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Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail


Postby malky_c » Sun Aug 05, 2012 11:38 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Càrn na Breabaig, Carnan Cruithneachd

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Meall Sguman

Date walked: 04/08/2012

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 36 km

Ascent: 1760m

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Grahams: Carnan Cruithneachd, Carn na Breabaig.
Sub 2000 Marilyns: Meall Sguman
Date walked: 04/08/2012
Distance: 16 km (cycling), 20 km (walking)
Ascent: 160m (cycling), 1500m (walking)
Time: 7 hours 30 minutes
Weather: Hot and calm. Mainly sunny with lots of drifting cloud. Heavy shower late on.

Last Sunday I found myself picking off a Midlands Marilyn by bike. Obstacles included steps down to canal towpaths, speedy dual carriageways and the Spaghetti Junction. It was definitely time to come home :lol: .

My first trip home for a month and I discovered that my wife had organised a girlie day out in Aberdeen with her mates. I would have liked to spend some more time with her, but the chance to have the car for the day and head for the hills was a pretty good consolation prize. To get the full value from the day, I borrowed her bike as well.

A couple of potential plans were formed, but the NW looked like the place to be on Saturday, so I headed down to Kintail for the first time in a couple of years. Back in 2006 and 2007, I was out this way most weeks for work - sadly that job is long finished. A cloudy, drizzly start in Inverness cleared to bright sunshine in Glen Moriston, and I was happy to be out. Even getting stuck in slow holiday traffic descending Glen Shiel couldn't ruin things - in fact it gave me more time to enjoy the scenery :) .

Glen Elchaig.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


When doing a round of the Attadale hills from the north a couple of years ago, I couldn't help noticing that I'd never been up Glen Elchaig beyond the end of the public road. It was time to change that, and pick up my last two Grahams in the area.

There were a couple of other cars in the carpark at Killilan, but I only passed a dog walker as I pedalled up the glen. There was plenty of sunshine, but the cloud was still clinging to the hills in many places. It made Carnan Cruithneachd (my first hill) look massive.

Carnan Cruithneachd from Glen Elchaig:
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It was an enjoyable 5 miles on the bike, as the track was pretty good and not too hilly. The scenery was great too - this could easily feature in my top 10 favourite highland glens. Soon I was passing the northern face of Carnan Cruithneachd - 600m of steep grass topped by crags. I had wanted to approach from this direction to feel the full size of the hill, as it appears more as a small rocky pimple rising from the surrounding plateau on the southern approach.

North face of Carnan Cruithneachd:
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Back down Glen Elchaig:
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After half an hour, I abandoned the bike at the edge of a small plantation and descended to the river. It would have been possible to use a footbridge further up, but I wanted to leave the bike at the high point of the track to save on uphill cycling on the return. The ground was a little rough, but pretty dry, and the river wasn't flowing especially high. Once over, I gained the steep NE ridge of the hill and started going upwards. Although this ridge isn't well defined on the map, it is quite prominent. A small burn crosses the ridge low down, but once across that, it is steep but easy ground most of the way to the summit.

My ascent route (ridge running from left to right):
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While the underfoot conditions were pretty good (barring a couple of short steeper sections which required the odd hand to support me), the gradient and temperature had me sweating buckets! Good thing that the views east along Glen Elchaig kept improving the whole way up.

East along Glen Elchaig to An Socach:
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On the NE ridge of Carnan Cruithneachd:
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Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:
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The last section to the summit involved a minor amount of scrambling - more could possibly be had by staying directly on the ridge, but the rock was of poor quality, so I didn't fancy it. Views were now opening up to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and the Five Sisters, the cloud adding to the atmosphere.

Beinn Fada and Sgurr Fhuran from near the summit:
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Glen Elchaig and the summit cairn:
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The summit cairn was impressively perched on the edge of the north face, and the views west to the Cuillin were incredible. A low layer of cloud lying over the Sound of Sleat made it look like they were in the middle of a vast inversion (although Robin's photos from the Cuillin at the same time suggest there wasn't a full inversion). In front and on the mainland, there was an interesting area of high moor and lochans around Carn Loch nan Uan - somewhere worth exploring in the future, possibly. A top notch summit - certainly one of the more impressive Grahams. I hadn't realised it was going to be this good :D .

Black Cuillin:
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Carn Loch nan Eun:
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I had a short break - the midges weren't anywhere near as bad as expected but the flies and clegs were pretty irritating, so I was on the move again after 10 minutes. Within minutes of leaving, I was faced with a large drop, so a bit of weaving was required to get off the summit cone and onto the flattish moorland below. I headed east, but I think it would be possible to get off the western end too.

Looking back to Carnan Cruithneachd:
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Next was a cross-country traverse to the Falls of Glomach. I had never seen these before, so was quite looking forward to the visit. Like many of the most impressive waterfalls in Scotland, they were very difficult to see in their entirety and get decent photos of. I descended the NTS path to a lower viewpoint for a better look, before coming back up and crossing the Allt a Ghlomaich just above the falls.

Meall Sguman:
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Meall Sguman and the Glomach gorge:
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Falls of Glomach:
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Photos kindly joined by Rockhopper:
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Glomach gorge:
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I followed the remains of an old fence steeply up the shoulder of Meall Sguman - this was hard work in the heat. I don't think my attention would really have been drawn to this Marilyn had it not been directly on my route, but it turns out that it is probably one of the best viewpoints for Glen Elchaig and Carnan Cruithneachd. Because of this, it was worth another break on the summit.

Falls from Meall Sguman:
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Carnan Cruithneachd and Glen Elchaig:
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Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and Sgurr Gaorsaic:
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Zoom to Carnan Cruithneachd:
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Next was another cross country descent to the Allt Coire Easaich, which as its name suggests leads to another waterfall. I didn't see this, and briefly joined a short stretch of stalker's path crossing the burn, before losing it again. It had occurred to me to cross over the minor summit of Sgurr na h-Eige, as it would probably be a nice spot, but I couldn't be bothered with the extra ascent. Instead, I tried to follow the marked stalkers path as it contoured around the hillside to the north. Large sections of it were invisible, and I ended up taking a lower line following rough quad bike tracks. Luckily, due to the dryness of the ground, this was pretty easy.

East to Carn na Breabaig, with An Socach behind:
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Coire a Chadha Ruaide Mor and Aonach Buidhe:
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The last section down to the path between Iron Lodge and Loch Mullardoch was rougher, as I traversed beneath some outcroppy crags. Soon enough I was on the path, but after less than 5 minutes I had left it again to start on the slopes of Carn na Breabaig. As the north side of the Affric hills came into view, there was a definite change in the weather. While Beinn Fhionnlaidh glowed in the sunshine, the sky above me had darkened, and I thought I felt the odd spit of rain.

Beinn Fhionnlaidh:
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Mullach na Dheiragain:
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The slopes of Carn na Breabaig aren't particularly steep, but they never form into an obvious ridge on this side, so the distance to the top was unclear. I was definitely flagging on this bit, and with the rain possibly just around the corner, I stopped again before the summit. A handy chocolate boost got me the rest of the way.

Loch Mullardoch, Beinn Fhionnlaidh and Carn Eighe:
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Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and north-western tops from Carn na Breabaig:
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West to A' Ghlas-bheinn and Carnan Cruithneachd - weather starting to turn:
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Once on the top, there was an obvious large shower sitting over the hills north of Loch Mullardoch, with the edge of it just starting to hit me. This being one of the more remote Grahams, I had fancied a decent break on the top, just taking in the atmosphere. I debated waiting out the shower, but decided to keep going instead.

Rain comes down Loch Mullardoch:
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Summit rocks of Carn na Breabaig:
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Loch Mhoicean and An Cruachan in the murk:
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As I headed down the ridge towards Iron Lodge, I knew I'd made the right decision, as it started to hammer down, and kept it up consistently for the next 45 minutes. I stuck to the ridge as far as possible for the views, but the rain didn't stop. It only started easing off as I was walking back down the glen to my bike.

Loch Leithrach and Carnan Cruithneachd:
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It was nice to be able to enjoy some of the glen at walking pace, although the skies were decidedly grey once the rain had stopped. I had some trouble passing a herd of cows, as they refused to move off the track. I couldn't walk fast enough to pass them, so ended up herding them down the valley for 500m or so until they finally moved to the side and stopped.

Heavy traffic in the glen:
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Glomach gorge from below:
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The walking was nice, but it was good to get to the bike and whizz down the last 5 miles. A quick change of clothes at the car, then the drive home. Loch Duich and the 5 Sisters were in the sunshine as I passed by, and I gave a lift to a guy who had done the Saddle and dropped off the north-western tops to Shiel Bridge. Like me, he was also pretty chuffed with the weather and Kintail in general :)

Last look up the glen - Sgurr na Creige dominating:
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Last edited by malky_c on Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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malky_c
 
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby Gavin99 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 7:35 am

Lovely , what a beautiful glen that is , looks like a grand round of hills . A good bit of droving practice on the way out too !
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:01 am

Hi Malky, nice to see your posts in Walks -Scotland again :D I'm thinking about reaching An Socach through Glen Elchaig with the help of a bike, some time in the future.

On Saturday we were just around the corner from you, doing A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire ridge. That shower you walked through caught us as well, on the way back in An Caorann Mor, luckily it wasn't too strong when it reached us.
The cloud inversion over Skye looked fantastic that day, will post my photos as soon as they are sorted.
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby Bod » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:03 pm

A lovely adventure there, food or thought. It's just endless really isn't it the range of amazing days out that we have to chose from? Thanks :wink: :D :D
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby LeithySuburbs » Mon Aug 06, 2012 1:54 pm

a fine adventure there Malky :D - a bit of an extension my similar route in March. I just about froze my feet off crossing the river at the end of the day but no way was I walking back up the glen to the bridge :lol: .
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby rockhopper » Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:45 pm

cracking report malky - bike, walk, great views, some fine weather and a nice route - has it all :thumbup: enjoyed reading your report but, sorry, couldn't resist merging the two waterfall photos - cheers :)

Waterfall.JPG
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby Johnny Corbett » Tue Aug 07, 2012 11:50 am

Great stuff, looks a fine walk and good to see a report of the smaller ones of Kintail :D
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby malky_c » Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:16 pm

Thanks everyone, particularly Rockhopper for splicing that photo :D . I was trying to bodge it together without the software (using MS Paint), but couldn't do it. I'm going to add it to the report (with credit) if that's OK.

Bod wrote: It's just endless really isn't it the range of amazing days out that we have to chose from?

I can't believe how good this area is - even the hills which don't look exciting (like Carn na Breabaig and and Beinn Dronaig) all give days out with high satisfaction levels 8) .
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Re: Banishing the Black Country blues in Kintail

Postby ChrisW » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:10 am

An absolute cracker Malky, what a difference to Birmingham that is, some stunning pics along the way that actually had me missing the hills of home, good to see you are truly multi skilled and can switch to drover when necessary :lol:
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