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An Cliseam - a tale of two Mullas

PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2021 11:09 pm
by bobble_hat_kenny
Grim though it's undoubtedly been, the ongoing issues with the Virus-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did at least have a Silver Lining for me in hillwalking terms, in that I got to enjoy three very different domestic holidays this summer in previously unfamiliar bits of Scotland, and I was lucky enough to get some great walking in during all three breaks. I even got good weather for most of it, which is fairly unheard-of :lol: ....
Having had a week away with the extended family in Iona and Mull earlier in June, I was lucky enough to get another week with a different family group on Harris during the last week of June, and needless to say I was keen to get a couple of walks in. The forecast for the Monday 28th June was looking very promising, so I got an early start and set off to tackle Harris's sole Corbett, the rather distinguished An Cliseam, via the "interesting" horseshoe route up Gleann Sgaladail. It didn't go entirely to plan navigationally speaking: I made it a longer and more knackering walk than it needed to be by descending via the direct route that most people come up by, thereby giving myself a rather long and unpleasant road walk along the A859 at the end of the day - ho hum; you live and learn :roll: . It was still a great walk, though.

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I parked in one of several lay-bys on the east side of the A859 just after it passes the craggy prominence of Caisteal Ard, and set off north down the road to the bridge over the Abhainn Sgaladail. Just to the north of the bridge, a surprisingly good path (that isn't marked at all on the OS Landranger map) sets off up the north side of the Abhainn, extending all the way up to its headwaters at Loch Mhisteam.
The start of the route on the A859 - a road that I'd become all too familiar with, later in the day!
WR1 - start on A859 beneath Caisteal Ard.jpg

The start of the path up the north side of the Abhainn Sgaladail, with An Cliseam looking impressively craggy from here:
WR2 - start of path up N side of Abhainn Sgaladail with Cliseam looking impressively craggy.jpg

The main attraction of tackling An Cliseam via this route is that you get to take in its entertainingly rocky north ridge, which sports two Corbett Tops known as Mulla bho Thuath and Mulla bho Dheas. "Mulla" presumably comes from the more familiar Gaelic word "Mullach" meaning "mountain" - I have no inkling of what vagary of the Gaelic language causes them to drop their terminal "ch" in this case, but this pair of Mullas certainly had a stern and craggy look about them!
WR3 - higher up Gleann Sgaladail with the Mullas looking impressive.jpg

The path along the north side of the Abhainn gives unexpectedly quick going (or it does if you get to do it in glorious weather as I did, anyway), and I got up to Loch Mhisteam more quickly than I'd expected. From here, the route onto An Cliseam's long north ridge looked straightforward enough, heading up the easy east ridge of its first northern top, which is not a Mulla, sadly, but just a straightforward Mullach: Mullach an Langa is its name, according to the OS map. The two Mullas were hovering threateningly to the south, however.
WR4 - Loch Mhisteam with Mullach an Langa in foreground and two Mullas lurking further south.jpg

There was a grand view back down to Loch Mhisteam on ascent, with an intriguing dome-shaped hill keeking out to the south from behind Cliseam's shoulder: I'm still not entirely sure, but my best guess is that it is maybe Todun, one of a seemingly countless number of intriguing S2K Marilyns in the Western Isles. Honestly, you could spend a very long time walking in these parts without running out of interesting hills to tackle :) .
WR5 - nice view back down to Loch Mhisteam with dome shaped hill maybe Todun keeking out S of Cliseam.jpg

Yet another view of the photogenic Loch Mhisteam, with the wild Park peninsula of eastern Lewis in the distance I think:
WR6 - Loch Mhisteam again with Park peninsula I think in the distance.jpg

Up at Mullach an Langa's surprisingly large cairn now, with the two Mullas and An Cliseam itself looking very impressive on the ongoing ridge to the south:
WR7 - At Mullach an Langa cairn with Mullas and Cliseam looking impressive on ongoing ridge.jpg

An Cliseam once again, with that impressive dome-shaped maybe-Todun hill in the distance:
WR8 - An Cliseam again with dome-shaped hill maybe Todun in distance.jpg

I was at least able to identify these two intimidatingly craggy hills to the west as Harris's highest Graham, Uisgneabhal Mor, and its northern Top, Teileasbhal.
WR9 - Uisgneabhal Mor looking impressively craggy.jpg

Another lovely view of ... yes, you've guessed it, Loch Mhisteam - with a bit of sea in the distance to the east:
WR10 - another lovely view of Loch Mhisteam and sea in distance.jpg

It was time to tackle the first of the Mullas, Mulla bho Thuath, which proved to be entertainingly rocky with some nice exposure to the west, but without any real difficulties. This was the approach to its airy summit, with a big drop and a grand maritime vista out west:
WR11 - At Mulla bho Thuath impressively airy summit with a big drop and grand maritime vista to the west.jpg

Uisgneabhal Mor again as viewed from Mulla bho Thuath, and looking well craggy once again:
WR12 - Uisgneabhal Mor again from Mulla bho Thuath and looking well craggy.jpg

Looking onwards down the fine and ... did I remember to mention, craggy? ... ridge towards Mulla bho Dheas and An Cliseam:
WR13 - looking onwards down the fine craggy ridge to Mulla bho Dheas and Cliseam.jpg

Uisgneabhal Mor and Teileasbhal again, looking spectacularly, um (...struggles unsuccessfully to find a synonym for "craggy" :lol: ):
WR14 - Uisgneabhal Mor and Teileasbhal again looking spectacularly craggy.jpg

With Mulla bho Thuath having been dealt with, and with surprisingly little fuss, it was time to tackle the rather more challenging second Mulla, Mulla bho Dheas. The ascent from the north wasn't too bad, and from the summit, Cliseam wasn't looking that far away now:
WR15 - at Mulla bho Dheas summit with Cliseam looking a bit intimidating.jpg

This is a bit deceptive, however: the direct descent from Mulla bho Dheas to the bealach is very - well, sorry, but CRAGGY - with some seriously challenging scrambling. Thankfully this can be avoided by backtracking very slightly northwards from Mulla bho Dheas's summit, to pick up a midly exposed bypass path that traverses across its northern flanks to the bealach.
Before tackling that, though, I made sure to enjoy the fine view back north along the ridge towards Mulla bho Thuath and Mullach an Langa, with the head of Loch Langabhat away in the distance:
WR16 - looking back down ridge towards Mulla bho Thuath and Mullach an Langa with head of Loch Langabhat.jpg

The bypass path was a bit loose at the start and required care, although it got easier once it got going properly:
WR17 - start of bypass path round Mulla bho Dheas craggy bit.jpg

Looking back from the bealach to the Hard Scramble that I'd bypassed: well left alone, I'd probably say :? !
WR18 - looking back up to bho Dheas craggy bit from bealach with An t-Isean.jpg

Well, having negotiated the two Mullas, I was now expecting an audience with the Grand Vizier himself, An Cliseam ... but nae such luck! Before meeting the Cliseam, there was one more annoying minor acolyte to be dealt with. This was the prominent outcrop of An t-Isean, which doesn't even get named on the OS Landranger map but which is a not insignificant obstacle. In fact, it definitely belongs in that all-too-familiar class of hills known as Confounded Nuisances (well, that's the polite term anyway!). Thankfully it didn't detain me too long though, and from its un-cairned summit, An Cliseam was definitely looking very close at last.
WR19 - An Cliseam from An t-Isean and finally looking close.jpg

Well, probably best just to get the unattractive An Cliseam Summit Selfie out of the way early. Guess who forgot his suncream :lol: ?
WR20 - unattractively sunburned Summit Selfie on Cliseam.jpg

Looking north-east to the small settlement of Scaladale, with Loch Seaforth in the background:
WR21 - looking NE to Scaladale I think with Loch Seaforth in background.jpg

A lovely cloudscape over the three Grahams to the west:
WR22  - nice cloudscape over Grahams to west.jpg

Looking southwards, with the dome-shaped maybe-Todun prominent again in the foreground:
WR23 - looking S with that dome-shaped hill again - maybe Todun best guess.jpg

Another long vista down Loch Seaforth, with an uninhabited island that sits in this long sea-loch, Eilean Shiophort, looking surprisingly big from this angle:
WR24 - view down that long loch again - Loch Seaforth I think with Eilean Shiophort.jpg

It was now, however, that I somewhat spoiled what had been a fantastic walk so far, by a bit of sheer navigational laziness. Instead of getting the compass and GPS into action to tackle the pathless and intricate descent around the flanks of Tomnabhal, which would have been the sensible way back to my starting point, I just headed down the "easy" way, all the way down the direct path to the south-east that most people use both for ascent and for descent. I suppose I had in my head that it would get me back down to the A859 quickly and easily, and although it was a bit further down the road, well, a road walk is straightforward, innit?
A proper look at the map, even for a few nanoseconds, would have told me that it would be a loooong and aggravating road walk, particularly in today's heat. I was cursing my stupidity all the way back north up that long and winding road, and it was weeks before my feet and my back fully forgave me for all that tarmac-bashing.... Definitely not the best way of completing this horseshoe! A really lovely walk, all the same :D .

Re: An Cliseam - a tale of two Mullas

PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2021 8:48 am
by litljortindan
Some lovely photos there with the cloud in all the right places. Been up and down Cliseam in winter but I'd definitely now consider a return for this horseshoe, though maybe minus the road walk. Those hills further west don't look too bad either.

Re: An Cliseam - a tale of two Mullas

PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2021 1:20 pm
by Phil the Hill
Nice to see what the horseshoe route looks like. I was up it last week, but took the direct route as there was low cloud and it was drizzly and boggy. Fortunately it cleared whilst I was at the summit, so I did see some of the views.