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No sleep 'til An Socach

No sleep 'til An Socach


Postby CurlyWurly » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:25 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Socach (Braemar), Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn a'Gheoidh, Carn Aosda, The Cairnwell

Date walked: 28/01/2012

Time taken: 13 hours

Distance: 39 km

Ascent: 1750m

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If you ask most people for their best walk then I doubt it would include Carn Aosda and The Cairnwell. Although these peaks are relatively close to where I live and could be an ‘easy bag’, I just could not raise the enthusiasm to climb them. Not sure if it is the high access point at the ski centre, the ski tows, or both. I just did not fancy them. So it comes as a surprise that I am writing a report on a walk they probably rates as the best I have ever done and it includes both of these.

Not that I realised this was going to be the case as I drove past the Ski Centre at 9pm on Friday evening. In fact at that time, there were not in mind. The plan was simple; hike up to the summit of an Socach, wild camp then take the next day as it comes.

I parked up at the edge of the plantation on the A93 and followed the standard route along the track to the Allt Coire Fhearneasg. The air was really clear and the stars were vivid in the sky. It really was an amazing evening to be out hiking. At the Allt I followed the eroded path up towards the summit. It really was cold and as I got higher up, the snow was frozen. I had to stop to put crampons on. I was in no rush though and just took my time. I reached the eastern top and looked for a place to pitch my tent. It was pretty rocky on the summit but a little further along the broad ridge I found a nice flat piece of ground.

I was glad to get in the tent as the wind had picked up whilst erecting the tent and I was getting pretty chilly. Once inside, a cup of tea sorted the cold issue out and I settled down for the evening. It was now 1am and I better get some sleep because I planned to catch the sunrise first thing. I was awake at 6:30am and had breakfast then watched outside as the sun began to rise. It was an amazing experience and I could have sat there for hours but I wanted to catch the sunrise from the true summit, so I packed up and set off along the ridge.

01 - Wild camping on the east summit of An Socach.JPG
Wild camping on the east summit of An Socach

02 - Amazing sunrise from the summit of An Socach.JPG
Amazing sunrise from the summit of An Socach

It was an enjoyable walk and it did not take long to reach the true summit. By now the sky was crimson red and I sat there for a while, enjoying the scene. I looked at my map. What next? Well there was plenty of time so how about climbing Beinn lutharn Mhor and its two tops? I dropped down from An Socach and headed across towards Loch nan Eun. Although the ground was pretty rough, it was frozen solid and I made good progress. The Loch was covered with ice but you could see the pawprints from deer that had been wandering across. Rather them than me! I headed to the top, Beinn lutharn Bheag. It was only 170 metres to the summit but it was worth this detour because the views were amazing. In the distance I could see the weird ‘pointy’ summit of Carn Bhinnein. Wow, that looks a great hill!

03 - Looking out from the summit of Beinn lutharn Bheag .JPG
Looking out from the summit of Beinn lutharn Bheag

I dropped down to the bealach and then headed up to the top of Mam nan Carn. Unfortunately cloud had shrouded the summit so there was no point in hanging around. I just pushed on and set off to Beinn lutharn Mhor. It seemed pretty straight forward, just down then up. But due to the mist I took a compass bearing just to be on the safe side.

04 - Looking over to Carn an Righ from the bealach betwen Beinn lutharn Bheag and Mam nan Carn.JPG
Looking over to Carn an Righ from the bealach betwen Beinn lutharn Bheag and Mam nan Carn

The climb was not to steep and I arrived at the summit just as the cloud lifted. Luck was on my side today. I had a breather, grabbed a drink then dropped back down to the bealach and skirted around the side of Mam nan Cairn and down to Loch nan Eun where I stopped for lunch.

05 - Cross country skiing on Mam nan Carn.JPG
Cross country skiing on Mam nan Carn

06 - Loch nan Eun.JPG
Loch nan Eun

It was only 11.45am so there was still plenty of time left in the day. Glas Tulaichean was an option but I had that pencilled that in for a ‘double-bagger’ with Carn an Righ. I thought back to the amazing looking peak I had noticed from the summit of Beinn lutharn Bheag. I looked at the map. Carn Bhinnein is a subsidiary top of Carn a’ Gheoidh. It would be a huge ask. Should I?

It was three kilometres as the bird flies but that mean humping over the top of Carn a’ Chlarsaich and Creag Easgaidh. Then there would be a pretty steep ascent form the Allt Elrig. Once on the ridge though, it looked pretty straightforward to the ski centre. I would also be able to nail The Cairnwell and Carn Aosada without going anywhere near the ski tows. Added bonus! Hmmmm, should I or shouldn’t I? Oh sod it, if I finish in the dark then so be it! I decided to skirt around the side of Carn a’ Chlarsaich and maintain my height at about 800 metres. A cross country skier must have had the same idea and I pretty much stayed on his tracks before heading south, then south east to the Allt Elrig.

07 - Heading over to Carn Bhinnein.JPG
Heading over to Carn Bhinnein

08 - Heading over to Carn Bhinnein.JPG
Heading over to Carn Bhinnein

09 - Following the deer pawprints to Carn Bhinnein.JPG
Following the deer pawprints to Carn Bhinnein

It was 300 metres straight up from the Allt to the summit and it looked a tough slog. By this time, my rucksack, which contained all my winter gear and camping stuff was weighing a ton and I was beginning to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. Oh well, too late now. I headed up towards the top.

50 metres, rest, 50 metres, rest and so on.

10 - The gruesome slog up to the summit of Carn Bhinnein.JPG
The gruesome uphill slog up to the summit of Carn Bhinnein

11 - Looking over Glas Choire Mhor from the summit of Carn Bhinnein.JPG
Looking over Glas Choire Mhor from the summit of Carn Bhinnein

Eventually, it flattened out and it was just a case of a final push to the summit. What an amazing peak, well worth all the effort. I suspect that most people who climb the three Munros from the pass, stop at Carn a’Gheoidh and turn back which is a shame because this top is a cracker. I grabbed a bite to eat then set off. It was now 14.18 and time was ticking. I dropped down from the summit and headed over to Carn a’ Gheoidh. What an anti-climax! After the exhilaration of my ascent to Carn Bhinnein, this peak offered little more than a tick in the box.

12 - Looking back to Carn a' Gheoidh from Carn nan Sac.JPG
Looking back to Carn a' Gheoidh from Carn nan Sac

13 - The Cairnwell from Carn nan Sac.JPG
The Cairnwell from Carn nan Sac

I continued eastwards towards The Cairnwell, stopping on Carn nan Sac to take a couple of photograhs. It seemed to take an age to traverse around the Choire Dhirich and by the time I reached the ski tows, I was totally wasted. It was only a hundred metres or so to the summit but it felt like Everest. I contemplated knocking it on the head and heading down the ski tows to the pass and attempting to hitch a lift back to the car. I even contemplated, phoning Emma and asking for a lift. I cannot say she would be too impressed with a 120 kilometre drive just to chug me 5 kilometres down the road.

My thoughts were disturbed by a guy descending down towards me. Better get my act together here. He will probably think I have only hiked up from the ski centre and was a ‘lightweight’. I pushed on and headed up.
By the time I finally got to the top it was getting dark and I was treated to an amazing sunset and this totally invigorated me. I could not believe my luck. I had witnessed an awesome sunrise and sunset in one day, climbed four Munro’s, three Munro Tops and was contemplating giving up! I realised that I had just had one of those days that comes in a blue moon where everything clicks into place.

14 - Watching the sun set over Carn nan Sac and beyond from the summit of The Cairnwell.JPG
Watching the sun set over Carn nan Sac and beyond from the summit of The Cairnwell

15 - Carn Aosda - Final Destination.JPG
Carn Aosda - Final Destination

It was a case of two options. Either head down the ski tows and then attempt to hitch back to the car or just head straight over Carn Aosada and drop down to the car. I looked down. The traffic was not exactly flowing like the M25 on a Monday rush hour so my chances of a lift were pretty slim and the thought of a 5 kilometre hike down the A93 in the pitch black dark did not raise much enthusiasm. Sod it, just nail the peak! It looked less distance anyway.
I dropped back down to the ski tows. By this time there was no around. All the sensible people had called it a day a while back. Fine by me. I headed up towards Carn Aosda. To be fair, it was not half as bad as I expected and I ‘topped out’ just before darkness. I rummaged in my rucksack for something to eat but to no avail. I opened the lid pocket where I kept my emergency Mars Bar and there it was. My hip flask! How long has that been there? I unscrewed the top and took a long gulp. I can honestly say that was the best whisky I have ever tasted.

There was still a decent slog back to the car though but it did not matter. I had nearly finished one of the best days I have had in the hills so 4km in the dark was no big deal!! I dropped down into the Dubh-choire and then picked up a convenient ‘deer path’ that rang alongside the burn all the way to the car. Happy days! :)


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CurlyWurly
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby monty » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:47 pm

Awesome Curlywurly. An excellent expedition. Big walk with all the gear and an unusual approach to Carn a' Gheoidh. Loved it :D
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby pigeon » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:52 pm

Big effort there curly,was on an socach today,was baltic,think we followed your crampon prints :lol: :lol:
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby kevsbald » Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:37 pm

Outstanding effort and report. Well done that man. :D
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby jonny616 » Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:44 pm

Fantastic stuff CW. Great pics as well 8)
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby davetherave » Sun Jan 29, 2012 9:59 pm

What an effort, and what a day. Weather was fantastic up there. I was not far behind you. I reached SgorMor for sunrise.

I decided against Beinn Lutharn Beag. What a light weight. I saw that guy on the skiing, met him at the bealach between Beinn Lutharn Mhor and Mam nan Carn, he must have had a fantastic day also.

Well done on completing that massive route. :D
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby rockhopper » Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:01 pm

Busy place, An Socach, given the number of trip reports ! Enjoyed reading your report - certainly a bit of an epic for winter but rewarded with some great photos - cheers :D
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby SMRussell » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:57 pm

Cracking stuff and kudos on the winter wild camping!
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby LeithySuburbs » Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:31 pm

A fine effort :D . You won't catch me slagging these hills off. Maybe it's because these hills are pretty accessible from the east coast cities, but they are kind of old friends :) .
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby CurlyWurly » Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:25 pm

davetherave wrote:I decided against Beinn Lutharn Beag. What a light weight. I saw that guy on the skiing, met him at the bealach between Beinn Lutharn Mhor and Mam nan Carn, he must have had a fantastic day also.

Beinn Lutharn Beag was a cracker. I made a decision a year back to start ticking off all the 'tops' whilst doing the Munro's and some of them are better than their parent peak. How about a 'Munro Top' map Paul? :):)
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby 147cjl » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:07 pm

Great report curlywurly, except I'm sitting laughing my *ss off at the picture of Carn a' Gheoidh from Carn nan Sac :lol: . It's so close and so easy but I was up there last week climbed the Cairnwell then went round to Carn Nan Sac, wrongly went round the west of Carn nan Sac summit to a minor top just south of it then in the wrong direction off it. As the weather closed in I could see Gheoidh but it looked miles away and my approach would have been from completely the wrong direction...so bailed out and went home given the conditions...more on that in a WR another time.
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby Louise » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:44 pm

Amazing trip and photos. :)

Nice to look back on your last three without the freezing winds when I did them in December
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby Graeme D » Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:18 pm

Top effort fella! :clap:
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby Gable Gable End » Tue Jan 31, 2012 8:43 pm

Image

One of my favourite views that one!

Great report!
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Re: No sleep 'til An Socach

Postby Lastofthesummerwine » Tue Jan 31, 2012 9:34 pm

the photo of your little tent brought back memories for me. Many times have I had rather fitful nights sleep in a frozen tent with your breath freezing on the top of the sleeping bag. I'm afraid I'm just a bit of a softie now and the tent is never used but keep it up as long as you can, nothing quite like it.
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