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Lairig Leacach bothy walks

Lairig Leacach bothy walks

Postby Yorjick » Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:40 pm

Munros included on this walk: Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin, Stob Coire Easain

Corbetts included on this walk: Cruach Innse, Sgùrr Innse

Date walked: 02/01/2017

Time taken: 12 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1529m

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3 January 2017

Sgurr Innse has been high in my to-do list ever since I visited Lairig Leacach bothy during the summer of 2004. I have always been curious as to whether a reasonably direct approach could be made rather than approaching via the saddle between Sgurr Innse and Cruach Innse. So off I headed towards the tiered crags of the south face of Sgurr Innse. I knew that I could reach the final tier of crags with relative ease, having read malky_c's walk report published on Walkhighlands. I aimed to head right at the crags to contour anti-clockwise and see if I could find a safe way up.

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I set off from the bothy around 0830, the other occupants, Bobby and Correen, having already left for spean Bridge. I was pleased to find tracks heading up to the south of Sgurr Innse and as I reached the saddle, I surveyed the possibilities. I took my camera out so I could trace my route of ascent later. I turned on my camera and . . . . Doh! :roll:

I had left the xD card in the computer! I would have to make do with the camera on my phone.

Looking at the drags from this view, I decided that I could probably follow the upper terrace rightwards and at some pint find an easy way up. If I found no way up I could simply retrace my steps and follow Malky_c's route leftwards to the pinnacle.

Sgurr Innse from the south

As it was, there was a clear path rightwards, as seen in the bottom left of the photograph below. This fizzled out at some boulders at the bottom of several sections of largish, angular scree. There were a number of variants to choose from, all of which would be a little strenuous but straightforward.

Looking towards Stob Ban from the path

My route was more easily seen in this photo which was taken the next day on my ascent towards Stob Coire Eassain. Please excuse the W.A. Poucher style with the black and white image and the route shown with a white line. :)

A rough guide to the route

The route brought me out onto the southern summit with a pleasant amble past a lochan, only shown on the 25 000 map and on towards the modest summit cairn. It was not too blustery on the summit and I tried to position my phone on the rocks of the cairn to take a couple of selfies, none of which came out particularly well.

Looking towards the summit cairn of Sgurr Innse

However, I am reasonably pleased with this panoramic shot: left Stob Choire Easain, right of centre Stob Ban and Stob Choire Claurigh, partly shrouded in cloud to the right.

Sgurr Innse view SW

The advantage of following the standard route as given in the SMC guide to The Corbetts And Other Scottish Hills and similar routes given on the internet is that the descent from Sgurr Innse involves retracing one's footsteps. I followed a path which seemed to reach a T junction, with a pathe descending a shallow gully to the left and the alternative contouring round to the right. I thought the latter may gain height around the corner as another way to the top, so I took the left hand option. The gully was wet and most of the hand holds were loose. There was also some bits of ice. Two-thirds of the way down, I could not see the route all the way down to the jumble of rocks below as the gully steepened so I decided to head back up and check out the right hand option. This went round a bend before dropping down left. This was difficult ground in the wet but I would hesitate to call it a scramble.

Once down the steeper ground, there was a lull in the wind. This turned out to be the lull before the storm! It seemed the right opportunity to use the panorama function on myphone and take a selfie while still on Sgurr Innse, albeit not the summit; this time holding the phone at arms length.

Stob Ban, Stob Choire Claurigh with Cruach Innse right

Sgurr Innse selfie

Heading towards Cruach Innse, my path must have narrowly missed a group of three, as I saw them when looking back at Sgurr Innse. They seemed to set a good pace up towards the finer of the two peaks, especially one member of the party who seemed to be increasing his lead on the other two.

I continued up towards Cruach Innse in deteriorating weather and as the ridge levelled out towards the cairn, I was buffetted by head on winds and light precipitation. I did not even consider trying to take photos. I sat down for about 10 seconds to regain my breath, touched the top of the cairn and headed straight back down.

As I neared the saddle, I passed a man and we had a little chat. I assume that he was the stronger frontrunner in the party I saw earlier. He told me that the others had headed down to Lairig Leacach and the track back to Coire Choille Farm. I did see them a bit later, but not to speak to, as they headed north while I was heading south back to the bothy.

I had originally planned to include the Graham, Cnap Cruinn, but with deteriorating weather, I felt very satisfied with my achievements for the day, especially as I had found a relatively direct route to the top of Sgurr Innse, which may appeal to other purists like me.

​I arrived back at the bothy at around 1330 to find a large group of around eight, of which five (Lucas, Pieter, Blair, Mike and Callum) were stopping the night. Their plan was to climb Stob Ban. To me, it seemed a bit late for that, but I did not say anything. They looked young, fit and strong and I remember the route as being straightforward, especially when the path is not covered in snow.

​I had left a 10kg bag of coal in the car as well as a pack of 6 briquettes, so my plan was to have some couscous and a cup of coffee before heading down to the car to pick up fuel for the bothy stove. Once refresshed I heading off along the track on my bike into an increasingly strong headwind. About halfway back (in distance but not descent, I met Jamie, Kim and their dog, Harris. They were carrying large packs and it turned out that they were heading for the bothy. On telling them my plans, they told me that they had plenty of wood and coal for the night, so I may not want to bother dropping down to the car and then faced with the steeper reascent back up through the forest. I decided to head back with them. The walk back to the bothy seemed very quick, with the lively conversation and tail wind to help us on our way.

The only downside of this decision was that I had very little fuel for the third night and I would have liked to have left a bit of fuel for the next visitor.

Footnote: The five young men arrived back the bothy before dark, having reached the bealach between Stob Ban and Stob Choire Claurigh.

4 January 2017

I previously climbed the Easains on 6 April 1996, over 20 years ago! It was one of my final Munros, compleating in the following August. That was from Fersit. On this occasion, I was to follow a different route.

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After a wonderful evening in Lairig Leacach bothy in front of a warm fire and in good company, I was first up and first out in the morning. As the slight track had made progress easy the day before, I followed it to the bealach north of Sgurr Innse before heading towards Stob Choire Easain. It was great to have a view of my previous day's hills.

Cruach Innse left with Sgurr Innse centre. Cruach Innse is 48m higher but it is difficult not to think of Sgurr Innse as the main peak.

It was also great to be able to survey the options ahead. I opted to head towards Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin, seen in the photo below. This meant dropping to a lower point, but being a simple down and up, avoiding undulating terrain seen to the right, which I judged would have a greater total ascent.

Stob Coire Easain and Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin

The walking was mostly easy, helped by the fact that any boggier bits were frozen. On reaching the steeper section, I followed a zig-zagging path to the summit. The picture below was taken just below the summit. Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin is the peak seen on the left.

Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin from Stob Coire Easain

Looking Sw down the ridge of Irlick Chaoile. Loch Treig left, the Mamores, Grey Corries and the Innses right.

I positioned the phone among the rocks of the summit cairn and took a couple of selfies. Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin is the peak seen to the right of my left hand.

Stob Coire Easain selfie

Looking towards the Grey Corries

The descent to the bealach between the two Easains was not totally straightforward as there were a couple of sections of hard snow. I could not kick very secure steps with the sides of my boots and at one point I opted to bum slide down, braking with my heels. I had an ice-axe and crampons in my rucksack but I did not remove them. The slight difficulties could have been totally avoided by traversing the southern slopes away from the ridge.

​The continuation to Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin was totally straightforward. The wind was dropping and there was some slight warmth from the sun! 8)

Sgurr Innse bathed in the midday sunshine, though the sun was still low in the sky

Summit selfie with Stob Coire Easain behind my left shoulder.

Instead of descending down the path to the bealach, I trotted down the grassy slopes to the south, heading for Moine na Gaibhre. My aim was to take the easiest and most direct line towards the path marked on the map following the east bank of the Allt na Lairig.

Stob Coire Easain from Stob a'Choire Mheadhoin

By the time I reached the Lairig Leacach, I was beginning to tire and the lack of a good path drained my reserves. The main problem was that I had not eaten much and though I stopped to eat, it was taking a little time for the carbohydrates to reach my blood stream. I was also a little dehydrated.

​On the opposite side of the Allt na Lairig, I saw an Argocat and wondered if he might have offered me a lift had I been on his side of the river. At that point, the Allt na Lairig seemed a bit too deep and a bit to fast to consider a crossing. With the Argocat long gone, I found a suitable crossing point, where, though knee deep, I could run across quickly enough to avoid the ingress of water through my overtrousers and gaiters.

I could then join a much better path and I was now on the same side of the river as the bothy. The distance back still seemed greater than on the map. Psycologically, it would have helped if I could have seen the bothy much earlier but it does not come into view until almost there.

Lairig Leacach bothy with Cruach Innse beyond. Sgurr Innse is the fine peak right of centre.

I spent my final night in the bothy as the sole occupant. I had very little fuel - a firelog left by the group of five lads, a couple of small pieces of wood that I had carried in and a couple of pieces of bogwood that I had collected. It was enough to make a small fire that lasted a couple of hours. The bothy had retained a little bit of the warmth created the previous night and I was dry, so a comfortable night was had.

Getting up during the night for a pee was cold but great to spend a few minutes under a clear, starry sky.

​I woke up to a fine morning, though the sun was hidden behind the slopes of Stob Coire Easain.

I tried to take a few photos, with some success but my phone kept on shutting down when I took a photo :-x , presumably because of the cold. I would pop back in for a few minutes, warming up my phone in the internal pocket of my fleece jacket.

Lairig Leacach

Lairig Leacach

Lairig Leacach

Lairig Leacach

As I left, the strap of my helmet was caught up in the gear shift on my bike and while sorting it out, I pulled the gear lever and the rear brake locked. I pulled the calipers but something went in the process and the rear brake no longer operated. The front brake had not been working very well for some time and was insufficient to slow me down on steeper descents! I had been looking forward to a speedy return to my car, but I could not risk going at speeds where I could not brake with my feet! As a result I pushed my bike down the steeper sections. :(

On reaching the "Wee Minister", I met two ladies, One of whom taught bike mechanics :D . She fiddled with the rear brake a bit and her efforts made a big difference but by then, I was almost at the car. Who said there is never a bike mechanic when you need one? :lol:

had a 100 mile or 2.5 hour drive home, but it was a fine day so I made a few stops along the way; Pea and ham soup/sandwich in Spean Bridge, The Commando Memorial (always worth stopping at on a fine day such as this) and finally, a look at the waterfalls and old bridge at Invermoriston.

The Commando Monument

I did make one further stop - Highland Bikes in Inverness. I look forward to collecting my bike with fully working brakes! :lol:
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Re: Lairig Leacach bothy walks

Postby malky_c » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:07 pm

Good start to the year - I considered doing a bothy trip at the start of the year, but couldn't get rid of the in-laws!

Interesting to see a direct route up Sgurr Innse - can't remember if I took my overnight bag up there in the end, which would have made the going more awkward.

Typically the best weather was after I had gone back to work :roll: .
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Re: Lairig Leacach bothy walks

Postby Yorjick » Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:07 pm

[quote="malky_c"Interesting to see a direct route up Sgurr Innse[/quote]

Malky_c, I thought you would be interested in seeing my variant. I found your walk report of particular interest when planning my route, as it seems to be the only one to approach the summit crags from the south. I knew from your description, that if I could not find a reasonably direct approach to the summit, I could always follow your route without losing much height. :thumbup:
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Posts: 199
Munros:282   Corbetts:208
Grahams:57   Donalds:10
Sub 2000:20   Hewitts:158
Wainwrights:173   Islands:19
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Location: Dornoch

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