Mullardoch Munros, 4-5 July 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Two days bagging the Munros surrouding Loch Mullardoch John King was leading.

Mullardoch Munros

Day 1 - Mam Sodhail, Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Carn Eighe

The plan for this day was a trip along Loch Mullarodch on the boat, then a traverse of the four Munros on the north side of the loch. However, with strong westerly winds on Thursday morning, the weather had other ideas and the boat along Loch Mullardoch was cancelled. Alongside the wind, the forecast promised plenty of rain, so it was looking more like autumn than summer! Still, it was weather that we could climb some hills in so after a bit of a rethink we came up with a good plan B and headed up the road into Glen Affric. We would then see how many of the five Munros planned for Friday that we could do. Regardless of the weather, Glen Affric is always a stunning place to visit with the regenerating pine forests leading out into spectacular high mountains with complex chains of ridges heading out in all directions. When we arrived the cloud base was high and although there was a blustery wind blowing through, it stayed dry and we had very pleasant conditions to start our walk.

Our route followed the north shore of Loch Affric for several kilometers then head up Coire Leachavie. This provided good steady walking, first on track, then a fine stalkers path winding it’s way up to the top of the coire. The route also provided a fair amount of shelter from the wind until we emerged into the full force of it at 1080m. We were only 100m below the day’s first summit though, so a quick push up the final ridge saw us safely into the shelter of Mam Sodhail’s vast summit cairn. Given the strength of the wind here I reckoned that we should try for three of the five Munros then head down not committing to the long and surprisingly narrow ridge heading east to Tom a’ Choinnich. So off we went, making first for Beinn Fhionnlaidh.

Some care was required in the wind as we descended from Mam Sodhail. At the bealach with Carn Eighe we set off on a line contouring the slopes to make for the next bealach with Beinn Fhionnlaidh. In places a clear path is developing here but in others it is still a case of making your own route, taking care across the slippery boulder fields. The cloud remained high on our hills, despite all of the surrounding hills being completely shrouded in mist, so we could still see where we were going which made for easier route finding. I had also expected to be getting blasted by the westerly wind across this stretch but surprisingly it was now relatively calm and it remained that way all the way until the final push up Beinn Fhionnlaidh. Despite the winds, we managed to find a little shelter at this summit and it was nice to be able to reach this top given its remote location. We then retraced our steps and started on the 350m ascent to Carn Eighe.

By the time we were starting the ascent the cloud had come in on us too but the wind was manageable. It’s a steady climb to Carn Eighe but never too steep and there were huge carpets of moss campion on the slopes which made up for the lack of distant views. At 1183m this top is the highest summit northwest of the Great Glen, but on the day, it was another trig point in the mist. Nevertheless, it was the third Munro of the day successfully climbed and it hadn’t really started raining yet! It didn’t feel like it was going to stay that way for long though so we quit while we were ahead, following the ridge back to Mam Sodhail, then descending initially down the hill’s southeast ridge to add some variety from the uphill route. A squally shower came across at this point, making it feel like a good decision to be heading for lower ground. We dropped into Coire Leachavie one more, then back to Glen Affric. The rain didn’t come to much down here so we had a good nice walk out, coming across some curious pigs and a lizard on the track near Affric Lodge. To be back at the cars for five was good going and with very little to dry off having visited three high and remote hills it felt a very satisfying outcome from an unpromising forecast!

Day 2 - North Mullardoch Munros

It was still a windy forecast for Friday morning, but Angus the boatman was optimistic that we would be ok for a trip along the loch. We assembled by the Mullardoch Dam just before 8am and the wind was manageable so off we went! It wasn’t the roughest ride I’ve had down the loch but there was plenty of spray over the bow as we went so we were glad to be wearing full waterproofs. From the water there were some good views of the hills towering above some isolated old pines which allowed us to see where we’d been yesterday and what was ahead for today. You could also see a few old snow patches still hanging in on some of the sheltered northeastern slopes which was impressive given the mild winter we had.

Disembarking at 0820 we were well set for a good trip along the ridges back to the dam. As we started our ascent it was warm despite the breeze so we soon cut back on the layers and the sun even made an appearance! We took a nice steady pace up onto the slopes of An Socach working our way upwards through the peat hags and long grass to the better ground up high. We entered the mist around 800m and it soon cooled down so the layers were back on but the underfoot terrain was now good and we made cracking progress, reaching the summit in a little over two hours from the boat. We even got a wee fly-past from a ptarmigan with her chicks just before the summit.

The top was blustery with a steady drizzle falling so we didn’t hang around for any longer than necessary then headed down to get some shelter in the next bealach. The rain was becoming heavier as we made our way down so we didn’t stop for long before carrying on over the long rooftop of An Riabhachan. As we climbed there was plenty of evidence of goats having been here recently but we didn’t see them through the mists. Again, we only took a photo stop on the summit, opting for the next bealach for a further rest. Reaching the Bealach Toll an Lochain, the weather can only be described as minging. Depsite this, with a 320m climb ahead, we found some relative shelter to take on some fuel. This strategy worked well, giving us the energy need to power up and over Sgurr na Lapaich, the day’s highest summit.

Some careful route choice saw us quickly down to the Bealach na Cloiche Duibhe where the weather was now even worse with a strong wind blowing across our path making walking in a straight line challenging. The now torrential rain was coming in pretty much horizontally along with it. A determined push got us to the summit of the day’s final Munro, Carn nan Gobhar, the peak of the goats - they were still nowhere to be seen! We headed straight on down from here, enjoying the soft mossy ground underfoot that made for quite gentle walking to the next bealach, then we headed off into Coire an t-Sith, picking up the track that led back to the dam. Typically, the rain eased back as we descended, but this allowed for a pleasant walk out, and the chance to enjoy the satisfaction of having completed all four Munros in some challenging conditions. We were back at the cars in a great time of just over 8 hours. Cheers to all in the group for their efforts and good chat, a cracking couple of days in the hills!

More photos by John King are here on Flickr and some by Johnston Orr are here on Flickr too.

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