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Into the wilds - Mullardoch and Affric wanderings

Into the wilds - Mullardoch and Affric wanderings

Postby icemandan » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:40 am

Date walked: 05/06/2012

Time taken: 30 hours

Distance: 75 km

Ascent: 4676m

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(apologies for picture quality - no room for the Lumix on a backpacking trip so pictures taken on phone).

We'd planned it as a circuit of Loch Mullardoch, passing over some of my remaining remote munroes.


We dropped the car in Camasluinie in glorious sunshine and began the long walk up Glen Elchaig. We met a number of people on bikes and were beginning to regret our decision that to try and cycle with heavy packs on was more trouble than it was worth. My friend's young son, on his first back packing expedition, was not slow in expressing his view on the matter.

Tramp, tramp, tramp down Glen Elchaig until the Loch came into view with the distant objective of An Socach behind it.
Crummock 002.jpg
The weather darkened as we climbed up towards Loch Mhoicean. I'm not sure what the peak in the picture is but it made an impressive sentinel at the entrance to the empty country.
Crummock 003.jpg

We made camp by the Loch in dark but windless conditions. I soon whipped up a chilli with chorizo (tip - a shallot or two and a red pepper weigh almost nothing - make dehydrated gloop palatable and keep scurvy at bay)
Crummock 004.jpg


Next morning the hard work started as we shouldered our loads and began the long slow grind up the slopes of An Socach. What started out as a grass slope treadmill opened out onto an attractive curved ridge. Another slope led up to the summit ridge. Unfortunately we went into cloud at that point so what should have been a superb aerial walkway with constantly changing views far and near became a march through the mist. Socach and Riabhachan look like broad grassy whale backs on the map. On the ground much of the ridge is narrow and rocky so progress was slow. We dropped briefly out of the mist in the col between Riabhachan and Lapaich where we stopped for lunch.

Crummock 008.jpg

Lapaich was hard. We were beginning to tire and the long grind up followed by a tricky descent through a boulderfield - not pleasant with heavy packs, led to a decision to leave Gobhar for another day and head straight for steel grey Loch Mullardoch and its scruffy scabbard of a shoreline. A long trek down a boggy glen led to a path which traversed above the Loch. We saw a little grassy promontory below which looked like an ideal place to camp with a breeze.

We got the tents up. I went to fill up the water bottles. I felt a prickly sensation on my face and within seconds was enveloped by a pullulating malevolent halo of midges. I dived into the tent. There wasn't a breath of wind. The outer tent went black with them. Inside there was no respite - they were getting through the nets. I gulped down a hurried just add water ready meal, got into the sleeping bag, zipped it up, hood and all and put a towel over my face. There followed one of the worst nights sleep I have ever had in my life alternating between being boiled to death and being eaten alive.


Crummock 009.jpg

Crummock 010.jpg

The day dawned sunny. Our tormentors were still swarming around as we packed up and set off along the loch side, down in front of the grim grey prow of the dam and up to the power station. There was no sign of a path up into the hills. A new road heading up the hill took us 100m to a stile over a deer fence. From here on we were bush and bog whacking and relying on deer tracks. A pleasant wooded area by the Allt Fraoch Coire gave a bit of shelter from the sun.

Crummock 011.jpg

True to its name, the Fraoch Coire was all energy sapping pathless heathery tussocks and it was early afternoon by the time we got to the col just in time to see Ben Nevis get swallowed up by cloud. The young lad was suffering by now so he and his dad headed straight down into Glen Affric. The going got a lot easier as I headed up easy grassy slopes to Toll Creagach, the only hill on the trip that gave a view.

Crummock 012.jpg

No adrenalin thrills on Toll Creagach as I strolled down the broad ridge to the col. Tom a' Choinich was a much more interesting climb, made all the more enjoyable because I'd dropped the pack at the col and was now experiencing the strange moonwalking sensation you get when freed from the load. The route winds up a steep rocky spur. Unfortunately by the time I got to the top the view had gone.

I dropped down to the col and followed the old stalkers path down to Gleann nam Fiadh. A good track cuts across the moor to Affric Lodge where I met up with the other two. The lad was suffering with blisters now and we made slow progress along the north side of Loch Affric (incidentally how is the land owner here able to prevent access to the south side - I thought that there was a right to roam?). The rest of the day was spent looking for a place to camp and we eventually found one near some ruins near the Allt Coire Leachavie.


Due to the lad's feet we decided to abandon the previous plan of walking out back to Camasluinie in favour of a shorter exit to the Cluanie Inn. The good track up the Glen made for rapid progress to the Youth Hostel where we made a brew on the step outside to the strangely alien sounds of hoovering and Radio Scotland coming from within. The path out to Cluanie was a boggy quagmire. It does however have a magnificent view of Ceathramnain and best of all leads directly to beer.
Crummock 013.jpg
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Re: Into the wilds - Mullardoch and Affric wanderings

Postby headless spectre » Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:30 pm

Well done an epic. Had to follow your route on an O.S. map, but worth the effort, your discription of the midges puts me of camping more than a few metres from the car.
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headless spectre
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