A'Chralaig & Mullach Fraoch-choire: scrambling test passed!
by BlackPanther » Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:10 pm
Route description: A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire
Munros included on this walk: A' Chralaig, Mullach Fraoch-choire
Date walked: 04/08/2012
Time taken: 7 hours
Distance: 14.6 km
Ascent: 1261m5 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Earlier this year, having climbed the Sisters, my husband has successfully completed all Glen Shiel Munros (both N & S side). I'm still far away behind him, haven't touched the south ridge yet, but on the north side I only had two peaks left. Actually, it was Kevin who suggested "finishing the business" but I liked the idea instantly. So what that we did Beinn Fhada only two weeks earlier? I would be more than happy to re-visit the area.
My two remaining Munros on the N side were A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire - I couldn't wait to climb this ridge. Kevin's memories from his earlier visit to these two included a bypass below some very airy rocky ridge, and fantastic views. As for the views, the day was supposed to be sunny and with cloud level above Munro summits... Good news! As for the rocky towers... hmmm... Maybe, just maybe I could redeem myself after NOT scrambling to the top of Am Fasarinen on Liathach ridge...
Our route followed the one suggested both by WH walk and SMC Guide:
When we left Beauly, grey cloud covered even lower hills, but it all cleared to a lovely, blue sky as soon as we passed Invermoriston and headed west towards Kintail. After all the rainy misery of July, here it was - an almost perfect opportunity for some healthy mountain adventure!
The obvious place to park is the long layby below Am Bathach, where there used to be a nice stretch of forest. Sadly, all the trees are gone now - and the car park was already busy when we showed up:
A short walk along the road, past the bridge with an interesting view to Am Bathach:
We turned to the signposted path through the An Caorann Mor...
...and quickly found a narrow path branching to the right, straight up the steep slope of A'Chralaig. The morning was lovely and mountains bathed in sunshine...
Am Bathach and Brothers Ridge behind:
The path was quite wet in places - what a surprise but I've walked through worse bog in my life. And views back, down to Loch Cluanie, made up for all the boggy experience...
The south ridge... An ultimate test... Still waiting...
The cloud was thickening but stayed high above the summits:
At some point a familiar shape emerged... Ahoy! The Ben on the horizon!
The first 500m of ascent is... OK, I'm not going to lie, it's relentlessly steep, slippery and tiring. But I almost flew uphill on the wings of adrenaline I was happy to see Kevin doing much better and keeping up with me. He was definitely past the stage of constant sneezing.
We emerged on the southern end of the ridge at about 750m, where the acute angle eases up. We took a short break here, sinking in the views...
...and it was also a good excuse to grab a piece of cake:
We would have enjoyed the break for longer but as soon as we sat down, we were immediately attacked by the little, black bloodsuckers. Oh, I forgot, it must have been the National Hungry Midge Day!!! Thank heavens we had a bottle of deet with us, but the small devils were so persistent, they somehow found their way under my top, into my trousers, under my hat... HEEEEELP!!! We quickly packed up and continued walking, as long as we were moving we kept midges at bay.
The south ridge and the glen:
The Black Chest with some moody cloud above:
The route up to the very top of the first Munro is straightforward, along the ridge and on a stony path. The big summit cairn can be seen from the far distance:
The final push is steep again:
We were now high enough to see the graceful line of the Five Sisters:
Back to south ridge:
The cloud was slowly lowering down to the summits and strange shapes began to emerge...
We pushed quickly to the top of A'Chralaig...
Looking east to Affric area:
Close-up to Loch Affric:
Low mist in Gleann Lichd:
The big bulk of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (to the right):
On the summit of A'Chralaig:
View east to the neighbouring ridge, Sgurr nan Conbhairean being the highest top here:
Another short snack-break was followed by more posing with mountains in the background...
...but the black army wouldn't let us stay put for a long time We continued along the ridge to the second Munro, Mullach Fraoch-choire. At the first sight, it looks like a very long route with a lot of ascent, but it is a misleading perspective...
Looking back to the summit of A'Chralaig:
Ciste Dhubh and the more distant Beinn Fhada:
The ridge leading to the middle top, Stob Coire na Cralaig, didn't present any technical problem, there are a couple of rocky steps on the path but nothing to be scared of From the summit of Stob Coire na Cralaig, we could now see the most frightening part of this route:
These towers are named on 25 k map as Na Geurdain...
Back to A'Chralaig:
Posing with Ciste Dhubh - Black Chest and Black Panther
I wasn't sure what to think about the towers (or pinnacles, however one fancies to call them) of Na Geurdain, I heard about people traversing them in winter conditions so surely they couldn't be too difficult. Kevin didn't try them during his previous visit to this ridge and he was also tempted to at least give them a try. After consulting each other's attitude we decided that we are going to use the bypass path for the route up and have a good look at the pinnacles from below. If they don't make us pee our pants we would traverse them on the way back.
The path is good all the way up and if one doesn't fancy the airy scramble, all the difficulties can be avoided .
Stob Coire na Cralaig from the ridge to Mullach Fraoch-choire:
Heading towards the towers:
The bypass path:
Looking back down to the bypass:
The cloud spectacle over the western summits now entered another stage:
It seemed to me there was a nice cloud inversion over Skye Cuillin:
I spent some time making a movie... The spectacle was well worth recording!
OK, now back to the scrambling test. After by-passing the towers we had a good look at them from the "upper" end and they didn't look too bad:
We could clearly see that many walkers must have scrambled over these rocks:
One more look, just from around the corner
For a time being, we left the towers behind and headed for the Munro summit:
The ridge from above:
More cloud inversion...
The summit of Mullach Fraoch-choire is a superb viewpoint, especially to the less popular end of Loch Affric:
My summit picture:
Beinn Fhada and the dancing clouds:
Midges were still vicious but we were desperate to stay on the summit for a bit longer, so we showered ourselves with repellent and enjoyed the spectacle again...
Kevin by the cairn. I was so glad to see him smile:
There was nobody on the top with us to take a picture for us, but we discovered that our camera has a self timer
Even though it was the National Hungry Midge Day, we still had fun - and the best part had yet to come. We headed back to the col between Mullach Fraoch-choire and Stob Coire na Cralaig via the infamous Na Geurdain pinnacles. For most of the time, cameras were kept away for safety reasons, but at one point I managed to record a short film of Kevin scrambling to the top of the highest tower, here are a few snapshots:
The scramble turned out to be easy though quite exposed, and I needed such an experience to boost my confidence. In two places we had to balance at the edge of big drop, but generally I found this traverse exciting rather than scary.
Only when we descended lower down the path into Coire Odhar, I realized how exposed this side of the pinnacles really is:
The final part was now easy, descending the grassy slope all the way down to track in the An Caorann Mor. There is a path most of the way down.
The descent route:
Finally, we completed the circuit, returning along the An Caorann Mor path (which is always a bog feast). A dark, heavy cloud chased us from the north and eventually it caught us about half a mile from the main road. The rain wasn't too heavy though and we didn't dare complaining - we had a good day on the hills and I passed my scrambling test Not to mention completing the N Glen Shiel Ridge. At last some summer to enjoy. Meow!
by malky_c » Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:23 pm
You were probably walking a little earlier than me to get the rain right at the end - probably a good thing, although I was so hot at one point I was glad to get wet (for a bit at least)
by Lenore » Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:01 pm
by Collaciotach » Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:35 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:41 pm
by Bod » Mon Aug 06, 2012 7:34 pm
by PeteR » Mon Aug 06, 2012 9:00 pm
by BlackPanther » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:57 am
malky_c wrote:You were probably walking a little earlier than me to get the rain right at the end - probably a good thing, although I was so hot at one point I was glad to get wet (for a bit at least)
We were back in the car at about 5 pm, the rain started maybe 15 min earlier. It was very hot just before the cloud came upon us and I was worried we'd end up walking through a storm... Still can't complain, weather was much better than any time in July
Lenore wrote:Though I wonder about scrambling with walking pole in hand - I'm sure I'd be likely to either drop it or get is stuck somewhere
I told him to attach his pole to the back of his rucksack but he just couldn't be bothered It's an easy scramble anyway, good grips on the rock, many places to put your feet. He wouldn't carry a pole like that scrambling in the Cuillin...
Bod wrote: Lovely mountains, and well done both of you getting some scrambling practice in (are you heading for Skye again soon? Check out my Sgurr a' Mhadaidh report, Valerie I got lucky again with our Cuillin exploits!)
We have two weeks of hols in the second part of September so weather allows we will probably visit Skye and try some scrrrrrrambling I read your reports from IOS, got so scared of the Sgurr a' Mhadaidh one that now I'm not sure I can do it without a guide. Maybe Am Basteir will be tackled first, we'll see. Doing little, easy things like this ridge makes me feel a bit better. I guess it's a matter of confidence and self belief - I'm surely fit enough to try the Cuillin!
by Johnny Corbett » Tue Aug 07, 2012 11:16 am
by hills » Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:47 pm
by dogplodder » Tue Aug 07, 2012 9:30 pm
by ChrisW » Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:47 am
by jonny616 » Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:29 am
by HighlandSC » Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:07 pm
I puked up my McDonalds breakfast during that first ascent . Being straight out of the car and up a killer slope with no walk in you sure feel it!
We did the same. Took bypass paths up and stuck to the pinnacles on the way back....nice and airy in some bits...