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Top bagging – Chrysanthemum and Jerrycan from Glen Elchaig

Top bagging – Chrysanthemum and Jerrycan from Glen Elchaig


Postby Clach Liath » Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:57 am

Munros included on this walk: Mullach nan Dheiragain, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

Date walked: 19/08/2012

Time taken: 12.05 hours

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I had met up with John, Mark and Caroline the previous evening in Dornie. John is on a mission to complete the Munros with, at the time of writing, fewer than 25 left in order to compleat. And me? Well I am top bagging. I had been to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (Chrysanthemum) twice before. Once, in the depths of winter many years ago, my brother, sister in law and I had come in from Cluanie via A’Chralaig and used the bunkhouse behind the Youth Hostel as our base. We had tackled SnC plus An Socath on a raw day when the cloud covered the high tops, spindrift was flying and the only colours were shades of black, grey and white. The other occasion was from Loch Affric with an approach by MTB when SnC and An Socath were again climbed via Coire Ghaidheil and a delightful, but again largely cloud covered, ridge walk to the crowning summit.

I had done Mullach na Dheiraghain (Jerrycan) once before, again one fine day on a cycle approach from Loch Affric, where it had been the sole objective of that day.

These mountains have long approaches and give long days if you want to start and finish the day at a public road head. Like the routes suggested by most guide books, my previous visits had therefore missed out their northern aspects. That therefore determined the approach for this walk. Out on the northern ridge of SnC and beyond MnD were four tops that I had not previously been on.

So on Sunday, 19 August 2012, the alarm went off at 6am :shock: and we somewhat reluctantly roused ourselves. Our target departure time from our accommodation was 7am but we missed that by 20 minutes. But is does not take long from Dornie to reach the start point which is at a gravel car park just inside the entrance gates to the Killilan Estate in Glen Elchaig at NG940303.

As forecast, it was a beautiful morning. But the midges were out and were voracious. :( It meant that (a) we were off on the MTBs pdq and (b) I did not take any piccies at the start. It was 7.40am.

The road is tarmaced to Killilan and indeed for the next 3k or so. :) After then the track is good, if undulating enough to get the thighs and calves burning on the uphill sections interspersed with some downhill freewheeling. It is about 10k to Carnach, which lies at the far end of Loch na Leithrach. In our enthusiasm we overshot Carnach by 1k and ended up dumping the bikes beneath a bridge over what was that day a dry watercourse! To be fair, Carnach is hidden a bit by trees and we were having fun swooping down the track after a high point just beyond the Loch. At least that would mean slightly less far to walk on the return to the glen.

Here is the view up the glen from the bridge.

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Glen Elchaig


And back towards Carnach (which is behind the trees to the left).

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It was 9am as we crossed the ground beyond Carnach heading for the stalker’s path shown on the map as leading south at that point.

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Carnach


There are the ruins of an old black house still with its hearth and added chimney.

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Within a kilometre the path splits. We took the right hand branch. Whilst this takes you up by some nice waterfalls, I think that the left hand branch might have been better. Above the falls the path continues quite clearly for a while but then disappears. There were ATV tracks and we followed these in a north easterly direction and then to the east. Eventually traces of the stalker’s path that leads up to Creag Ghlas were picked up. It does not look as though this path is maintained any more but sections were still in excellent condition. Views over the barren open hillside opened up. Beinn Sgritheall popped up into view.

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As shown on the map the path stops just above two Lochs. One, Loch Sgurr na h-Eige, is set in a delightful position and might provide a good wild camp spot with its backdrop of the Mullardoch Munros.

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Beyond the end of the stalker’s path the terrain is straightforward enough. Mam Sodhail, Carn Eige and Beinn Fionnlaidh came into view over the ridge we were to descend later in the day (which seemed a long way off).

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We contoured around the easy eastern slopes of Creag Ghlas to avoid a bit of climbing before dropping down 40m or so to the col. It had taken us around 2½ hours to reach this point. For 4k and under 800m of ascent it gives some idea of the roughness of the terrain off the paths. Although we had had a couple of brief rest stops before then we found some nice rocks to linger on for a longer stop. Some of the party decided it was a good time to sunbathe. :shock:

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Pressing on! Creag Ghlas behind


The first of the tops – Stuc Fraoch Choire – could now be tackled. This involved a 150m climb up over broken ground. We reached this top at about 12.15pm. At last I felt as though some progress was being made. Another attractive looking loch – Loch an Fhraoich Choire – was nestled in the corrie below. At 918m there was still quite a bit of ascent to the Munro which for the moment was hidden by the ridge ahead.

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Loch an Fhraoich Choire


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The way ahead


Mam Sodhail and Carn Eige remained in view now over the MnD ridge, with our final top of the day also visible to the left of MnD.

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And there is a nice view back down Glen Elchaig.

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Although there is only around 30m of descent to the next col this is then followed by another 150m rise to Stuc Mor at 1041m. It was 1.00pm when we arrived there. High cloud was now drifting over from the south and the blueness of the sky was gone there. But conditions remained good. Here is the view from Stuc Mor towards Stuc Beag and the main summit.

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It was still sunny to the north in Torridon.

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Torridon


And the happy crew.

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It was then a 15 minute amble on to Stuc Beag.

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And then the final easy pull up on to SnC’s west top. Down to the right the Abhainn Gaorsaic which feeds the Falls of Glomach plunged from view.

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And here is the rocky crest on to the main summit of SnC.

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SnC summit ridge


On my winter visit we had come from the main summit to the west top. The ridge is airy and there is a short step (a bit loose in summer) but which turned into a bit of an epic scramble that winter.

Today, there was a view to distant Loch Cluanie.

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Another 15 minutes or so saw us to the main summit. It was 2pm. We stopped here for 25 minutes for more sustenance and lapping up the views. It is a great remote spot. The only signs of human activity were Loch Cluanie and the distant Skye bridge. Whilst on the summit we met the first people of the day – all of whom had come from the Glen Affric side. Here is the view towards our way on, down the north east ridge towards distant MnD.

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It is a long drop to the col at the foot of the north east ridge. And it is almost 4k to MnD with the terrain between the two sometimes quite rough. Carn na Con Dhu must also be one of the longest Munro tops. It took just about an hour and a half to make the traverse.

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From Carn na Con Dhu to MnD


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Retrospective


Legs were by now becoming a little weary. And we were still a long way from the bikes! The final top was close by. It was 4pm. A burst of energy got me onto Mullach Sithidh in less than 15 minutes.

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Ascending Mullach Sithidh


We then followed the ridge line to Creag a’ Coir’ Aird. We were quite surprised at that relatively late hour to pass three guys who were grinding their way up the same ridge. If I was by now feeling tired, then what they were doing put that into perspective. They had started from the Mullardoch dam and had tackled the four Munros to the north. They were now going on to do MnD, SnC and An Socath before descending to Alltbeithe for the night. Phew!

At Creag a’ Coir’ Aird we turned the craggy section to the east. The western slopes looked do-able in ascent but looked just too steep and loose for comfort for a descent. We then made a descending traverse westwards towards the stalker’s path shown on the map in Gleann Sithidh. We then opted to follow vehicle tracks downstream. Sure enough there was a bridge to cross the Abhainn Sithidh at around NH 069 285.

IMG_4797.JPG


The track which is clear but occasionally squelchy takes you up to the track the runs from Glen Elchaig to Loch Mullardoch. For a vehicle track, this is quite rough and was not quite the easy walk out we had hoped for. The track also undulates annoyingly! From there it is another 2k back to Iron Lodge in Glen Elchaig. A further kilometre and a bit saw me back at the bike. I had run down the final hill into Glen Elchaig so was ahead of the others. Retrieving the MTB from under the bridge I was ambushed by the zillions of midges waiting for me there. I was not going to wait for the others whilst being eaten alive! I gesticulated to Mark as to my intentions and sped off.

Eek! Cycling down the Glen was like being sandblasted. Just how many insects are there?! My face was peppered constantly and it was impossible to breathe through my mouth without consuming a mouthful of them. Yuk!! :( :lol: I stopped and put on my sun glasses. 8) At least they would provide some protection. The return seemed a lot faster than the cycle in the morning, but it was in fact only 15 minutes faster. It was 7.45pm when I reached my car. I was so dehydrated from the days walk that I downed ¾l of water in one go!! Just over 12 hours for the round - could be done an hour or so quicker without the extended stops we took. Magnificent country; great company. :D

I also re-hydrated later in the Clachan Inn in Dornie, but that it another story. :wink:
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Last edited by Clach Liath on Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:07 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Clach Liath
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Re: Top bagging – Chrysanthemum and Jerrycan from Glen Elcha

Postby dogplodder » Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:54 am

Great report and stunning views! :clap:

How much longer do you reckon it would have taken without bikes?
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Re: Top bagging – Chrysanthemum and Jerrycan from Glen Elcha

Postby Clach Liath » Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:47 pm

dogplodder wrote:Great report and stunning views! :clap:

How much longer do you reckon it would have taken without bikes?


Thank you - it is a magnificent route. It is about 22k or almost 14 miles up and down the track to Carnach and back from Iron Lodge - so perhaps 5 hours of walking just on the track. It was about 2¼ hours all in on the MTBs so I reckon they saved almost 3 hours on the feet.

Once upon a time it used to be possible to obtain permission from the Estate (under previous ownership I think) to drive to the western end of Loch na Leithrach (and this was then the closest access to The Falls of Glomach). I do not know if this is still possible. It might be worth a try. In addition, I just wonder if the public road actually ends in Killilan. There are a public phone box and a post box by the road there and the colouring on the OS map would seem to indicate this to be the case. The problem is that there did not seem anywhere to park.
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Re: Top bagging – Chrysanthemum and Jerrycan from Glen Elcha

Postby ChrisW » Sun Sep 02, 2012 7:43 pm

Fantastic day CL, beautiful photos throughout...love the 'pressing on' shot :lol: that ride in sounds great but the ride out with insect sandwiches :sick: no so much. You can really see the colour dropping out of the landscape now, I begun to notice the trees turning around here and I'm now starting to hunt for 'aspen viewpoints' to grab some good autumnal shots.....is autumn really here already :wtf:
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Re: Top bagging – Chrysanthemum and Jerrycan from Glen Elcha

Postby BoyVertiginous » Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:00 pm

Cracking views / pictures. Nice to get an idea of what was behind the clag this weekend. Only managed brief glimpses of Loch Mullardoch from the col beneath Mam Sodhail (nothing at all from Carn Eige and forced off Beinn Fionnlaidh) on Saturday before the weather closed-in (and then some) and nothing the evening before in clag on An Socach and SnC. Hoping for better prospects on our return.
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