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Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndaidh

Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndaidh


Postby dogplodder » Thu Jun 09, 2016 11:50 pm

Route description: Maoile Lunndaidh

Munros included on this walk: Maoile Lunndaidh

Date walked: 30/05/2016

Time taken: 10.5 hours

Distance: 26 km

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Way back in May 2009 I climbed Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a' Chaorachain with Moira and Evelyn. It was one of those memorable days with blue skies, sunshine, snow edged ridges and heavenly views over the sea to Skye. We walked along the ridge between the two with big smiles on our faces and to this day I can still feel the joy of it.

The two Sgurrs climbed in 2009
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=15264

As most folk do when they're on hills, we talked about other hills, and Moira told me about her very fit friend who had cycled further east to get access to Maoile Lunndaidh. So it was firmly etched into my pysche that ML was for bikes or tents and not for walking to by only averagely fit, pushing on in age mortals like me.

Since I have no burning need or ambition to climb every Munro, Maoile Lunndaidh was thus relegated to the ones I would probably leave. That was until I'd climbed all the Munros that didn't require a long drive to get to and I revisited the idea. Maybe it wouldn't be too far to walk in by the same route as the two Sgurrs and return all in the same day? Or maybe it would be possible to access it from Strathconon. It did look tantalising close when we climbed Bac an Eich a few weeks ago.

Zoomed to Maoile Lunndaidh from Bac an Eich on 7th May
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In the end it happened by accident. Ian who was up for a week's Munro bagging from Yorkshire and a plan was hatched to climb Seana Bhraigh with Ian and James on Monday 30th May. I know, that's another remote one but ones mind turns to long treks in the days of long daylight!

Only snag was we needed good visibility for navigating Seana Bhraigh and as the day got nearer the forecast went downhill and I had to find something else Ian hadn't done that wasn't too far away. So the lot fell on Maoile Lunndaidh and I decided not to send James the WH link with talk of swampy, awkward terrain and a steep climb through heather. His last serious hill was The Saddle in 2012 and I didn't want to put him off.

Finding the Achnashellach forest car park proved not to be as easy as I remembered it to be when I came with Moira and Evelyn. We saw a sign for Achnashellach hostel but I insisted there was a sign for the car park, as mentioned in WH. So we drove on looking for it until we'd gone about 5 miles too far and had to turn back. Not my finest hour - although in my defence there is no longer any roadside sign to the forest car park which hides on the north side of the road at Craig.

We set off across the railway track and made good time along the track up the glen. As we gained height we didn't get the views back to Fuar Tholl, Sgurr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor because the cloud was down. But we were confident the cloud would burn off and that by midday we'd see them - and a lot more besides.

What I didn't immediately realise was that it was 30th May 2009 I had walked this track to the two Sgurrs and here I was exactly 7 years later, to the day, heading for their remoter neighbour. With all the variables there are with dates, weather and hills I could never have planned something like that and it was strangely satisfying to discover it!

Maoile Lunndaidh is one of those hills that gets a bit of a bad press. It's a long way to walk to from any direction, it's surrounded by energy sapping bogs and it involves an unrelentingly steep climb up through heather. To be honest on the distance front we found it wasn't a problem without bikes because the good track allows a good speed of walking. The other concern I had was the boggy terrain so when we met two campers walking out we asked how they'd found it. They had looked at the WH route but didn't fancy it and recommended we keep walking east past the lodge, before taking a right turn and heading for a path up by a stream which is WH's suggested descent route. If we did that we would only have one river crossing instead of three.

First sign of lumpy peat hag country that surrounds Maoile Lunndaidh like a protective moat
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Glenuaig Lodge straight ahead
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We continued to the lodge but were lured into following an ATV track heading towards the river, rather than continuing east which the two guys had advised us to do. Once over the river we were into bogs and peat hags but it had been so dry it wasn't the obstacle it might have been after a wet spell. This led to a second burn crossing and then a third - so what the two guys had told us about three crossings was spot on.

Approaching second burn crossing
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We had a little drama at the third crossing when James leaned over to offer me a hand up the steep bank and his specs in plastic wallet fell out of the top of his rucksack and floated off downstream. He scrambled down after them but the open ended wallet quickly filled with water and sank out of sight. You have to understand these weren't an old pair of glasses one might take hill walking just in case; they were his good pair. So this was not a good situation. He kept sticking his hand into the swirling water between the rocks and after a few fruitless trawls rescued them from what might have been their watery grave until the end of time. We were all slightly euphoric after that.

The babbling brook that nearly claimed the specs
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The moral of the tale is not to forget to fasten the top of ones rucksack. And secondly, not to bother being chivalrous trying to help women at river crossings as it will probably backfire and no good come of it!

Once on the east side of the burn we found a sketchy path that led up towards a break in the ridge, passing a bonny waterfall on the way.

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View into Fuar-tholl Mor corrie and another waterfall
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James following Ian up to the ridge
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Fuar-tholl Mor corrie
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Looking back to the lodge and the way we had come
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The going on the ridge changed from grassy to rocky as we approached the summit plateau
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Zoomed to Coulin peaks
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Ian and James at summit cairn
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Cornice poised and ready to go
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View SE to Loch Monar and beyond to Strathfarrars and Mullardochs
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Easy walking on summit plateau towards Mica Ridge
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View to the Torridon big boys
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We roughly followed WH's ascent route for our descent, which was easy walking to start with but became steeper and lumpier and seemed to go on for a long long time!

Start of the pathless descent
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Not wanting to become an ankle statistic I lagged behind on this section
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I suggested instead of cutting across the peat hagged area with the three crossings we head due north straight for the Pollan Buidhe, before turning left for the lodge. I'm not sure if the guys thought this was a good idea or not but they humoured me and that's the way we went. The river was easy to cross on boulders and we headed uphill to find the path that continues towards Glen Strathconon.

East towards Glen Strathconon
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Our descent route was down shoulder on left but we wondered if might have been better on right hand shoulder?
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James' feet were sore so I suggested dunking them in cold water and shortly after the lodge we stopped at a burn for emergency foot treatment. He stuck both of his in and I put only my right foot in as a controlled experiment to see if it made a difference. After the initial shock of cold water on hot sweaty feet it was bliss!

Interestingly as a result of the numbing from fresh Highland water therapy my right foot felt pretty good but as the miles wore on my left foot felt increasingly hot and prickly with sore skin on the big toe joint. Not a conclusive experiment as my left foot might have been worse anyway. The next time I'll try it the other way round.

The long trek out
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Coulin Forest now visible which it wasn't in the morning
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Maoile Lundaidh is now up there with the best of my memorable hill days. Its waterfalls, dramatic corries and stunning views from an easy to walk on summit plateau more than compensate for the difficulties. And on the day we went, after a long dry spell, they weren't great difficulties at all.
Last edited by dogplodder on Fri Jun 10, 2016 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby jamesb63 » Fri Jun 10, 2016 8:01 am

Very nice report Dogplodder ,I always like new reports on hills ive still got to do :D
I think we have all forgot to zip up the top of the rucksack at times :lol:
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby basscadet » Fri Jun 10, 2016 11:04 am

Nice report, and well done for putting n all those miles at once! :clap: - its quite a good hill really - big plateau of boringness, but the corries really are amazing :D
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Fri Jun 10, 2016 11:36 am

Having done this a week after you on a gloriously hot day I would not malign this hill at all - it was great fun (although I share BC's sentiments about the plateau) ... but my advice to anyone who hasn't ventured here is keep it for dry weather. Loved your report and pics DP - really clear, mine are hazy :clap: :clap: . Glad James got his specs back, that could happen to any of us! (well not the chivalrous bit!). Those burns are beautiful and were one of the joys about Maoile Lunndaidh. Bertie did a tremendous leap over one of them, so it will be forever known to us as Bertie's Leap. :lol: :lol: If I ever get time I may write it up!
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby Gordie12 » Fri Jun 10, 2016 11:59 am

Hi Dogplodder

Having a quick peak at new reports before heading down to Yorkshire for another long distance walk (just as the weather seems to be breaking :( )

This looks interesting and it's good to know I share my car parking "navigational issues" with other peeps :lol:

Interesting experiment with the feet, I'll expect regular updates in future reports :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby past my sell by date » Fri Jun 10, 2016 5:53 pm

Great report and pics. In the "old days"(when I did Choinnich and Chaorachain) you could drive for over a km beyond the level crossing and park at the top of the woods. Later when I did ML I got a lift with the stalker almost to Glenuaig lodge :D
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby litljortindan » Fri Jun 10, 2016 6:27 pm

A long walk but great views and, for me, the perfect balance of blue sky and cloud.
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Jun 10, 2016 6:35 pm

Funny, we almost crossed paths :D :D We visited Maoile last Tuesday!

We took bikes all the way up the track and left them near the small patch of forest. Climbed in the opposite direction to you. Views were superb, but on the summit we almost got caught by a horrible storm!

Will be posting my account in a few days - watch this space!
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby dogplodder » Sat Jun 11, 2016 6:58 pm

jamesb63 wrote:
I think we have all forgot to zip up the top of the rucksack at times :lol:


Guilty as charged. :wink:
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby dogplodder » Sat Jun 11, 2016 10:20 pm

basscadet wrote:Nice report, and well done for putting n all those miles at once! :clap: - its quite a good hill really - big plateau of boringness, but the corries really are amazing :D


Must be strange, but I liked the boring plateau. :wink:
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby skawt100 » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:21 am

Nice to see you got the views! I have read many of your walk reports over the past few years.

My friend and I passed you on the walk in. I had asked about the descent off Sgurr a'Chaorachain, turns out it was as steep and awkward as I suspected.

We spent our entire walk in the clouds but when we dropped out of them we could see pretty much every hill east through north to west was clear!
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby simon-b » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:56 am

Nice you got the views, DP. It's an interesting hill, but I got clag on the summit plateau. I agree the walk in and out is easy and makes the distance manageable. 12 days before you, I did it from Craig with the 2 Sgurrs in mixed weather. Starting and finishing on a nice dry track is a bonus. And your own day on the Sgurrs - memories of great walks 7 years ago last, don't they? 2009 has been mentioned by a few WH members during the last week or so. Another coincidence with dates.
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby pollyh33 » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:58 pm

Kathleen thank you so much for posting such a well detailed report. :clap: :clap:

We were supposed to climb ML after descending the two Sgurrs but the visibility was nil and the grass very steep and slippy. :( :(

So what do you suggest would be the best route for me to take? I'm hoping to head back up there very soon. :D
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jun 13, 2016 11:20 am

pollyh33 wrote:Kathleen thank you so much for posting such a well detailed report. :clap: :clap:

We were supposed to climb ML after descending the two Sgurrs but the visibility was nil and the grass very steep and slippy. :( :(

So what do you suggest would be the best route for me to take? I'm hoping to head back up there very soon. :D


Hi Pauline! I'll jump to answering you in case you're planning on doing it this week in the cloud and rain! :lol:

I think we were happier going up the path by the burn than we would have been slogging up the broad shoulder we came down. I guess it's just personal choice whether you prefer the pathless slope through heather and grass going up or going down. :think:

There's another completely different way to approach ML, that might be worth considering, from Loch Monar in Glen Strathfarrar. Here's a link to it. My pals Moira and Evelyn are thinking of going this way.

http://www.richardkermode.co.uk/2014/11/maoile-lunndaidh-from-glen-strathfarrar/

Looking forward to hearing how you do it! :D
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Re: Spectacular day on the sometimes maligned Maoile Lunndai

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jun 13, 2016 7:57 pm

Huff_n_Puff wrote:Having done this a week after you on a gloriously hot day I would not malign this hill at all - it was great fun (although I share BC's sentiments about the plateau) ... but my advice to anyone who hasn't ventured here is keep it for dry weather. Loved your report and pics DP - really clear, mine are hazy :clap: :clap: . Glad James got his specs back, that could happen to any of us! (well not the chivalrous bit!). Those burns are beautiful and were one of the joys about Maoile Lunndaidh. Bertie did a tremendous leap over one of them, so it will be forever known to us as Bertie's Leap. :lol: :lol: If I ever get time I may write it up!


Will Bertie's Leap have a plaque? Hope you get time to write this one up as I for one would like to read it! :D
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