Sunday, 20 March 2011

Testing out the gear in Coigach

I haven't had much time to post just lately due to work and holiday commitments, but I'm back now with renewed enthusiasm. The last I wrote, I was looking at a new pack and dithering over what to get. Well thanks to all of you wonderful people out there I decided on a Golite Quest and I haven't been disappointed. Last week we were away to celebrate my birthday in Coigach just north of Ullapool and depsite the fact that we arrived in a blizzard, we got lots of walking in and the Quest got a good shakedown from me.

As I'm trying to build up realistic miles in preparation for the Pennine Way, I loaded up the Quest each day with way more stuff than I needed for a day hike and set out. The cottage where we stay when we are up there is right at the foot of Ben More Coigach and it's just a matter of slipping out of the front door and you're on the hill - no long walks in, no trekking from the car park and then having to drive miles home at the end of the day.

173 Culnacraig - no TV, no mobile, no central heating = bliss!
Once the snow had stopped, we had a walk along the Posties path from Achiltibuie to Strathcanaird - it was a path we'd read about but never had a chance to try out. It's called the Posties path because in days of yore, it was the route that the postman had to take to get mail in and and out of Coigach. For those of you not familiar with the area, Coigach is north of Ullapool and just a hop, skip and a jump as the crow flies. The road trip takes up to an hour though because of the geography (if you've ever climbed Stac Pollaidh you're in the right area) and only became possible in the sixties with the advent of a tarmac'ed road. The valiant postie used to walk the eight miles from Strathcanaird along the coast and it was called 'taking the rock' as the rocky slopes of Ben More Coigach cut off the peninsula.

The path nowadays has been improved but not a lot! It's wet, boggy, rough, steep and non existent in places. It's not for the fainthearted or those with a fear of heights (like me). In several places a slip would have you crashing into the sea below and because it's a coastal path, it follows all of the inlets along the way. This can be a bit tedious and all in all it's slow going but great fun when you remember that the postie used to do it daily and without the benefit of Goretex - he's da man!

Geodha Mor on the Posties path.
The day after dawned with glorious sunshine and so we decided to go up Ben More Coigach - after all it was staring at us from the bathroom window. It always looks massive and I suppose that it's because it rises directly from the sea. It's only 2438feet so not even a Munro. We packed up and set off after breakfast. When we reached the plateau beneath the mountain, we spied several sets of people on the summit and never being very keen on sharing mountains, we opted to go up Sgurr an Fhidleir instead. That's the one that sticks out like a nose opposite Stac Pollaidh.

Fiddler's nose in the snow - not my picture....

It was a long slog up picking our way through the patches of snow and it was really hot but what a view when you get to the top. You can't really see what you're in for until you nearly step over the edge - it comes up really suddenly but wow is it worth the slog.

Looking back from whence we came

The Fiddlers nose is about 100feet lower than Ben more Coigach - so not that much lower and some books list it as a subsidiary summit. I am not brilliant with heights, so I contented myself with taking a peek over the edge.

Straight down....

We had lunch at the summit cairn and set off down to a well earned drink at the end of the day. My Satmap GPS told me that we had done 2403 feet of ascent in 2 1/2 miles so pretty good going for me practicing with a loaded pack. It was a fantastic day - one of those that sticks in your mind.The perfect combination of weather, gear, company and scenery.

Me with Ben More Coigach in the background
The Quest was definitely a good buy, and I'm beginning to get to grips with the Satmap - more about that in another blog entry so I'm a happy bunny.


  1. What fabulous pictures! I think you were very brave peering over the edge like that!

  2. Great photos. Some trivia - Sgurr an Fhidhleir and Ben More Coigach are both 'Grahams'. They're fine hills and you certainly got them in superb conditions - lucky you. Glad you like the Quest.

  3. That's a beautiful area. We camped at Achnahaird a few years ago, in September, and and did the Coigach/Fhidleir circuit from Culnacraig. A memorable day with breathtaking views. Achnahaird campsite must have the best views of any in Scotland but I believe it's now closed. Wonder if it's possible to camp wild in that spot?