Monday, November 17, 2008

Glen Affric and Strathfarrar: Tom a' Choinich (41) and Toll Creagach (77)

Walk date: 16/11/08
My Munro #'s: 170 and 171

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Towm a choanyeech - hill of the moss - 1111m
Tow kraykach - rocky hollow - 1054m

Duration - 10:30-15:30
Distance - 17.3km
Total ascent - 1063m
Weather - perfect winter's day. Cold with fine sun. Cold but light wind on top of Tom a' Choinich.
Team - Skuz, Ed, Mark and American Dave
Other hikers: many

AMC Strawberry Cottage Meet 2008

I had planned another big day for this Sunday walk, taking in Mam Sodhail, Carn Eige and Beinn Fhionnlaidh, but I found out Saturday night that we were packing up and moving back down the glen in the morning and walking from there. This mattered little as some of the group were already planning to go up what would be two brand new Munros for me once they got down there and so I happily latched on.

With weather thankfully in total contrast to Saturday's, we parked up and set off at a very brisk pace, moving well up the slightly boggy but otherwise good path on gently rising slopes with views to the fine peak of Tom a' Choinich opening up ahead of us.

Once things flattened out, a split in the path signaled an increase in the ascent as we started to zig-zag up the lower slopes of the hill alongside Allt Toll Easa. We left this path at Creag na h-lnghinn and made our way up along this south eastern ridge. The terrain included rock and ice and myself and American Dave made slower progress than our experienced compadres. Nonetheless, the going was fine enough and we were soon strolling on top of a frozen world offering a majestic vista.

With a cold wind greeting us at the summit, we pressed on to the col straightaway. The descent off the ENE ridge was easier than the ascent had been, but it still required concentration, and a departure from the ice and snowed-up path for safety reasons!!

After a fine lunch progress was fast up the second peak of the day, the much more tame Toll Creagach. This offered excellent views across Loch Mullardoch to the hills of the East Benula Forest, every single one an untouched Munro for me!!

The pace on from the summit was even faster, and I demonstrated my 'controlled falling' descent method well; it made such a nice change to get to do it in the daylight! After a fabulous but exhausting weekend adventure, it was then fine to get home too!

Tom a' Choinich makes its first appearance:
The route ahead up Creag na h-lnghinn:

Looking back down our ascent route:

Carn Eige and its pals to the west:

Tom a' Choinich summit complete with the rest of the group:

Getting closer:

Choose your colour, and let's move out:

Toll Creagach is a more gentle beast:

Looking back up our descent from Tom:

Loch Mullardoch from the col looking WNW:

Looking back to Tom a' Choinich:

Time for a brew:
Me modeling many unvisited Munros:

Steep grassy slopes and rest of group:

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Glen Affric and Strathfarrar: An Socach (269), Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (22) and Mullach na Dheiragain (167)

Walk date: 15/11/08
My Munro #'s: 167, 168 and 169

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
An sochkach - the snout - 921m
Skoor nan keroanan - peak of the quarters - 1151m
Moolach na yerakan - possibly summit of the hawk - 982m

Duration - 08:30-18:00 (dark at 17:00!)
Distance - 30.5km
Total ascent - 1680m?
Weather - wet at first, then a period of dry before hail and wind once height had been gained. A calm spell on Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and moving onto Mullach na Dheiragain before a change for the worst with intense wind and hail for rest of day at height!
Team - with American Dave
Other hikers: none

Better routes up and down and a nice corrie-skirting:

AMC Strawberry Cottage Meet 2008

Now, a weekend away hiking at this time of year really is pushing it for me, but what a weekend it turned out to be! Going with the hiking club meant having access to the very remote Strawberry Cottage strategically placed high up in the already remote Glen Affric. From here an early start in wet weather saw myself and American Dave set out on an ambitiously big day for this time of year.

First up was An Socach, a nice-looking and approachable peak sat on the highpoint toward one end of the horse-shoe ridge that comprised our day out. A good albeit wet path took us onto the ridge end and good walking took us to the stumpy cairn.

From here the weather kept taking brief turns for the worse, and the drop and climb up the big peak of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan was punctuated by bursts of hail and gusts of high wind. Good photographs became a very low priority! However, the route on gave good walking and there were no technical problems with actually getting up this huge chunk of rock; it was just a case of whether the legs would hold out or not.

A break in the weather then gave us time for lunch there as well as a chance for a discussion with regard to whether we would press on for Mullach na Dheiragain or not. This is just over 4km north of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, and it would make the time a little tight, but with the weather holding and the prospect of having to seek out the awkward hill at some point in future, we both were eager to go for it on this day.

Progress was good on the way out, but as we made the final climb up toward the broad back of Mullach na Dheiragain, the full fury of the wind and hail was unleashed into our unsuspecting faces. Progress was very slow; walking was difficult and often we had to stop and steady ourselves against the onslaught of ~65mph gusts of wind. The summit took some coming, but we didn't hang about after all the effort, instead turning on the spot (at 2pm) and heading back immediately.

The return leg was much slower due to the conditions, and I kept one eye on my watch as we staggered on. Some time was saved by skirting around the top of the corrie rather than repeating Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, and scrambing up the northern wall of the ridge between that hill and An Socach. We then aimed to descend along the path to the (summer only) Alltbeithe Youth Hostel, but despite starting on it, in failing light as it hit bog, we lost all sign of it and instead made our way in the last drops of daylight down fine grassy slopes to the path alongside River Affric.

We hit the path in darkness at 17:00, and with head-torches on we made decent progress for the remaining 4km, hitting the glorious cottage with its fire, drying room, food, beer and chat at a very respectable 18:00. A very big but satisfying day out.

Looking south to Glen Shiel as height is gained:

The An Socach ridge up ahead:

An Socach and its stumpy cairn as the weather turned:

A brief cloud-break over Abhainn Siithidh:

Looking back toward Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:

And looking back to the An Socach ridge:

American Dave heading toward Mullach na Dheiragain
and bad weather!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Mamlorn Hills: Meall Ghaordie (93)

Walk date: 02/11/08
My Munro #'s: 166

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Myowl girday - possibly rounded hill of the shoulder, arm, hand - 1039m

Duration - 11:45 - 16:45
Distance - 7.5 km
Total ascent - 871m
Weather - perfect; cold with blue skies and almost absent wind.
Team - Sonia and Steve W.
Other hikers: several.

Thanks to a last-minute phonecall from Steve, an expected domestic Sunday turned into a gorgeous Munro-bagging sojourn to the Mamlorn Hills. Tempted by a rare early-November good weather prediction, our happy trio set off to a three-way mutually unvisited peak near the village of Killin some three hours away from Aberdeen.

The good weather held as we made our approach to Glen Lochay and we set off in cold air but with a perfectly blue sky and fine winter sun. The going however was for the most part incredibly boring as we made our slow way over pathless, bracken-clad grassland.

Eventually, this terrain gave way to a fine rocky top. Having seen plenty of snow on neighbouring hills we hoped that today's summit would have also caught some and we were not disappointed; after a dull start Meall Ghaordie came good with amazing views across Glen Lyon to Ben Nevis and Glencoe, and also to the Alder group, the Lawers group, Ben Vorlich, and Ben More and Stob Binnein, all while standing on gorgeous soft white snow.

The view was so good that we stayed there for quite some time, enjoying a much needed but essentially cold lunch. Every second worthwhile, one of the best hikes of the year!!

Target in focus, starting those grassy slopes:

The more interesting top comes into view:

Plodding on through the snow:

Steve and Sonia gaining some height:

Glen Lyon looking good:

Ben Nevis in the centre:

The summit was not a place to stay overnight:

Ben More and Stob Binnein to the south:

Sonia kicks off the descent:

The Lawers group in the late afternoon sun:

Well, come on. It's this way!

More Ben More:

The sunset on the Lawers group:

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