Munros and Tops N of Glen Affric

Saturday 28 September 2013:

Toll Creagach + Tom a’ Chòinich (11.6 km, 1072 m)

Sunday 29 September 2013:

Carn Eige, Beinn Fhionnlaidh + Mullach na Dheiragain (14.7 km, 1272 m)

Monday 30 September 2013:

Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan + An Socach (20.5 km, 1023 m)

Tuesday 01 October 2013:

Loch Affric – Chisholme Bridge (8.7 km, 245 m)

Day 1, Saturday 28 September 2013

11.6 km/1072 m/06:00 hrs

Munros (2nd round): Toll Creagach + Tom a’ Chòinich (Nos. 21 + 22)

Munro Tops: Toll Creagach W Top, Tom a’ Chòinich Beag + An Leth-chreag (Nos. 20 – 22)

After my unsuccessful attempt at Tranter’s Round, I spent the next couple of days at home, sorting and cleaning my kit and, as I still had more than a week off from work, I couldn’t wait for another opportunity to get out again. In the meantime the weather had improved and I decided to try the long ridge walk over the Glen Affric Munros and Tops.

Some of the Tops require long detours from the main ridge, especially the remote ones at the W end, and now it paid off that I had climbed Màm Sodhail and its Tops two weeks ago.

It was warm, but overcast when I parked at Chisholme Bridge and started walking along the track into Gleann nam Fiadh.

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Where the good track ends and becomes very boggy, I turned right up the hillside and soon found the faint path that leads up beside the Allt a’ Choire Odhair.

Creag na h-Inghinn, an interesting alternative route with some straightforward scrambling, which I had used on my last ascent of Tom a’ Chòinich in September 2012.

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Higher up, the path peters out, but from here it is easy going on the grassy slopes of Toll Creagach. By now, the sun had come out and it was even warmer than at the start.

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On the summit of Toll Creagach the wind picked up, suddenly it was very cold and I had to put my jacket back on.

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Summit shelter with the Loch Mullardoch Munros in the background.

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Loch Mullardoch.

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I had got quite cold on the wide summit plateau, so I didn’t hang around for long, but continued along the ridge towards Toll Creagach’s W Top.

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Sgùrr na Lapaich on the other side of Loch Mullardoch.

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On Toll Creagach’s W Top, looking back to the summit.

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Bealach Toll Easa and Tom a’ Chòinich’s E ridge.

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On my way up the ridge, clouds started rolling in, and when I reached the summit, I couldn’t see much apart from the large cairn. Not again! Just like four days ago – was there a pattern developing?? 😦

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On the descent from the summit, I got a last glimpse of Coire Domhain and Loch Mullardoch, after that I walked in the clouds for the rest of the day.

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The second Top, Tom a’ Chòinich Beag.

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I continued along the ridge to the next Top, An Leth-chreag, and started to worry that this trip would end just like the last one…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was time to look for a camp site, and I knew of only one water source that didn’t involve losing too much height to reach it, and it also provided some flattish ground nearby. When I reached the col between An Leth-chreag and Sròn Garbh, I kept walking in a SE direction, trying to locate one of the streams flowing into Loch a’ Gharbh-bhealaich.

Soon I came across a stream bed, but it was dried out and I had no choice but to follow it downwards until I would reach flowing water. Visibility was down to a few metres, and so I stopped every now and again to listen. Suddenly I heard water trickling somewhere to my right, and walked towards it. Apparently, I had come across a spring and after a bit of wandering around I also found a suitable place to pitch my tent. Later I noticed a tiny lochan not far behind my tent, and the “spring” turned out to be the outflow of the loch.

The only thing that was missing were the views, and I was wondering what the next morning would bring?

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Day 2, Sunday 29 September 2013

14.7 km/1272 m/10:00 hrs

Munros (2nd round): Carn Eige, Beinn Fhionnlaidh + Mullach na Dheiragain (Nos. 23 – 25)

Munro Tops: Sròn Garbh, Stob Coire Dhomhnuill, Stob a’ Choire Dhomhain, Stob Coire Lochan, Mullach Sithidh + Carn na Con Dhu (Nos. 23 – 28)

When I woke up just before sunrise, I opened the tent door and was delighted to see Loch Affric below, under a colourful sky.

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Sunrise.

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Camp site.

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It was a bit windy and chilly when I left my camp site at 08:15, but I quickly warmed up on the steep climb up to Sròn Garbh.

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Looking back along the ridge to Tom a’ Chòinich.

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Sròn Garbh.

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Loch a’ Choire Dhomhain.

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Ben Nevis in the distance.

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The way ahead.

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Hazy Torridon hills.

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Upper Gleann nam Fiadh, framed by Màm Sodhail and Carn Eige.

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I was looking forward to the next section of the ridge with its interesting little pinnacles, but with the big rucksack I stayed on the bypass path that winds its way around them.

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View back along the ridge.

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Pretty clouds above Ben Nevis…

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… and even a Saltire above Torridon 🙂

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The wide grassy ridge leading to Carn Eige.

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Beinn Fhionnlaidh.

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Carn Eige summit.

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Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Coire Lochan.

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During my descent along Carn Eige’s N ridge I studied the three eastern spurs of Mullach na Dheiragain for the best ascent route, and found that the middle one, between Coire na Dheiragainn and Coire na Dheiragen Bheag, looked the easiest. Besides, I would arrive on the ridge just a few hundred metres NE of the Munro Top Mullach Sithidh.

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Gleann a’ Choilich and the W end of Loch Mullardoch.

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Stob Coire Lochan.

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Skye.

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Loch Mullardoch.

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I had a lunch break at Bealach Beag and left my rucksack there while I made the quick detour to Beinn Fhionnlaidh.

Looking towards the Killilan hills.

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Gleann a’ Choilich.

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Beinn Fhionnlaidh summit.

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I returned to the bealach, collected my rucksack and started the descent down the grassy slopes into Gleann a’ Choilich.

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I was going to walk along the path down in the glen until I was opposite the start of my planned ascent route, but the track was so boggy that it didn’t make the walking any easier, so I forded the Abhainn a’ Choilich at the first opportunity and continued on the other side.

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Carn Eige and Màm Sodhail.

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Upper Gleann a’ Choilich and An Socach.

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The ascent seemed like an endless slog, I felt dehydrated and hungry, but didn’t want to stop for a break as I was beginning to get worried about the daylight hours I had left to find water and a camp site.

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It was just before 17:00 when I reached Mullach Sithidh.

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The ridge to Mullach na Dheiragain.

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Mullach na Dheiragain summit cairn.

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Although my legs were getting really tired by now, I thought it was great to be here on such a beautiful evening.

On the lower slopes of Carn na Con Dhu, looking back to Mullach na Dheiragain.

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It was slow going along the ridge with its many ups and downs.

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The final ascent to Carn na Con Dhu.

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Carn na Con Dhu summit.

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From Bealach nan Daoine I descended into Coire nan Dearcag.

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In the meantime, the wind had picked up and I was trying to find a sheltered place for my tent. The ground was very boggy, and it took me a while to find some clear, running water. At 18:45 I managed to find a suitable pitch and settled down for the night. I wasn’t sure about what to do the next day, I felt very tired and didn’t know if the wind would calm down or get even worse.

It seemed very strange that I had not seen anyone else all day – it was a Sunday after all and the weather had been gorgeous!

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Day 3, Monday 30 September 2013

20.5 km/1023 m/09:15 hrs

Munros (2nd round): Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan + An Socach (Nos. 26 + 27)

Munro Tops: Stùc Fraoch Choire, Stùc Mòr, Stùc Bheag, Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan W Top + Stob Coire na Cloiche (Nos. 29 – 33)

When I woke up in the morning, I was reluctant to get out of my warm sleeping bag, but I was in no rush anyway as I didn’t really expect to walk very far today (if it was too windy for the Munros, I would descend to the Alltbeithe YH and walk back along Loch Affric).

But the weather was great again, and although it was very windy I thought I’d give it a go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter I had packed up my tent and put my rucksack beside a large boulder near my camp site, I had a rather late start at 09:15. I climbed back up to Bealach nan Daoine to see how steep the ground was on the other side, and if it was possible to contour around the head of Gleann Sithidh to Bealach Sgurr na Ceathreamhnan.

Apart from the fact that I was almost blown over when I looked over the edge, the terrain itself did look quite steep, but doable. Thankfully, I was out of the worst of the wind as soon as I started descending.

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About halfway around the coire I had to ford the outflow of An Gorm-lochan in a steep-sided gorge, but I found some deer tracks on either side that helped me to get across.

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A grassy ramp leads up to the bealach.

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View N into Fraoch Choire.

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Stùc Fraoch Choire.

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On my way around the N flank of Stùc Mòr I suddenly found myself on very steep ground and had to “retrace my steps” (= crawling on all fours…), but at least I got a good view of Loch an Fhraoich-choire from there!

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On the ridge leading to Stùc Fraoch Choire.

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The ascent to Stùc Fraoch Choire seemed to take ages as I was struggling against a strong headwind.

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From Stùc Fraoch Choire I headed back along the ridge to the next Munro Top, Stùc Mòr.

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Looking NW towards Glen Elchaig.

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Stùc Mòr.

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And onwards and upwards to the next one, Stùc Bheag.

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I had a short break, sheltered from the wind behind some large rocks, before I climbed up to the summit.

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Coire Lochan.

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The coire I had contoured around earlier in the day, with Carn na Con Dhu left of centre.

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On the bealach S of Stùc Bheag the wind was so strong that I got a bit worried about the ascent of the narrow ridge ahead. But it seemed that the bealach was acting as a wind funnel, and during the ascent to Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan’s W Top there was just a strong breeze, but nothing to worry about.

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View along An Caorann Mòr to Loch Cluanie.

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The narrow ridge between the W Top and the summit.

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Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan summit.

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Looking back to the W Top.

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Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan’s E ridge, the standard ascent route from Alltbeithe YH via Coire na Cloiche.

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But I descended along the NE ridge, to retrieve my rucksack in Coire nan Dearcag.

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I arrived back at my rucksack at 13:30 and had a lunch break before I continued. I knew that there was a path leading from the coire to the bealach between Stob Coire na Cloiche and An Socach, but instead of making a detour to the Munro Top, I would have liked to ascend to the bealach W of Stob Coire na Cloiche and walk over it.

The terrain looked steep and rocky, but when I came closer, I could make out a diagonal line across the N flank of Stob Coire na Cloiche.

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As I had hoped, this turned out to be a stalker’s path or a deer track, not much used apparently, but good enough to provide a safe ascent up the steep hillside.

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Loch Coire nan Dearcag.

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Stob Coire na Cloiche.

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Stob Coire na Cloiche summit, with Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan on the right.

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Gleann a’ Choilich.

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I continued E along the ridge towards An Socach.

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An Socach summit cairn.

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The ridge leading to Màm Sodhail and Carn Eige.

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For the descent, I followed the path along the E bank of the Allt Coire Ghaidheil.

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Upper Coire Ghaidheil.

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The path reaches the main track in Glen Affric by this footbridge.

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On my way back along the River Affric, I was treated to a spectacular evening sky.

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Earlier in the day, I had thought about heading back to my car and driving home late in the evening, but now a camp by the loch and an early night seemed much more tempting.

I pitched my tent on the grassy patch by the W end of Loch Affric at around 19:20 and was looking forward to a leisurely walk out the next morning.

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Day 4, Tuesday 01 October 2013

8.7 km/245 m/02:15 hrs

Loch Affric – Chisholme Bridge

My camp site in the morning.

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It was a lovely stroll along the S bank of Loch Affric in the warm sun and with nice views to the hills across the loch.

An Tudair.

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Cottage by Affric Lodge.

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Sgùrr na Lapaich.

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I was glad that this had turned into such a fantastic walk (after the disappointing end of the first day)! I particularly enjoyed exploring the remote area W of Loch Mullardoch and Loch Affric during a backpacking trip, instead of climbing the hills in separate day walks like I had done on my first Munro round.

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7 thoughts on “Munros and Tops N of Glen Affric

  1. You’re a sight fitter than me, that’s for sure. Day 2 would have killed me without a pack I think, never mind with a full camping one! The Glen Affric mountains have been my favourites so far (including Mullardoch etc.). Glad to see someone else is ‘top-collecting’ 🙂
    Carol.

    • I’m not so sure about the “being fitter” part ;), I just take my time and don’t mind walking long days. I’ve only been collecting the Tops since I started my second Munro round (I only completed the first one in August 2013), it makes every walk more interesting, but also a lot harder sometimes!

      • Right from the start I tried to collect as many tops as I could but was missing out the really awkward ones. Now I have some very long walks just to bag them – but mostly nice walks 🙂 I think the tops are a lot harder technically than the Munros have been.

      • Yes, I think you are right about the tops being more technical. I never even thought about collecting Munro Tops until I was getting closer to completion, but now I’m somewhat fascinated by the idea of bagging all those interesting extra summits, especially the awkward ones 🙂 I’ve already got a plan for Meall Dearg on Liathach, hopefully this summer if I get the right weather for it 🙂

        I’m also trying to climb the Tops the same day as I do the Munros instead of during a separate walk, and that makes for some really long days.

      • I was gathering from your blog that you kind of like scrambling? I have to admit it isn’t my favourite pastime – I’ve preferred the more straightforward Munros and get flak off my friend for liking the more rounded stuff like the Cairngorms!

        My plan for Meall Dearg is to go into Coire na Caim and ascend the really steep grass (I think it’s a gully) between the pinnacles and Meall Dearg. I had a friend who went that way and put a report out on Scottish Hills but it sounded pretty awkward. Was that your planned route too? Can I come with you? 😉
        Carol.

      • Yes, I like scrambling and a few years ago I did a lot of it and felt quite confident (I did all the Skye Munros – except the In Pin – solo and without a guide, although some of them took me several attempts). I love the Aonach Eagach and have done the ridge several times, once even in both directions. Curved Ridge is another favourite that I am planning to do again this summer.
        But the last few summers I didn’t do a lot of scrambling and I seem to be a bit out of practice, that’s why I’m very keen on visiting Skye again this year and do some of the great Munros there 🙂
        I’m at work just now, but I think I’ve got a link to a good route description for Meall Dearg on my computer at home, if I find it I’ll send you the link!

      • You’re definitely a lot braver than me then. I didn’t do the Aonach Eagach as a ridge – I picked off all the summits separately! 😉 I also had to have a guide for all but 2 of the Cuillin. Having said that, on the last two (the In Pinn and Am Basteir) I suddenly had a leap in confidence when it came to the Cuillin and I quite like them now 🙂 Not sure I’d be up to them without a guide and an occasional rope though…

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