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Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill???

Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill???


Postby BlackPanther » Wed May 06, 2015 3:35 pm

Route description: Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill

Corbetts included on this walk: Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill

Date walked: 20/04/2015

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 16 km

Ascent: 916m

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Part three of our April hols :D I have to speed up my TR writing otherwise I will never clear the backlog :roll:

After the steep-steep experience on Arnisdale Corbetts on Sunday I grew a blood blister on my foot, yet I was still eager to keep climbing, as long as the good weather held. Monday was said to be a bit more cloudy and the best conditions forecast for Assynt and Sutherland, hence our choice of area.
Since climbing Arkle last year I was (still am) desperate to visit Foinaven, but with the blistered foot I opted for a shorter route in the magical landscape of Sutherland, including Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill. A Corbett with the longest name it could possibly receive :roll: and a tongue twister (at least for me), therefore I shortened the name and I simply call it McDhugaill's Hill.
Some would now shout - what??? Who??? Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill and why was this mountain named after him???
Sorry, I can't answer this question. There is very little info on this mountain anywhere, I was pleasantly surprised to find it has its own WH route description :lol: Even Hamish Brown in his epic "Climbing the Corbetts" comments as follows:
"Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill might as well not exist for all the notice the hill receives in all the books I've consulted."
Understandably, the close proximity of Arkle/Foinaven/Meall Horn trio works to McDhughaill Hill's disadvantage, just as much as its long name. Ben Stack and Ben Hee, also close neighbours, are easier, shorter walks and more suitable for winter outings. That leaves MLCMD neglected - very few people bother to visit this mountain and what a shame! As I'd love to prove in this TR, it's a hill well worth the effort and best kept for a clear day. It's a superb viewpoint and it also has a great character, with some steep slopes, hidden corries and blue lochans. Sadly, it also has its share of bog and peat hags, but on a dry day like we had, they didn't present much of a trouble.
We followed Walkhighlands route description, doing the anticlockwise circular, but in wet conditions the descent into the Corrie of Allt an Reinidh would be a nightmarish trudge through countless peat hags, so maybe it would be easier to retrace your steps down the stalkers path.
Our route:

Track_MHIC DHUGHAILLS HILL20-4-15.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


There is enough space on the A838 at the start of the Aultanrynie track to park a couple of cars. The track itself is used to access a small quarry and at some point we met a big lorry full of gravel. A new track is currently being constructed on the slopes opposite the main road and as it was Monday, the workers were busy digging. Apart from that, nobody in sight. But plenty of mountains around! :D
Ben Stack "pointy" on the horizon:
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We walked on the track, past a large herd of deer chewing their late breakfast (funny they didn't mind the noises coming from the quarry and the lorry driving back and forth!) and towards the buildings of Aultanrynie. Just before the farm, an obvious, grassy path branches to the right and it climbs steeply up the hillside:
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it was a lovely morning and views down to Loch More and surrounding hills were splendid:
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The path zigzags up towards a lower top, not named on 1-25k map (513m), but it skirts around its very summit. As we gained height, I noticed smoke to the east, on the lower slopes of Ben Hee:
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This smoke was to spoil some of our views that day :( but at the moment it looked like somebody got up early to do some heather burning. My attention was drawn away from it anyway, and to more interesting features, like Quinaig revealing itself:
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The good path ended abruptly just past the 513m top, but the route looked all right - up this shoulder and to the main ridge of Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill:
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Ben Stack very prominent:
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Two minutes break to record the views and a quick slurp of water, and we carried on along Meallan Liath Beag. When looking at this long shoulder from the end of the path, it seems flat but as soon as we started walking, we discovered it was a succession of minor lumps, bumps and small bealachs. 50m up, 30m down, another 30 up, then 20 down. And so it goes. Not too wet luckily, mostly grassy.
Me posing with Ben Stack to the left and the main summit of McDhughaill Hill to the right:
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The smoke was thickening (we could even smell it now) and it obstructed views east to Ben Hee:
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We carried on regardless:
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View south to Conival - Ben More Assynt duo, how little snow was on it then. I imagine it would be full winter conditions now, after the cold spell:
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The final 200m of ascent to the main ridge are steeper and rockier:
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Little known Loch Ulbhach Coire and the steep side of a Graham, Carn an Tionail, behind (on my to-do list!), plus the smoke forming strange shapes:
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I took some time to investigate the edge of the cliffs and the remaining snow cornice:
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As soon as we reached the ridge and stopped by a small cairn, I uttered a loud meow! What a view! Gobsmacking!
South to Assynt hills, Quinaig to the right:
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There was still some distance to walk to the summit, but with such landscapes around, pure mountain porn! :lol:
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Zoomed Foinaven:
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Zoomed Arkle:
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We couldn't resist taking a longer break here, if only to sink in the panoramas, fantastic!
We descended a few metres west and found a small outcrop, hid behind it to be sheltered from the wind (it was cold in the breeze). Kevin dug up his lunch box and we spent about 15 minutes munching, slurping and admiring what was in front of us...
Coire Loch, the hidden loch of Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill, can only be seen from the ridge itself as the corrie faces north. Superb spot:
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Summit in the background to the left:
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The distant hills were somewhat hazy - or was it the result of the Ben Hee smoke? Here, zoom to Ben Hope:
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After well deserved lazy time, we carried on along the ridge to the summit, stopping every few steps to take pictures - over 300 in the end, :roll: sorting them took me ages!
Looking down to Coire Loch:
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The lower top, Carn Dearg, and Graham Carn an Tionail behind, seen from just below the summit:
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Corbett no. 88 and my target of getting to 100 C's by the end of NEXT year looks good :lol: Should just about manage :lol: :lol:
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On the summit we met another walker, who climbed up from the western side. He had done Foinaven the day before so of course I took the opportunity to ask him about the details of the traverse :D We spent some time chatting about who did which hill and by which route :lol: Typical for hillwalkers, what do you talk about on the mountain top? Of course, about mountains!
The summit is as good a viewpoint as it can be in the Far North, with the "Holy Trinity" of Arkle, Foimaven and Meall Horn very close (Sail Rac ridge in the foreground):
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Ben Stack and Loch Stack:
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South to Conival/BMA and the Hee fire:
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Zoomed Assynt Munros:
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Close up to Foinaven:
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Kevin on the summit:
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Quinaig, Glas Bheinn and Suilven:
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Zoomed Suilven:
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View north to Ben Hope and Ben Loyal, sadly the smoke obscures the panorama:
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High cloud was thickening above our heads and obviously, the fire got out of control. The whole southern side of Ben Hee was now ablaze. A bit spooky:
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A closer look at the fire:
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Wonderful mountain this one. Even with the long name :lol: :lol:
To descend back to the stalkers path, one could simply retrace steps over the lower top and Meallan Liath Beag, but WH description suggest a direct drop into Pollan Reinidh. This is said to be very wet, boggy and full of peat hags, so a route good only in dry conditions (as we had).
The first 300m of descent were easy, and then the trudge began. Thank heavens, most of the peat hags were dry, so for us it was a matter of finding the way across them - some were over a metre deep, in a couple of places Kevin had to pull me up the flanks :lol: We crossed the river a few times, just looking for the best line of walking:
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For the first half an hour or so I found this mildly entertaining, but eventually I just grew tired and prayed for the endless peat hag field to end! I can't imagine crossing this on a wet day :? :? :?
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It was a huge relief to emerge on the stalkers path again, from now on it was easy strolling down to Loch More:
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6.5 hours after we stated, we returned to the car. Maybe this can be done quicker (we spent at least 30min on the summit plus countless stops for photos on the way up) but if there's no need to rush it, McDhugaill's Hill should be savoured and appreciated. What a lovely if neglected mountain... I hope I gave this Corbett some much needed advertising and I totally agree with Hamish Brown:
"Who McDhughaill was is a mystery, but his mountain is an undiscovered Cinderella, loud with the crying of golden plovers."

Driving down past Ben Hee, I took some quick snaps of the fire. As we suspected, it was heather burning out of control. Police cars and fire engines were parked all over the place.
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People fighting the fire:
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It's been a successful string of climbing days so far, but on Tuesday we hit the highest note, bagging four Munros in a great Fannichs expedition :D TR to follow.
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BlackPanther
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Re: Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill???

Postby Mal Grey » Wed May 06, 2015 3:53 pm

What an excellent looking hill, with hidden corries and stunning views. I just love it up there. I guess its something like Grey Hill of McDougal's Corrie?

Saw several fire engines rushing to similar fires a week or two earlier near Ullapool. Hopefully we 're not going to see too many more, some were pretty devastating a couple of years back.

That Loch Ulbhach Coire looks strangely familiar..... ;)
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Mal Grey
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Re: Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill???

Postby AnnieMacD » Wed May 06, 2015 10:51 pm

That was great, BP. What a wonderful week you got for your hillidays! The heather-burning is scary when it gets out of hand in the dry weather, but you got away in time. Looks Like a nice hill though.
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AnnieMacD
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Re: Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill???

Postby Sarah86 » Thu May 07, 2015 2:19 pm

What a fantastic looking walk, the views are stunning. It looks very enjoyable especially in the weather conditions you go.
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Sarah86
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Re: Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill???

Postby BlackPanther » Thu May 07, 2015 9:23 pm

Thanks for comments :D It is a lovely hill indeed, maybe after my TR it will receive more visitors... Another little gem well worth exploring. There are two good-looking Grahams nearby, so I may come back to investigate them soon.

Mal, I'm sorry to have given you so much headache with Loch Ulbhach Coire :lol: :lol: :lol:
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BlackPanther
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Re: Who the *&%$* was McDhughaill???

Postby rockhopper » Thu May 07, 2015 11:10 pm

A rather fine day for this walk - your photos certainly show the views to great effect as usual. Looks like you've been rather busy during your holidays ! - cheers :)
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