Route No. 100 in Ralph Storers Book 100 Best Routes on Scottish Mountains formed a fitting end to our excursion to the Outer Hebrides in spring 2018. The 2018 trip to Scotland was the first in 25 years during which we climbed no Munro at all having finished our first – and likely last – round of the coveted 282 hills in September 2017 on A’Mhaighdean.
The relatively modest height of these island hills is more than compensated for by their unique setting: The blue Atlantic Ocean in almost every view from the summits, the sea lochs snaking into the heart of North Harris, the white sand and emerald-coloured water of Luskentyre beach, to name but one of them.
The Clisham circuit of course forms the most challenging and most rewarding high-level trip in Harris. With Tomnaval, Clisham, Mulla bho Deas, Mulla bho Thuath and Mullach an Langa surrounding Loch Vistem and Glen Scaladale this is a ridge walk that need not fear comparisons with many a mainland classic.
We opted for doing the whole circuit in exactly the way Mr Storer describes it. This meant a start at the bridge over the Scaladale River where there was enough space to park our car beside the A859. The hike along the A859 to where the easy path towards Tomnaval branches of to the right took us less than 10 minutes. With the crags of Castail Ard to our left we headed up this hikers highway to the three lochans which appear one after the other close to where the path reaches its highest point. Leaving the path behind we took a line avoiding the crags above Lochan a’Chleit Ard which led us through thick heather up onto the broad shoulder of Tomnaval. Once on the open grassy shoulder it was an easy tramp over successive bands of rock to the summit region of Tomnaval. Before we reached the summit we headed due west to the bealach between this hill and Clisham.
At the bealach we rested for a few minutes before we tackled the ever-steepening grass slope interspersed with rocks and boulders which ends in an extremely stiff pull up a precariously inclined grass gully leading to the short summit ridge of An Clisham. At the rocky summit we rested our legs and drank in the views. Luckily we had picked a sunny day for this tour, some wind, yes, but just a bit of haze in the glens. I have no adequate words to describe the views of hill, glens and glistening water. Summit talk with a Bavarian couple, who also took a break there, centred on hill-walking and the beauty of the island.
All too soon we decided to head on down the west ridge of Clisham initially hopping from boulder to boulder then picking up a path leading towards the next bealach below Mulla bho Deas. A short conversation with another hiker ensued with whom we talked about wildlife. We had seen an owl rising from the heather on Tomnaval and this seems to have been quite a rare occurrence as our fellow walker explained to us. The path – first on grass, then, with interest, over rocks soon deposited us at the summit of MbD. The summit conversation with two hikers from Harris whom we met there was about climbing options on the hills of the Clisham circuit.
From Mulla bho Deas we continued towards its sister hill of Mulla bho Thuath. This is a very nice cliff edge walk on a narrow ridge of grass and rocks. Certainly not without interest and calling for a stop or two on the way to savour the splendid views of the ridge, Clisham and the corrie below. At the summit of Mulla bho Thuath the ridge widened considerably. The next section towards Mullach nan Langa had some bouldery terrain which did not make for good walking but of course it was not difficult.
Traversing over the summit of Mullach an Langa we headed down a steepish heather and grass slope in the general direction of Loch Vistem which we skirted on its north side. The terrain was quite squishy in the wide expanse of Glen Scaladale. We headed towards the path beside the developing River Scaladale which we finally reached after some hopping from grassy hump to grassy hump to avoid the worst spongey spots. Once on the path it was an easy and serene hike back to the A859.
A very rewarding hike with many interesting features over varying terrain. A great day out in the hills of Harris. Thank you, again, Alba!
Max elevation: 798 m
Min elevation: 32 m
Total climbing: 2047 m
Total descent: -2048 m
Total Time: 07:20:36