Friday, 17 May 2013

Mullardoch and Affric, May'13

We'd planned this trip for early May, so as to avoid midges and hopefully get some spring sunshine. We were in the Affric area for 3 days hiking over some fairly remote Munros.

The trip began on the Saturday with a boat journey along Loch Mullardoch. Karl, the previous boatman has now retired to Denmark and Angus has taken over the business. He's a great guy and sped us rapidly along the loch. If you get a chance to do this trip and it's a bit breezy or cold, bag the front of the boat ! Arriving in sunshine at 'Seldom Inn' we started on the path heading westwards.

Around 1.5km into the walk, the path crosses the burn via a new bridge and there on, we were jumping peat-hags until we reached the first rise. Grassy slopes ahead took us onto An Socach, our first Munro of the day. We had lunch near the summit and took in the views all around.

There was a fair amount of snow around, nothing difficult and some folk enjoyed a few bum-slides on the way. An Riabhachan next, this is a long flat-topped mountain and we were stuck in mist along its length. As some folk didn't want or need to do the next two Munros, we split the group, some heading directly down to the loch, the others continuing along the ridges - we agreed a meeting point on the lochside. I took the guys along the crests - we bagged Sgurr na Lapaich in mist with the navigation off being a bit testing. Up to Carn nan Gobhar and the cloud began to lift giving us a fine view of the route back to the dam.

The other guys weren't at the arranged meeting place, so I headed back along the loch to find them at the next river crossing. The new bridge that we were told was there couldn't be found, so with care the group got across - we also helped a couple of backpackers too (they were on the TGO coast-to-coast challenge). The day was finished off with a very pleasant walk along the lochside under blue skies.

Day 2 began again with a boat trip along Loch Mullardoch, this time Angus dropped us off at the foot of Beinn Fhionnlaidh. Gear sorted, we headed directly up this hill. There's no beating around this, it's a slog ! But once up, the views are stunning, particularly down the length of Loch Mullardoch.

Forecast was telling us that mist and wind would pull in by mid-morning, so after a quick food break at the col between Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Carn Eighe, we set off. Following a grassy break between boulders, we picked our way to the high col between Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail, the cornice over the eastern side of the col was most impressive, particularly considering this was May ! Up to Mam Sodhail's summit, we were now in mist.

A short break, we then about turned and quickly bagged Carn Eighe's summit. Some navigation next in occasional white-outs took us to the pinnacles - the snow actually seemed to aid progress around these. Over some tops, narrow and scrambly in places, we rapidly found Tom a'Choinnich. I was expecting the descent of this to be a little challenging with snow-cover, but the ridge down was clear and obvious, everyone making quick progress down.

Our last Munro, Toll Creagach was a pleasant walk up grass covered slopes, with the skies beginning to clear as the summit was reached. All that was left to do was walk down to the dam - I jogged ahead to pick up the Land Rover to save people the 1.5km back along the road.

Weather on our final day wasn't looking nice. Our hardy group weren't to be easily put off and began our day with a cycle along Glen Affric in the direction of Altbheithe Hostel. We stopped at a high point on the track, about 3km into our journey. As we were debating the moutain route and the weather, one of the estate workers pulled up in his 4x4 and chatted to us - amongst several of his expressions, 'I wouldn't be going up there' made the group decide to bin the day and we ended up at the Bog Cotton café for some well deserved breakfast rolls and hot drinks. The mountains will be there another day, and we'll be there to climb them. So the story is to be continued, watch this space !

I stayed in a wooden pod at Cannich Campsite, well recommended ! Some of the group stayed at Bearnock Hostel which they thoroughly enjoyed.

More photos of the trip are on our Flickr site.