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A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?

A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?


Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Thu Aug 06, 2015 9:55 pm

Route description: Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain and A'Chailleach

Munros included on this walk: A' Chailleach (Monadhliath), Carn Dearg (Monadhliath), Carn Sgulain

Grahams included on this walk: Creag Liath

Date walked: 21/07/2015

Time taken: 8.75 hours

Distance: 23.5 km

Ascent: 1280m

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I know that people often choose their hundredth Munro with care... Well, Carn Sgulain anyone :lol: ?
It doesn't get a great press, Carn Sgulain :( . Poor 'Basket Cairn', or 'Basket Case' as at least one Munros guide dubs it :? , is a nondescript sprawling lump of a thing in the middle of a huge and featureless plateau that isn't even a Marilyn, and only makes Munro status by the skin of its teeth ... if it had teeth that is, which seems doubtful. Sir Hugh was obviously feeling generous that day :shock: !
However, I found myself at the 98 Munros mark in the middle of the long Fimbul-Summer of 2015, with a precious and long-awaited week off work in July, but nary a break in the perpetual driving rain - except for the occasional shower of sleet, that is :roll: . Tuesday the 21st looked the best of a bad lot, and the forecast wasn't actually too bad for the Monadhliadh, with www.mwis.org.uk giving a 70 per cent chance of cloud-free summits ... well, the Monadhliadh it would be, then. And given that Carn Sgulain sits in the middle of this group of three, it looked as though it was destined to be my Number One Hundred :lol: !
However, while I was getting into the Julie Andrews vibe in preparation for the event, I was mindful of Mother Abbess' advice - 'Climb EV'RY Mountain', I think she said :? - and since there was a nice wee Graham, Creag Liath, at the start of the route (and since I never can resist a gratuitous Graham), I thought I might as well include that too.

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I got an early start, and when I arrived at the car park at the end of Glen Road in Newtonmore, it looked as though the weather gods weren't going to be too unkind - Creag Liath was at least cloud-free, and even the Munro summits were showing some promise of clearing. I crossed the Allt a'Chaorainn bridge and stoated merrily off up the track. My original plan had been to head on up the track at the side of the Allt Fionndrigh to the bealach between Creag Liath and Meall na Ceardaich, then back-track south to bag Creag Liath. However, after I turned right up the side of the Allt Fionndrigh, it struck me that the south side of Creag Liath didn't look too steep, and that it might be simplest just to traverse it. Unfortunately this only occurred to me after I was a couple of hundred metres up the track, so I'd either have to backtrack to the bridge at the Glenballoch farm buildings, or ford the Allt Fionndrigh. Well, did Mother Abbess not also say, 'Ford EV'RY stream' :lol: ? I certainly took her advice on this route :roll: !
WR1 - river crossing at start.jpg

From here, I headed up to the left-hand corner of a small bit of forestry beside the Allt, and here I picked up a faint path that took me all the way up Creag Liath, cutting right of a first band of crags, then traversing left round the next band of crags, and then up onto the ridge just below the summit.
WR2 - Creag Liath S ridge from forestry corner.jpg
It was straightforward enough, and soon I was up at the Graham's summit cairn. The best views were to the south, over the other Newtonmore Graham, Creag Dubh - a very shapely wee hill but not for today!
WR3 - Creag Liath summit cairn looking south.jpg

It was an enjoyable romp down Creag Liath's rollicking north ridge to the bealach :) .
WR4 - Creag Liath N ridge towards bealach.jpg

From here on, however, the terrain started to get rougher, with those famously vicious Peat Hags for which Carn Dearg seems to have become notorious :roll: . Actually, though, I had read so many dire tales of them in Munros guides and in other folks' WRs that I was pleasantly surprised to find that they weren't quite as bad as I'd been expecting... maybe it was just that Julie Andrews vibe again, but I seemed to make much shorter work of them than I'd feared. Looking back the way after I'd crossed the first band of them, they admittedly didn't look too pretty though :lol: !
WR5 - back towards Creag Liath from beyond first lot of peat hags.jpg

Now, how did this route go again? Ah yes, more peat hags :lol: .
This lot were running right up Glen Ballach on either side of the Allt Ballach. However, on closer inspection, it looked as though there was a hag-free grassy strip immediately on either side of the Allt that might give an easier way up the glen.
WR6 - view to Carn Dearg with peat hags in glen.jpg
I headed across to the Allt, forded it at some boulders ('FORD EV'RY STREAM!'), and sure enough there was an easy enough route north on the grassy banks of the stream.
The 'official' route goes right up high to the bowl of the big corrie at the top of Glen Ballach to give a gentler way up to the plateau, then back-tracks south to Carn Dearg. I got a bit bored though, and on close inspection of the intimidatingly craggy eastern side of Carn Dearg, it looked as though there was actually a steep but grassy rake that avoided the main bands of crags to reach the plateau a good bit nearer to Carn Dearg's summit. It's the line I've drawn on this photo in a rather fetching magenta shade.
WR7 - Carn Dearg ascent route.JPG

I stopped for a quick breather beside what I'd initially taken for a big quartz boulder, only to discover that it was actually a huge snowball.The joys of July in Scotland, what :lol: ?
WR8 - big snowball on Carn Dearg ascent.jpg

As I eventually topped out on the Monadhliadh plateau just a bit north of Carn Dearg's summit, there was a pleasing vista back south-east over all those peat hags towards Creag Liath, which looked a great wee hill from this angle.
WR9 - view back down from Carn Dearg to Peat Hags - CL in background.jpg

Now, Carn Sgulain and A'Chailleach may not be the most exciting Munros in the book, but Carn Dearg is a grand mountain, with a lovely pointy summit dramatically perched just above those big crags to the east. For my money it's by far the best of the four Monadhliadh Munros. A shame that I hadn't managed to engineer things so as to have this one for Number 100, really :? .
WR10 - Carn Dearg summit from minor N top.jpg

The view south from the summit cairn:
WR11 - Carn Dearg summit cairn looking back towards CL.jpg

...And the view north around the corrie rim at the head of Glen Ballach:
WR12 - Carn Dearg summit cairn looking north to corrie rim.jpg

From here the route heads north and then northeast across the Monadhliadh plateau, thankfully with fairly minimal descent and re-ascent. The next hump along to the north is Carn Ban, a Munro Top no less. It has one of the strangest cairns I've seen yet: it's one of those windshelter doofalunks, but where they usually have a gap where you walk in, this one is a big stone doughnut, so that you have to climb up and over to get out the wind. It does give good 360 degree protection from the elements once you get inside though - handy on a breezy day like today - so I stopped here to eat my sandwiches :) .
WR13 - Carn Ban summit doofalunk.jpg

From Carn Ban summit, a long line of old fenceposts runs all the way northeast across the plateau to Carn Sgulain. Very handy too, as otherwise there might be definite potential for getting oneself temporarily misplaced in this pancake-flat landscape. Pancake-flat the Monadhliadh plateau may be - okay, it definitely is - but it's a strangely attractive place all the same, with a real feeling of remoteness, and the grassy terrain gave very quick going, at least for the first two-thirds of this section.
WR14 - fenceposts for ever & ever.jpg

Soon enough there was even a Feature of Interest :o - the oddly-named Lochan Uisge ('Little Loch Water' :? ).
WR15 - Little Loch Water.jpg

The fenceposts just seemed to go on for ever and ever, and rather than worrying about not finding Carn Sgulain, I started to worry that I might inadvertently stroll over it without noticing and keep going, becoming doomed forever to wander, Flying Dutchman-like, across the Monadhliadh plateau :( ... However, intermittent bits of path reassured me that I was on the correct line so far. There was a good view back the way to Carn Dearg, still looking impressively craggy from this angle.
WR16 - view back to Carn Dearg.jpg

In the event, I needn't have worried too much about missing Carn Sgulain. It may not be the most dynamic of hills, managing to be only slightly pointier than the average doormat, but its big rounded dome is unmistakeably higher than any of the other minor rounded summits all around it. On the final approach, the Good Going inevitably disappeared and those peat hags put in another appearance. In fact, this last section must surely be one of Scotland's highest swamps :roll: . However, I was so in touch with my inner Julie Andrews by now in anticipation of hitting the hundred mark that I feared no bog :lol: . In fact, I probably got a tad carried away and stuck a bit of bog cotton behind my ear for the Number One Hundred Summit Selfie :? . Yes, I realise the world is not ready for this, but here's my best Monadh Liadh Smile at Carn Sgulain summit:
WR17 - bobble hat gioconda.jpg

Carn Sgulain actually sports two separate summit cairns, probably in a forlorn attempt to appear more interesting, so I made sure I visited the other one too. By now, I was starting to grudgingly admire Sgulain's sheer chutzpah in defying geomorphological Body Fascism and resolutely refusing to conform to anyone's stereotypes of what a mountain should look like. Such as being pointy, for instance :lol: . From this second cairn, I got a good look at my next objective, the marginally pointier A'Chailleach:
WR18 - towards A Chailleach from Carn Sgulain Summit Cairn 2.jpg

It doesn't look far away at all, but that's deceptive - there is a fair bit of back-tracking south-west through the peat hags to avoid the deeper bits of a boggy and initially hidden river gorge that forms the bealach between the two Munros. It's very much a judgement call on how much westwards you're prepared to trudge across the hags to avoid extra descent and re-ascent. I stuck it out as long as I could, then waded down to get even wetter feet crossing the Allt Cuil na Caillich. Yes, yes, I know, EV'RY stream... got it :lol: .
WR19 - view of Sgulain-Chailleach bealach.jpg

Once across the Allt, it proved to be a very straightforward trudge up the grassy slopes to A'Chailleach's big summit cairn, with a good path developing higher up. A'Chailleach has a huge windshelter cairn that I've seen described as 'lion-like', and actually it really does have the profile of one of the Landseer lions in Trafalgar Square. It's a lion with a hollow back so you can get out of the wind though, and I was very glad of that today as it was still very breezy :roll: !
WR20 - Chailleach summit cairn showing hollow.jpg

There was a fine view south-west towards the Nevis Range, still with a shedload of snow this late into July. Anyone would think that it had been a poor summer or something :lol: ...
WR21 - view to Nevis Range from Chailleach summit cairn.jpg

I couldn't resist another Summit Selfie ... please just humour me.
WR22 - BHK at Chailleach summit.JPG

Although the descent was straightforward enough, I wandered a bit off-piste where the path forked at some peat hags. I suspect that this is because the former bridge over the Allt a'Chaorainn has recently collapsed, so that a new path is developing to cross the Allt farther north. I therefore passed a good few hundred metres north of the famous corrugated-iron 'bothy' (really just a small shack), and I didn't get a chance to have a look inside.
WR23 - The Bothy.jpg

Inevitably, it got very boggy again down near the Allt, as I steeled myself for the fourth river crossing of the day. 'FORD EV'RY'.... Aye, whatever :-P .
On the way down, I had spied a hopeful-looking path on the far side of the Allt, but in reality this turned out to be yet another boggy morass. I trudged down it for a half-kilometre or so, to be met with a remarkable sight: a well-built Land Rover track. After all that wild and boggy terrain, it looked like an artefact from some more advanced civilisation, and I stopped to ponder it in wonder, thinking something along the lines of, 'Well, isn't that extraordinary... You can walk on it without getting your feet wet. It's amazing what they can do nowadays - isn't technology wonderful?'
WR24 - The Amazing Track.jpg

From here it was a very straightforward romp back to the car park. Carn Sgulain may not have been the most exciting of hills, but taking the route as a whole, this really is a great round in some truly remote-feeling country, and it turned out to be far more enjoyable than I'd expected. Despite all those peat hags :D .
Last edited by bobble_hat_kenny on Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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bobble_hat_kenny
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Re: A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?

Postby Gordie12 » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:15 pm

Congrats on getting to the ton!!

Love the dark clouds and sunlight on that 1st photo.

Not the most interesting hills in the world these but still a really good day out. I thought after the July we have had it might have been wetter underfoot on the way to Carn Dearg but it doesn't sound like it was too bad.
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Re: A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:20 pm

Gordie12 wrote:Congrats on getting to the ton!!

Love the dark clouds and sunlight on that 1st photo.

Not the most interesting hills in the world these but still a really good day out. I thought after the July we have had it might have been wetter underfoot on the way to Carn Dearg but it doesn't sound like it was too bad.

Honestly, it really wasn't too bad at all ... I've certainly experienced worse. That long trudge back from Carn nan Gabhar of Beinn a'Ghlo springs to mind, to name but one :roll: !
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Re: A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?

Postby mrssanta » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:21 pm

Well done on your hundred Kenny
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Re: A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Thu Aug 06, 2015 10:29 pm

mrssanta wrote:Well done on your hundred Kenny

Thanks! Who'd have thunk, eh :lol: ?
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Re: A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?

Postby spiderwebb » Fri Aug 07, 2015 5:49 pm

Congratulations, remember these as ...well ...wet. First time the Storm Shelter came out, although I didn't get the benefit of it :lol: age before beauty or is it the other way round :D
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Re: A Monadh Liadh Smile on reaching the hundred mark?

Postby ancancha » Sat Aug 08, 2015 10:53 am

Congratulations on the hundred :clap:
A funny read, enjoyed it :D
Cracking selfie :lol:
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