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Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge


Postby scottishkennyg » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:32 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Socach (Affric), Mullach nan Dheiragain, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

Date walked: 16/03/2013

Time taken: 12.5 hours

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A check of the weather forecast on the glen Affric web page http://glenaffric.org/site_map.html comfirmed Saturday would be good to go for the endurance test for these 3 remote munros. With hindsight I should have waited until the snow had gone and the total daylight hours had increased.
Set off from the Glen Affric car park at 0730 to cycle along the south side of loch Affric. It was -5 degrees with lovely clear blue skies with mirror waters that suggested a great day for the camera.
GlenAffricMar2013 005 (800x600).jpg
View down loch from car park

The track up to Althnamullach was very good with equal inclines and declines. Views along the ridge on the North side were superb. I had circuited these hills on a previous marathon session 2 years ago in April that resulted in a lost big toe nail. Happy memories of bounding down from Sgurr na Lapaich at 8pm aiming for the lights in the Affric lodge, before the long road trudge in the dark. Painful! Shame that it is not classified as a Munro on it’s own right.
GlenAffricMar2013 006 (800x439).jpg
View from track over to Sgurr Lapaich


GlenAffricMar2013 011 (800x353).jpg
track along lochside


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reflections across loch affric to mam sodhail


After crossing the river Affric via the big bridge the track surface deteriorated and required some on off techniques as well as an increasing tolerance for whole body vibration. Must have been side tracked by the views.
GlenAffricMar2013 023 (800x412).jpg
from large bridge over river affric


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Beinn Fhada from track


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Ciste Dubh and neighbours


Eventually the isolated Alltbeithe Hostel emerged at about 0900. A notice confirmed that it was closed until April 2013. I left the bike at the rusty wind turbine and headed up to the coire na claiche to the main ridge. The snow line was about 600m and was soft on top. There was a set of tiny footprints in the snow which appeared ahead of me for most of the day, (except for the final ascent up SnC).
GlenAffricMar2013 055 (800x451).jpg
An Caorann Mor - the passage to clunie


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SnC sighting from AS ridge


GlenAffricMar2013 061 (800x403).jpg
First view across to CncD top and MnD summit from AS ridge


I dumped the ruck sack at the ridge, put on the pro-ice walkers and continued up the east ridge over virginal snow.
GlenAffricMar2013 069 (800x414).jpg
Top of SnC


GlenAffricMar2013 071 (800x402).jpg
Beinn Fhionnlaidh and An Rhiabhacan and neighbours from AS ridge


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Mullach Fraoch Choire and neighbour from AS ridge


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view across to glen sheil from AS ridge


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SnC from AS ridge


I reached the summit cairn at 1100. I could easily see over to the cheesecake and Lurg Mhor as visited last week and the views toward the SnC and Glenn Sheil were superb.
GlenAffricMar2013 082 (800x400).jpg
AS summit toward SnC east ridge


GlenAffricMar2013 087 (800x479).jpg
View to Glen Shiel from AS summit



I returned to the col and edged a westward line down into the coire with no sign of a loch. This was not the best move to make as the shaded slope was steep coupled with the fresh snow on top of ice. I dug a seat and put spikes on before taking baby steps over protruding rocks. I plumped for a controlled bum slide down to lower ground. I continued NW along the basin, which had deep snow in sections, toward the ridge to MnD, and again the little footprints were there. At the ridge about 1300 I had a food break and decided to leave the rucksack. The views toward Torridon and up the corniced ridge of SnC were superb and ominous.

GlenAffricMar2013 098 (800x403).jpg
view to An Socach from MnD ridge


I continued along the N ridge to the intermediate top, Carn nan Con Dhu 967m, then on to MnD. The ridge top of CncD was long with many large protruding stones. Beneath the top there was a tricky corniced section that required careful navigation.
GlenAffricMar2013 099 (800x465).jpg
MnD ridge from CncD


The ridge up to the summit of MnD was straightforward but tiring with the soft snow. The summit cairn was reached about 1410.
GlenAffricMar2013 105 (800x338).jpg
Cairn of MnD across to CncD and ridge


As I had left the OS map in the rucksack, the North outlying top seemed slightly higher. I decided to push on for that top just to be sure. Not a good idea as there was a steep icy descent with few areas for ice axe arresting. Anyway the cairn was reached and the first glance back confirmed that this was indeed lower. Still the views were commanding.
GlenAffricMar2013 108 (800x375).jpg
A view to Torridon and Alligin from MnD ridge


GlenAffricMar2013 109 (800x410).jpg
View from CncD as inclement weather moves onto SnC


I returned to MnD summit at 1448 and munched more tablet before trudging onward back over CncD lunar landscape to uplift rucksack. Circumstances had changed dramatically and the snow had started accompanied by a cold wind. All round visibility had deteriorated and the route ahead was not clear.
GlenAffricMar2013 110 (791x800).jpg
Poor conditions on SnC ridge final section


The legs were tired and the mojo was low and I had 300m of steep climbing to do to reach the summit and descend via the east ridge. I took cautious steps up the intial snow covered rocky section then the ridge tapered to a knife edge where the snow was sharply peaked. I was getting anxious as there was no obvious safe side to gain a sound footing. The absence of ropes and news of avalanches, remoteness and where would I land etc. were negative thoughts that were hard to suppress. I did not feel safe standing on this exposed snow clad section. I had felt safer on the Cuillin ridge on an even narrower section recently. I considered a retreat but visibility had decreased to about 5 feet and it seemed equally hazardous. It was not the time to dwell on what ifs..
I inched forward by inserting the ice axe first then placing one foot forward with a constant vice like grip on the handle seeking at least two points of contact. Eventually I sourced some protruding snow covered rocks and used them to support my centipede like movements. After some time I reached a point where I could just make out the edge of the east ridge (on my left) and sensed that the summit was close. I crept over another section of rocks and then traversed onto a sharp snow crest and a very exposed summit. I was relieved to be there and had a moment for absent friends. I anchored the axe in the deep snow, took a quick photo, slurped a mouthful of the frozen juice before taking a direct bearing to the East ridge. My watch said 1648 and I knew I had to expedite the hill safely and there was no way I was exposing myself anymore by descending via the west top.


I trusted the compass bearing which was true and I descended the east ridge. This ridge was definitely wider than the sharper MnD side. However at one point I stood on a section of what appeared like rock and the ground opened up and I was thigh deep in an open chasm. It must have been part of a rocky ridge. I extricated all limbs and other bits :shock: then opted to cut a rapid descent south east to the lower ground as I did not fancy any more blind ascents or rapid drops. This was a sound idea. I continued along the easier terrain before descending off the south ridge and back to the level ground at the hostel. 1810.
Back on terra firma I mounted the MTB and just pedalled whenever I could and pushed the rest. Darkness descended about 1900 and I still had at least an hour to go. The rain and snow was now in full flow and the glen just looked black
I found my emergency head torch and in the pitch black it provided a Chelsea tractor like full beam, shame the bike did not behave like one. Still with the light, progress was good and I eventually got back to the car safe and sound about 2013. It was time to drip dry, offload the wet stuff and finish the fresh energy drink from the car. After sending the safe return texts it was off for the 42 mile drive back home. The return drive in heavy rain provided ample time to thank heaven for another epic adventure in glen Affric which ranks among my most enjoyable and most exposed experience yet.
It must be golf season soon to get back on the greens. :crazy:
Last edited by scottishkennyg on Wed May 28, 2014 6:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby Lenore » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:57 pm

Ooof good you made it back safely! What a change, blue skies one moment... just one of those days!

Love the photos with reflections! :clap: :clap: And look at Beinn Fhada, it looks almost pretty even! :lol:
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby robertphillips » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:48 am

well done, long day that in the winter, done these 3 last summer, same route as you the track is a bit rough before the hostel. :clap:
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby scottishkennyg » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:53 am

Lenore wrote:Ooof good you made it back safely! What a change, blue skies one moment... just one of those days!

Love the photos with reflections! :clap: :clap: And look at Beinn Fhada, it looks almost pretty even! :lol:

Thanks Lenore, and you are spot on Fhada does look totally different from this side with a nice iced coating. Enjoy your next visit Scotland. :)
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby scottishkennyg » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:57 am

Cheers Robert, you know the track well :clap: ...I forgot to mention all the boulders, mud and plenty of streams you have to negotiate with the bike. Poor bike frame is pitted all over. Still would not have fancied walking in either.
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby raykilhams » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:47 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed the read , had my heart in my mouth at one point , that was one epic day , maybe not for me but great to read ...thanks for good pics too
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby Tomsie » Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:36 pm

Well done that was a long day in those conditions :clap:
That SnC final section looks daunting.
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby The Rodmiester » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:44 pm

Good long haul with underfoot conditions like that you had, I cycled these as well, but in the Summer, the bike frame has still got the scars, quite hard from the end of the loch to the hostel, but still must save a lot of time over the day. Some cracking photographs from earlier in the day. Thanks for posting, brought back some fine memories. :)
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby scottishkennyg » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:33 pm

Thanks raykilhams
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby scottishkennyg » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:35 pm

Cheers Tomsie
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby scottishkennyg » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:40 pm

Thanks Rodmiester, well done to you too it is a memorable walk. When I wiped the bike down the next day I noticed all the pit marks on my lower frame section, but in fairness I must have hit every stone that was loose.. :)
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby Graeme D » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:58 pm

What a cracking report! :clap: An epic for the time of year and in those conditions. And a mouth-watering set of photos as well. 8)
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby gammy leg walker » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:44 pm

Cracking report SK,still to head to Affric,hope its sometime this year.
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby mrssanta » Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:29 pm

Ooh that was a bit scary!
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Re: Alltbeit-he was a little too close to the edge

Postby PeteR » Thu Mar 21, 2013 1:52 pm

Enjoyed that report :D Some great photos of an area I've yet to venture into.

Glen Affric is very much on my radar at the moment though, but I think I'll be opening my account on the 'easy' two :lol: I'll leave the longer trips forthe summer :D
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