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Gateway to the Final Fifty and a welcome London antedote

Gateway to the Final Fifty and a welcome London antedote


Postby Graeme D » Mon Apr 25, 2022 9:49 pm

Munros included on this walk: Sgùrr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)

Corbetts included on this walk: Sgùrr Cos na Breachd-laoidh

Date walked: 17/04/2022

Time taken: 9.2 hours

Distance: 17.3 km

Ascent: 1510m

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With the Easter school holidays upon us, I was keen to get out again and properly kick start my probably vastly over ambitious objective of 22 new Munros in 2022, thus leaving me with a mere 30 left to do before my equally vastly over ambitious 2025 planned compleation. The 2022 part of that plan was looking pretty feeble, with only ONE new Munro having fallen so far - the round the clock marathon on Beinn nan Aighenan in mid-February with John.

I had hoped to get away during the first weekend of the fortnight. There is something special about a long, weary walk out to the car and the prospect of a long, weary drive home, content in the knowledge that you have the full extent of the holidays still ahead of you. Alas, that was not to happen, and before I knew it the first half of the fortnight was gone and we were off to London for 5 nights, no hill action having taken place.

Back home from London, it appeared that sufficient brownie points had been accrued by my gardening and DIY efforts of the first week of the holidays to merit a short hill pass. Mrs D was back to work on the Monday but Ailsa and I were not back in school until the Tuesday. Ailsa's BFF had also returned from her own family getaway and with the two of them having concocted sleepover plans for the Sunday night (which in reality would occupy the two of them for the best part of the two full days and keep Ailsa out of her mum's hair while she was working from home), I concocted my own plans for the two days.

Despite considering a number of options, I kept being drawn back to Glen Dessary, having visited it for the first time back in November of last year. That was with Kev for the resumption of the traditional annual November bothy night. I had spent the Friday night in A'Chuil before we met up at Strathan and did the Corbett Carn Mor before spending the Saturday night in Glenpean. My targets this time were the three Munros to the north. 22 Munros are not going to do themselves this year after all!

I packed for all eventualities (car camping, wild camping, bothy night) and set a 05.15 alarm for Easter Sunday. Downstairs that morning, Luna instantly recognised the signs of a hill day in the making and sprang to life in anticipation of whatever crazy hill walking venture I had dreamt up this time! We were away by 6am and parked up at the busy far end of Loch Arkaig around 3 hours later. The journey this time along the helter skelter lochside road from hell was lighter, drier, more straightforward and considerably less stressful and eventful than it had been on that Friday night back in November!

Shouldering the heavy overnight bothy pack with the day pack strapped to the back of it, I set off for the one hour walk to A'Chuil.

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Western end of Loch Arkaig from the ruined barracks at Strathan

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Sgurr Cos na-Breachd laoidh from the track as it bends round the eastern slopes of Monadh Gorm

I passed a few walkers going in the other direction, presumably coming from A'Chuil. A couple I stopped to chat with confirmed that it had been pretty busy in A'Chuil the previous night and that they had camped outside. There was no sign of the item of gentleman's underwear that had been abandoned on the track in November. Perhaps the owner had seen my post in the Lost and Found forum and retrieved them.

I eventually caught up with a guy from Northwich by the name of Neil. He was on the Cape Wrath Trail, using some accrued holiday from the days of lockdown. We walked together and chatted for 20 minutes or so until we reached the cairn indicating my time to leave and nip down through the trees to the bothy.

The last 3 residents were just packing up and leaving as I got there, after which Luna and I had the place to ourselves while I packed the day pack and got ready for the hills. Twenty minutes or so later and we were off again, light day pack on this time and taking a direct line NNW from the bothy across the boggy flatlands to reconnect with the track just before it enters the next block of forestry. I'd read a lot of reports about how hideous this section of "meadow" could be but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared it might be. A few sections required a wide berth and a bit of careful planning ahead but really it wasn't too bad at all. If anything, some sections of the track alongside the River Dessary in the next forestry were worse!

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Looking back to A'Chuil from where the track re-enters the forestry

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A bonnie wee stretch along the banks of the River Dessary

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A rather less bonnie stretch through a quagmire

The track took some wild swings and turns as it snaked through the trees but just as I was beginning to question exactly where it was leading me, it spat me out into one almighty expanse of boggy terrain at the northern tip of the plantation, where it joins the upper track running east back towards Loch Arkaig and west over the pass towards Sourlies and Loch Nevis.

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Quagmire and the road to Sourlies

I stopped for a quick swig of water and a handful of wine gums before having to make a decision - to head west for Sgurr na Ciche and then back to the bothy via the two eastern Munros in the chain or to give the Munros a miss today and head east for alternative targets. In other words, focus on the stated main business of getting these 22 Munros done this year or faff around a bit more on some Corbetts! Before I could make a decision I spotted Neil passing on the upper track just ahead of me, having obviously swung round behind the bothy and then taken the footbridge directly onto the upper track on the far side of the next plantation, and presumably having stopped for a fairly lengthy break somewhere along the way. We had another quick chat before once again bidding each other farewell and good luck. I decided to fudge the decision now facing me for as long as possible by heading back east to pick up the foot of the long tapering south ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan. From the summit of this Munro, I could either head west over the other two Munros and then face the long walk back to A'Chuil or I could take the easier, shorter option of heading from there over to Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh with the option of extending to include Fraoch Bheinn if I felt so inclined.

This section of path proved to be quite awkward and I ended up on my backside twice before I reached the Allt Coire nan Uth and the point where I had to strike up the ridge. Very unusual for such a thing to befall me more than once or twice at most on a full day let alone twice in the space of a very short time and distance. I soon reached the Allt Coire nan Uth, albeit with a faintly soggy backside, and took to the grassy south ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan.

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Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh across the Allt Coire nan Uth from the south ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan

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Carn Mor and Bidein a'Chabhair

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Bidein a'Chabhair and the road to Sourlies with a glimpse of Loch Nevis in the distance

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All the way back down to A'Chuil

Maybe the soles on my still relatively new Asolos are not what they are cracked up to be or maybe the two month hiatus since my last hill day had left me struggling for form. Whichever one it was, the net result was that I slipped and stumbled my way up the ridge, losing balance and teetering on the edge of a fall several times, if not actually falling. Luna was of course unafflicted in any such way and other than the occasional scornful look back at me and my toiling, labouring ascent, seemed oblivious to my issues.

Eventually we reached what I initially took to be the summit except it just didn't feel right, not least the fact that there was no cairn of any sort. The clag was pretty much right down and the map wasn't giving many clues. I did a bit of wandering around and from what I could deduce and from what I could see glimpses of through the cloud I established that I was simply on a little knoll on the ridge short of the summit. We carried on on a northerly bearing and as we did so the cloud lifted enough to provide conclusive evidence of our exact position, with the whole sweep of the hill round behind the coire and on towards An Eag now visible. Eventually we reached what was very clearly the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan and with that there only remained the small matter of 50 more Munros to do!

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Clag beginning to lift as we approach the summit

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Munro #232 - only 50 now remaining unaccounted for

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Face covering habits die hard, even on Munro summits!

Now I really had to make a decision. No fudging the issue anymore. The April sun was certainly trying its best to make a decisive breakthrough, but it was struggling to succeed. The forecast had suggested tomorrow would be marginally the better of the two days and so I decided to give the other two Munros a swerve today and leave them for tomorrow. Instead I would swing around the head of the big southern coire of Sgurr nan Coireachan via An Eag and then up onto the Corbett of Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh via its northern slopes.

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Back down the south ridge above Glen Dessary

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Onwards towards An Eag

Now the walk changed in character and turned into something really quite special. The views north over the western end of Loch Qouich and beyond towards Kintail were superb and with every step, the looming bulk of Sgurr nan Coireachan grew in stature behind us. Eventually the views east down Glen Kingie opened up, bringing back memories of past hill days on Gairich and inviting thoughts of a future bothy night in Kinbreak.

This was my kind of walking - slightly off the track, slightly pathless, rocky outcrops, little lochans, sections of downscrambling, wild views, solitude, just me and the dog.

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The long, lonely arm of Druim Buidhe stretching out towards the western end of Loch Quoich

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An Eag and Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh

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Heavy skies over Loch Quoich, Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain

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Back to Coireachan

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Luna lying down on the job

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On An Eag looking north east over Sgurr Beag, Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain, Gairich just peeking out in the distance

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Across Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh to Glen Dessary and the Glenfinnan hills beyond

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Glen Kingie. Not London!

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The north face of Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh from the bealach

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The northern wall of Glen Kingie

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East down Glen Kingie to the unmistakable prominent shape of Ben Tee on the horizon

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A Labrador doing what Labradors do

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Back to Sgurr nan Coireachan

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Looking south west between Carn Mor and Bidein a'Chabhair into Gleann an Lochain Eanaiche with the lochan just visible

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Sgurr nan Coireachan and the descent shoulder off An Eag

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Sgurr Mor to Gairich and beyond to the North Quoich and Kintail hills

It was another steep, hard pull up pathless grassy slopes to reach the Corbett summit, the effects of my two month absence from the hills making themselves felt. Once at the summit (if not actually well before it) any thoughts of anything other than a direct descent south back to the bothy were quickly forgotten about.

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Sgurr nan Coireachan from the summit of Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh with Garbh Cioch Mhor, Sgurr na Ciche and Loch Nevis in the background

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The road home from the summit of Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh

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Fraoch Bheinn across Coire Chicheanas and the south eastern arm of Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh

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Descent back to Glen Dessary with A'Chuil just visible bang in the centre of the shot

My knees were on fire now and the steep descent due south down pathless slopes into Glen Dessary looked like a knee crunching extravaganza. I really must get back into the habit of regularly taking my poles with me on gigs such as this or I can see myself ending up with metal knees!

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Carn Mor and Bidein a'Chabhair

I aimed for the eastern tip of the upper block of forestry and after much wincing and silent cursing (OK, not all of it was silent!), I emerged onto the track a short distance above the trees. I made for the wooden bridge over the river and it wasn't until I was much nearer to it that I fully appreciated just how "airy" a crossing it is! You wouldn't want to be undertaking this crossing in the dark with no light source!

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The bridge

The final section back onto the track proved a bit of a struggle, with seemingly no easy way through the bog but eventually I reached the track unscathed. In hindsight I should just have taken a direct line from the bridge back across to the bothy but no harm done.

I had seen no sign of life around the bothy from my long descent off the hill, nor any smoke from either chimney, but as I rocked up at the door, I noticed a chap sitting by the window in the "west wing". He was a young lad called Ryan from Glasgow (but a fellow Fifer originally) whose girlfriend had bailed on him and taken the dog with her, leaving him to tackle the rest of the CWT alone. I got my dinner on the go in the "east wing" and got the fire going before he joined me for a beer and took the opportunity to dry his boots and socks by the fire.

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Luna relaxing in front of the telly

Ryan retreated through to the other room to write up his journal and I did a few crossword puzzles by the light of the fire and the headtorch before calling it a night, but not before catching a good 7 or 8 tiny little black ticks crawling over Luna and dispatching them with a quick flick into the flames.


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Graeme D
 
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Re: Gateway to the Final Fifty and a welcome London antedote

Postby 2manyYorkies » Wed Apr 27, 2022 2:33 pm

An excellent report on a novel route Headmaster! The descent south off the Corbett looks pretty hellish on the OS 1:25000, not sure these pensioned knees would take it!
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Re: Gateway to the Final Fifty and a welcome London antedote

Postby dogplodder » Wed Apr 27, 2022 4:07 pm

Luna's looking great and clearly loving crazy days in the hills, including crashing out in a bothy afterwards! What's the protocol if you end up sharing with someone who doesn't like dogs? :think:
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Re: Gateway to the Final Fifty and a welcome London antedote

Postby malky_c » Wed Apr 27, 2022 11:41 pm

Not the best weather but certainly far from the worst! Some nice shots later on in the walk.

I think I did approximately the reverse of this about 20 years ago followed by a cheese fondue in the bothy which nearly choked me to death with its stringiness!
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Re: Gateway to the Final Fifty and a welcome London antedote

Postby Graeme D » Thu Apr 28, 2022 11:09 am

2manyYorkies wrote:An excellent report on a novel route Headmaster! The descent south off the Corbett looks pretty hellish on the OS 1:25000, not sure these pensioned knees would take it!


Tough enough on my unpensioned knees Ayatollah! :crazy:

dogplodder wrote:Luna's looking great and clearly loving crazy days in the hills, including crashing out in a bothy afterwards! What's the protocol if you end up sharing with someone who doesn't like dogs? :think:


Thanks. Yes, she is in prime condition and at the peak of her powers! Not sure about any protocol other than hoping there is more than one room as is the case with A'Chuil. :shock:

malky_c wrote:Not the best weather but certainly far from the worst! Some nice shots later on in the walk.

I think I did approximately the reverse of this about 20 years ago followed by a cheese fondue in the bothy which nearly choked me to death with its stringiness!


Cheese fondue in a bothy. That's very avant garde. Up there with my roast chestnuts in Glean Dubh Ligiche! :lol:
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Re: Gateway to the Final Fifty and a welcome London antedote

Postby jupe1407 » Mon May 16, 2022 10:40 pm

Excellent TR Graeme and some highly useful research for me. My planned descent off Sgurr Cos B...the corbett looks pretty feasible.

Cheers :D
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