Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, above the forests of Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland
Well, the night before this glorious day, the water pipes froze in the ground here, it was THAT cold. But in the end, despite it being the second week of December and the rest of the UK wallowing in the wettest year on record, I walked in t-shirt sleeves under blue skies and above expansive views across the sea to Skye. In fact, it was so picture-perfect, that I can’t help but include lots of photos in this blog, to give you a sense of why this place is so special.
Though the sunlight hours are very short up here in the Western Highlands (around 5 hours in all), I decided to have a crack at a hill walk up Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean (it rhymes with ‘heineken’ apparently: ‘sgurr korry na konniken‘). It is the big hulking hill that rises above the tiny town of Inverie (reached by boat from Mallaig), but is often overlooked for it’s more glamorous neighbouring munros, which were topped with snow. However, it has some hidden surprises – and it also gets the sun for most of the day, which is incentive enough in winter! A beautiful start steeply up through the mossy forests above Inverie, over the deer fence by way of a vertiginous stile, then a pathless clog up and up, and up some more through heather, mud and icy bog, with Inverie becoming progressively smaller below.
Looking across to Eigg and Rhum from above Inverie.
The sky was brilliant blue and the iced up heather spectacular, as you can see:
Jet stream above the slopes of Coire na Choinneachean, Knoydart
Icicles on winter heather, Knoydart, Scotland
After a lot of puffing up the boggy hillside, you lose sight of Inverie below and make your way around the rim of the impressive hidden gully/gorge of Allt Slochd a’Mogha (seriously, don’t ask me how to pronounce that one!).
Allt Slochd a’Mogha Gorge, Knoydart, Scotland
Looking down the Allt Slochd a’Mogha gorge to Long Beach, Knoydart (c) JP Mundy 2012
At the head of the gorge, you reach a totally unexpected high level pasture-land/bog, which gives you 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and lochs, including the magnificent Laddher Bhein, Bhein na Caillich and across to the Cuillins on Skye.
Benn na Caillich, from the plateau on Sgurr Coire na Coinnichean
The final pull up the two summits of Coire na Choinnichean was not for me this day, sadly, as with the sun going down by 3pm and the rocks and ridges hanging onto their ice, I had to turn around and save it for another day. SO tough with it close enough to grasp….
The tantalising but icy summit of Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, with the snow-covered summit of my favourite munro, Laddher Bhein, peeking above the horizon
Totally wild. Utterly spectacular. Very, very hard to leave.
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