Seana Bhraigh from Oykel bridge - and the Ridge of Doom
by mmm_biscuit » Mon Jun 03, 2013 10:18 pm
Munros included on this walk: Seana Bhraigh
Date walked: 24/05/2013
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 42.8 km
Ascent: 1380m21 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).
Our week at Ullapool was drawing to a close and Friday had a not-too-bad forecast. It was a toss-up between Seana Bhraigh or the circuit of the Deargs, but the fact that we’d brought our bikes up with us settled it. Drove from Ullapool to the hotel at Oykel Bridge where we unloaded the bikes under a leaden sky. I must have forgotten to mention to Mrs Biscuit that it was possible to drive several km up the track...
Grey skies or not, we enjoyed the cycle up through the forest. We were following some route notes (possibly from MunroMagic?) that said to turn left at the junction a few km from entering the forest. We may have misinterpreted this - but we ended up on a track that runs parallel to the main drive. This gives a slightly shorter route than sticking to the main track, but seemed to climb unnecessarily and was a fair bit rougher and slower on the bikes. It eventually rejoined the main track before the bothy, and we continued on as far as the walker’s car park (I'd have gotten away with my omission it if it weren't for a. all the cars and b. the massive 'walker's car park' sign).
The track in from the, ahem, walker’s car park (despite all the cars we didn't see many other walkers that day) was even more fun – loads of streams to splash through. The stream crossings became gradually more difficult, building to a crescendo before reaching the Allt a'Choire Bhuidhe. I reckon that with a bit of resolve (or a bit less water) the crossing might be a rideable finale, but for perhaps the only time today common sense intervened, and so we left the bikes and crossed on foot (a leap - though there does appear to be a bridge a little way upstream) and then our first crossing of the Mulzie (ample stepping stones).
For info, just before the Mulzie crossing there’s a track heading SSW (you can see it behind Mrs Biscuit on the left) that wasn’t on our maps that headed off to Seana Bhraigh’s N ridge, avoiding the double crossing of the Mulzie. But we didn’t know that then.
Sticking with the original plan we followed the track to the outflow of Loch a'Choire Mhor, which meant recrossing the river.
This was a trickier crossing. We dithered for a bit, eventually crossing about 100m downstream from the outflow. I eventually opted for the boots-off approach. Mrs Biscuit kept hers on but was thwarted at the last moment by a slippery rock and got Wet Foot. We then made the mistake of trying to head straight for the corrie – the peat hags were pretty much impassable though, so we returned to the river, followed it back to the loch and then found it fairly easy going to the bottom of the corrie, stopping on the way up to have some lunch.
Now it was decision time. The NE ridge, apparently, was ‘superior’ and offered ‘an enjoyable scramble’ according to my SMC Munro book (the book of lies, as it is now known). It also, apparently, had an ‘awkward descent and re-ascent’ at the summit. I was slightly concerned by the snow – there was still a wee bit lying here and there after a midweek flurry – and I’m also a complete chicken and was fully aware of how remote we were. On the other hand, the cloud had finally lifted and we were treated to unexpected blue skies and sunshine. And Mrs Biscuit knows no fear. So we started up the NE ridge.
When we first saw the ridge it looked almost impassable. Unfortunately it wasn’t one of those ridges that just looked difficult. It was a surprisingly hard scramble – really quite far outside my comfort zone. And of course the whole way up I was thinking – if this is the enjoyable bit, what’s the awkward bit like? Anyway – the ascent. As it turned out, the snow itself wasn't much of an issue at all (we'd decided beforehand that we'd head back if it was) - just the odd pretty dollop of soft melting snow. The two hardest aspects were the lack of a clear route – we often found ourselves scratching our heads about where to head next and being elated by the merest hint of a path – and the fact that the rocks were wet and quite slippy in places (possibly due to the melting snow). More than once we had that ‘up there – really?’ feeling. Hoping against hope that we wouldn’t have to descend by the same route we crept ever upwards (on which note - I wouldn't recommend this route http://munro-madness.com/routes/seana-bhraigh-oykel-bridge at all unless it's dry and you like a downwards scramble!). Then all of a sudden we were at the ridge’s summit in the warm sunshine! Of course – that meant that the ‘enjoyable’ bit was over...
The ‘awkward descent’, in comparison to the ridge, was a dawdle. Just one wee slightly exposed bit. One of those do-it-on-your-bum jobs. Phew! It was going to be fine. Two walkers appeared above on the nice, safe, main ridge to watch our progress – there were even others nearby! This left us at the bottom of small step. But the rock was grippy and weathered into really easy holds and ledges, so it was a cinch to clamber up, like a loft-ladder. Excellent! It really was going to be OK! Unfortunately it wasn’t over. There was a second step. This one was wet and slippy, and we couldn’t find any useful footholds. The way to the right was a sheer drop with only the same slippery rock to cling on to. The only other option we could fathom was down-climbing the steep rocky, grassy slope on the left, hoping that there was a way around. Luckily there was just enough turf to cling to as we sidled down beneath the rocky top, and then slowly upwards, eventually gaining the safety of the main ridge.
At this point I may have said some sweary words – luckily the other walkers were already on their way back to Seana Bhraigh. ‘Awkward’ doesn’t come close! As it had been Mrs Biscuit’s idea to include the ‘superior’ ridge, we decided to call it one-all for the day so far - we were definitely square after the car park incident. Now that we were on something flat we could even appreciate the views.
Adrenalin fuelled we soon reached the summit of Seana Bhraigh. The walkers we’d seen earlier were still there – “Why did you go up the steep way?” they asked, which seemed like a fairly reasonable question. The reward for our efforts though was the view – one of the best and clearest views I’ve ever seen, in every direction. It was simply stunning. We shared a dram with our more-sensible companions before they left for the long way out (and they were parked – yes – at the walker’s car park!).
We spent a wee while longer at the summit, soaking up the views and sunshine, and then began the trek back to the bikes. We decided that we’d try to head for the track on the S of the River Mulzie to avoid the double river crossing, so headed roughly NNE from the summit and were lucky enough to pick up the track. This worked pretty well and we were soon back at the bikes with our feet no wetter.
The cycle back, this time in sunshine, was fantastic. We flew along the track splashing through streams and puddles, it was brilliant. Had to swap Mrs Biscuit’s inner tube after a snake-bite puncture near the odd fish-and-dog/weasel sculpture – but the warm sunshine made even that pleasant.
On the way back we stuck to the main track rather than the morning’s detour, which was much better (it’s 200m longer but much easier on a bike). Finally made it back to the car happy and exhausted.
by rockhopper » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:34 pm
by TerribleToll » Sun Jun 29, 2014 10:48 pm
We found Eagle scat all over the top, plus rabbit fur pellets and partridge feathers. So beware, Mount Doom is occupied!
TerribleToll, Doctor D and Captain Mumdork!
by weaselmaster » Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:21 am
Met folk who'd come up that way when we did it from the easy direction - think I might have to add that route to the wish list now.
Oh and I appreciated the wooden weasel too
by malky_c » Mon Jun 30, 2014 9:08 am
by PathfinderPaul » Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:39 pm
The pic of Mrs Pathfinder having a butty by the path that you missed just before the first river crossing really helped us to go up the easy way and down the easy way. My wife does have fear and so didn't want the scramble.
We left the car before the car park, we were worried as we have a Skoda not a 4 by 4! The 4 mile bike ride was very scenic, but being a lot of downhill on the way back, Mrs Pathfinder who loves spreed, was going a bit too fast and took a dive over the handlebars with a big stone in the road she couldn't avoid in time. Fortunately the helmet saved the day apart from bruising and a cut lip!!!! We only have hybrid bikes not full mountain bikes. The helmet has a good crack in it so she'll need a new one, bit like having a new climbing rope once it's taken a fall!!!!