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The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves


Postby PeteR » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:46 pm

Route description: Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain and A'Chailleach

Munros included on this walk: A' Chailleach (Monadhliath), Carn Dearg (Monadhliath), Carn Sgulain

Date walked: 24/02/2013

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A tad late this report, as it was a week and a half ago now......well, part of it was

Part one - 24 November 2012

MWIS had promised me 80% chance of cloud free Munro summits for the Cairngorm and Monadh Liath mountains that Saturday. So I had set off filled with anticipation and expectation for a great day, on the Monadh Liath plateau where I could enjoy the views of its winter bleakness :D

And it had all started off so well too............the skies were clear as I headed off.

They remained pretty much clear all the way to Newtonmore listening to TMS on Radion 4, where I took the turning off along the single track road to the parking area in Glean Banchor. The frost had been glinting off the road surface as I made my way along the single track slowly, the odd patch of icy water covering the tarmac here and there. Parking up and the skies were still clear, although cloud was forming as I readied myself for the off.
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Dawn breaking on a crisp, winters day

The plan was to tackle A’Chailleach and Carn Sgulain and then enjoy the traipse over the plateau to Carn Dearg. The initial part of the route follows an excellent land rover track, although care was needed at times with frost on the ground making the rocks a bit slippery. A cairn marking the drop down to the hidden bridge over the Allt a’Chaorainn has been dismantled and the bridge closed due to its state of repair. I decided on a little detour to see for myself and it sure did look a bit rickety; and with the river below rushing by at quite a rate I chose to give it a miss :shock:
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Rickety bridge

Instead I headed back onto the track, which almost immediately became a bog ridden path as I headed further along the path looking for a good spot to cross the Allt a’Chaorainn.

Grace and poise was required when I did find a reasonable spot to cross the water. More slippery rocks and the river rushing by at a reasonable pace too. As I ummm’d and ahh’d about the best approach to ensure I remained dry two chaps who had pulled up at the parking area as I set off caught me up. After a brief discussion we guided each other across the water, where I pressed on ahead of them toward A’Chailleach.
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Early view back the way I had come

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Tin can bothy

I didn’t stop at the small hut/bothy, but kept on up to the first levelling on the route up. Gradient wise it wasn’t bad at all, but it was seemingly too early in the winter season for the ground to be frozen beneath. So it was bog and soft, wet snow for the ascent :shock: Oooh, lovely :lol: Bog :lol: Then soft snow........on bog :lol:

Enjoyed some nice, moody views looking back toward Newtonmore and the east, which was some compensation for the clag I was about to enter :( 80% chance of cloud free my bottom :shock: It was looking like 100% hee-haw :thumbdown:
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Atmospheric winter scene

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Crisp winteryness

After a short, wet, boggy climb the ground levelled off and from there it was easy to pick out the line of the path in the snow.

And so it was as I hit the summit of A’Chailleach.

Mmmmmm. I was a bit disappointed :?
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A’Chailleach summit cairn

The real b****r of it was that directly above there was a glimmer of hope that the blue sky might win through. It just never happened :crazy: As thin as the mist may have been above it was still dense enough, and too stubborn to dissolve :(

I hung around on the cold summit willing the clag to dissolve and the sun to break through, as I froze my bits off. The two chaps from earlier then appeared through the clag. They seemed unsure of heading to summit #2 given the visibility, but in the end we seemed to persuade each other to go for it. From this point on we became a band of three for the rest of the walk :thumbup:

We followed a snowy path close to the edge of the north western ridge before heading away slightly as we descended to the saddle between the two hills. It was a bit of a steep drop for the final section, but now the soft snow made it nice, easy going :D And there was more of it, so any bog underneath was well hidden. The climb up onto the summit was pretty easy going too and soon the line of fence posts appeared out of the clag. From there it was a quick stroll to the first cairn and then on to the second to enjoy more of those MWIS 80% chance of cloud free views :lol: Not sure which is the highest point on this hill, but we visited both cairns anyway just to be sure :D
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Off A’Chailleach and on to Carn Sgulain

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One of the Sgulain summit cairns

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The sun that just wouldn't shine :-(

Given the conditions I chose to abandon thoughts of a traipse across the plateau to Carn Dearg. Best left for a better day I thought. Being, for the most part, a lone walker the use of common sense and caution is paramount. So instead I continued with my two walking companions for the day and descend off the hill via the Bruthach an Easain. Our descent was on some appreciably steep, boggy ground adorned with a good covering of wet, soft snow to slip and slide on. I have to say that in places it was a bit tasty in the snow :D :D
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Heading down

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A look back at our route of descent

Eventually down on level ground and it was a delectable bog trot back to the Landrover track and then back to the car.

Ok, the day hadn’t quite gone to plan, but I had still enjoyed these two reluctant Munros hiding under their shroud of mist :D :D :D

Part two - 24/2/2013

Exactly three months later and I was back :D

My recently acquired Met Office I-phone app suggested not a bad day with goodly amounts of sunshine. MWIS, bless them, suggested 20% chance of cloud free summits. This could be interesting :?

If all went to plan I would be tackling Carn Dearg first, via Carn Macoul and then getting my traipse across the plateau to Carn Sgulain and then A’Chailleach :D If all went to plan....... :lol:

My research suggested that ordinarily this is a bog-fetishists dream :lol: Thankfully the ground was frozen iron hard, making an excellent walking surface. Quite a nice walk along Glen Banchor toward the ruin of Dalballoch when not a bogfest. Not sure I'd feel the same in more 'normal' conditions From this point the path seemed to become non-existent. Either that or I misplaced it :lol: A reasonable walk over to the base of Carn Macoul, which for all it looked a short ascent still looked pretty steep all the same.
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View south

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Carn Macoul and ridge to south top

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Drumochter?

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Monadh Liath in all its snow clad beauty

I broke the climb into three sections. The first section was steep, on grass and heather. After a steep drop off down into a cleft in the hill I hadn’t expected the second section was even steeper, on grass, heather and snow :lol: That said, each section wasn’t too long and I’m quite enjoying these steep climbs scrambling up grass, heather and scree these days. The final section was, thankfully, a stroll to the cairn :D

By now the early morning sun was being replaced by cloud and on the short stroll to the summit of Carn Dearg I was fearful of yet another Monadh Liath cloud covered summit experience. There was another one of those steep drops down into a cleft before the climb to the summit began. By the time I reached the summit though the lowest mist and cloud had moved on and at the Carn Dearg summit I would say it was cloud free. Everywhere else was a different story, so the views weren’t spectacular.
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Carn Dearg summit view toward Ardverickie

So the age old choice for me on these hills. Did I do the plateau traipse, or did I head down via the Carn Dearg baggers route :?: It didn’t look that good on the plateau to me, with a large patch of cloud hanging over it. Caution kicked in as a result and I took the decision to drop down to the saddle between Carns Dearg and Ban. I must admit I was tempted to take the short trip up on to Carn Ban, but I knew I’d then be tempted to do the plateau traverse anyway :lol: So I manfully resisted the devil on my shoulder.

Pity in one sense,.....as you’ll soon see :?

But then on the drop down to pick up the baggers route home I did have the pleasure of meeting fellow Walkhighlander Hill-loving-lady and her dog Bob-the-dog heading on their way up to Carn Dearg :D :D Or was that Bob-the-dog and his owner Hill-loving-lady :lol: Only the third occasion I can recall of knowingly meeting fellow Walkhighlanders since joining the site. A brief chat followed before we went our separate ways.

And then a few minutes later the :evil: :evil: cloud dissolved and the sun came out :lol: Turned out to be a lovely afternoon :D :lol: I could have walked the plateau. It would have been perfect. Could’ve........should’ve........but hadn’t :(
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Sunshine in the Monadh Liath

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Carn Dearg bathed in sun

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Carn Macoul.....bathed in sun

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Monadh Liath plateau.....bathed in sun

So, in the sunshine I enjoyed a traipse of my own over the frozen peat hags to the steepish drop down to the Allt Fionndrigh and the path out to Glen Banchor. And the short walk back to the car :D :D :D
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Drop down to the Allt Fionndrigh

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Bridge over the river on the baggers route back

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The Cairngorms

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View back along Glen Banchor to Mullach Sron na h-Uamhaidh and Meall na h-Uinneig

So, not quite the day I’d planned on the Monadh Liath..........again. But no real complaints. It was still a good little work-out and all in all a pretty good day in the hills :D :D And 20% chance of cloud free had certainly delivered better than 80% chance three months earlier :lol:

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PeteR
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby Bod » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:08 pm

Well put together Pete and well described. I'm eyeing up Carn Dearg and thinking of adding in the neigbouring Graham Creag Liath. Already visited the other two, but yes it would be nice to carry out the plateaux link one fine summers day :D :D :D
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby PeteR » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:34 pm

Thanks Bod. Enjoy Carn Dearg when you get there. I think these are three underated hills, but then I love the variety that Scotland gives. Pointy, mountain type things as well as undulating plateau and pretty much everything else in between :D I'll definitely be back one day to polich of the plateau :D
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby Graeme D » Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:30 pm

Oh well Pete, you win some and you lose some ..... and the margins can be paper thin between the two. Good effort though! :clap:
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby monty » Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:27 pm

Nice one PeteR. I certainly remember the bridge and the bothy. Just as well you went to the second cairn. Aye the decision to abort the slog across the top was probably a good one one the day. You got there in the end though :D
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby gammy leg walker » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:00 pm

Nice one Peter,when I did these 3 the wee tin bothy was full of sheep ****.

Its a fine 7k walk over the plateau
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby Alan S » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:12 pm

Well done pete great report and pics.
Still got these 3 to do, your report certainly makes them look more interesting 8)
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby weaselmaster » Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:27 am

Cheers PeteR - enjoyed that.
Eyeing these up for saturday as the Monadh Liath seems to be getting the best of the weather as far as i can make out. Hoping to put in an overnight camp too although baulking a bit at the forecast temperature drop on saturday night - and in fear of being shot by over zealous estate people if BassCadet's report on camping in this area is anything to go by :shock:
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby rockhopper » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:27 am

What a cracking day for the return, Pete - looks so much more interesting in winter colours than in summer green - some great clear views - cheers :)
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby ChrisW » Tue Mar 12, 2013 4:20 am

Fine report/reports as always Pete with some lovely photos along the way, I'm sure you'll be back to enjoy the long wander along the plateau :clap:
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby alvason » Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:36 pm

I enjoyed your story and think your photos are great!
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby PeteR » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:36 am

Graeme D wrote:Oh well Pete, you win some and you lose some ..... and the margins can be paper thin between the two. Good effort though! :clap:


Cheers Graeme. It's a case of taking the weather as I find it. If I waited for perfect conditions each time then I'd have a lot less hills under my belt.
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby PeteR » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:39 am

monty wrote:Nice one PeteR. I certainly remember the bridge and the bothy. Just as well you went to the second cairn. Aye the decision to abort the slog across the top was probably a good one one the day. You got there in the end though :D


I leave nothing to chance with these cairns monty :lol: There's always the risk some officious b****r might decide to change which one is the official summit
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby PeteR » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:41 am

gammy leg walker wrote:Nice one Peter,when I did these 3 the wee tin bothy was full of sheep ****.

Its a fine 7k walk over the plateau


Thanks Gammy. One day I'll return for the 7k, but it'll have to be during a drought :lol:
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Re: The Monadh Liath trio – A walk of two halves

Postby PeteR » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:44 am

Alan S wrote:Well done pete great report and pics.
Still got these 3 to do, your report certainly makes them look more interesting 8)


Thanks Alan. Personally I think they are far better hills than I had been led to believe in the various guide books I'd researched. But then I had both walks in winter conditions. A summer bog trot with midges might not be so appealing :lol:
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