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A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...

A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...


Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 11, 2022 11:44 am

Munros included on this walk: An Riabhachan, An Socach (Affric), An Socach (Mullardoch), Beinn Fhionnlaidh (Càrn Eige), Càrn Eige, Càrn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Màm Sodhail, Mullach na Dheiragain, Sgùrr na Lapaich, Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan, Toll Creagach, Tom a' Chòinich

Date walked: 10/07/2022

Time taken: 30 hours

Distance: 66 km

Ascent: 4786m

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I was reading, recently, one of the posts on the Mullardoch round for the non-athlete and that put me in mind of getting out there again. Allison still needed most of the summits for her third round of Munros and had never done the full 12 - our initial outing back in 2013 was marred by her experiencing back pain after we'd done the four northern hills and deciding to omit Dheiragain and Ceathreamhnan, giving an edited round of 10. So after recent weekends pottering about on trackless Grahams, it would be a straightforward circuit for the weekend. If only the weather played ball. Midweek and there's a heatwave coming, apparently, but northern Scotland is still only going to get big winds, drizzle and clag. Oh joy! I knew we'd need to camp high on our second night, so this posed a bit of a concern. But we set off for Mullardoch dam on Thursday evening, had a good drive up and got to the parking area about 9.30pm. Cloud was down, rain was drizzling and wind was blowing strongly. W could walk in for a bit, but I was pretty sure there was no-where to camp along the track (correct) so we just found a flat dryish spot beside the car park - alright if you don't mind cows keeping you company, or maybe sitting on your tent as a morning wake up...

(My GPS switched itself off for a short while as we neared An Socach as you can see, so stats are likely a bit out)

2022-07-08_0827 Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



Image8BE3343E-1042-4BDC-9B7A-B6C9CEA41CFC_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr


We scrambled out of bed about 7.30 in the morning - largely dry, but lots of cloud about. A big white van had driven in late last night - didn't know if the occupants were away already or having a lie in. We set off along the track, with the objective of doing the four northern Munros, plus the Tops of Creag Dubh and Sgurr nan Clachan Geala, ending up at the west end of the loch by the end of the day. We followed the Allt Mullardoch on a squidgy track, continuing up on a theoretical stalkers path onto a shoulder that would lead us to Creag Dubh and thence Cárn nan Gobhar. Just a slow grind. Once the summit plateau is reached the going is easier - I'd camped on the soft short grass here once. Clag was down as we headed for Cárn nan Gobhar and we ended up visiting the southern summit needlessly. Onwards to Sgurr na Lapaich, stopping for something to eat out of the wind - or as much as possible - on our way down to the loch. It was cold and wet, not very reminiscent of a summery July day - we had on our winter coats, for heaven's sake.

ImageA65416D8-4087-43DD-89FC-D6643C4A3212_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image5A82EF53-EF44-4EE8-82C2-88B12B16947C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image4F5F40DB-092A-46B9-8EC4-0D2CC21E9990_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Looking toward Lapaich
ImageDB802ECE-9148-43DC-A1A6-11743E1A98C5_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The top of Lapaich was reached crossing over the boulder field and we had a small detour to the Top of Clachan Geala, adding little to the overall distance. Steep descent on wet grass to Bealach Toll an Lochan then the steady grassy climb to the long ridge of An Riabhachan. We met a cheery bloke with a white hat who had come in from Strathfarrar dam to do the "three Munros" although I wasn't entirely sure which three - presumably Riabhachan, Lapaich and Gobhar as going out and back to An Socach would be soul destroying. He told us he was planning on doing Beinn Fhionnlaidh the next day, from Affric, as apparently the boat man, Angus, isn't operating this year, having been injured in an accident. We enjoyed some reasonable visibility as we roamed along the ridge, the clouds sometimes coming down to cover the tops. Riabhachan and its several Munro Tops complete, we wandered along to An Socach. There are a couple of steeper rocky bits to be undertaken on the way there and I could feel my knees objecting to the terrain. We made the summit as the clag had fully closed in, and were surprised to see a couple come up behind us. They were hoping to get up onto Dheiragain before they stopped for the night - although they had very small rucksacks, so maybe they were bivvying. Anyway, they were moving faster than us, which, let's face it, wouldn't have been hard. We followed them in the clag for a wee bit, but they seemed to be taking the Meall a'Chaisg route, which wasn't the way we wanted to go, so we corrected course for the Meall Shuas shoulder, which has an ATV track, albeit a pretty soggy one, right the way down. It does take a while to descend here, not helped by the clag and light rain. We were both feeling quite tired and had a job finding a dry enough and level enough camp spot, ut we finally managed and set about our tea at almost 8pm. It had been a long day. I asked Allison how her current pain level compared with that of 9 years ago when we'd decided to omit the western two summits...'much worse' she replies, 'but I know just to put up with it now'. Spoken like a true trouper. We were fairly sheltered from the wind and passed an ok night - bouts of rain came and went but the tent was not too wet in the morning.

ImageA950B40E-10AE-4B71-8C62-83762585D6CA_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Towards Riabhachan
Image9D7D41A7-C3CE-45BC-849E-0EB41488C218_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image8C208207-2F37-4E18-B876-B9721C84E6B9_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image8C68593B-7A2A-4D70-8CA4-B300226EEEE3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageA95A0E72-08FC-4839-83DA-A395A18E0F59_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

We packed up and headed for the river, noting three tents that had appeared there overnight. Three girls were sitting outside having breakfast - they'd come in really late last night and managed to find a better camp spot than we did. They were planning, like ourselves, to get somewhere near Carn Eigg/Beinn Fhionnlaidh today. We put on our very useful water shoes and made the crossing which was pleasant and refreshing on the feet. There's a short section of track up to Dheiragain then it's just grass and heather with some bogs to be avoided until you get onto the west ridge at Bealach Sithean, where there's something of a path to the summit. The summit of Ceamreathnan was moving in and out of clouds - Allison remarked that we've never had a clear summit on that hill. Maybe today. We continued over the top of Dheiragain, meeting another group of three women, whom we'd meet again later on. We paused for lunch in a sheltered hollow where we met another couple of walkers, staying at Strawberry Cottage. Then it was up the shoulder of Ceathreamhnan - I was lagging behind today, feeling old and tired. Not for the first time my mind took itself back to seven years ago when I did the full Munros and Tops circuit. I remembered that I got from Gobhar to Dheiragain on the first day, camped at Carn a Con Dhu and went out over the four Tops of Ceathreamhnan and back. That was when I was at my fittest - despite being 53 then I was fitter than I'd been in my youth as I didn't do any hills until I turned 50. Could I do the same now? Well - no. This was a theme that was to recur in my thoughts over the remainder of the weekend.

Dheiragain
Image4DBBC1BB-E3B0-47C0-B9F9-38E808EB0F7F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image73E96C02-77AB-4805-8B51-C5B667E1EC62_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image980855B8-8A2F-4A03-A90D-7A340959BD39_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Ceathreamhnan
ImageC8DEA46A-8044-4F6A-96D3-C292CCA2B66A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Looking towards A'Chralaig
Image5E71F760-7D44-405D-AF93-70B4DFAEAD51_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image9E4BBEBC-01F6-497B-BAE7-C5F3F3F4BDAE_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Allison had been sitting at the summit cairn on Ceathreamhnan for a while by the time I finally turned up. It was clear! Great views of so many mountains - The Ben was standing proud to the south, Skye was on the western horizon and you could see all the way to An Teallach in the northwest. We descended the eastern shoulder towards An Socach, passing over the various bumps and nobbles in between. The other walkers that had been on Dheiragain had cut across to the bealach between An Socach and Stob Coire na Cloiche and we met the three women again. We could hear them well before we caught sight of them - the leader of the three didn't seem to have paused in her conversation to the second in the group the whole time, and - despite being Scottish - had her speech volume set at a level more commonly encountered in some English walkers on the hills. The girl at the rear seemed a bit left out and she was the friendliest of the three, at least to us. We got up An Soacach ahead of them and, looking back, we could see the three girls we'd met in the morning making their way to the summit of Ceathreamhnan. There was also a solo walker in black making his way relentlessly towards us.

ImageFAF85D1D-8E59-450A-8A59-6BDE4121D3DE_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageB4D52A12-CD7C-4CF4-962F-B4E5FD5EC402_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageD5BA908D-E79A-4E8C-B1D6-96524ED43C29_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image92F35522-C235-41F1-9786-9544FFF9DF2E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

We paused at Bealach Coire Ghaidheil for some Soreen malt loaf and the solo walker caught up with us. He was an "alternative" kinda guy with tattoos, an interesting beard and those expander black earrings. When asked when he had set out, he said he'd driven up late last night, failed to get to sleep, drank three cans of beer and still failed to sleep, so had set off at 3am. Into clag, rain and very strong headwinds across the four northern hills. He was intending to complete the round today. I reflected that it had taken us 12 hours to get across the northern found another 8 hours or thereabouts to reach our present location. He'd walked it in 14 hours and was going to continue...I've often wondered about the Mullardoch Circuit in a day - read some great reports on WH about folk that have succeeded and I (used to) think that I could have done it if I'd really tried. I mean - unlike something like the Cuillin Ridge traverse, there's nothing technical about it, it's just a matter of covering distance and ascent. Could I have done it back in 2015? I like to think so...could I do it now? Well, no. That's gone. I thought about how one measures one's ability against others - I used to be pretty competitive in terms of having to get to the summit quicker than anyone else who might be around - exceptions made for the like of hill runners and other super-fit individuals. And over the years I have been able to let this go, I try and just enjoy the experience (most of the time😏) But comparing yourself with your former self - well that's a different matter. Thinking about the 2015 circuit and today's I now had clear evidence of toll the years have taken on my fitness. We can't undo the passage of time.

Mam Sodhail and Carn Eige
Image8C480F5F-7237-4283-B777-0A59EE221EC3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Fhionnlaidh
Image00114C66-0C68-4AA6-8A0B-3A3981AEBD52_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Thinking such thoughts, we headed up Mam Sodhail on the good path that makes light work (even for an oldie) to the summit. It's worth noting there are two small springs near the lower section of the path, just metes away from the path itself - a good place to fill up on delicious cool water that's just come out of the mountain. There is very little running water over the remainder of the circuit unless you want to drop quite a distance to a stream. Or have filtered lochan water of course. Nearing the summit of Mam Sodhail we met a mountain biker who was bemoaning the lack of water - he'd come in over Tom and Toll, missed out Fhionnlaidh as he was knackered and now just wanted a good long drink. He'd been carrying his bike more than riding it...We met a woman at the summit of Mam Sodhail who was enjoying the day, having come over from Affric and planning to descend over Sgurr na Lapaich. She said that there was very little wind down at the bealach between Carn Eige and Fhionnlaidh, which was just what we wanted to hear. We pressed on, to the bealach between Mam Sodhail and Carn Eige (where there is a small spot to pitch a tent, if you are so minded) and noticed that the "Mullardochs in a day" guy was dropping way down the back of Carn Eige, presumably to pick up water. He should have got some at the wee springs we used. Would we contour round the back of Carn Eige towards Fhionnlaidh or not? Having done both, I really don't think it's worth the hassle - it's only 120m ascent to Carn Eige from the bealach and there's a path to the summit. So we went to the top then descended towards Fhionnlaidh. Sadly, the wind was no longer light at the bealach and we pondered what to do. Clag was also coming in. We spoke with the alt-guy on his way back from Fhionnlaidh - he reckoned he had "eight miles" left to go and said he was feeling fine. He certainly didn't look like he'd been walking solidly for 16 hours. We wished him good luck on the remainder of his epic.

Image45A6BF7D-3E18-42DE-8751-D035C1915C52_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Carn Eige
Image0FB41067-2B8D-4B4A-95DA-DB1FD6100A7E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Cloud rolling in from the west
Image2C484A95-F0F6-494D-9159-6CC52ED069F8_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

We found a spot near Bealach Beag, having gone over Stob Coire an Lochan (note for the wise - don't omit this little lump, dear reader, as if you decide to do Munro Tops at a later date and haven't spent the handful of metres to go over this one, you'll regret it😂). By the time we'd pitched the clag was right down. I had intended on summiting Fhionnlaidh after we'd had our meal, but there seemed little point in solid clag. The wind whipped and tore at the tent - extra guy lines were deployed. We thought about the three girls who'd planned to be somewhere around here too and how they were getting on.

A noisy night passed, with the wind dropping towards morning. Both of us got some sleep despite the rambunctious wind. Allison told me she'd heard voices going past about 6.30, which she took to be the girls doing Fhionnlaidh. I must have been sleeping and we didn't get up til gone seven. Surprisingly it was a fine morning, not the wall to wall clag that the forecast from last night had promised. We packed up the tent and left our packs at the bealach, heading up Fhionnlaidh unladen. Marvellous views from here today. A white helicopter flew low level along Loch Mullardoch. We headed down, picked up our packs and made our way up Carn Eige again. We could see the three girls in the distance heading towards Sron Garbh - all day they were maybe 20-30 minutes ahead of us. Great views again from this summit - surely one of the best viewpoints for mountains in Scotland - certainly when it's clear. Dropping off down the east ridge we remembered the fine grassy shelf just maybe 30m below the summit - this would have been an ideal spot to camp last night, sheltered perfectly from the west wind. On across the pinnacles, which blocked our way on one winter expedition, meeting a few folk that were heading in from Affric. The steep descent down Sron Garbh then everything's more or less plain sailing until the final descent.

ImageDC692A48-3E6A-4671-BAFC-93CD94D27D0E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image05E16072-D79E-4401-BEB0-A420153DE1A6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image65CCBA83-566A-4808-90F4-37C99B18A55C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image6FF53325-E10D-4E3E-A31C-23D3C605769D_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageBA00C8F0-C9F6-4ACA-B7B3-9DED38A589BC_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

View south from Carn Eige
Image763F4530-B9FA-497B-B6C8-587A2A1B650C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageF6C3C04F-C6FC-482E-A647-99596034889F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Old Man...
Image51CB99A4-00B1-4716-A5FC-7C4ADA257FBA_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Can this really only be 7 years ago?
ImageP1090686 by Al, on Flickr

Image6388A417-5157-4A66-990E-051938F5B4BC_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageED86FEE6-B5D7-49A7-9A09-1442F3291C54_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

ImageD5F3DAD6-AD7E-4E30-BE98-F0F07205D2CB_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr


It was really warm now - the "heatwave" that the forecasters had been going on about was surely here. I'd taken the sun cream out of Allison's rucksack - "can't see us needing that this weekend"😅 so we couldn't strip down to base layers. We'd managed to pick up some water from a lochan, so had what I hoped would be enough until we were heading down to the dam and could replenish from the river. But we were hot and the day was hotter - so water never lasts quite as long as you want under such conditions. At the summit of Toll Creagach we met the same grumpy man we'd seen at the top of Tom a'Choinich - he didn't seem to be enjoying the fine weather at all and was, I think, hoping we were going down to Affric as he wasn't sure of the way. Allison told him it was mostly pathless down the south flank, which she didn't think pleased him to hear. We set off on our own descent to the dam.

This is where we want to get to...
Image22A880FC-3EFB-4E04-AB4E-0ACC2D895AB4_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Remembering how unpleasant we'd found this previously, I joked to Allison that now - with all our off-piste Graham bagging experience, it would probably be really easy. Well - it wasn't😩. It's one of those descents where you can see where you want to be - the dam - but never seem to be getting any closer to it. Wet grass. Tussocks. Holes. Swamps. We headed sort of towards the river, making for the west side of the deer fence at the bottom, where there is a sort of path. Slippy and muddy, but a path. Which seems to go on endlessly, round the fence and finally onto the track. What must this be like if you've done the circuit in a day, with tired legs and brain? It was bad enough for us. Might be nice if the estate made a nice footpath to follow on the way down - just saying...When we got to the road, we still had a couple of km to walk back to the dam car park. I knew I should have parked on this side of the track to save us that final plod...We finally caught up with the three girls at the car park, who were parked next to us and seemed in good spirits as well they should. 12 Munros!! (I remember when I felt like that - however now that I am doing most of these for at least the fourth time and some for the sixth - the joy of Munro bagging has lessened).

Image8B5F07F4-3C38-4294-86BE-99551AD7C6F4 by Al, on Flickr

I wasn't looking forward to the drive home, thinking that the roads along Loch Lomondside would be chokka and disbelieving my phone when it told me it'd take only 4 hours...but the roads were indeed fine. Maybe everyone's abroad now covid restrictions have stopped. Saw a car with a "Jesus is my airbag" on it's back screen. Airbag? I need a sickbag after reading that😂. We called into Morrison's in Fort William for something to eat, including a box of three Magnum ice creams which were appreciated in the heat (27 degrees said the car gadget).

So I'm off to ponder mortality and the passage of time. I read the following quote last week, which seems quite apposite "If youth only knew, if age only could". I promise im not going to try and get "fitter" to try and rekindle the abilities of old - that would be a bit like a comb-over. I'm not even going to shave my beard, which my wife says would "take years off me"😏 I'm just going to try and accept ageing gracefully...
weaselmaster
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Re: A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jul 11, 2022 1:21 pm

Always impressed with what you and Allison achieve - in all weathers too! :lol:

If I've read you correctly, you're 60. It's only since retirement at 60 I've climbed most of the of the hills I've done. So from where I'm standing you're not old or at all broken. Pace does slow but it's not all about speed and more about dealing with the additional challenges that come along as time passes.

Here's to the next 15 years of your multiple hill days! :thumbup:
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Re: A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 11, 2022 4:15 pm

dogplodder wrote:Always impressed with what you and Allison achieve - in all weathers too! :lol:

If I've read you correctly, you're 60. It's only since retirement at 60 I've climbed most of the of the hills I've done. So from where I'm standing you're not old or at all broken. Pace does slow but it's not all about speed and more about dealing with the additional challenges that come along as time passes.

Here's to the next 15 years of your multiple hill days! :thumbup:


Thank you. Yes, dealing with the additional challenges is the thing i need to focus on. That’s what Allison has had to for years with her various “broken” bits. When the situation is thrown into sharper focus, like this weekend and my measuring up against my former self, it does hit quite hard, but i know that’s an important part of accepting your journey through life.
weaselmaster
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Re: A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...

Postby Verylatestarter » Mon Jul 11, 2022 4:44 pm

If time has taken it's toll you've been rewarded with the experiences you've had. Keep on truckin'.

Thanks for a great report and photos.

John
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Re: A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...

Postby Dunblane Bagger » Mon Jul 11, 2022 4:48 pm

Another fantastic adventure so thanks for sharing.

On my first round/ compleation my friend and I did the full Mullardoch round in a oner, taking us 23.5 hours in total.

that descent to the dam in the dark is something I will NEVER forget - took us bloody hours falling about in the dark on big tufts of heather, then falling into deep holes, our head torches playing games with us about where the ground actually was. :shock:

A path would be a great idea :lol:

Great memories relived in your report so thanks again for sharing :clap:
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Re: A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 11, 2022 6:31 pm

Dunblane Bagger wrote:
On my first round/ compleation my friend and I did the full Mullardoch round in a oner, taking us 23.5 hours in total.

that descent to the dam in the dark is something I will NEVER forget - took us bloody hours falling about in the dark on big tufts of heather, then falling into deep holes, our head torches playing games with us about where the ground actually was. :shock:

A path would be a great idea :lol:
:


I was wondering how many folk had failed at the last hurdle of getting the rojnd done within 24 hours because of the descent route! You just made it - must have been a real worry ploughing through all that stuff. I fid wonder if coming off Creag a’bhaca would have helped, but you still have quite a way at the bottom to go.
weaselmaster
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Re: A Mullardoch Round for the old and the broken...

Postby PeteR » Mon Jul 11, 2022 7:35 pm

An interesting read Al. I think I've resigned myself to knowing "big hill" days are a thing of the past for me now. If I can bag two of anything in a day I'm happy 🤣
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