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Journey to the Omphalos of the NW Highlands

Journey to the Omphalos of the NW Highlands


Postby weaselmaster » Sun Aug 28, 2016 10:40 pm

Fionas included on this walk: An Cruachan, Càrn na Breabaig, Carnan Cruithneachd

Date walked: 23/08/2016

Time taken: 18.25 hours

Distance: 55.7 km

Ascent: 2668m

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The start of 6 days off in the hills. Allison had been out for 3 weeks, in Belgian lands and so forth and had lost her hill-fitness. Up until Sunday I had been planning to head over to Knoydart and the Glenfinnan area for some Grahams - steep and rugged in that part of the country. However our outing on Tullich Hill suggested that it might be wise to reconsider the targets and make them a bit less challenging. So that night I was up planning routes around Kintail and Torridon so that we could head off the next afternoon. Whew!


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For the first instalment I decided she did need to be pushed a little and planned a 55k overnighter to take in An Cruachan - a remote Graham at the western end of the Mullardoch range, Carn na Breabag and Carnan Cruithneachd en route. Much of the way was via good track from Glen Elchaig to Iron Lodge and indeed, if one were to make use of a bicycle, it could be completed without the overnight being required. But we don't bike. I drove up late on Monday afternoon, stopping at Shiel Bridge Campsite and having probably the best fish & chips in the Highlands at the Kintail Lodge before settling down for the night. Tuesday morning was overcast but warm and we left the car at the parking area at the start of the Killilan Estate. I was a bit concerned about stalking given the time of year.

ImageP1130559 by Al, on Flickr

I rather like the look of the Killilan Estate, from the broad old trees to the ever so slightly deep red that the phone box, post box and window frames etc are painted. It always seems peaceful and tidy. it is quite a pleasant walk along the track, following the River Elchaig along to Loch na Leitreach and the house at Carnach. Across on our right was the impressive face of Carnan Cruithneachd - Mountain of the Picts which awaited us on the return leg. I'd climbed this in foul weather 3 years ago and remembered it as being rather steep.

ImageP1130561 by Al, on Flickr

Loch na Leitreach
ImageP1130563 by Al, on Flickr

When we neared Iron Lodge the bulldozed track up the first part of carn na Breabag was evident. We crossed the bridge and skirted around the buildings to join the path steadily ascending til we met the stream, at which point we continued up the left bank of the stream. Grass, heather, steady work. The views back along Glen Elchaig were sweet. Once we were on the top section it was a matter of looking over to the long NW spur of Sgurr na Ceathreamhnan with Mullach na Dheiragain beyond. Fond Mullardoch memories :D We reached the summit of Breabag just as the rain started and the clouds descended but not before we caught sight of Loch Mullardoch. We next dropped down the nothern slopes of Breabag, making for the track which would take us along past Loch Mhoicean and onwards to An Cruachan.

Breabag ahead
ImageP1130564 by Al, on Flickr

Iron Lodge, Cruithneathd backdrop
ImageP1130566 by Al, on Flickr

View back along the valley
ImageP1130567 by Al, on Flickr

Ceathreamhnan
ImageP1130568 by Al, on Flickr

Loch Mullardoch
ImageP1130570 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Breabag
ImageP1130572 by Al, on Flickr

Descent to the track
ImageP1130574 by Al, on Flickr

Loch Mhoicean, An Cruachan behind
ImageP1130575 by Al, on Flickr

After passing the loch, the path became rather indistinct. A cairn marked the place to cross the outflow stream and continue on the boggy slopes of Coire nan Each, where the arm of An Socach continues along to terminate in An Cruachan - the Little Heap. As we walked by the curves of the Allt Coire nan Each it did seem sensible to pitch the tent and leave the unneccessary stuff, rather than lug it up and down the mountain. As we were including the Simm Beinn Bheag it would mean that we had another 7 or 8 km to go, but I was fairly sure we'd manage that before tiredness claimed us. The other consideration was whether pitching high - in the bealach between Cruachan and Bheag - might spare us midge visitation, but it would mean a longer walk on the morrow. We pitched in the valley and continued up An Cruachan.

Cruachan
ImageP1130577 by Al, on Flickr

Ascend by the grassy section
ImageP1130579 by Al, on Flickr

Aonach Bhuidhe behind
ImageP1130581 by Al, on Flickr

The last section onto the summit of An Cruachan is steep. Once there I was greeted by a large cairn. I gazed around - from every side the glens and rivers seemed to converge on An Cruachan - Loch Calavie, Loch Monar, Loch Mullardoch, Loch Cruoshie and there was a strong feeling of being right at the centre, the navel, of something. Unfortunately the clag was down and the pictures don't show this impression, but it felt strong standing there. Allison caught up with me, we admired the view then set off on the couple of km to the summit of Beinn Bheag. We startled some deer near the top and enjoyed a watery view over to Loch Monar.


Weasel at the Omphalos
ImageP1130585 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Bheag
ImageP1130587 by Al, on Flickr

Loch Monar
ImageP1130592 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130593 by Al, on Flickr

Coming down from Beinn Bheag back to the track was quite arduous and very wet underfoot. Once on the track the rain had abated but the still air was filled with midges. I don't often walk with my midge net on, but I did this time. We were dreading the situation once we got to the tent, but at least it was already pitched. After a seemingly endless plod we got back to the tent, Allison crept inside whilst I attempted to make the tea. This was a challenge! There were so many midges the air was black with them. I got the food into the pot and noticed that they formed a solid pillar above the stove - I guess the alcohol burned produces CO2 which attracts them. I resorted to midge net, waterproofs and gloves and just about made the tea, though the midge content of the noodles & veg was quite high. I retreated inside the tent and vowed not to go out again - no coffee, no morning porridge, just the dread of midges.

Wet descent
ImageP1130594 by Al, on Flickr

Entering Midge Hell
ImageP1130595 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130596 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130597 by Al, on Flickr

We lay there after eating our tea, tired but traumatised from the tiny menaces. The air hummed with the drone of a billion midge wings, like a demented choir of insects bent on feeding off us. Allison was somewhat preoccupied trying to kill every last midge that had got in the tent. I had to tell her to stop and get some sleep. It was a long night :lol: The morning brought no respite and we donned protective gear before packing up the tent and munching a trek bar as we walked. Fortunately it was a glorious morning and the worst of the midges were soon left behind. We retraced our steps to Breabag, glowing green in the morning sunlight, then continued on the track down to Iron Lodge. Up ahead the prow of Cruithneathd loomed large - more like a munro than a pesky Graham really.

An Cruachan in morning sun
ImageP1130598 by Al, on Flickr

Breabag
ImageP1130601 by Al, on Flickr

Passing Loch Mhoicean, Cruithneathd ahead
ImageP1130602 by Al, on Flickr

View along Glen Elchaig
ImageP1130604 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130607 by Al, on Flickr

We continued down past Carnach and along to the track that heads up to the Falls of Glomach - across the bridge and along the start of this path. It would be possible to continue up past the Falls to the Bealach na Sroine and approach the mountain from behind, but where would be the fun in that? Oh no - we headed steeply up the crag-fenced slopes of the NE shoulder, grappling with mossy rocks and tree stumps until coming out onto flatter ground. We paused for a reviving bite to eat then headed over to Suie Dhu Top. Even from here the final ascent to the summit of Cruithneathd appeared steep and unforgiving. It was easier than it looked however and we were soon ensconced at the summit cairn. We could see a large group of goats on the crags further along as we walked across the summit plateau to pick our descent route.

Steep ascent
ImageP1130608 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130609 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130610 by Al, on Flickr

Top of Suie Dhu looking at summit of Cruithneathd
ImageP1130613 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130619 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130620 by Al, on Flickr


Down at Bealach Con we decided to take the track that leads across the lower northern slopes of the mountain rather than risk crags on the descent to the NW shoulder. Probably wise, if a bit longer. There was a river wade to do, but it was only ankle deep in most places. Back on the track we enjoyed a sunny end to the afternoon as we returned to the car. I hadn't been sure which order to do the other routes I had planned, but the sunshine suggested we get to Applecross tonight.

ImageP1130624 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1130625 by Al, on Flickr
weaselmaster
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 2445
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Location: Greenock

Re: Journey to the Omphalos of the NW Highlands

Postby pollyh33 » Mon Aug 29, 2016 1:46 am

Al what on earth happened??

This report started so well, Graham bagging was looking a dawdle. You had wonderful tracks through a pristine estates. There were magnificently named Iron Lodges. There were giant cairns, trig points and lochs everywhere! :D :D

And then the real story of bagging Grahams was revealed- bogs, disappearing paths, Flight of the Valkyries- midge stylie and potential ankle breaking descents through crags and heather!!! :( :(

Oh dear oh dear, oh well at least it was only 55K- could have been worse!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:


PS loved this report- well done :thumbup:
User avatar
pollyh33
Walker
 
Posts: 2577
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Location: Rutherglen

Re: Journey to the Omphalos of the NW Highlands

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Aug 29, 2016 8:35 am

pollyh33 wrote:Al what on earth happened??

This report started so well, Graham bagging was looking a dawdle. You had wonderful tracks through a pristine estates. There were magnificently named Iron Lodges. There were giant cairns, trig points and lochs everywhere! :D :D

And then the real story of bagging Grahams was revealed- bogs, disappearing paths, Flight of the Valkyries- midge stylie and potential ankle breaking descents through crags and heather!!! :( :(

Oh dear oh dear, oh well at least it was only 55K- could have been worse!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:


PS loved this report- well done :thumbup:


Polly - I'm afraid that's grahams for you. As Allison was saying to me - you never get high enough to get out of the bog or away from the midges on these hills :lol:
weaselmaster
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 2445
Munros:277   Corbetts:220
Fionas:205   Donalds:75+31
Sub 2000:395   Hewitts:33
Wainwrights:15   Islands:33
Joined: Aug 22, 2012
Location: Greenock

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