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    Clisham – A Walk Report

    By Ross Keddie, Marketing Assistant
    More by Ross

    Highest Point of the Hebrides

    Clisham. An imposing sight which rises like a monolith over Harris. Known in local Gaelic as ‘An Cliseam’ which means rocky cliff, it certainly lives up to its name. This handsome Corbett is the highest mountain on Harris, and the Outer Hebrides in general, making it a tantalising prospect for any hill walker. On my recent trip to the Outer Hebrides I got a chance to get to know this hill so I thought it’d be an excellent opportunity to break down what climbing Clisham is like, how to prepare and if it’s right for you.

    Straight to:

    Pre-Walk Prep

    Weather

    There’s no such thing as bad weather in Scotland, only a bad jacket, is something my Dad used to say – and this is never more true than in the Hebrides. With the Atlantic blowing unhindered onto these picturesque islands the weather is prone to change. Even with the sun splitting the sky, we still packed waterproofs and spare layers just in case the weather closed in.

    Preparation

    We started our day with a big breakfast, mainly carbs and protein to make sure we had all the fuel we needed for a long day ahead. With hot temperatures and sunny skies, we also made sure to hydrate before our walk, pack plenty of water and get sun cream on. Due to Clisham’s height and position it’s likely that you’ll be under the sun for at least part of the day, even if it seems cloudy, so we definitely recommend getting some sun protection on. Floppy sunhats are, of course, encouraged.

    Our group had a range of abilities ranging from never having gone hiking to far more experienced members. We also made sure to take boots with ankle support for the steep, rocky and at times technical ground on Clisham’s slopes, as well as wicking layers for when we worked up a sweat. Walking poles were also a great help on the way up and down, as they made the terrain a little easier on our knees.

    Kit List

    • Boots with ankle support
    • Water (2L)
    • Lunch
    • Sun cream
    • Extra layers
    • Waterproofs
    • First aid kit (Group kit)
    • Group shelter (Group kit)
    • Walking poles (Optional)

    Full Hiking Gear Guide

    Parking Location

    Clisham with car park indicated

    The Walk - What to Expect

    Approach

    The approach to Clisham is fairly gentle as you rise away from the car park and leave the road behind you. It rises gradually, and there’s a sense of growing space like a bubble expanding outwards around you – reaching out to distant peaks which gather but don’t crowd. Even after many days of radiant sunshine, the ground was still quite wet underfoot, and at various times we had to take our time over some boggy ground. This was at times a little bit tricky, but having taken a few days practising on such terrain during the High Points of the Outer Hebrides trip we were well used to such ground.

    Clisham ascent with hikers in foreground.

    Ascent

    Clisham looks scarier than it is. Although the way up starts to become steeper and rockier, there are some well-travelled routes up the hillside. This was also the first time we’d seen any other hill walkers during the trip, and we were able to follow a couple of their lines towards the summit. Some steeper sections had to be woven around, but there were a couple of route options so it never felt restrictive or overly difficult despite the sustained nature of the climb. Breaking up the climb were ample opportunities to take a breather, take on water and snap a few pictures of the breathtaking scenery. This especially let those in our party who were a touch less experienced regroup before the next push upwards.

    Clisham Slopes with Ali meditating

    Highest Peak on Harris

    Summit

    Despite the copious opportunities to take in the surrounding mountainscapes, there’s a sense of anticipation as you reach the summit. A touch of light scrambling makes the summit itself a little sweeter, a touch more earned. When you reach the trig point, which conveniently has a wind break for those blustery days, you can pause to truly take in the surrounding landscape. We were lucky enough to catch it on a bluebird day, so could see all the way to Skye and even had hints of the mainland beyond! It’s a delight to take a moment, look back over all the ground you’ve covered and truly take in the rugged beauty of the Hebrides spread out beneath you.

    Descent

    As a group, we opted for a more gentle but sustained departure from the hill. Looking back down the route we’d come up it looked very manageable, especially for those of us with walking poles. However, with a slightly different outlook on Harris and a chance to overlook the scenic Loch Mhisteam, we opted to take a fresh route. This added some distance and time to our descent but made it far more enjoyable as we picked our way downwards. A little more bog down in the glen beneath as we picked our way between picturesque clear streams, and a mere 50 meter or so rise back onto the shoulder between Clisham and Tomnabhal, but then we were in fine standing for a leisurely wander back to the vehicle.

    At the end, we felt tired, with those miles travelled and meters climbed coming back to take their toll, but seriously accomplished. Clisham seemed to look down approvingly behind us and we knew that we’d earned a bit of time in the shade to reflect on what we’d achieved.

    After all, at the highest point of these islands, there’s no better spot to enjoy it from.

    View from near top of Clisham on descent.

    Walk Summary

    Clisham’s 600 meters of ascent is no joke but is certainly achievable by those with the right outlook. We were glad that we’d prepared in advance for every eventuality and came with a positive outlook despite having a group of mixed abilities. Although no specific route exists on the mountain, there are some naturally formed ways upwards though they take a touch of route finding. We got lucky with the weather, you can tell by just the hints of breeze that it could have changed at any moment.

    Overall Clisham is a great day on the hill and well worth the climb. The views are second to none in the Hebrides, the sense of achievement is profound when you’ve conquered it. On a good day, it’s a delight to undertake regardless of ability level so long as you’re prepared. If you’re planning a trip to the Hebrides then it’s a must-climb, and we undertake this venture on our High Points of the Outer Hebrides trip as a real highlight of the experience.

    You can make a bigger day of it by doing the Clisham Horseshoe, this is a 7-9 hour walk with over 1,000 meters of ascent.

    Climb Clisham With Us

    TripDatePriceAvailabilityBook
    Wilderness Walking - High Points of the Outer Hebrides29th Apr - 6th May 2023£2,0855 place(s) leftBook Now
    Wilderness Walking - High Points of the Outer Hebrides6th May - 13th May 2023£2,0858 place(s) leftBook Now
    Wilderness Walking - High Points of the Outer Hebrides13th May - 20th May 2023£2,1855 place(s) leftBook Now
    Wilderness Walking - High Points of the Outer Hebrides20th May - 27th May 2023£2,1856 place(s) leftBook Now
    Wilderness Walking - High Points of the Outer Hebrides3rd Jun - 10th Jun 2023£2,1856 place(s) leftBook Now

    Meet the Author: Ross Keddie

    “Having grown up in Glasgow, I've always had restless feet. They've taken me across the ocean to North America, around Europe and all over Scotland. Having paused to get a degree in Adventure (yes, literally!) I'm incredibly lucky to be able to pursue my passion for writing and travel with Wilderness Scotland.”

    View profileMore by Ross

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