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Thunder and lightning... it's getting exciting!
by BlackPanther » Thu Jun 16, 2016 11:48 am
Route description: Maoile Lunndaidh
Munros included on this walk: Maoile Lunndaidh
Date walked: 07/06/2016
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 29 km
Ascent: 1186m5 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Maoile Lunndaidh has been on the list for ages, precisely since we climbed Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain. Rather than following the traditional route, we descended via Sron Frianich towards Glenuaig Lodge, and walked all the way back along the Allt a'Chonais track. Maoile Lunndaidh was so close, but we didn't have enough daylight to include it in the traverse. We decided that day, that we were going to use bikes for the Big Wet Hill, and possibly choose a dry day to make going easier.
And the day has eventually arrived!
Our plan was to cycle from Craig to Glenuaig Lodge, dump the bikes there and climb ML in the classic circular traverse, up Carn nam Fiaclan first. It turned out to be an exciting day for many reasons!
The start in Craig was far from exciting though. As soon as we jumped out of the car, we were attacked by a huge swarm of midges. They were everywhere, we actually breathed them in and choked on them! We got back in the car and used half a bottle of repellent before getting out again and preparing the bikes.
Thank heavens, when we started cycling, the wee b*****ds left us alone.
It was a glorious morning, blue sky and lovely sunshine, but we expected more hot and humid weather later. So far, we enjoyed views north to Torridon and pushing our cycles up the steep track along Allt a'Chonais (now I understand the meaning of the word PUSHBIKE )
Thankfully, the steeper section didn't last long and it's worth the effort, for once in the upper glen, it's mostly flat cycling to the base of Maoile Lunndadih. Flat doesn't mean comfortable though, some quite stony sections, where my head bobbed up and down like a yo-yo on the string I did surprisingly well as for the utterly rubbish cyclist I am!
Looks easy, but beware of stony sections:
We passed a small plantation and about half a km before the lodge, we left bikes by a stack of old logs:
The first stage requires a bit of up and down across the lump of Sron na Frianich. In wet weather this would be a nightmare but we didn't encounter any bog whatsoever. Hallelujah, a dry Scottish summer AT LAST!!!
We crossed An Crom-allt, stopped here to refill bottles as weather has turned into sauna again. I spotted a frog hopping away and suggested Kevin to kiss it, but he wasn't interested...
"The poor sod would have a heart attack! How would you feel if a 100m giant picked you up?"
"Well, the only giant I can see is the one in front of us" I answered "The Green Giant."
Yes, Maoile Lunndadih looked surprisingly green and "juicy" compare to the brown, heathery slopes of Inverey hills. Back then I was convinced i found a good title for my report: "The Green Giant", but circumstances changed later on...
The climb to Carn nam Fiaclan is one, long, painful push, no path, but the slopes are rather grassy so going wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.
After about 400m of relentless slopes, we reached more gentle ground, with scattered stones and lovely views opened up around us. We were close to the dome of the Green Giant.
The big, northern corrie, Fuar Tholl Mor, is simply stunning when seen from above:
Can't wait to tick off my 188th!
The "upper half" of Fuar Tholl Mor corrie has two more lochans and some interesting crags:
We noticed, as we emerged on the flat summit plateau, that weather was beginning to change - cloud gathered up everywhere, though it looked benign at this stage:
...but something was cookin' to the east!
As long as we had good light for photos, we snapped pictures. The view down to the northern corrie is breathtaking from any angle, but the best from near the lower summit (Creag Toll a'Choin, 1005m on 1-25k map):
The last remnants of winter... (winter???how can you think about winter on this cooking pot of a day!!!):
Looking down the corrie:
We reached the lower top. A small cairn is situated close to the cliffs of another corrie, Toll a Choin. This pano picture shows it in full glory:
The cloud was thickening and Kevin kept glancing worryingly to the east... Hurry up, Panther!
And he had a good reason to be worried. Whereas the western sky was still relatively bright, Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain basking in sunshine...
...in the south, stormy weather was charging on!
The southern cloud was still far away from us, and the wind was blowing from the NW, but just to the east of Maoile Lunndaidh, right over Strathconnon Corbetts, another front was developing:
Kevin still smiling, but he knew we had precious little time left!
The cloud was moving slowly, but as we walked towards the summit cairn, we heard the first thunder... Bang! It wasn't very loud at the moment, but this was only the prelude.
By the time we reached the cairn, we were actually in the shadow, like under spreading wings of a giant raven. The air was humid, almost suffocating... As I posed for my summit photo (Munro no. 188), despite a wide smile, I was aware of the danger behind me...
Here comes the thunderstorm!
In the few minutes we spent on the summit, the cloud was growing bigger and darker every second and the bangs of thunders became more frequent...
I don't know why he is laughing
In less than 20 minutes we went from bright, blue sky to almost total darkness!
At this point I admit, I felt a cramp in my stomach. So far, it was "oh, look, a storm is coming, he he he, let's take some photos of the cloud!" attitude, now it turned to "oh, sh*t this is really happening!"
It was time to go now, and go quickly. The worst thing to do is wait for the storm by the summit cairn!
Before leaving, we decided to pull out our waterproof gear, as we were certain we'd be drenched in a minute. So waterproof trousers, coats and rucksack cover came into use. I kept glancing towards the charging storm...
We left the summit and walked briskly downhill, towards the col (759m). The slopes are rocky to begin with, but soon we hit easier, grassy ground and picked up speed. The first drops of rain fell as we descended and we prepared ourselves mentally for the drenching. Lightning flashed right behind us and soon came the thunder - long and deep thud! We looked up - the cloud was basically hanging on the rim of the corrie (no photos sadly, cameras were inside rucksacks for protection) and then we realized, that good, old Green Giant had actually STOPPED the storm from reaching us! Drops of rain were few and far between, soon it stopped altogether. The sound effects from behind us kept coming as we descended, but the storm was halted by the ridge of Maoille Lunndaidh. Oh, thank you, thank you, Green Giant!!!
We stopped for a breather when we reached the deep gorge of Allt an Fhuar-thuill Mhor, a lovely spot by itself. We have walked away from the shadow of the nasty cloud and the world was beginning to look bright again! We took off waterproof jackets, at it was too hot and humid to stand them any longer!
The gorge from above:
The remnants of the storm above the Green Giant:
All puffed up in my overtrousers
We found a path, descending from here, along the stream. It offered easy going, in fact, we decided to stick to it all the way down to the bottom of the glen, rather than cut across to An Crom-allt as WH route suggest:
Looking up at our descent route along the stream, the cloud has now moved away from the Green Giant...
...but further east, in Glen Strathconnon, it was firing on all cylinders. Hope, nobody was climbing Strathconnon Corbetts that Tuesday!
In wet conditions, I wouldn't recommend our variation of descent, as it crosses some very boggy, soft ground. Luckily, after all that dry weather, there was little moisture in the ground left, so we walked the mossy meadows without any problems. We crossed the river (almost no water in it) and headed for Glenuaig Lodge. When we reached our bikes, I noticed another storm boiling up over the Sgurrs:
We hopped on our bikes and rolled down the glen, much faster now as it was all downhill. Just as we neared the final, steeper section of the track, it started raining. It wasn't a thunderstorm, just a heavy shower, but it seemed persistent, so we stopped again, to dress up in waterproofs for the second time that day. The final ride back to Craig was a wet experience, but in a weird way I enjoyed it
The last accord of this long story... Back in Craig, we had to battle the midges while we put our bikes back on the bike frame. 10 minutes of sheer hell! They didn't mind rain, didn't mind repellent, they bit through t-shirts, through socks. What a nasty breed of midges that was!!! When we got home, my calves and ankles were so swollen and itchy, I almost cried!
But I'm a stubborn cat. Good, old Germolene cream soothed the bites overnight, and the next day we set off for another adventure, a great Corbett-Graham combo in the beautiful area of Sutherland. We didn't encounter any storms this time, but we witnessed breathtaking cloud inversion! TR to come soon.
by dogplodder » Thu Jun 16, 2016 12:53 pm
Those skies look so different to the day before when we were there. Glad the Green Giant protected you from the worst of the storm. I think between us we've had a good go at improving ML's sometimes negative reputation!
by steverabone » Thu Jun 16, 2016 3:13 pm
The power of nature is sometimes awe-inspiring and whilst this has made me very wary of being out in a storm I'm glad i've experienced it. Mind you a few days later I really suffered quite a bad, almost emotional, feeling of "what if it had gone wrong"...
Fasntastic photos which really show the evilness of the approaching weather.
by SAVAGEALICE » Thu Jun 16, 2016 4:06 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Fri Jun 17, 2016 9:00 pm
by BlackPanther » Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:32 pm
ML has recently been popular with Walkhighlanders and rightly so. It's a superb hill and the remote location only adds to its splendour. The Green Giant definitely needs some positive feedback!
BTW I'm out again to climb another hill (hopefully my 190th Munro). If all goes well, I'm going to be 4 reports behind