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Sgurr na Ciche and Ben Aden Walking

Travel the single track road that wiggles for miles along Loch Arkaig and you’ll know you’re heading somewhere special. The point the tarmac dies isn’t so much the end of the line as the start of new and exciting possibilities. From here several potential routes fan out into Knoydart's well named Rough Bounds, a complex region of twisting glens and gnarled peaks, bogs and cliffs, lochans and snaking sea lochs. Day trips are possible of course, but the area is better suited to long weekends (or longer), and its hefty approach routes are as hard as the peaks themselves. Sgurr na Ciche is the star attraction hereabouts, its distinctive conical summit rising from the head of tidal Loch Nevis to offer one of the most inaccessible of Munro challenges. It is often tackled with the Munros to its east, and done this way it's just a one-day wonder; but the most intriguing of Sgurr na Ciche's neighbours is actually the Corbett Ben Aden, one of the roughest and hardest to reach of Scotland's mountains. You'll be unlikely to knock these two off in a day, so why not take some time over it and enjoy? There are quicker ways than the one described to return home from the summit of Sgurr na Ciche but this circuit hinges on Sourlies bothy (see http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/bothy-... for more info), the ideal mid-way base. The bothy is itself a long hard walk (or kayak) from anywhere, and the approach covered here is one of the classic Scottish through-routes in its own right.

Sgurr na Ciche (left) and Ben Aden from Garbh Chioch Mhor   © Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
Sgurr na Ciche (left) and Ben Aden from Garbh Chioch Mhor
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NM9875091569 Follow the track west. Fork left past the buildings at Strathan, then cross a bridge to enter a forestry plantation. Turn right on the forest track into Glen Dessarry, passing A’Chuil bothy after about 3km. Here the track leaves one patch of woods to soon enter a second, eventually dwindling into a footpath beside the wiggly River Dessarry. After crossing the river go right at a junction, climbing muddily to leave the woods. Join the trail form Glendessarry lodge (an alternative start or finish route if you like) and continue uphill into the rugged boggy pass of the Mam na Cloich Airde, a sort of symbolic gateway to Knoydart.

From the high point descend past Lochan a' Mhaim onto a remote flood plain. It’s easy to lose the path here but don't be drawn into the gorge ahead. The correct route fords the Finiskaig River to the north bank where the trail is once again obvious, running above the gorge. Ignore the stalker's path that turns off right and continue down-glen, descending in zigzags and crossing a footbridge to reach the broad soggy valley at the head of Loch Nevis. Sourlies bothy is by the beach.

NM8688095029 Walk west along the shoreline, then pass over the foot of the Druim a' Ghoirtein ridge (the descent route later in the day) to reach the River Carnoch. Follow the curving riverbank across a salt marsh and then cross to the far bank on a footbridge. A good path continues upstream with Ben Aden now dead ahead, to a point where the Allt Achadh a’ Ghlinne joins the main river.

NM8857997663 Leave the path here and ford the river where it runs shallow (if it's not running shallow anywhere then it might be time for plan B, such as in hindsight having stayed on the east side of the river all the way from the sea). By now it's probably dawning on you that all aspects of Ben Aden are steep and crag-riddled. It's possible to climb the southwest face from here. Alternatively head northeast up pathless grass to reach a vague terrace at about 200m altitude. Go north along this to a wide shoulder overlooking a bend in the steep-sided glen below. Here cut right to climb the west spur, weaving among outcrops on steep airy ground, with the occasional hands-on moment. A prominent rock tier at about 550m is best climbed by a shelf slanting from the left, then up a mossy step. Above this there are no major obstacles before the summit, which is just the highest of many rocky knobbles (marked by a cairn).

NM8983498658 The link-up to Sgurr na Ciche crosses some extremely rough ground, potentially very confusing in poor visibility.

First aim for the top of the mountain's well defined northeast ridge. Just before reaching the first minor summit on this ridge veer right, dropping steeply to an obvious grassy terrace. This descends east, soon terminating in a dank crag; pass this on the left (facing out) to reach a safe saddle. Continue east over an ill-defined summit amid complex rock knolls and pond-pitted boggy hollows. From the next saddle start climbing towards Meall a’ Choire Dhuibhe, but before reaching the top turn hard right to contour an obvious grassy line among the crags of its western flank to reach a col below Sgurr na Ciche. It's a long tough slog from here, threading a line between outcrops. Beyond a ridge-crest top is the rocky summit cone, which is breached via a path alongside a dilapidated drystone wall. When the wall slants off left from the crest continue straight up to reach the east end of the final summit ridge. The summit has an isolated feel and stunning views of Knoydart and the Hebrides.

NM9022096676 A path (easily lost) goes roughly southwest to find a line of weakness down through the summit crag band. The ground soon eases into the broad ridge of Druim a’Ghoirtein, a fantastic descent route with the sea ahead that proves rather gentler than the rest of the round. Don't try to take a short cut down the steep south flank to Sourlies; its easier to stay with the ridge right down to the coast and then backtrack. Now just retrace your steps home through the Mam na Cloiche Airde, which is just as scenic in the reverse direction.

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