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Fun threesome on the way to WH Kintail Meet
by J888ohn » Mon Oct 31, 2016 5:48 pm
Route description: A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire
Munros included on this walk: A' Chralaig, Ciste Dhubh, Mullach Fraoch-choire
Date walked: 28/10/2016
Time taken: 6.9 hours
Distance: 18.2 km
Ascent: 1790m6 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).
So who clicked on this expecting scandal from the Walk Highlands KIntail meet?????
BIg Tommo and I had 8 munros left to get a sea of blue pins across Glen Shiel and we were determined to get them all this weekend which meant doing these three on the way to the hostel on Friday.
We parked up in the large layby on the north side of the road just before the Cluanie Inn. There were already a few cars here as fellow Walk Highlanders had posted that they were tackling Ciste Dhubh but we weren't as keen as others to get up at 5am to start walking at 9am so it was 11am before we got here. Still plenty of space though.
We had to walk east along the side of the road to the start of the path which is signposted for A'Chralaig so it's really hard to miss. There is also no gentle introduction to this munro as the path goes straight up from the start It's also boggy and muddy so the gaiters were a must! The advantage of the steep path was that height was gained quickly and as the weather forecast was proving to be utterly wrong (we'd expected low cloud and rain but we got sun and high cloud) the views along the glen with the autumn colours was lovely.
The view west across the munros started to appear quickly and Ciste Dhubh yet again looked much further away than it did on the map. This munro had foiled us when we did the Brothers and Sisters in one day last year (in truth the pub was more appealing ) and if we left it today we'd have another annoying single to do miles from home.
It really didn't take long to break the back of the climb up A'Chralaig, just over 50 minutes, and we could see the first target ahead.
The grey cloud was starting to gather and I begun to wonder if the forecast had been just a bit delayed but this stayed above the summits the whole day and every now and again the sun would break through it in big beams to the ground.
The path now was easy going. It was a gradual slope along some grass and rocks with the summit clearly distinguishable as we could see the massive cairn from a mile away! It was cold up here though and the one thing the weather was right about was the wind. It was gusty and got stronger as the day went on causing Big Tommo to do his best "Scott of the Antarctic" impression to try to keep out the cold.....
He had put on an extra top too whereas I had decided not to. This was not a good idea as when we got to the summit of A'Chralaig it was particularly chilly so I had to quickly have a wardrobe rearrangement to get a bit warmer. I have pretty bad circulation in my fingers at the best of times so this made them even colder, even with gloves on, and meant I had to endure ages of freezing then throbbing fingers which would explain my look in this photo on the way to Mullach Fraoch-choire
The views from the summit of A'Chralaig were amazing. We also got our only view of Saturday's targets Sail Chaorainn, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Carn Ghluasaid and the ridge connecting them to A'Chralaig. Our original plan was to do these 5 together and do Ciste Dhubh as a single on the Friday. Glad we didn't as on Saturday we couldn't see far, let alone find this ridge!
The initial climb down from A'Chralaig was steep and rocky and required a bit of care.
I kept looking at the Na Geurdain ridge to the summit of Mullach and from this angle didn't think much of it. Looked like nothing and another hyped up ridge like the little one in the Ring of Steall. Anyway we wandered along the path which meanders round the edge of the coire. Nothing much to report here apart from the wind picking up and me eventually getting the feeling back in my fingers. Then we got the side on view of the ridge. One thought went through my head......b*****ks.......
It's actually not hard at all. There is a good path that zig zags around the pinnacles although at one stage this was right on the edge of a considerable drop and climbed very steeply up to a gap between them. A fall here would've been pretty nasty. We made the summit with no dramas. The sun and blue sky had started to come out again so the views were awesome once more.
Now for the task of adding in Ciste Dhubh to this walk. I'd done some research on this and there is not one walk report on WH where someone has done this as a three in a day. The only ones I could find were by Mrs Santa and Mountain Love who had done the whole of the north side of Glen Shiel in a one go (nutters!!!) They had also taken very different approaches to our next munro. Both had descended from Mullach back along the ridge then down the exit path which goes down some steepish scree into Coire Odhar, as we did. Moutain Love had opted for a route 1 slog up the side of Ciste Dhubh whilst Mrs Santa had aimed for a route to Bealach a'Choinich in between Am Bathach and Ciste Dhubh.
The later was the plan we had agreed to however I had looked at the side of Ciste Dhubh and thought it was definitely dooable, but thought Big Tommo would lynch me if I suggested it. To my surprise he then piped up with the same idea. We had a look and thought if we aimed for the big peat bogs in the middle of the next pic, go straight up the grassy slope then aim to the right a bit there was a shoulder that led to the summit avoiding the cliffs on the left. This is exactly what we did and for once it went to plan!!!!!
Not that it was easy, it was an utter slog. I wear a heart rate monitor and usually for hiking I get no higher than 110bpm, this took me up to 178bpm! Big Tommo was not enjoying the climb and I refrained from reminding him it was his idea, until we got to the top.......
The advantage to this route was it saved time and distance. We were conscious of the time, not only to get to the Hostel and start drinking, erm I mean meet everyone..........., but of it getting dark too. Only took us an hour and 15 mins to climb from the bottom of the glen at 378m to the summit at 979m. The route off towards Am Bathach looked awesome but unfortunately I couldn't get any nice shots of the sun setting on the hills due to the cloud cover.
There was a great path off of Ciste Dhubh but after the climb up to the summit we didn't have the legs to tackle Am Bathach so we had to do the boggy exit path through An Chaorann Beag, and boy was it boggy! We just kept marching through it and we've both invested in really good boots and gaiters so it wasn't really an issue for us. I thought this path would drop us at the Cluanie Inn so I had said to Big Tommo to just go in and get us a table and I would wander along the road for the car. Instead it took us round Am Bathach and back to the road on the other side of the layby. We got to the road just as the light faded so had to use our head torches for the last bit.
We didn't see a soul all day despite all the cars in the morning and were the last to leave the layby. This is definitely a good day trip to get the three whether you take the route 1 approach or the way Mrs Santa went to the bealach. It saves having Ciste Dhubh left as that awkward annoying single red pin on your map!
by Graeme D » Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:34 pm
by pollyh33 » Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:47 pm
Thanks for posting such awesome photos.
I did these hills by myself completely in clag so I missed out on those views .
On the plus side I was also spared the mega scary sight of that ridge.
Totally agree about the walk out, so so boggy. Just has to be heid doon and get on with it!
by Jaxter » Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:37 am
Drinking and scandal at a WH meet? What on earth are you talking about...
by J888ohn » Tue Nov 01, 2016 7:43 pm
Graeme D wrote:Very nice TR John. Now I see just how much Pat and I were short changed on A'Chralaig and MFC the following day!
Cheers Graeme. I wouldn't have fancied these on Sat, glad we saved them for Friday.
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