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Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic


Postby jupe1407 » Wed Dec 21, 2016 1:13 am

Route description: Aonach Beag: Four Munros from Culra

Munros included on this walk: Aonach Beag (Alder), Beinn Eibhinn, Carn Dearg (Loch Pattack), Geal-charn (Alder)

Date walked: 19/12/2016

Time taken: 9.5 hours

Distance: 50.5 km

Ascent: 1972m

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I don't know if this experience is unique to me, but having walked my first munro (the god-forsaken pony track up Nevis), I then discovered WalkHighlands and as I'm many other newbies do/did, I browsed the walk reports for various hill routes of amazing places I'd yet to discover. One that stuck with me was Culra, and it's six nearby Munros. Obviously Ben Alder is the main attraction, but I'd long fancied traversing the ridge of four from the Culra Bothy, with an overnighter before tacking Alder & Bheoil. For one reason and another, I'd never got round to it, and sadly now the bothy is (theoretically) closed due to the discovery of asbestos.

Anyway, having regained a semblance of fitness following various knee issues over the last couple of years, I fancied a fairly challenging outing before the end of the year, and chose the Culra munros. Partly because I wanted a last good outing on the bike before the end of the year, partly due to the challenge of getting the bike/walk done when there is almost the least daylight available, and most importantly because of some OCD-esque desire to finish the year on 160 munros, a respectable 35 done in a year featuring a knee operation, and a lot of time out as a result.

I had reasonably planned set of times of places I wanted to be on the route, and these generally came off pretty well.

Part 1 was to get my @rse out of bed at 5am, possibly the toughest part of the day :lol: This was closely followed by the trickery involved in fitting a large 29er into a Ford Focus without waking up the neighbours (I couldn't be bothered refitting the bike rack). This i somehow achieved successfully and drove through to Dundee to meet regular biking/walking pal Rob. Thank god we didn't take my car up, as I later discovered my MOT had expired on Sunday :shock:

Part 2 was to get to the Culra bothy by 9:30am to begin the ascent. This proved no problem as the track in is superb all the way to Loch Pattack. There are a few steep inclines, but nothing so horrific that a granny-gear can't deal with. We arrived at the both just before 9:30, stashed the bike spares and had a wee look around. A couple of guys up from London were staying in the room with the fireplace, bravely defying the remote possibility of asbestosis. We had a quick chat, got our gear sorted and were soon starting the steep and largely pathless ascent of Carn Dearg shortly before 10am. At this point we had brief hope about the weather, with the possibility of views.

Image
Beinn Bheoil and a stubbornly claggy Ben Alder

It's a briefly steep slog, but height is quickly gained and we soon reached the easier slopes heading to Carn Dearg's main ridge. The summit was pleasingly clear.

Image
Approaching Carn Dearg

The cloud briefly threatened to break, we were even hopeful of an inversion. It's certainly an excellent viewpoint for the surrounding landscape.

Image
A look back down Carn Dearg's ridge

Minutes later however our hopes were crushed as the clag rolled in and everything around was grey.

Image
Rob on Carn Dearg's summit

Having remarked about 5 minutes earlier of the unusually mild conditions and what a fine day it was, the summit cairn was greeted by strong wind, fine drizzle and general baltic-ness. A quick addition of the waterproof jacket and an easy decision to crack onto the next summit was made. Pleasingly though, we were ahead of time, having got to the top in just over an hour from the bothy. We made our way down the easy rock-strewn slopes and met the path which turns into a fine wee ridgewalk as it narrows beyond Diollaid a'Chairn and eventually arrived at the foot of Geal Charn, where the wind had calmed down so it was time for a wee snack before the steep ascent of Aisre Gobhain.

Image
The imposing route up to Geal Charn

This wasn't as horrific as it had looked from further back and we made it to the huge flat summit plateau in reasonably decent time. It's an extremely bleak place on the day such as this, with poor visibility and cold, windy conditions. However after a fairly amusing diversion as a result of mistaking a clump of grass for a distant cairn, we arrived at the actual cairn around an hour an a half after leaving the previous summit. In today's conditions it wasn't anything to write home about, however here's a picture of a claggy summit:

Image
Geal Charn Summit


As a completely pointless addition, this also meant I'd completed the quartet of Geal Charn Munros :lol: Anyway, not wanting to hang about here with no shelter and at 1132m, we picked up the route to Aonach Beag. We'd allowed 30 minutes to make this summit, but did it in about 20.

Image
Aaaaaand another claggy summit

This summit marked a minor milestone of my 200th overall summit (inc repeats), which was nice. However, no hanging about so we decided to get down to the final bealach to find some sheltered and wolf down some much needed scran. This didn't take long despite being a much rockier affair and I was soon annihilating a cheese roll. We ditched the packs for the quick walk up to the day's final munro and my 160th, Beinn Eibheinn. Again no views, some annoying false tops prior to the summit (we just went to the first one as both are the same height).

Image
Beinn Eibheinn. Bit of a theme developing here....

We quickly dropped back to the bealach and began the fairly tedious and almost entirely pathless 1.35 miles to the excellent stalkers path. Thankfully it wasn't too boggy and the worst stuff was easily avoided. Nevertheless it was a joy to finally reach a path. Obviously as soon as we got to the path the skies cleared, as did all the summits we'd just seen absolutely nothing from :lol:

Image
Late light on Beinn Eibheinn

Though it was nice to be on a good path, the long 100m ascent to the to of Bealach Dubh wasn't entirely welcome at this point in the day. However the views compensated somewhat...

Image
Towards a distant Loch Ossian


Image
The other direction to the Drumochter Geal Charn (I think) and Meall Chuaich.

It's a lovely walk out on a tremendous path, although my feet were starting to hurt a bit. It was quite a relief to make the bothy just before darkness fell. This was ahead of schedule as I'd expected to be just making the path at this time. I'd allowed 7.5 hours for the hillwalking section, but we'd managed them in less than 6.5 which allowed us a little time to have a seat in the bothy and for me to demolish my remaining food, in the form of a particularly difficult to eat protein bar.

Image
Silhouette of Ben Alder and Sgor Iutharn

It was eventually time to saddle up and make a move. We returned by the same route (the singletrack shortcut had looked pretty muddy). Carrying a heavy 29er MTB over the shoogly bridge after a long day is pretty "interesting" to say the least. However i managed somehow not to fall in and continued the longer-than-expected cycle out. The initial ascent on meeting the main path is a 1K plus grind, happily followed by a glorious freewheel back to the lodge buildings. I eventually made it back to the van in a total of 9.5 hours, pretty pleased that the day had gone as planned, other than the weather not playing ball on the summits. I'm going to repeat these via the lancet edge with a camp next year, so it'll be nice to see the views :lol:

All in all, this makes for an excellent day out, in some wonderfully remote country and a fine ridgewalk into the bargain.


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jupe1407
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby prog99 » Wed Dec 21, 2016 8:40 am

Good effort and meticulously planned!

Interesting regarding the two chaps in the bothy. We were on the train to corrour on saturday where two folk got off at Rannoch muttering things about bothies.
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby jupe1407 » Wed Dec 21, 2016 1:11 pm

prog99 wrote:Good effort and meticulously planned!

Interesting regarding the two chaps in the bothy. We were on the train to corrour on saturday where two folk got off at Rannoch muttering things about bothies.


Cheers Prog. I don't usually bother with precision stuff like that :lol:

Different folk I think. I'm sure the two guys we spoke to walked in from Dalwhinnie the night before. The guys at Rannoch might have been heading for Ben Alder cottage?
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby Alteknacker » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:10 am

Very interesting and entertaining report. I particularly liked the sundown pics at the end; and good to read about the quality of the ride out - I have this area in mind for a round when the days are a bit longer (but with a tent - I've poked my head into a few bothies, but haven't yet discovered the attraction...); so it's good to get a feel for the quality of the ride.

Laughed out loud at the "...particularly difficult to eat protein bar..." - I guess quite a few of us have had that struggle!

And the frustration of seeing clear summits 30 minutes plus after you've left them in clag!
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby Sunset tripper » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:19 am

Did a similar route to yours a few years back but missed out Carn Dearg. Cant remember how long it took but that's a good time you did it in. :D
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby jupe1407 » Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:02 am

Alteknacker wrote:Very interesting and entertaining report. I particularly liked the sundown pics at the end; and good to read about the quality of the ride out - I have this area in mind for a round when the days are a bit longer (but with a tent - I've poked my head into a few bothies, but haven't yet discovered the attraction...); so it's good to get a feel for the quality of the ride.

Laughed out loud at the "...particularly difficult to eat protein bar..." - I guess quite a few of us have had that struggle!

And the frustration of seeing clear summits 30 minutes plus after you've left them in clag!


Thanks Alteknacker. Taking a bike in with a backpack of camping gear won't be a problem. The track is superb for about 7.5-8 miles, then becomes a bumpy landrover effort, still eminently rideable. After a dry spell, the single track shortcut might be a better option.

Forcing down a protein bar really is up here in the list of hillwalking unpleasantries :lol:

Sunset tripper wrote:Did a similar route to yours a few years back but missed out Carn Dearg. Cant remember how long it took but that's a good time you did it in. :D


Thanks ST, we were pretty much constrained by daylight hours, which helped. It's a fine circuit though. Did you go up the Lancet Edge?
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby Sunset tripper » Fri Dec 23, 2016 2:51 am

jupe1407 wrote:
Thanks ST, we were pretty much constrained by daylight hours, which helped. It's a fine circuit though. Did you go up the Lancet Edge?


Hi Jupe. We were half planning the Lancet Edge but when we got to the bottom it was a dreich day at that point it was really slippy and a clagfest right down to the ground so as it didn't look too inviting we decided to save it for a better day, and walked round the wee loch then climbed up the steep slopes to join that nice ridge path that you mentioned. Was a great day and cleared up later on. Cheers :D
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby jupe1407 » Fri Dec 23, 2016 11:27 pm

Sunset tripper wrote:
jupe1407 wrote:
Thanks ST, we were pretty much constrained by daylight hours, which helped. It's a fine circuit though. Did you go up the Lancet Edge?


Hi Jupe. We were half planning the Lancet Edge but when we got to the bottom it was a dreich day at that point it was really slippy and a clagfest right down to the ground so as it didn't look too inviting we decided to save it for a better day, and walked round the wee loch then climbed up the steep slopes to join that nice ridge path that you mentioned. Was a great day and cleared up later on. Cheers :D


Ah Loch an Sgoir? I had previously considered that for a camp spot, but it looked like a bit of a peat/bog fest from the ridge, so the summer return will probably just be a tent at the bothy. I hope it's repaired or replaced sometime :(
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby mamoset » Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:43 pm

Great report and pics jupe, definitely on my to-do list :D
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby jupe1407 » Tue Dec 27, 2016 9:54 am

mamoset wrote:Great report and pics jupe, definitely on my to-do list :D


Thanks Mamoset, it's definitely a great day out on it's own but would be tremendous over a weekend :D
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby Jaxter » Tue Dec 27, 2016 1:38 pm

Enjoyed that! Had a laugh about your MOT, I did the same with my road tax in October...fortunately I noticed before the cops did :lol: I'm looking forward to getting to his area, hope I get better weather though :lol: But there is something awesome about walking in clag, like being in your own bubble, and your photos from the end of the day more than make up for it :clap: :clap:
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Re: Culra - A Late Year Mini-Epic

Postby jupe1407 » Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:31 am

Jaxter wrote:Enjoyed that! Had a laugh about your MOT, I did the same with my road tax in October...fortunately I noticed before the cops did :lol: I'm looking forward to getting to his area, hope I get better weather though :lol: But there is something awesome about walking in clag, like being in your own bubble, and your photos from the end of the day more than make up for it :clap: :clap:


It ended up costing me £366. Happy Christmas indeed :lol: :lol:

It was a good outing, even with the clag. I'm looking forward to getting back there (armed with a decent forecast)!
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