Two Men Alone on a Mountain (only one does Twitter) – The Curious Tale of Sgurr Na Stri

Scotland Trip Day 4, Saturday night and one full day left in the Highlands. Driving back from the day’s fun on Waterstein & Neist we agreed it was crucial that once back at the guest house I immediately hooked up to the Wi-Fi and started checking forecasts so we could plan the final day.

So once back at the guest house I immediately started posting the days photos to Twitter & Facebook, followed by a few Twitter replies, interesting links, ooh and checking the BBC footy transfer gossip and er oh crap yes….forgot about the forecasts. Now my mate Alan doesn’t do Twitter, he hasn’t got a computer or a Smartphone so he tends to think this behaviour is in someway odd and annoying, he’s even accused me of being obsessed with my phone – which of course I’m not, I just like to keep it near, at all times. Anyway eventually I checked some weather sites and it wasn’t looking good, possibly improving later but best in Lochaber which was too far south. We agreed a definite plan….to wait until morning……to agree a definite plan.

Sunday morning brought the expected mixed weather with an uncertain forecast (once I’d updated Twitter) giving no obvious direction choice except a vague mention of possible cloud lifting mid afternoon. We discussed options over breakfast and this continued into the car; for once neither of us could work out what to do or where to go. This deferment continued as we drove along the superb single track road from Plockton to Kyle hoping for revealing views across to Skye. These views didn’t reveal much so we scanned the skies for bright patches until reaching that moment of decision…the T junction at Kyle. To the left was Glen Shiel with high mountains steeped in cloud, to the right lay the wonderful Isle of Skye with a host of options big & small…..the car turned right! The lure of Skye is difficult to resist.

Driving over the Skye bridge felt right but we still didn’t know what to do, the Cuillins looked grim and could be in cloud all day which would be a shame, Trotternish looked no better, and we had already been over to the west coast. So a decision was made…..to defer the decision until we got to the Sligachan Inn. As we drew nearer the weather didn’t seem quite so bad and just before reaching the Slig we had at LAST decided on a route, we were going to visit the remote rocky hill of Sgurr Na Stri.

Sgurr na Stri (Peak of Strife) is the fabled ancestral home of the Gaellic fairies. Ok no it’s not, it’s actually a 1,700ft steep coastal hill sitting at the end of a 7 mile path south from the Sligachan Inn and squeezed between the Cuillin Ridge, Loch Coruisk and Blaven. Due to its unique location and Alpine-like surroundings the views from its summit are considered by many to be amongst the best in the UK. The walk-in also promised amazing views and the route had been recommended by Twitter stalwarts @stewyphoto and @Barry_the_Cat.

The Cuillin (well the bottom half anyway) from the start of the walk

We were taking a weather gamble that the long low walk-in would give time for the Cuillins to become clear later in the day for those exciting views. There was mention of river crossings and bogs so we weren’t quite sure what to expect as we parked near the Slig and started the 7 mile walk-in hoping the recent rains wouldn’t cause problems.

Sligachan Bridge at noon

We hadn’t been walking long when we rounded a corner and met this threatening obstacle…….which made quite a nice picture.

Highland Coos with route behind. Sgurr Na Stri hidden to right of the small distant peak above c00s

Diverting round the shaggy coos we were finding the path surprisingly good and quickly caught up a group heading for Marsco followed by a photographer snapping away at the shrouded Cuillins. Every few minutes we convinced ourselves the cloud level was improving which involved lots of head lifting, pointing, muttering, frowning and more muttering; sadly the spectacular bits remained covered.

The long path snakes upwards behind me with Sgurr Na Stri still hidden

Looking from the path to Gillean, almost, nearly, possibly, not, becoming clear

A couple of miles past these two tarns the path starts to rise at last & the view changes.

Ascending the Druim Hain looking back to the Slig, now a tiny dot

So far the peak of Sgur na Stri had remained hidden, however after a few miles we ascended the higher col of Druim Hain to a cairn of stones revealing a new scene ahead.

Lower part of Loch Coruisk to the right and Sgurr Na Stri finally revealed to the left

A quick snack break here taking in the view, checking the cloud level yet again, before descending slightly before the last straightforward ascent of the peak itself. Now when I say straightforward I don’t actually mean straightforward as there is no path up SNS, you just fumble upwards expecting the top to be around every corner. Many mountains have this feature of course but this one’s unexpected and really annoying, Alan was by now getting very frustrated with the thing especially as the extra time getting up meant less time on the top. Eventually though the summit was reached and it was time to breathe. The views below from left to right…

From the summit over to Elgol and the mainland

Across to the start of the Cuillin Ridge, Soay Island behind

There were no people on Sgurr na Stri and after that 7 mile walk and irritating stumble to the top with plunging views downwards, you do feel solitary. Both Bla Bheinn & the Cuillin Ridge were still sadly shrouded & the views to out to sea and Rhum very hazy. There was no sign of improving weather it was just the same as when we started, yet the forecast had suggested improvement & we still believed in this, gazing down at the little boats.

An interestingly different view straight down, with the entrance to Loch Coruisk on the right

We started looking for excuses to stay up here longer, trying to get better angles for pictures, checking the landscape with the binocs, finding more food to eat etc. I consulted my “Pocket Guide to Posing Above Lochs” for this one…..

Mountain Man Unleashed

We still didn’t want to leave, not when there was always the chance that the cloud could lift and the full majesty of the Cuillins would be revealed. I faffed on trying to get some 3G reception by walking round in circles murmuring “got reception” then ”nah gone”, Alan kept shouting “its lifting” followed by “no its not”. My 3G reception is shite but I suddenly found some so tried posting a quick picture update to Twitter and Facebook, this continued for a while, the conversation went something like this;-

  • Me:        Got reception, it’s just posting
  • Alan:      I think it might be lifting
  • Me:        Not sure, looks like…oh bollox, lost reception
  • Alan:      Nah it’s not lifting, might as well head back
  • Me:        Yeah hold on got reception again, it’s just posting
  • Alan:      Well can we start back at least
  • Me:        Nah if I move I’ll lose reception it’ll only take 1 minute to post
  • Alan:      I think it might be lifting
  • Me:        Think I’ve lost 3g again
  • Alan:      Right come on let’s go
  • Me:        Yeah just one more min, it’s at that final stage
  • Alan:      Think we really need to go
  • Me:        Final stage still, hey I think it might be lifting (playing for time)
  • Alan:      Do you think?
  • Me:        Yeah could be worth waiting a moment just in case
  • Alan:      It’s not lifting is it?
  • Me:        POSTED!! Phew
  • Alan:      Ok, finally, lets go then….
  • Me:        Yeah it’s just sending to Facebook now, this’ll be much quicker
  • Alan:      Yer feckin jokin!
  • Me:        Ok well lets get set to go, this’ll just a few more seconds.
  • Alan:      It could rain you know looking at that cloud
  • Me:        Not lifting then?
  • Alan:      It’s the same as it’s always been isn’t it?
  • Me:        Yup, POSTED, right lets bugger off

Alan then looked at his watch, a serious expression etched across his brow, we both knew we had overstayed our welcome in this mountain amphitheatre and we had reached that point where serious problems might be faced due to my phone delays. Alan’s voice uttered the words neither of us wanted to hear, “You do realise we probably won’t have time for a pint in the Slig now” This was an anxious moment, we discussed maybe phoning Mountain Rescue as a Sea King helicopter would surely get us back to the Inn for that beer.

Agreeing this was not an option we dragged ourselves away from the summit and picked our way across the hillside and up to the Druim Hain cairn. Pausing briefly to tighten laces & supp water we agreed we would head back fast and make a determined effort for that pint. Alan was immediately away whilst I fiddled with my knee supports, as you do. It took a while to catch him up and as we looked down again into the long valley and the long long path back we knew we really had to move it. We gave each other that silent stare that only true mountain men do…I said “Alan, have you farted?” He smiled proudly and set off like the wind, literally.

From the Drum Hain, Alan already quickly disappearing

I watched him for a second, adjusted my poles, had a wee, then prepared to walk fast, but wait.…what was that noise from my phone….the buggering battery was low & wouldn’t last the journey. Still this was certainly no time to faff on anymore, Alan wouldn’t be happy at any more phone related delays. After all, what’s more important, a friendship or a silly little phone with route tracking? So I whipped the back off, swapped the battery then switched it back on, reset the GPS position and the route tracking. Alan was by then a distant dot, I grimaced and set off feeling surprisingly good without my usual knee pain for once thanks to ibuprofen. I became at one with my surroundings, moving swiftly like a mountain gazelle (except there is no such animal), getting faster, stronger, almost running, constantly drawing the fast moving Alan in. I’d nearly caught him when my pole slipped, arm twisted & I nearly somersaulted. Winded & temporarily slowed I looked up to see Alan way ahead again…..the long legged bastard.

Eventually he stopped for a drink and I caught him up, walking straight past him shouting “PINT”…and we managed to continue without incident at a constant fast pace without stopping for an hour, overtaking some other walkers and taking a final photo looking back before at long last descending to the welcome sanctuary of the Slig. We were bang on time, went straight into the unexceptional bar & downed a pint.

Me looking like I’ve gained 4 stone during the walk. Discovered the top of SNS was just visible to the right of the far distant little peak (if you zoom in)

The welcome sanctuary that is the Sligg

Not a great bar but it does serve beer which is the main advantage – and location!

Now Alan had asked me a few times on the walk back if I was changing clothes before driving back, my stock answer was/is “probably, depends how much time’s left”. Alan doesn’t like this uncertainty; he likes to know for sure the ‘changing plan’ well in advance, hence the same question every 22 minutes. Personally I can live with being a bit more flexible on this 🙂

Back at the car any changing plans were thrown into disarray by a serious midge attack, there were thousands of the tiny buggers. Boots & clothes were too muddy to change in the car so we quickly grabbed stuff from the boot & separated to different corners of the layby. Anyone driving past would have seen two half dressed nutters hopping, swatting, running, shouting & swearing. The drive back to Plockton was characterised by sudden arm swattings as yet another midge emerged inside the windscreen. They were everywhere, some probably still there now studying my road maps plotting the conquest of England. They are coming!

A final look back – from the car, windows up due to the Midge invasion!

Having seen Stewart Smiths excellent trip report & photos of SGN (here) it’s clear we missed the grandeur on this one and hence it’s one we need to go back to. A very interesting day out and a great end to our June Highlands trip. After a final meal at the Plockton Shores we headed back to Hexham the next day taking that left hand turn at the Kyle T junction. Two weeks later I’d already booked a repeat visit in September. The End!

  • Distance = 15.5 miles (25 km)
  • Total Ascent = 3,720 ft (1,1341 m) – max height 1,722 ft
  • Duration = 7 hrs 40 mins – start 10.50am, finish 6.40pm
  • Start/Finish = just past the Sligachan Hotel on roadside layby
  • Date = June 24th 2012
  • Thanks for reading, have a drink on me 🙂
  1. Slioch from Incheril – North Highlands Trip Day 1
  2. Sheenas Tea Hut and the Sandaig Islands – North Highlands Trip Day 2
  3. Waterstein Head and Neist Point – In Search of Sun, Highlands Trip Day 3
Click on the map to link to Social Hiking interactive route

Click on the map to link to Social Hiking interactive route

Full walk description on Walk Highlands

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About MART IN THE HILLS

Hillwalker with dodgy knees and dodgier sense of humour. Lover of the outdoors, Lakes, Highlands, Cheviots, nature, good food, real ale and leaf tea.
This entry was posted in Scottish Highlands & Skye and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Two Men Alone on a Mountain (only one does Twitter) – The Curious Tale of Sgurr Na Stri

  1. Paul (Barry_the_Cat) says:

    Excellent blog about a superb walk. Done the walk twice now – first time got the views, second time just about got to Druim Hain and saw the Cuillin spread out in front of us – 5 minutes later the view had completely disappeared as rain swept in. Enjoyed the blog and it brought it all back. Al is obviously the straight man (in the comedic sense) Keep ’em coming 🙂

    • Mart Lawton says:

      H ha, thanks Paul; Alan gives as good as he gets, we’ve been walking hills together for 30yrs off & on so can finish each others sentences!

      We really believed it would lift but for once it didnt, such a pity, also could hardly see anything out to sea. Will have to return on a clear day but theres always the temptation to do something bigger when its clear 🙂

  2. Paul (Barry_the_Cat) says:

    ……… and thanks for the mention 🙂

    • Mart Lawton says:

      No problem I didnt know the walk till you & Stew mentioned it, realised we had looked down on it so was fascinated by views, I quite like the name too. looks sensational from the sea too. Did you find getting up the top a bit tedious? We went left rather than right. Didnt go up the second side top, did you?

      • Paul (Barry_the_Cat) says:

        I know what you mean – from afar it looks straightforward but as you get higher the way ahead becomes less clear. We met two German lads on the top who had carried a half bottle of Dalwhinnie to the top with them so I had a (very small) tot with them – as you know it’s a long way back! Superb place though. I did a short video from the top but had to do it in portrait as I couldn’t get it all in landscape. It was nice to sit there and watch the boat from Elgol, the Bella Jane, sailing into the loch. Will re-visit sometime. Would love to go up the massive ridge to the right (Druim nan Ramh) from near the loch. It runs parallel with the main ridge and would be a superb viewpoint too – a bit remote though perhaps. Sgurr na Stri is a superb and memorable walk. Happy days!

      • Mart Lawton says:

        Judging on our day I suspect you need the clarity to give it that extra dimension. Blavein & the ridge had a line alng it all day just below the jaggedy bits. Did see the Bella Jane trips, tiny dots. Wouldnt mind doing the boat trip then walk round Coruisk? Have only done Bruach na Frithe & Bannadich, is there anything easy to the south you recommend?

      • Paul (Barry_the_Cat) says:

        Yes must do the boat trip, Martin. As you know the views are great from Banachdich and Bruache na Frithe (amongst the best in the Cuillin I would say) – the NW ridge up on to BnF is an excellent route and you can make it as hard or as easy as you want and a nice route down is via Sgurr a’Bhasteir – a nice round. Sgurr nan Eag via Loch Coire a’ Ghrunnda (or just a visit to Loch CaG is worth it at over 700m) from Glenbrittle is doable but quite a long day. Sgurr Dearg (without doing the Inn Pinn) is accessible. If you want to get up onto the ridge a good up and down is via the Sgumain Stone Chute – great views at the top and Sron na Ciche is easily accessible. Any of the Cuillin corries are worth a mooch around. Ben Tianavaig near Portree is a nice hill. Ben na Caillich horseshoe from nr Broadford is a good day out. Glamaig and the Ben Deargs, slightly boggy in places but a good day. Marsco is a fine hill. On a poor day (!!) Karen and I often do a 10 mile forest walk in Glenbrittle which has some superb views of the Cuillin. If you’re up on the north of the island the Coral Beach nr Dunvegan is a lovely walk. If you want further info let me know. All you need is …… the weather – that’s the difficult bit!! :

      • Mart Lawton says:

        Thanks for that Paul, have wondered about the Stone Chute, looks a knee breaker?
        Tianavaig is on the list, the Sea Eagles of Portree eagle trip seem to live around there too. The Coral Beach is also on my ViewRanger ready for a trip. Have you done the north Trotternish coastal tip, Rhuba Hunnish, we loved it and saw a Pilot Whale.

  3. Ray Greenhow says:

    Nice read Martin. A bit different from The Lakes as there appears such long lead ins, though if lifted I’m sure it’s well worth it. I’m going to have to visit again, the last time I got into a drinking competion and ruined my ‘next day’. What was the beer quality like?

    • Mart Lawton says:

      Thankyou Ray, yeah it really is a different world to the Lakes, the mountains have far more space and individuality in the West Highlands. The scene around Sgurr na Strie on a clear day is breathtaking. Saw no one on top too, another bonus. Beer was ok, harder to find a decent pint up there and fewer pubby pubs. The Slig is such a disappointment for its location but if Stew gets rich he’s going to take it over and do it properly 🙂

  4. You and Alan are clearly very old friends. I felt I was there on the walk with you.

    As for the phone/Twitter obsession I have the same problem with some of my friends who think I’ve lost the plot when I keep checking my adorable sleek Samsung!

    Great pix Mart.

    • Mart Lawton says:

      Thanks Chloe, wanted to get some conversation into this one as it was genuinely funny at the time. Alan was oddly optimistic about the weather too, I need to do an Alan blog!
      Oh and I don’t have an obsession about my phone….actually where is my phone, WHERE’S MY PHONE!!

      Ah it’s here next to me, all ok, breathe! 🙂

  5. Paul (Barry_the_Cat) says:

    Been up and down the Sgumain Stone Chute – it’s not bad if you take it steady. Only been down the Great Stone Chute from Sgurr Alasdair – hard work on the old knees! Haven’t done the Trotternish Coast but will put it on the list. Would like to do the Trotternish Ridge too. Aaaargh ……. so much to do!!

  6. Really funny 🙂 I have conversations like that about stopping to use my phone all the time! Nearly had a panic attack once when I left it in the car. Apparently there are still lots of people who have never been on facebook or twitter. Weirdos. Don’t tell Alan.

    • Mart Lawton says:

      Thanks Karen, nice to know that you are normal like me. Things would be easier if my phone had any 3g/wi-fi reception at Alan’s house or on the hills, as presently everything takes ages with lots of furrowed-phone-brow staring at my upload bar.
      Alan’s usual phrase about me is “he’s on that phone again”!
      The cheek of it 🙂

  7. Looks a good walk – might try that this year so thanks for the great detail and photos.

    I’m like Alan for the technology – I have my blog and e-mail people but only ever from my house! My phone is about 15 years old and does phone calls and texts! 😉
    Carol.

    • It’s a walk we have to do again in clear weather for those views along the way and at the end. Stewart Smith the photographer camped out down from the top for the early morning shots. You do feel isolated there and the Slig never seems to get any nearer:-) Alan has to read my blog at work 🙂

      • quite often I can’t see people’s blog photos at work – it depends where they’re hosted – if they’re on Flickr or suchlike I often can’t as they get blocked.

        During my Munro-bagging, I’ve got to quite like the really isolated spots – they used to give me the creeps!

      • Yeah Alan has a problem with all the pics being blocked which is all a bit unnecessary overkill from work net censorship.

  8. Laughing at your attempt to post pics on FB and Twitter I was the very same on Saturday past

    • Hi Eth, yeah I used Tweetdeck at the time. It showed a helpful progress bar for Twitter then Facebook. It would get so far then stall or fail. Least there’s 4g now (somewhere) 🙂

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