A Wintery Forcan Ridge

Bright and early on Wednesday morning, we headed up to Glen Shiel with plans to do the two Munros A’Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch Choire, via the Mullach Fraoch Choire South Ridge (winter grade I). However, the winds picked up as we were nearing the summit of A’Chralaig and since we were both struggling to stay upright, we decided to turn around and leave South Ridge for another day.

Thursday morning we woke to repeat the mighty Forcan Ridge in Glen Shiel, this time in winter conditions. When driving the Glen Shiel road to Skye, the Forcan Ridge stands overlooking the length of the valley from its elevated position, inspiring awe.

After our 11 hour long (and rather uncomfortable) sleep in the car, we set off.  We made quick progress up the approach path which was in summerlike condition until just before the bealach, where it became icy in places. The snow line was sitting at around 500m and was mostly well frozen and firm under foot, giving easy walking conditions to the start of the ridge.

The ridge is a relatively straight forward summer scramble and in winter conditions it is much the same, bar a few tricky moves due to ice and snow filling useful hand and foot placements. We were lucky in that the snow was wind scoured and well consolidated in an almost alpine like condition providing quick progress along the ridge.

After many airy traverses, ‘bad steps’ and exposed sections, you eventually are met with either a downclimb/abseil or the option to avoid it via a steep descent to the east. In the interest of speed and efficiency we opted to take the descent to the east, however, depending on the conditions the abseil may be the only choice so always take a rope.

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Keith on one of the trickier sections

From here you gain the ridge proper again, past the shark fin rocks and soak up the atmosphere and views from the last long section of undulating ridge to reach the summit trig point of The Saddle (1011m).

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Looking back towards our route of ascent

A few photos later and we dropped down to the south east to escape the wind and had lunch in the snowhole conveniently left from a group bivvying the previous night, then began our descent off the hill.

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Forcan Ridge, taken from the descent

In winter the slopes of The Saddle to the east can present avalanche danger in the wrong conditions but were in a stable condition on Thursday after all of the strong easterly winds. The shoulder was fairly wind scoured and gave us an easy descent.

A couple of hours later and we were back at the car, faced with our 4 hour drive home to Edinburgh after an excellent winter day out :-)

The start of Forcan Ridge at sunset

The start of Forcan Ridge at sunset

We recently invested in a Go Pro for skiing and biking, but tried it out on Forcan Ridge, so…below is a short 2 minute video of our day. I’m just figuring out how to use the software so for some reason the video has exported in a square shape. Will need to spend a lot more time researching and practising my video editting skills over the next few weeks!

More photos can also be found on the Get Out Adventures facebook page.

Forcan Ridge 31st January 2014 from GetOutAdventures on Vimeo.