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Clag, Clag, Go Away...

Clag, Clag, Go Away...

Postby scottnairn » Sat Dec 19, 2020 3:38 pm

Route description: Carn Eige and Mam Sodhail

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Fhionnlaidh (Carn Eige), Carn Eige, Mam Sodhail

Date walked: 08/06/2016

Time taken: 10 hours

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Munros #5 + #6 + #7 - Carn Eige, Mam Sodhail and Beinn Fhionnlaidh (Affric)

This report should be a fairly quick read and will not contain the exceptional views that should be merited by these mega mountains!!! Here's a story of how perseverance is an attribute best shared...!!

Throwing it allll the way back to the 8th of June 2016, and the new world of hill walking had finally began to take a hold over my life. WalkHighlands, being the wonderful source of information that it is, allowing me the option to tailor my escapades by difficulty, bog factor, length and much more, made for a long list of places to go and people to bring. No stranger to the thrills of the outdoors, my companion in mind for this day was Eugene M - I know we walked Meall Fuar-mhonaidh in August 2017 before his move to Fort William - but I think this trip was ahead of another move, perhaps a seasonal posting over in Europe to ski.

Knowing my good friend would be away for months on end, I scanned WH and the many options near home for an epic pre-farewell day out. Lured into the premise of the 'highest peaks north of the Great Glen', I glanced over the route's 28km, 1700m ascent and 10-13 hour suggested time. I guess I figured that 28km was not all that far...

The drive there in mostly darkness and the faint light of dawn along the Glen Affric road was a good test - my first time driving the ups and downs and winding bends. The Chisholm Bridge appeared and I gracefully abandoned my little Ford Fiesta in as tidy a fashion as I could. The work being completed just up the glen made the start a mushy affair, but this did not improve as the small plantation section was left behind. My feet were damp within the first kilometre and completely soaked by the second... :lol:

The wet underfoot conditions were concurrent with the total cloud cover, down to 250m altitude - a proper 'pea-soup' clag which obscured any features by which to navigate against above eye-level. We followed the Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh for what seemed like a long time with no distinguishable progress, barring the gain of wetter, heavier feet. It was a gigantic mix of streams under grass, bogs, wet peat and false patches of 'dry' moss, which were wetter than anything else.

Hopeful of a change of fortune, I struck northwards to climb (probably the Bealach Toll Easa, heading behind Tom a' Chionnich and through to Loch Mullardoch) but was dissauded by Eugene. We could have been anywhere, and nowhere at the same time.

Onwards we plodded, and all I remember is our shared tales and humour spurring me on. We found a nice waterfall, drawn in the sound of crashing water. A refill and a pit-stop to get back on the same page, directions-wise. Despite no clues above, we agreed that we had probably reached the base of the bealach we needed to climb and so trudged north-west, gaining height. A small lochan reached gave us something to work with - Lochan a' Gharbh-bhealach - and spirits rose too.
First photo op above the glen

Eugene's composition

The grass here shifted with no wind; the ground was alive with crane flies/daddy-long-legs flies - an oddity I had never seen before, or since again! If the midges have 'nests' around the country from which they appear from, the Garbh Bealach may just be the spawn point for these gangly, haphazard bugs.
Myself heading up to Sron Garbh

Eugene scrambling (possibly ~Stob Coire Dhomhnuill)

A summit, hard-earned

Having reached the ridge, progress became easier and drier - but not much clearer. Glimpses were very infrequent and I wouldn't have been able to place any of them. Reaching the summit of Carn Eige, although relieved, was a kick in the teeth - nothing but grey. I can't remember who had the final word on whether or not to include Beinn Fhionnlaidh at this point. It was proving to be a slog without much reward. Perhaps I elected to bag Beinn Fhionnlaidh to have that one difficult, elusive 'tick' on the bagger's map that I might otherwise never be so close to, good weather or not.

Any grumbling was nullified by assured lies: "it can't be much further, just a little more climbing, I think I see sunlight breaking through at the top" :lol: :roll:
And, inevitably, we did reach the top after perhaps an hour (?) and it had not come easy! Once more, no views were to be had, so a quick retrace of steps began, the descent and re-ascent towards Carn Eige a real grimacing trial. A seat for lunch (somewhere!?) and I took maybe one of a handful of photos as a break in the cloud revealed some views. As quick as I dropped my food and lifted the camera, the cloud was back again...
Lunchtime vistas, less than extensive but nice all the same

Southwards with weary feet, we struck away from Carn Eige to search for Mam Sodhail and a return to the lands below. Having fought the bogs below, the strain of ascent, descent and returning to the high point of the day at Carn Eige, Mam Sodhail's summit was quickly acknowledged and left behind. Fortunately, the ridge to follow was the highlight of the day - a truly excellent stroll amongst the clouds which didn't lift, but parted enough for it to get brighter and visibility became respectable, at least ahead of us. As it sloped towards Sgurr na Lapaich (cause for debate, it has indeed been demoted to a 'Top' only, unlike the Sgurr na Lapaich in neighbouring Mullardoch, directly north), I would say the ridge walk had made up for the day's previous transgressions of no views, sodden toes and THAT remote summit that cost a couple good hours.

Not content with letting us leave with our heads held high, the slippery descent from Sgurr na Lapaich was tough and caused a number of awakward falls. Coated with bog mud, frustration was vented by annoyed screams and shouts. The path would have perhaps been more obvious in better visibility but we made a bee-line for Affric Lodge - hidden by the sky soup. After a short eternity, we passed a small gully and crossed a stream (likely the Allt na Faing). At this point we watched a sizeable herd of red deer (a sight I had hoped to see many times today). They (maybe) definitely laughed as they sauntered away into the mists over the rise, their acclimation and ease of negotiating the terrain an insult. We descended from here, noting the edge of Loch Affric and, at last, Affric Lodge. It was steep and the neck-deep bracken did not help. More slips, more grumbling.
Finally, a quantifiable view!

The walk along the road to the bridge and the car took a long, uncomfortable time. If I tried to reach the car so that the stopwatch read 10hours or less, it probably just ensured my blisters would morph from 'noticeable' to 'significant' :lol:

My notes read: Wed 8th - Hill walk with Eugene - Carn Eige, Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Mam Sodhail. 10hr misty boggy slog, still full of win

So, underestimated the length and ascent of a short farewell hill day on some of the best 360 degree viewpoints in Scotland. You get away with it, if only you plan it for a friend who doesn't only enjoy the outdoors on fair-weather rules!
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Mountain Walker
Posts: 26
Munros:47   Corbetts:14
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Joined: Jun 25, 2015
Location: Nurn

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