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Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 2:12 pm
by Fife Flyer

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Planned this little 2 dayer at the start of the week, to utilise the 'dry' spell - what a difference a week makes. Just over a week ago I was splashing and paddling in Glendessary, now the ground is so dry I was beginning to wonder if I had been dreaming.
After asking for expert advice on the best way to tackle the 3 Munro's north of the Alltbeithe Youth Hostel, the general concensus recommended parking at the car park at the eastern end of Loch Affric and cycling west. It looked pretty straightforward on the map, however the track varied from excellent to good until I reached the western end of Loch Affric, then things got 'interesting'.

So I left Fife before 5am and took the usual route north up the A9, I had put in the postcode for Affic Lodge in my satnav, that got me in the general vicinity but I had to stop extract the map out of my rucksack and see exactly where I was and work out how to get to the Glen Affric car park.
Arrived at the car park paid my £2 parking charge to the Forrestry Commission, car park was large and must do quite well - financially. Another plus is there are toilets so I was also able to wash my hands after assembling my bike, which involves attaching the front wheel and inflating the tyre.

Image Car park

Image The way ahead, over the bridge

Set off at 9.45 full of optimism about the day ahead, cycled over the bridge and made quite good progress. I knew I was in for a BIG and long day so rather than strain my legs early on I dismounted at just about every incline. The views ahead were outstanding, as well as to the right of Loch Affric, but I couldn't really appreciate the views as I was scrutinising the track and watching out for rogue stones/boulders to avoid.

Image Loch Affric

Image Good track initially

Image Bit hazy, low cloud

The weather was warmish and the hills ahead were engulfed in cloud, as you will see later the clouds soon disappeared and it was wall to wall sunshine. Normally not a huge problem, however I realised whilst cycling that I had left my suntan cream in the car - what a muppet. As a result I kept a thin fleece on for most of the day to stop getting burnt.

Image West end of Loch Affric

Image Looking back

Image Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan peeking out above the cloud zoomed

Image Same shot as above

I thought I was doing quite well and making good progress, reached the western end of Loch Affric and the buildings at Athnamulloch. The track forks here, stupidly I went left and when I reached a locked gate and a style I knew I had made a slight navigational error!! That error added an extra 2 miles of cycling into my legs and I was pretty annoyed with myself.

Image The buildings at Athnamulloch

Image The way down and ahead

Image Water feature

Image Cloud dispersing

The distance along the decent track was a tad over 4.5miles or 7.4km if you are metricated.
Now the struggle would begin, I followed the path/track and crossed the bridge and the track really does change and far from ideal for byclists. The track from Athnamulloch is a shade over 4miles or 6km and the majority of that time was spent pushing the bike.

Image Looking back, take note of the track now

The bike was abandoned before I reached the Youth Hostel, now it was time to start walking and enjoy myself. I followed the path round the Youth Hostel and wondered how many guests were there, there was a member of staff doing a spot of cleaning outside and I also wondered how she got there, take it she must be a sort of resident, great spot and surrounded by some towering hills.

Image Looking back & down onto the youth hostel

Image The excellent path

Image Another water feature

The path after the hostel is excellent and winds it's way uphill at a nice gradual rate, I kept looking back as the views behind are fantastic. The WH route does warn about boggy ground just before the bealach, but that wasn't a problem after the recent dry spell. I was concious that I would be drinking more especially as I was warming up rather nicely, so I topped up my water supply just before the bealach.

Image Looking south from just below the bealach

Image The view north from the bealach

Image Looking across to the distant first hill Mullach na Dheiragain

Image Someone on the ridge east of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

On reaching the bealach the views were awesome and it was decision time, WH kind of recommends tackling the remote hill Mullach na Dheiragain, with hindsight I would recommend venturing up An Socach first and then MnD. So Mullach na Dheiragain was to be the first hill, this involved descending into the corrie Coire nan Dearcag, I would imagine after a wet spell this wouldn't be much fun. Once across the corrie I then ascended up to the bealach between Mullach na Dheiragain and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, by this time I was huffing and puffing a bit and feeling rather warm around the edges. I met a chap heading in the other direction soon after, he had left his rucksack at the bealach, we had a brief chat and continued in opposite directions. I decided to leave my rucksack a wee bit further on, taking with my my camera, phone and a bottle of water. The route out to MnD involves quite a bit of going down and up over bouldery terrain and is about 3km from the bealach.

Image The wide shoulder to Mullach na Dheiragain

Image Looking back towards Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

Image The way ahead, few large snow patches

Image Looking back

Image First summit

As I reached the summit a guy appeared coming from the other direction, he had come across from Iron Lodge and was walking to Carn Eige, so he joined me for a km or so. I mentioned that I had left my suncream in the car so he kindly let me use his - if you read this, thank you very much. Before the next incline he descended down into the corrie/glen to get across to Carn Eige.

Image Marching off to Carn Eige

Image Looking north from the ridge up Ceathreamhnan

The next hill looked fantastic and pointy from most angles so I was looking forward to saying hello. There is an easy narrow ridge that takes you up the summit and the views to the north from the ridge are outstanding. The summit was small with a fair sized cairn on top as well as a good covering of snow on the north side, a truly fantastic hill.

Image Looking south across to the descent ridge

Image Looking back down the ridge

Image Looking down the ridge again

Image Second summit of the day

A few panoramic shots for the mountain lovers




Image Looking down towards the YH

Image Snow feature

The descent down the ridge was easy and straightforward and I was still thinking with dread about the cycle back, I was also concious of the time. I had emailed the hotel I was staying in in Drumnadrochit to tell them I probably wouldn't arriving till at least 8pm and I was looking forward to a decent meal.
Once back at the first bealach I now had to scoot up An Socach, normally it would only take a few minutes as it isn't far at all, however I was feeling rather weary. I left my rucksack just above the bealach and headed back uphill. An Socach isn't anything too special it does provide great views of the neighbouring Carn Eige and really is the easiest of the 3 hills.

Image Summit of An Socach looking back to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

Image As above looking towards the first summit

Image Looking north from An Socach

Image Looking across towards the Carn Eige gang

I didn't stay very long on the summit, a few photo's and I was off down. Uplifted my rucksack and started the trek back down to the Youth Hostel. I stopped again at the water source to top up again and the descent was really easy and pretty rapid.
I decided to take a short cut across the heathery grass to my bike rather than go via the Youth Hostel and was soon heading back along the track either pushing my bike or cycling gingerly. By now my backside was rather sore. Lesson to anyone who is thinking of buying a mountain bike get one with suspension and a soft saddle. The journey back to the buildings at Athnamulloch was absolute torture and I hated it and I mean hated it. I was hot, tired and knackered not in that order, I kept hoping to see the buildings as I appeared round a bend and it seemed to take an eternity. Eventually they appeared and that gave me a new lease of life a bit more energy, that wouldn't last long as I was really struggling even on the 'decent' track. I was working out in my own mind how many more times I would be using my bike for this 'off road' stuff and the answer is twice, the bad news is that I was planning to cycle tomorrow to tackle Maoile Lunndaidh. I knew the track having walked along it, but I was thinking "are there any other alternatives/options", the short answer no.
I eventually arrived back at the car park just before 8pm after what could possibly be my toughest day yet - I know I keep saying that. So the bike was quickly dumped in the back of the car and Drumnadrochit here I come. I checked in the hotel shortly after 8.30pm and asked if I could order any food, only to be told the kitchen had just shut. I wasn't overly impressed, so I dumped my bag in the room and headed off out.
To sum up, the walk itself took less than 7 hours and cycling took an eternity, three fabulous remote Munro's good luck anyone who tackles them from the east. If you plan to walk from the Affric car park Naismith estimates it will take about 3hrs 20mins each way.
Next is a drive up to Craig tomorrow (Friday) morning.

Re: Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 6:27 pm
That's the way I did these. :shock: Glad I'm not the only one that found the day tough!! :lol: :lol: ....I remember using the bike to just prop me up on the walk / bike out ! .....think I only got on it for the downhil bits! ...I was shattered ! :think: .....sounds like you're on a bit of a mission at the mo' Martin

Re: Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 7:54 pm
by Fife Flyer
It doesn't get much tougher than that, as I said the walking easy :lol: :lol:
When are you planning to compleat? I hope to finish before August :wink: Assuming the trip to Skye works out as planned :roll:

Re: Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 11:08 pm
by martin.h
Super report Martin, lovely photo's as usual, it's a very useful one as well, we are planning to stay around Cannich in June 2017 and are hoping to include these three in our plans, thanks for the info and idea's.

Good luck on the Mullardoch four tomorrow :D

Re: Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 5:25 pm
by simon-b
A tough day indeed. Great pictures Martin. Thanks for the tips for 'anyone' planning to walk in from the east...

Re: Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 12:55 pm
by BlackPanther
Aaah you beat me to this route. I've had this bike/hike in mind for a while. Hopefully this year. But we will be living bikes in Atnamulloch :lol: Luckily, we can skip An Socach as we had climbed it as a winter walk a few years back.

Re: Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 1:16 pm
by Fife Flyer
BlackPanther wrote:Aaah you beat me to this route. I've had this bike/hike in mind for a while. Hopefully this year. But we will be living bikes in Atnamulloch :lol: Luckily, we can skip An Socach as we had climbed it as a winter walk a few years back.

The hills are fantastic and An Socach is an up & down in 30mins from the bealach :lol:
If you are taking bikes it is worth taking them at least a couple of miles after Atnamulloch, the track is certainly not as good but there are parts that are bikeable (if that is such a word). At least you can moan at Kevin, I could only curse and moan at myself :lol: :lol:

Re: Walking - Superb, Cycling - Agony

PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2016 3:39 pm
by Guinessman
Got this bike and hike planned soon. Did you find this biking harder than the biking into Maiolle Lunnaidh or easier. I did the latter in April so would be interested to know.