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Stairway to Heaven (Eventually ) - Moruisg and Ceannaichean

Stairway to Heaven (Eventually ) - Moruisg and Ceannaichean


Postby Roger T » Fri Oct 02, 2015 6:52 pm

Route description: Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Munros included on this walk: Moruisg

Corbetts included on this walk: Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Date walked: 30/09/2015

Time taken: 6.25 hours

Distance: 12 km

Ascent: 1000m

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Some time ago my other half worked in the high-rise head offices of a notoriously gerrymandering London borough. Rather than take the lift of a morning, she walked up the stairs to the twelfth floor. This was a commendable habit, if somewhat masochistic.
It occurred to me, as I worked my way up the featureless slope of Moruisg, following an occasional path which in most parts is a steep ascent of stairs, that if she had worked on the 240th floor of the building, which she didn’t because there wasn’t one, she could have experienced the equivalent drudgery of a Moruisg ascent every single day of her working week.
It was a crystal clear day, with an unblemished sky and a cool zephyr from the south-west. I left the lay-by at 0830, crossed the river, ducked under the railway line, and set off over the boggy hinterland. The warnings of this quagmire had been dire, to the extent that I had wondered whether I should pack an inflatable dinghy and lifejacket to get across. I had dutifully dubbined my boots and swathed my calves in gaiters, with neither precaution seemingly necessary. Perhaps I hit it on a good day, but I could not reconcile the alleged 5-star bog-trot to the mildly damp bit of ground that was actually there.
Then it was off up the gargantuan hummock that calls itself a mountain. You just go up, and up, and up, up a slope of mind-numbing blandness. A hint of relief is offered by the two gullies gouging the hillside, with the path aiming for the narrow shoulder that separates them.
This path, as I have said, is mainly earthy steps. A lot of them. There is nothing wrong with this. They get you up the slope quickly and efficiently, and this is not a slope that merits any lingering. The sooner it’s behind you the better.
It wasn’t just the joylessness of the terrain that was irksome. There was too the constant annoyance of being in full sight and sound of the main road astern. It meant I could check that my truck, the sole vehicle in the lay-by, had not yet fallen prey to brigands, but surely the point of going into the mountains is to get away from such petty cares. The point, too, is to find silence, that wonderful silence of the crags, marred only by the rustle of the wind and the occasional croak of a raven. On the north slope of Moruisg the ambient music is of traffic along the A890, a relentless undertone that robs the walker of any sense of distance from the workaday.
With the autumnal sun now well to the south, the staircase was climbed in shadow, so the arrival at the summit, after two hours of repetitive grind, was doubly blessed. Here now was the sun, and here now was the vista, south over the mysterious glens of Monar, north over the outrageous geography of Torridon. And stretching away to the south-west was the ridge leading to the next target, Sgurr nan Ceannaichean.
WP_20150930_004(1).jpg
View north from Moruisg, with my three previous Munros all in view

Things were starting to take a turn for the better, as much as anything because for the first time that day I started to feel that I was in the mountains. The faint hum of traffic was still there, but now it was peaks in every direction; humped, spikey, twisted, conical and crenellated, as far as the eye could see.
I wasn’t sure why Moruisg merited two cairns, but I placed a rock on each anyway, and set off along the ridge. This was more like it – the sort of ridge you can stride easily along, the ground firm and close-cropped, the undulations and twists and turns of the track enough to give it interest without breaking the easy rhythm. Before long the Coire Toll nam Biam, a proper craggy, steep coire, was hard to starboard, while to port the softer slopes of the Coire an Thuill Bhain fell away to the depths of what I assume was Glenuig.
I dropped down to the bealach, losing the sound of traffic, and finding instead a chorus of bellowing. On the opposite slope of the coire fifty or so deer were ranged around, many in a Pavarotti-ish frame of mind. They were half a mile away, but even from that distance I could make out the alpha male, a thick-set, deep-chested Monarch of the Glen, raising his muzzle to the skies and roaring his ascendancy around the hills. I found a rock and sat to eat a flapjack, drink some water, and watch the herd drift away. Close-packed, they looked like caribou on migration.
It was 1115, and now my attention was on the next ascent. This was my first attempt at two peaks in a day, but the way up to Ceannaichean’s summit did not look too daunting. I was pretty sure my ancient legs would cope.
A steepish haul over earth, grass and flat slabs of rock got me back up to the ridge-line proper. Now I could make out the north-heading ridge that would mark the way down. I carried on up, following the well-worn track. Ahead I could see that the route zig-zagged up a steeper pinnacle. To be on the safe side I immediately put myself into iron will mode, concentrating on feet and immediate track and rhythm and relaxation. This brought me up the switchbacks with a calm heart, and I was amazed to find, as the slope levelled off, that I had reached the cairn. The final ascent had taken just thirty minutes.
Poor old Sgurr nan Ceannaichean: a fine little mountain, well-shaped and with views to die for, so much better than its lumpen neighbour, but robbed of its Munroship for want of a mere fifty inches. It seems so unfair that it should now play junior partner in this mismatched twosome. At least nobody, bar a total mountain philistine, would consider bagging Moruisg’s Munro and racing off again down that monochromatic mountainside, without making a proper day of it by continuing the circuit to Ceannaichean. It is Ceannaichean that makes the day, that makes you feel like you actually been somewhere, done something.
The view now extended out west to the Cuillin, rising out of a misty sea like mountains in a fairytale. It was the final stamp on a panorama stretching from Ben Wyvis in the east.
WP_20150930_012(1).jpg
View west from Ceannaichean, with the Cuillin rising out of the mist.

It was too early for lunch, so after a short sojourn on Ceannaichean’s flat and almost completely circular plateau, I set off down. A hint of a track led off along the ridge to Creag a Chait, but the terrain here is thick moss and rock, not conducive to imprint. I did as I was told and kept to the left, gradually dropping done the side and traversing round the end of the bluff. There I ate my sandwich with the world at my feet. Sadly the A890 was also once again at my feet, and so it was not a picnic bound around with remoteness and a sense of wild adventure.
I carried on round and down, working over grass, moss and bouldered terrain towards the Alltan na Feola. It was good fun, finding a route down that rough country. A path is all very well, and can leave the mind free to roam, but there is a certain satisfaction in finding your own way, making your own calls on the best line to follow.
I reached the burn and in hot sunshine sat on a rock beside that babbling brook to finish my lunch. Now I was in heaven. What more could a man want from a day on the hill? Two peaks under my belt, a walk that had ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime, and now the music and freshness of a mountain stream tumbling and sparkling in the autumn sun.
I had thought that from here on it would be a relaxing walk out on the stalkers’ path beside the burn, but I was wrong. The path was a boggy, messy, unkempt affair, not conducive to an easy rhythm and free-floating thought. It works down through a stunted growth of downy birch and rowan, and lower down, hazel. The disharmony of the track, though, is soothed by the constant singing of the stream it follows. The two finally diverge, the track leading to the east and back towards the railway, tarmac, traffic.
On the way down I had considered the probabilities of a walker passing under the railway line just as a train crossed above. Extraordinarily unlikely, but it almost happened to me. Had I been twenty seconds ahead, the Inverness-bound train would have rumbled me at the underpass. As it was, it didn’t, so I stood close to the line and waved to the good folk easing along in such comfort. One waved back.
My truck was still alone at the lay-by. I had had the two mountains to myself for the whole day. That really is heaven.

(Sorry for the lack of photos. The next day I dropped my phone and lost everything except the two I had already forwarded.)
Roger T
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 20
Munros:13   Corbetts:2
Joined: Sep 19, 2015
Location: Wester Ross

Re: Stairway to Heaven (Eventually ) - Moruisg and Ceannaich

Postby rockhopper » Fri Oct 02, 2015 11:36 pm

Great day for these hills. Interested to read your report - got the feeling that you weren't keen on Moruisg. It's interesting to see how different people view different hills - this group of hills are among some of my favourites - having camped on Moruisg and woke to a cracking sunrise, I guess I just look back positively at the overall trip and tend to ignore the less interesting and boggier parts of the walk. Would agree though - the walk up Sgurr nan Ceannaichean in early morning sunlight is a delight - cheers :)
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rockhopper
 
Posts: 6269
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Joined: Jun 1, 2009
Location: Glasgow

Re: Stairway to Heaven (Eventually ) - Moruisg and Ceannaich

Postby dav2930 » Sun Oct 04, 2015 10:56 am

A well written report. I did these the other way round on a misty day back in the days when Ceannaichean was a Munro. It's ascent was very interesting but I had lost any trace of a path until l reached the ridge. The descent of Moruisg on a straight compass bearing was a fast way off until the steep gullies, where the route became uncertain in the clag. But I suspect it's better in descent than ascent. I suppose these two will always suffer from comparison with most of the very fine hills that surround them.
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dav2930
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 1274
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Joined: Feb 13, 2015
Location: Cumbria

Re: Stairway to Heaven (Eventually ) - Moruisg and Ceannaich

Postby Roger T » Wed Oct 07, 2015 9:28 pm

Thanks for the really interesting comments. I probably was a bit unfair on poor old Moruisg, but I guess one's view of a mountain is very largely moulded by the line of ascent. That's when you are looking into and assessing the hill, rather than on the descent when you are looking outwards. A Moruisg ascent from the Monar side would doubtless create a totally different impression, as you said, and of course the descent of the featureless grassy slope would be leavened by the constant view of the Torridon hills. And if you're in fog and on a compass heading, a nice uncraggy grass slope is just what you want!
Roger T
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 20
Munros:13   Corbetts:2
Joined: Sep 19, 2015
Location: Wester Ross

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