Two contrasting days in Glen Shiel...part two
by jstalker66621 » Tue Nov 01, 2011 1:03 am
Route description: A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire
Munros included on this walk: A' Chralaig, Mullach Fraoch-choire
Date walked: 28/10/2011
Time taken: 5 hours
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1150mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Objective...Bagging two more Munro's in Glen Shiel (A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-Choire)
Team members...Myself accompanied by Jelly McBaby and Sid
Whilst yesterday had been most enjoyable as an opportunity to add to my tally of bagged Munro's, so far, on a gentle meander along a mostly clear path on wide slopes...today would be more in keeping with the general perception of Munro's in Glen Shiel, narrow ridges, sharp inclines and boggy steep descents. The biggest difference of course between the two days would be that I had company along today. As well as Jelly McBaby being by my side again, we would be joined by Sid on this trip as he seeks to increase his own running total.
Knowing that Sid would be arriving at 0820 sharp I made a concerted effort at getting out of bed nice and early, showering (without running the risk of blistering today) and having the car all packed and ready to go before breakfast. I was halfway through my toast and sausage when Sid pulled up outside...where he waited patiently for me to finish breakfast, have a pre walk anxiety poo, then check out (without any hint of a smile from the lady that runs the Cluanie Inn...I'm putting that down to it being the end of a very long season rather than anything I may have done whilst staying there!!).
Warm greetings then off along the short drive (I could get used to that) to the start point on the A87 east of the Cluanie Inn.
Conditions were mixed at the start as we wavered about clothes to wear before we left the cars behind. It was damp but not wet so the waterproofs would remain in the rucksack for the time being...especially as the slog uphill was reputed to be arduous. So off we set at 0845 along a short section of the A87 to the start of the climb...
Immediately the road was left behind the ascent began, unlike yesterday when I was wandering along a path without feeling any real effort in gaining height, this was oh so different.
Within minutes my calves were screaming at me to stop and take a picture, and continued so, all the way up the steep embankment to the 750m mark...which brought us out on the south ridge of A'Chralaig within the first 45 mins.
Our arrival on the ridge appeared to coincide with the start of a gale force wind blowing us sideways...I'm starting to think that Sid is a wind jinx!!
The conditions remained clear and we could see most of the route ahead to A'Chralaig, including its large prominent cairn. We could also see that there had been a fresh fall of snow during the night, nothing too worrying, but a fresh challenge none the less. I had opted against wearing my Scarpa Manta's for one last use of my Scarpa ZG10 GTX's for the season before the worn down lugs lead me to replacing the sole unit. If the rocky path is overly slippy I may well live to regret that choice!!!
We both decided to throw on our waterproof jackets at this stage, for the ridge would offer no protection from the unrelenting wind.
And off we set left along the line of the ridge as it rose upwards in stages to the 1000m mark, before turning north-east and continuing to rise until we reached the summit cairn of A'Chralaig 1120m.
All along the ridge, from the moment we rose onto it until we reached the summit, the views along to Mullach Fraoch-Choire (our second Munro of the day) and the adjoining routes nearby had been fantastically clear. We were able to pick out the Brothers ridge, with the Sisters ridge beyond that...Ciste Dubh next to our route...the three Munro walk I had completed the previous day on my own...and of course the South Glen Shiel ridge across the expanse of Loch Cluanie behind us...We were pretty sure we could pick out the Glen Affric Munro's in the not so far distance before the gloom settled on us...
Just prior to the summit being reached, unfortunately, the gloom did decide to throw us a curved ball and remove our views.
We stopped at the cairn long enough to take the necessary pics then plotted our continued route north to a steep rocky descent northwest then back north to a col.
The ridge then continues along to a top at 1008m and then returns to another col. The views into Glen Affric and indeed Loch Affric from here are well worth the look. The ridge narrows and in the wind we had today is a risky proposition to undertake so close to the edge of a steep drop...but be aware of the danger and do not be caught off guard by the conditions should they worsen.
We were truly relishing the challenge of the ridge walk today, although not the hardest we have ever done, the wind was providing enough of a challenge to keep us on our toes at all times. As the ridge follows the curve of the corrie on our right we were getting some cracking views when the mist was lifting, especially on the lea side of the corrie where the snow was already beginning to gather.
Onwards and upwards we traversed now as the ridge thinned out in places and the snow beneath our boots got thicker then slidier on the rocks...until eventually, just prior to coming to the pinnacles, it thinned out and we returned to wet rocks beneath our boots.
We decided to leave our rucksacks wedged against some rocks prior to attempting the path at the pinnacles, the wind was brutal by now and we didn't see the point in taking unnecessary risks. So we filled our pockets with essentials, Jelly McBaby for a start, cameras GPS and car keys (in case we returned and our bags had been blown away!!). Unfortunately Sid had omitted to mention to me about car keys until we had left our rucksacks behind and I spent the remainder of the climb to the summit in a state of high anxiety that my bag would be blown over the edge of the ridge and I would have no way of driving home after we got back to the car!!
We also had to make a decision on the safety and sanity of climbing the pinnacles today, or taking the path down and around them, for fear of the strength of the wind currently trying to blow us off the ridge.
We erred on the cautious side for once and took to the lower path around the worst of the pinnacles (though we have vowed to return next year with the intention of climbing them), though this was still a perilous undertaking. There is still enough exposure on the path, in this wind anyway, to make you hug the wet rocks tightly on occasion.
The summit of Mullach Fraoch-Choire 1102m is not too far from the end of the pinnacles and has another large cairn to mark it, as well as a decent size shelter from the wind. Thankfully Sid could think of no Bon Jovi references on this occasion and we sufficed ourselves with a short break to take some pics before heading back along the pinnacles and eventually our secure rucksacks against the same rocks as we had left them earlier. Sid decided he wanted/needed a sandwich stop and we chose a suitable site to call a halt behind an outcrop of rocks against the wind. No sooner had Sid got comfy though than the wind changed...now at this point our stories probably differ...as Sid claims that I had tempted fate by joking about the wind changing direction once I started to relieve myself against a rock (as had happened on our last trip) but that is utter tosh!!! Anyway, the wind did pick up, of that there is no dispute, and I did have my fly down at the time (okay I will hold my hands up to that one) but at least my leg remained dry this time!!
We headed back to the 1008m height and took the lower path heading down a steep but thankfully short scree slope to the head of Coire Odhar and a grassy path leading down to the glen below. As has become the norm on these descents there was a lot of slipping and stumbling...add in a couple of spectacular tumbles and miraculous acrobatics to stop from landing bottom first down the slopes...and even the occasional swear word as frustration set in at the boggy underfoot conditions.
Once down in the glen the path is almost indistinguishable at times as it weaves through the undergrowth...just try to avoid the worst of the boggy areas and you should be fine by the time you reach the obvious landrover track. Once on this track it is around three kilometers back to the car and is a fine end to the walk as you turn round the corner and see Loch Cluanie stretch out in front of you again.
We made it back to the car by 1345 (a respectable 5 hrs after leaving and less than the suggested 6-8 hrs for this walk) content with our acheivement for the day. We both agreed that it was as fine a walk as either of us have done recently and would be ideal for beginners to ridge walks, it seemed to have a bit of everything thrown into its 13km.
Once back at the cars we sorted ourselves out and bade each other farewell until the next arranged trip on November 26th and 27th (Ben Lui circuit). I will endeavour to be out and about before then though folks...but in the meantime continue to enjoy your walking.....
I hope this link works for the pics of our day out...
by dogplodder » Tue Nov 01, 2011 7:45 pm
It's one of my favourite walks.
by ChrisW » Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:28 pm
by jstalker66621 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 4:50 pm
by pollyh33 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 8:29 pm
Heading up these two in the Springtime hopefully. Your photos are amazing, especially the ridge ones oh so scary!!! Sid's a brave man
Got to ask..... how are you legs????
by jstalker66621 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:30 pm
by pollyh33 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:19 am
jstalker66621 wrote:Hahaha the legs are fine now Polly...great powers of recovery...thighs like tree trunks apparently!!
by jstalker66621 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:32 am
Yeah I meant Jelly McBaby has!!!
by pollyh33 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:37 am
jstalker66621 wrote:pollyh33 wrote:
Yeah I meant Jelly McBaby has!!!
by jstalker66621 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:54 am
by pollyh33 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:00 am
jstalker66621 wrote:I have a pair of legs to make Ernie Wise's look lengthy....
mmmmmmm even nicer!!!
by jstalker66621 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 1:10 am