Monday, November 17, 2008

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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Blogger Scott said...

Jesus, Andrew! You're really pushing the hiking season late! Rain, hail, dark! I'm impressed!

18 November 2008 at 13:20  
Blogger George said...

And I was being heavily encouraged to sign up for the Loch Ossian club meet in a fortnight's time!! There's nothing more worrying to find people more twisted than yourself!!

18 November 2008 at 18:58  

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