A Monadh Liath Threesome
by old danensian » Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:45 am
Route description: Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain and A'Chailleach
Munros included on this walk: A' Chailleach (Monadhliath), Carn Dearg (Monadhliath), Carn Sgulain
Date walked: 24/08/2014
Time taken: 7.3 hours
Distance: 26 km
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Three hours later, in the car park at the end of the lane beyond Newtonmore, came proof of my wife’s claim that Scotland is just a big village. Someone pulling on their boots came from a village just seven or eight miles from me back in Ayrshire. Although planning to walk the round in opposite directions, we were aiming for the same three Munros of A Chailleach, Carn Sgulain and Carn Dearg.
Skirting the mound behind the parking space, and alongside the woodland, the northbound track provided a gentle start. The open slopes of A Chailleach stretched across to the left with the bothy, then the skyline providing targets for the first ascent.
Forewarned, I was on the look-out for the small cairn marking the path down to the footbridge over the Allt a Chaorainn: the track down was barely visible, never mind the bridge.
Once on the hillside above the trees, occasional stretches of path appeared then disappeared, but the ground was never so rough as to make the going difficult. An empty champagne bottle in the corrugated hut conjured up images of an elevated elegant evening by the fire.
For a change, this was one of those long rounded Munros that didn’t tempt with a series of false tops. What you see is what you get; the first nobble on the skyline is the summit cairn. There’s no need to reserve that extra bit of energy to compensate for discovering another half mile stretching ahead. Ninety minutes and the first Munro was topped.
The day’s walk formed the panorama from the north round to the south west. The opportunity to stretch the legs on a high level walk was a prospect to relish.
The sun had been out when I left the car, promising a bright day ahead. However, on A Chailleach a stiff chilly breeze was blowing. It might have been an August Bank Holiday weekend (I’m English and still getting used to not having one up here), but the bite in the wind made me think seriously about wearing more than a tee shirt. And, as clouds built up, showers could be seen far to the north west that I hoped wouldn’t get here too quickly.
What followed was the low point of the day. Faint smudges in the grass suggested a path or two heading off in the direction of Carn Sgulain, but neither seemed to declare their intentions very confidently. The upper reaches of the Allt Cull na Caillich could be moist, to say the least. The slope up to Carn Sgulain comprised a patchwork of peat hags, detours and tussocks: one of those stretches that must push the distance walked by the end of the day.
Once on Carn Sgulain it’s all too easy to be prompted with the question “why?” OK, it’s a Munro, but the height gain from the bealach (loose definition) between A Chailleach must be marginal. There must be more impressive shoulders and Tops that don’t qualify.
Anyway, it’s there, it’s relatively close so I won’t begrudge the visit.
The meat of the day was the 8km walk alongside the fence posts linking the humps and bumps on the way to Carn Dearg. Reminiscent of Lakeland fell tops, and in contrast to the brutal ups and downs of West Highland ridges and peaks, it made for a pleasant stroll with enjoyable chats with those doing the walk in a clockwise direction.
The clouds in the north west had come closer by now, so drizzle and smirr accompanied the final climb to the top of Carn Dearg where a finely positioned cairn marks the summit at the very edge of the plunge to Gleann Ballach.
Seeing the view into Gleann Ballach below, plans changed. There seemed to be no escape from a lengthy stretch of peat hags and bogs right over into the far glen of Allt Fionndrigh, the recommended route back to the start. However, Carn Macoul had been in view for the previous few hours and shouted out as the logical and far purer end to the route – following its nose right down to the main glen in a far drier way.
And so it proved. Not too much extra effort was required to surmount the rounded hump of Carn Macoul and drop down grassy slopes on the other side. The dilapidated cottage at the confluence of the waters saw the beginning of the final stretch down Glen Banchor as the sun reappeared.
It had been a relatively long day, but never punishing or with unrelenting slogs. Looking back, I realised that I’d been on Carn Sgulain for barely an hour, so taking the rough with the smooth it was a small price to pay.
With immaculate timing, my Ayrshire compatriot and I arrived back at our cars within five minutes of each other.
If it wasn’t for the traffic pouring out onto the A9 from the Blair Atholl Horse Trials, the trip would have fallen comfortably within my rule of more time on the hill than in the car, but there are some things you just can’t legislate for – just plan.
by Lightfoot2017 » Fri Aug 29, 2014 2:23 pm
I love this circuit - probably my favourite trio of Munros so far. I love the sense of open-ness and space you get when crossing these huge open hillsides.
by Lightfoot2017 » Fri Aug 29, 2014 2:24 pm
RTC wrote: I remember being so hot that I had to walk in my underpants.
by Huff_n_Puff » Fri Aug 29, 2014 8:07 pm
by tina bonar » Fri Aug 29, 2014 8:35 pm
by Fife Flyer » Fri Aug 29, 2014 9:06 pm
Lightfoot2017 wrote:I love this circuit - probably my favourite trio of Munros so far. I love the sense of open-ness and space you get when crossing these huge open hillsides.
Not sure I agree with you on that one Paul
by PeteR » Sat Aug 30, 2014 6:31 pm
So far I've done the 3 Munros in two separate trips - due to the weather on both occasions. I still have the full circuit down on my winter wish-list though, so will be returning. I know they are not everyone's cup o tea, but I'd sooner walk this trio than Sauchiehall Street