Britain’s greatest scrambles: The Forcan Ridge, Glen Shiel

Narrow knife edges, scrambly towers, epic exposure and phenomenal views, the Forcan Ridge is a Scottish mountain classic with ‘must do’ written all over it.

Britain's greatest scrambles: The Forcan Ridge, Glen Shiel

by Ben Weeks |

While ‘The Saddle’ (the name of the peak to which this sublime ridge scramble is mounted) sounds accommodating and comfortable, the name of the scramble itself is anything but. The Forcan Ridge sounds more like an exclamation than a title, and the physique of the arête is deserving of such an outcry.

This route begins gently enough down in the greenery of Glen Shiel, climbing westward towards The Saddle – perhaps the finest looking peak in a valley saturated with Munro summits. But it’s not long before the real Forcan Ridge makes itself known. Narrow, exposed, and tricky in places, if taken head-on it’s a solid Grade 2 scramble. It has a softer side: a bypass option exists for much of it, varying from left to right of the main ridge and easing the scrambling to a more comfortable Grade 1. But if you’re a fan of airy rock clambering, tackling the arête proper does it the most justice and makes for a more rewarding outing. Here’s how it goes...

Distance 11km**| Ascent** 1150m | Scramble rating Grade 2 | Go there in dry, windless conditions, and outside of winter unless you’re equipped and skilled for snow and ice.

1.

From the A87 just west of Malagan Bridge, take the path that winds up to Bealach na Craoibhe, the col between Meallan Odhar and Biod an Fhithich, where the Forcan Ridge comes into view. Walk 1km or so to its base.

2.

The start of the scrambling is up a short slab showing obvious signs of traffic. Follow the route through the outcrops until the ridge swings sharply right then left and narrows.

High and shapely, the Forcan Ridge is worth tackling slowly and taking your time over.
High and shapely, the Forcan Ridge is worth tackling slowly and taking your time over.
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3.

Now on the ridge proper, exposure increases as the arête narrows. Follow the ridge to a short tower and tackle it by an exposed scramble to the left or bypass it to the right.

4.

The summit of Sgurr na Forcan requires another tower scramble to reach, and again can be bypassed on the right. The descent off the western side of the summit looks steep and intimidating, but the holds are reliable and the direct line goes at Grade 2. If it looks too much, alternative descents can be found via the gullies to the right and left.

5.

The knife-edge ridge continues with slabby rocks, but with an easier option down to the left. after climbing up to The Saddle’s eastern top the scrambling eases as the mountain’s main summit is reached.

Getting high and into the clouds on the Forcan Ridge
Getting high and into the clouds on the Forcan Ridge
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6.

To descend, continue west to the marginally lower trig point, then head south and follow a path (which is mostly clear, but disappears occasionally in the boulder fields) down towards Bealach Coire Mhàlagain.

7.

if you want more mountains, try an ascent of Sgùrr na Sgine. Otherwise, follow a drystone wall (called a dyke in these parts) as it traverses the south-eastern flank of Sgurr na Forcan at around the 700m contour to the slabby start of the ridge, from where you retrace your outward route back to the A87.

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