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Strathfarrar four in March

PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2016 9:56 pm
by martinfclarke
My partner and I had a lovely, if tiring, Easter Monday day out on the Strathfarrar hills. Staying in Drumnadrochit, we checked out of our B&B, made it into the glen and parked up by 10am, knowing we needed to be out by 6pm.

Having checked the weather (sunny spells and snow showers above 400m, light wind mainly NW) and scoped out the route, we decided that it would be better to do the walk the other way round - that is, start by walking up the road from the parking place and then up the excellent stalkers' path towards Sgurr Fhuar-thuill.

The walk up the road was pleasant enough, but a bit tedious. It took us 1h15 to reach the start of the track. Then the path up the valley past Loch Toll a' Mhuic is straight forward, and generally not boggy.

Path up above Loch Toll a' Mhuic, before the final ascent to the ridge

The ascent of the head of the valley was the trickiest bit of the day. One option may have been to go straight up to the ridge, up a little shoulder ahead of us, but much of the ridge had large cornices and we couldn't quite see what it was like at the top of the shoulder. The other option was to follow the route of the stalkers' path, across a steep snowfield, below where some of the cornices had previously collapsed. With this second option, we concluded that the worst that was likely to happen was that we'd get an unpleasant surprise as opposed to anything more serious. The snow was soft on a consolidated base, so ice axes at hand we set, and in fact there was no difficulty in reaching the rest of the path, clear of snow, continuing up to the ridge.

The ridge was wonderful. Easy to walk on, with periods of brilliant sunshine, interspersed with snow showers. We were wise to stay well away from the north side, where there were big cornices masking the sudden drop. We enjoyed fabulous views from the summit of Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais.

View of final approach to Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais

View from the summit of Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais back towards Sgurr Fhuar-thuill

We then had no difficulty until the summit of Carn nan Gobhar, where the cloud came down, making it tricky to work out where we needed to descend. We started for a few metres onto the shoulder to the North, but quickly realised it wasn't right and tracked back round to the correct route away to the west. There was a helpful cairn at the point where the ridge swings round to the South, and then after that the cloud quickly cleared, with it our worries, and we wondered what all the fuss was about.

The ascent of Sgurr na Ruaidhe, our final Munro, was an easy walk up its grassy slopes. The route down was basically one enormous bog, but by that stage we didn't care. It was obvious where to go, and other than getting wet feet there were no real hazards. Back at the car we treated ourselves to a slice of blackcurrant pie, before making it out of the glen with ten minutes to spare before the 6pm curfew.

If I were to go again, I'd do it the same way round. I think it's good to get the road walk out of the way at the beginning, and I'd rather have the good path for the climb on this walk, as coming down didn't present us with any difficulty. As ever, we benefited greatly from having the wind behind us on the ridge.

Re: Strathfarrar four in March

PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 7:20 pm
by dav2930
Looks a cracking round and great conditions for it. These have been on my radar for a while but I've always been put off by the road access situation. I guess the best bet is to do as you did and just walk up the road - or use a bike. Sounds like good advice to go clockwise. :clap:

Re: Strathfarrar four in March

PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 11:05 am
by martinfclarke
The road isn't a problem really - just a bit tedious when you're wanting to get started on the climb. If we weren't under time pressure to get out of the glen by 6pm then we would have had more time to enjoy what's actually quite a pleasant walk up the valley.

We parked just where the track off the hill came down, so no road walking at the end of the day.

Finally, we double checked with the gatekeeper what would happen if we didn't make it out by 6pm, as we definitely didn't want to get locked in! She said we would get shouted at - and I decided in my head I could cope with that as a risk, terrifying though the gatekeeper may be! In fact, we had no problem driving into or out of the glen.

Re: Strathfarrar four in March

PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 11:37 pm
by dav2930
Thanks for the beta, that's good to know.