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East ridge of the Mullach

East ridge of the Mullach


Postby past my sell by date » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:57 pm

Munros included on this walk: Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Sgurr Ban

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a'Chlaidheimh

Date walked: 15/06/2014

Time taken: 23 hours

Distance: 34 km

Ascent: 1600m

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Around ten years ago, I set off from Larachantivore to do the Fisherfield six. All went well over Ruadh Stac Mor and A Mhaghdain, but it started to rain on Beinn Tarsuinn, and by the col beyond it was pouring, so we beat a long boggy retreat. This left me the remaining three to do, and although Beinn a Chlaidheimh has since been downgraded, it's in my book, on my map, and anyway it's one of the Fisherfield Six, so It was going to be included.
I' ve done the Shenavall walk-in twice, so I chose the way in by Loch a Bhraoin (rather than from Kinlochewe), as I had always fancied the E ridge of the Mullach as described by David Matthews in" Wild Walks". It also took in Sgurr Dubh and the E top - I like collecting tops though I've missed too many ever to do them all.
Anquet suggested around 11 hours (Naismith) which was way more than I could do without a break: I ruled out stopping At Lochivraon Bothy as it was too near the start, and to keep things light, I took just a plastic bivy bag, a light weight thermorest and goosedown sleeping bag - total just over Ikg. I also kicked out the stove: Hot meals are nice, but in June you can do without for one night. I took a big slab of cheddar, bread, sultanas and muesli bars.
Wet weather continued thru May, but I decided to give it a go last weekend: I left home at 7.00Am, Stopped for a coffee at the Aultguish bunkhouse and pressed on. As I came down to Corrieshellach, An Teallach was clear, and although the Fannichs had some mist, this cleared as I put on my boots. I started at 11.00 AM. It stayed dry throughout with occasional spells of hazy sunshine.
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An Teallach from the main road
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Mist on the Fannichs soon cleared
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First view of the loch
The walk along Loch a Bhraoin to Lochivraon is pretty tedious - a lot of deep gravel on the track, but at the Bothy, the E ridge came in sight and soon after all three Peaks of the Mullach and then Sgurr Ban.
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Looking back down the loch
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The bothy is the red building
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The East ridge and the Mullach tops
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Sgurr Ban appears
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The track deteriorated not far beyond but I eventually reached the point where it turns R and descends to Loch an Nid. I studied the large buttress of Tom an Fhioda from here and spied a way up on the L, traversing back R above the cliffs.
Tom an Fhioda which guards access to the E ridge from the high point on the path
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The route up
I left the track, heading straight for it and reached the Burn descending from the Bealach na Croise at 1.30. I rested for a while, drank as much water as I could and filled my bottle. There wouldn' be any more for the next 6 hours.
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Looking N to loch an Nid and An Teallach
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I From the burn I looked up at the curious lump of Meallan an Laiogh
A bit like the pot in coire na Poite near Applecross.

The ascent proved uneventful on fairly steep heather higher up: the key passage being a grassy rake (arrowed)that led to much easier angled terrain above the cliffs. From here I walked easily up to the flat top of the buttress and then up the pleasant short grass of the ridge to Sgurr Dubh while a pair of Golden Plovers mobbed me continually.
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N from the top of Tom an Fhioda: Meallan an Laoigh, Beinn a Chlaidheimh,
An Teallach and Suilliven, Cul Beag, Canisp and Cul Mor in the distance

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Loooking back to Loch A Bhraoin and the footpath
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Looking up the grassy ridge
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South to Beinn Eighe
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Back down the ridge to Loch a Bhraoin and the Fannichs
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East and main peaks of the Mullach
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Top of Sgur Dubh and the other two peaks
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The East end of Lochan Fhada with Beinn Tarsuinn on the R, Slioch and the Torridon hills beyond
I knew that there was some scrambling at this point - a typical Alpine ridge - across gendarmes and gullies. It was quite easy on sound rock - Alpine grade 2 at most - but it was longer than I expected and took nealy half an hour.
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The Pinnacles on Sgur Dubh
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Looking back from near the East peak
However, it was then an easy walk to the E top. A Ring Ousel flew off, and near the summit a Ptarmigan rushed out at me doing her broken wing pretence. She kept fluttering round me until I reached the next col. I was on top of the Mullach at 5.00Pm.
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Looking back down to the East peak and Sgur Dubj
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Sgurr Ban from the Mullach
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Looking down to the Strath na Sealga. Beinn Dearg Mor has its head in the cloud
I descended the awful white quartzite - very steep at the bottom - with great care - no place for a faceplant - and walked on up the easier angled slopes to Sgurr Ban.
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Looking back at the Mullach
The enormous cairn on the flat plateau was easy to find in the mist which was now rapidly descending. I sat down beside it and studied the map. A ridge appeared to descend NE to the col with two small lochans - so NE it was, Big mistake!! An hour and a half later I was still struggling down perhaps the worst boulder slope I have ever encountered in Britain ( In the Alps? don't even ask!)
When the mist cleared I saw that had I headed North down the alternative ridge towards loch a Bhrisidh and slanted R, I could have been on grass almost all the way - Aarrgghh.
However I' d kept telling myself I was in no hurry, and when I reached the col at about 7.45 I found running water and soft flat grass on a shelf just below and to the W of it. I was soon relaxing in my sleeping bag. I watched the light fade in the NW, fell asleep and woke to clear skies and bright moonlight at about 2.30.
I was still too dark to continue, but an hour later I got up. The trouble with this sort of bivouac - particularly when the temperature falls in the night - is that everything gets very damp from condensation. This is why it's really only suitable for a single night out, It was pretty cold, but I packed all the damp stuff into the bottom of my sack, put on a thick hat, gloves and all my layers and set off at about 3.45 up the pleasant slopes to Beinn a Chlaidheimh. The valleys were full of mist, but dawn was breaking. I took a photo
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and then the battery on my camera ran out Aarrgghh again. I put it in my pocket to warm it up which allowed me a few more shots at the summit.
Walking up Beinn a Chlaidheimh in the dawn light was great: it is much the best of these three peaks: what a tragedy it's been downgraded. At the top 4.45 the sun was rising and everything started happening. Wisps of vapour rushed past, the clouds in the valley hurtled at breakneck speed up the hills forming "hats" on the top, and all the East facing slopes glowed yellow and orange. Shades of the "good Friday" spell from Wagner's Parsifal!
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Wisps of vapour rushed past
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East facing slopes glowed yellow and orange
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clouds formed hats on the hills
There's no doubt dawn/sunrise is a magic time to be on the hills - same in the Alps.
I retraced my steps down the steep final pyramid of the hill and descended SSE down easy grass slopes. Further down, the terrain became more tussocky and difficult but I crossed the Abhain Loch an Nid without difficulty and reached the path at 6.15. A weary 14 Km later I reached the car just 23 hours after starting.
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Last edited by past my sell by date on Fri Feb 06, 2015 6:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.
past my sell by date
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Re: East ridge of the Mullach

Postby malky_c » Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:22 pm

I do like that ridge - a fun little scramble that most people seem to miss out :) . Made all the better by some stunning sunrise photos as well 8)
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Re: East ridge of the Mullach

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:13 pm

That's one for my"wish list" - thanks for posting
Pity your camera died when it did - that sunrise photo is just brilliant.
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