In The Shadows: The Final Section of the Quinag 1000 Foot Walk

Last night I spent a while looking at the map trying to work out how to get some light onto the north faces of Sail Gharbh and Sail Ghorm, and fairly soon realised that it was impossible at this time of year.
I discover that sunrise at Inverness is due to be at 130 degrees from north and sunset at 230 degrees. I need less than 90 and more than 270, which is only going to happen between the spring and autumn equinoxes.
So my walk is going to be in the shade, and getting good photos will be more of a challenge.
But it’s due to be a crisp, clear day and I’m looking forward to it.
I need an early start to stand a chance of completing the final section in one day, and get there before the sun has risen.
The ground is rough right from the start; I often find deer paths to follow, but they seem to be scarce right now.
Reaching the first plateau, I meet a sturdy looking holly tree as the sun starts to rise behind Glas Bheinn; there’s red berries on the ground where I get the camera out for my first shot of the day.
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I push on up the hill, and before I get to my target altitude, the sun blasts out, and its light rakes across the landscape.
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I start to wonder how long it’ll be before I fall over today, and it turns out to be just another 30 seconds; just like the Stay Puft man in Ghostbusters, I’ve obviously brought it on myself!
305 metres; 1000 feet, and I’m in a gully running up to Sail Ghorm. Click. It looks cold up there.
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The ground is slightly crispy, but you wouldn’t describe it as “frozen solid”. No idea what the air temperature is; I’m as warm as toast walking up hill!
Traversing across below the mouth of the corrie, the waterfall is two things: photogenic and also an obstacle requiring a little diversion.
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Underneath the absolutely tremendous buttresses of Sail Gharbh, I head east to pick up my previous finishing point.
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I can see where it is, its just where there’s a splash of sunshine on the ground at the point the hillside bends to the south. It’s also marked by a couple of deer; maybe even the same ones I saw here previously.
Today’s forecast was very good indeed, so I’m a bit surprised to see the weather over Glas Bheinn. It’s snowing, and it’s coming my way!
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I grab a picture, put my camera away, and get out my leggings and thick gloves.
Just in case it goes horribly wrong, I also work out my “escape route” down the hill to the burn which runs back to the car park. I’m not staying up here in a blizzard!
As it is, total precipitation is less than a thimble-full and I carry on.
I’ve walked the “1000 foot” contour below the corrie on the way in, so I treat myself to a diversion through it, to return to my trail in a while. Eleven stags look at me all dopey, like they were not expecting company, and demonstrate how easy it really is to walk at 45 degrees across loose rocks.
In the middle of the corrie, I find a vantage point and take eight photos to stitch together in a panorama.
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Back on my contour, I now have Sail Ghorm for company.
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I’m getting hungry, so I sit down for what I believe is a late lunch and find that its only 1230. Good news! That means I probably can complete my route in the remaining light, and make the trek back to the van too.
Arriving at the shoulder of Sail Ghorm, there’s some deer silhouetted up on the ridge. I’ve only got a wide angle lens with me, so I’ll have to crop this one.
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I can smell victory, if that’s what it is, the sun is shining on the ridge too, so I’ve only got to get over it. I’m scampering up there like a mad spaniel; partly excited, partly not to miss the sunshine!
Over at some erratics, I get a photo, and then realise I’m about a hundred feet too high. Whoops. There it is; down there….
When I’m home, I find that it isn’t the rock I started at last July at all. Never mind, it’s close enough!
Well, thank you Quinag; you’ve been amazing.


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