and Aberfeldy. I arrived at the car park at the Braes of Ross at 09:40, pretty good going even for me.

The car park was beginning to fill up with walkers and it felt strange booting up at the same time as so many other people. This ritual is something I generally perform in an empty car park at 07:00 with no audience at all. Today the car park was also populated by John Muir Trust volunteers, working on the path out of the car park, leading up to the hill.

Scotland Walking Weekend

There is a very good path all the way to the foot of the boulder field, a path that does not appear on my 25k scale Memory Map (dated 2004), so I was a bit surprised to be heading south for a good way instead of generally west from the car park. There was no mistaking the path though and it couldn’t have been going anywhere else; there is nowhere else to go from the car park other than the hill. So I followed it dutifully, behind a couple of chatty girls who soon jogged off up the path and a group of four lads who were soon sweating in their cold weather outer shells and gaiters. The weather was reasonably warm and it wasn’t until much further up the track that I needed my fleece and not until the boulder field that I needed the jacket. The guys soon stopped on the path ahead and began to remove layers.

Scotland Walking Weekend
Well graded and easy to follow, like walking on the West Highland Way in fact

Scotland Walking Weekend
The views begin to open up, this is Loch Tummel with Ben Vrackie in the distance

Scotland Walking Weekend
The cloud doesn’t help with the number of false summits on this hill

Scotland Walking Weekend
Solo Scot picks his way through the boulder field and the wind

Scotland Walking Weekend
The last ever picture of my walking pole – on the summit of Schiehallion – I’ve had that since I started walking!!

Scotland Walking Weekend
This used to be a trig point – many years ago – probably blasted by lightening

Scotland Walking Weekend
Looking down the ridge as the cloud begins to clear from the summit

I reached the summit through the cloud cover and the fierce gale. I tried to find somewhere to shelter and eat my lunch but the wind was gusting from all directions and it was bitterly cold. I decided to drop down a few hundred feet and take my lunch there.

As I left the summit to head down the skies cleared, the cloud was whipped away and the views opened up before me. It was fantastic. It was still bitterly cold and blowing a gale, but the difference was incredible. All of a sudden it was worth hanging around on the top for a while. I managed to find a sheltered spot and ate my lunch, before taking a few photos. The solo Scot who had reached the summit ahead of me asked if I would take his photo and he did the same for me and then we were joined by a solo English walker and we repeated the exercise again.

I tried to take a little video to demonstrate the strength of the wind, you can see that below – not sure it does the weather justice to be honest.

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The sky clears and the views open up

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Awesome views from the top

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Me on the summit of Schiehallion

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More summit views

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The length of the summit ridge as it drops across the boulder field

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Distant views from the summit

More walkers arrive at the summit, picking their way gingerly across the summit boulders

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Now clear of cloud, the summit of Schiehallion

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Leaving the boulder field on the descent

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Looking back towards the car

I love the zoom on this new camera. It allows me to get much closer to things that would otherwise be mere dots on the picture. I have mastered the quick draw, pulling the camera from its bag and switching it on as I’m raising it to my eye line. I had the camera ready and zoomed in ahead of the deer in the shot below and I just waited for him to come into the viewfinder – much easier than tracking him.

Scotland Walking Weekend
Startled Red Deer bolts across the hillside

“It’s a bit windy”

I left Schiehallion and headed across country to Glen Coe. I wanted to see if I could get some pictures of the mountain I would be climbing in the morning. I’d got some cloudy pictures of it while I walked the West Highland Way, but the weather was looking good, so I had some hope of a cloud free picture. I drove through storms, rain and fine weather in the space of an hour and finally arrived at Glen Coe, partially covered in cloud.

I took some photos of The Buachaille and was reasonably pleased with results, considering the low sun. The best two can be seen below.

Scotland Walking Weekend
Buachaille Etive Mor from the road into Glen Etive

Glen Etive is well worth a visit. Just a drive into the glen is uplifting. I will have to come back and walk through it.

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And this one of the other side of the mountain, taken from the road before you enter Glen Coe proper

I stopped at the Kingshouse Hotel for tea (dinner if you live south of Birmingham) and asked if they had a room, but despite the lateness of the season they were fully booked. I wasn’t concerned, the weather was generally warm and fine and a night in the car wouldn’t be a hardship, but I drove through Glen Coe into Glencoe village and stopped at the first B&B I found without a “No Vacancies” sign.

A lady answered the door of Lios Mhoire Guest House and when I asked for a room she looked over my shoulder at the B&B sign in the front garden. “The damn things blown off again” she exclaimed. Apparently she had an empty house that night and had hung the “No Vacancies” flap out beneath the B&B sign, so that she’d have a quiet night, but it had blown off and she now seemed reluctant to shoo me away. I haggled her down to £30 for a lovely twin room with en-suite shower room (I do like a nice haggle), on the basis that I wanted an early start and wouldn’t want a full cooked breakfast. She seemed satisfied.


Fell-walker, trig-pointer, peak-bagger, Wainwright-er & Pennine Way author, with a passion for long paths, malt whisky, fast cars & Man City

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