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Wintry Tom a'Choinnich - There ain't no Easy Way Out.

Wintry Tom a'Choinnich - There ain't no Easy Way Out.


Postby Cairngorm creeper » Wed Nov 23, 2016 12:31 pm

Munros included on this walk: Tom a'Choinich

Date walked: 21/11/2016

Distance: 15.4 km

Ascent: 923m

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This walk to Tom a'Choinnich was our first in Glen Affric. We thought that the standard route up via Creag na h-Inghinn would provide us with sufficient excitement in the snow :lol:, descending to the north would be an way easy down, avoiding steep descents and the distance/ascent should be manageable in the daylight hours available.
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The Route.

The temperature was -8C as we left home at 06:30, with great expectations for a dry, clear, still, sunny day. The final section of the road into Glen Affric was very icy and we were surprised to find a thin layer of snow at this level.
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Snowy road and Frosty Trees driving into Glen Affric.
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08:25, temperature reading of -8C as we were starting out from Chisholm Bridge.

Being a Sunday there was no construction traffic on the track, although their vehicles parked at intervals along it, did rather ruin the misty white mountain panorama :( .
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09:00 and Tom a'Choinnich comes into view.
Surprisingly there were no footprints in the virgin snow and when we reached the end of the track the line of the path was not obvious. The layer of soft snow over the heather had prevented the bog from being quite as frozen as we would have liked :lol: but the white landscape was making up for any difficulties under foot.
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Boggy and not as frozen as hoped for.
The Allt a Coire Odhair was shallow enough to wade across but the boulders across the Allt Toll Easa were icy so we worked our way up stream to find a safer crossing. We stopped for a drink and filled up water bottles, then climbed out of the river gully to find a good path and a trail broken by walkers who must have passed us whilst we were stopped. :D. The ridge was mostly steep walking in the snow, with any difficulties easily avoidable, but there was just one short icy step with no obvious good footholds that gave me pause for thought :lol: but it was overcome by daggering the ice axe into frozen turf. After that We put on crampons and although not strictly necessary made the going much easier and ruled out any other iffy moments.
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11:00 getting established on the ridge.
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View to the south east.
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Looking up the ridge towards the summit.
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The steepest section.
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A very nice ridge walk
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My squeaky moment and heroic heave on the ice axe.
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Such a nice ridge.
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Looking south.
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Posing on a beautiful day.
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Slopes eases out but a way to go yet.
The walkers in front of us were in fact Skiers and at about this point they took of over a cornice and down into the Coire. We didn't meet any one else all day although we did see a couple of people heading up to Toll Creagach.
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Almost there.
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14:00 and we are on Tom a Choinich
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Ready for a brew
A bit out of practice for the smooth operations of boiling snow for a winter brew, somebody burnt the bottom of the pot, luckily it was not Jeremy Jetboil who had gone into hibernation. He may have to be called back into action after this :lol:. We left the summit at 2:30 and were still on schedule, anticipating that we would almost be back to the track before headtorches were required.
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Descending to the north
There were a couple of reasonable places to make a safe descent into the coire north of Bealach Toll Easa although they were steep enough to pose an avalanche risk had there been different snow conditions.
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Down the gully and up to Bealach Toll Easa
There were some considerable suspect snow drifts in the Coire and careful route finding was required, but the path up to the bealach was easy to identfy and less steep than expected :). A superb viewpoint.
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North from the bealach
Crossing the ground to the bealach had taken longer than expected and it was now 15:30. We were not too concerned as we felt confident of reaching the path and finding our footsteps to follow before it became dark. This confidence soon started too wain as we discovered the terrain to the south of the bealach was similar to that on the northern side only far far worse. The soft snow was hiding bog, streams, boulders, lochans and hummocks.We both did our fair share of sinking into snow drifts and streams :o and a treking pole was lost as it plummeted through soft snow into a deep wet hole, never to be seen again :crazy: .( In retrospect I am not sure why we were still wearing crampons, they probabley stopped some sliding around, but once wet the were so iced up they turned into 6 inch platform soles about every 5 minutes) The only way to get across to get down was to go very slowly, testing every step, even when following a hopeful line of grass stalks sticking above the snow.
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Deceptively beautiful boggy hell
It took about over an hour to reach the crossing point for the Allt Toll Easa, the terrain was easier on the other side .
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16:45 easier ground but still no path.
Following the river down we eventually met up with footsteps, probably made by the skiers. The clear skies and snow enabled us to manage without headtorches until we reached the path leading down from Creag Na h-Inghinn. We were still at 700m with about 5K to go, but the worse was behind us. Strangely enough the path out, was much clearer than on the way in, even stretches without footprints.
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17:50 and a very dark bog
I have to say I was very pleased to reach the track and even gave the construction company temporary forgiveness for the mess they were making. We reached the car at 19:30, the boggy descent had taken as long as reaching the summit, making a rather epic day, and if a little more taxing than we had planned :lol: .
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Cairngorm creeper
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Re: Wintry Tom a'Choinnich - There ain't no Easy Way Out.

Postby oslaallen » Wed Nov 23, 2016 1:42 pm

What a day! I think I may have been having a sense of humour failure negotiating the boggy paths late in the day :lol:
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Re: Wintry Tom a'Choinnich - There ain't no Easy Way Out.

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Nov 23, 2016 3:26 pm

Nice one, fantastic views.

I almost wonder whether going up and over Toll Creagach would have been quicker! Its far better terrain... :D Its what we did, when I did it. We also descended straight east from the summit down the spur. Carefully!!! One steep step but snow was in better nick I suspect.
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Re: Wintry Tom a'Choinnich - There ain't no Easy Way Out.

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Nov 23, 2016 3:54 pm

Wow, great! :D

I'd love to do Tom & Toll in white (my local hills!) but every time we try to get up Glen Affric in winter, the road is completely blocked with too much snow :lol: :lol:
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Re: Wintry Tom a'Choinnich - There ain't no Easy Way Out.

Postby Coop » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:11 pm

2 cracking ridge pictures there.
Looks great ( and cold and deep) :)
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Re: Wintry Tom a'Choinnich - There ain't no Easy Way Out.

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:44 pm

oslaallen wrote:What a day! I think I may have been having a sense of humour failure negotiating the boggy paths late in the day :lol:

We just kept telling ourselves "what an adventure" it almost worked :lol:

Mal Grey wrote:Nice one, fantastic views.

I almost wonder whether going up and over Toll Creagach would have been quicker! Its far better terrain... :D Its what we did, when I did it. We also descended straight east from the summit down the spur. Carefully!!! One steep step but snow was in better nick I suspect.

Thank you, the views were splendid. I think you are right about going over Toll Creagach being quicker. We did want continue the traverse of Tom a'Choinnich out to the north but even with this diversion it still may have been an easier way back.

BlackPanther wrote:Wow, great! :D

I'd love to do Tom & Toll in white (my local hills!) but every time we try to get up Glen Affric in winter, the road is completely blocked with too much snow :lol: :lol:

Thank you. It is a great winter walk, we were lucky to catch the moment when the snow was on the hills and not blocking the road :D

Coop wrote:2 cracking ridge pictures there.
Looks great ( and cold and deep) :)

Thank you, crisp and cold :D The deep was more fun going down than going up :lol:
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