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A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale


Postby malky_c » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:40 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Aonach Buidhe, Beinn Dronaig, Faochaig

Grahams included on this walk: An Cruachan

Date walked: 26/09/2010

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 48 km

Ascent: 2800m

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Corbetts included: Faochaig, Aonach Buidhe, Beinn Dronaig
Grahams included: An Cruachan
Date : 26/09/2010
Time taken: 9 hours 30min (walking), 1 hour 50 min (bike)
Distance: 27km (walking), 21km (bike)
Ascent: 2300m (walking), 500m (bike)
Weather: Cool and sunny

Having not been out on the Scottish hills in almost a month, the good weather forcast made me jump at the chance to get one last long hike in before the daylight hours got too short. I was spoilt for choice, but managed to filter it down to two options in the end: A round of the Attadale/Glen Elchaig Corbetts, or a visit to Fisherfield to do the long ridge stretching from Beinn Araigh Charr to Beinn Lair.

Attadale won out in the end, being slightly longer, and a walk I have been eyeing up for nearly 2 years now. At the last minute, I realised I could include the ultra-remote Graham of An Cruachan, which made this route even more appealing! Initially I had planned on starting near Sallachy to the south, and cycling up Glen Ling. The Attadale approach seemed just as good though, and had the advantage of being nearly 20 miles closer to home.


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Early starts aren't really my forte, but knowing I had a long day ahead, I pulled out all the stops and was pedalling away from the car park at Attadale by 7:50 am. Five mintutes in, I overtook a lone backpacker, who looked like he was heading for one of the bothies in the area (Bearnais, Bendronaig and Maol Bhuidhe are all accessible from here). Predictably, he was the only other person I met all day.

The track to Bendronaig Lodge is well maintained, but the downside is that you have to gain 350m of height in little more than 2 miles! There was definitely a nip in the air this morning, so I wore gloves for the cycling bit.

Bidein a Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor from the Bendronaig track:
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After gaining all of this height, 150m is immediately lost again. An hour after leaving the car, I reached the bridge over the Black Water, which is where my walking was to begin. I abandoned the bike by the bridge.

Black Water near bridge:
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Horror! On the first 2km of the route, another 100m of hard earned height is lost. I followed deer tracks above the east bank of the Black Water to the point where it meets the River Ling. This spot is as isolated as any in this tangle of valleys, with no tracks or stalkers paths in the vicinity. A pleasant spot too, with crags and some mixed woodland on the valley sides. The River Ling here is quite wide but not too deep. Couldn't find enough rocks to cross on dry-shod, but the water was little more than ankle deep.

Another waterfall on the Black Water:
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On the far side of the Ling, the climbing began. Steeply at first, through a few trees, but then very long and undulating. I crossed the stalker's path shown near Lochan Annie, and startled a few deer on the final steepening to Cadha Ruadh. There was a slight frost on the ground away from the sun, and even the odd patch of ice on the wetter rocks.

On Cadha Ruadh, I realised I was still some way from the summit of Faochaig, but at least most of the ascent was done. Overall it was a very long approach to this summit. Views to the impressive peak of Sguman Coinntich opened up to the west, with the Cuillin behind. If starting from Glen Ling, this summit could be included in the circuit, but I had a feeling the day would be long enough as it was! The position of the sun meant that most of the hills south of Faochaig were in the shadow.

Sguman Coinntich with the Cuillin behind:
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Ben Kilillan and Skye:
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Looking back over Cadha Ruadha from Faochaig:
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Zoom to Cuillin:
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Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:
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Aonach Buidhe from Faochaig:
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I had a stop and some food here. While the sun was strong, the air was still chilly. For the descent, I crashed around above the east face for a bit before locating the stalker's path which led to the col. This was typical of the best of these paths - well graded and mainly well drained. These paths are always a pleasure to walk on. While the majority of the cliffs on this face are further south, the path weaved around some nice little outcrops.

On the way off Faochaig:
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The path through the col from Glen Elchaig to Maol Bhuidhe is pretty much a vehicle track these days. There was an old ruin on the summit of the col. These glens were once much busier.

Ruin at the pass:
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I had read Cuillin's account of climbing Aonach Buidhe, and he mentioned that the ascent from here was very steep. I can definitely agree with that! The gradient eases off after 150 or so, and from there, the walk to the summit is pleasant, across shortish grass and moss. The summit has a large, well built cairn.

Looking back to Faochaig:
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Other reports of this hill had mentioned combining it with Carn na Breabaig, but I had ruled this out, as it doesn't fit in well unless you are approaching from Glen Elchaig. However, when looking into this earlier in the week, I realised that An Cruachan another remote Graham would fit into my circuit easily. This made me happy, as while I had other plans for climbing Carn na Breabaig, I had not really worked out how I would do An Cruachan.

This also meant I could do the remote NE ridge of Aonach Buidhe, Aonach Cas.The SMC guide mentions this briefly, saying it is narrow. It isn't really, not in a knifedge kind of way anyway, but it does have steep drops on both sides and good views into the rocky corrie to the west.

Main summit of Aonach Buidhe from An Creachal Beag:
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Torridon from Aonach Buidhe:
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Aonach Cas:
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Coire a Chreachail Mor:
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Back along the Aonach Cas:
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Sgurr an Ceathreamhnan with Carn na Breabaig in front:
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An Cruachan and the lochs leading to Pait Lodge:
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Strathfarrar hills:
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I stopped for lunch at the far end, shovelling a load of sandwiches, chocolate, crisps and malt loaf into my face. I also had an orange, more of which shortly.

The dress code is Sports Casual:
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An Soacach and An Riabhachan:
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The descent off the N end of this ridge is steep but uncomplicated, but another (much less used) stalker's path helps with the lower section into Coire nan Each. Quick splash across the river, then an easy (if boggy) ascent to che col below An Cruachan. At this point my face and nose was really stinging. Couldn't work out why, until it dawned on me that when wiping the sweat off my face, I was smearing rather acidic orange juice all over it!

It was now getting on for 3pm, and down in the valleys it was quite warm. Up to this point, there had been a refreahing lack of bitey things in the air, but on the final steep pull up to An Cruachan, the deer keds were lurking.

There was another very substantial cairn on this summit. Who built this, I wonder? There often seems to be an inverse rule between the significance and remoteness of a summit and the size of the cairn. Views down Loch Monar to the Strathfarrar hills were good, as was the view across to Beinn Dronaig. There was an interestingly detailed study of the N corries of An Soacach and An Riabhachan, something you don't often get the chance to see up close.

An Riabhachan from An Cruachan:
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Loch Monar and Strathfarrar hills from An Cruachan:
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Coire nan Each:
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Beinn Dronaig and Loch Calavie:
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Looking back to Aonach Buidhe:
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My descent route was down the steep W nose of the hill, from where it was obvious that there was a lot of bog to cross between here and Beinn Dronaig. One advantage of this route was that I didn't need to find a point to cross the River Ling again, as it is nutoriously difficult to cross in this area. Sadly it also meant that I wouldn't be looking into Maol Bhuidhe bothy either, something I had planned to do prior to adding An Cruachan to the route.

As it happened, the bog crossing wasn't too bad. Wet feet were a given, but I didn't find myself having to hunt around for ways across any bottomless oozing pits until I was starting to ascend Beinn Dronaig. I picked up another faint stalker's path on the east ridge, which got me up the steep initial section. After that, I had a sudden lack of energy, almost like my body knew that it only had a little bit more ascent to do. I fuelled up on more chocolate and made the final assult on the summit, where someone had left a used tea bag on the trig point :? .

It was about 5:20 by now, and the sun was getting quite low. The most immediate hills (Lurg Mhor and Cheescake) looked surprisingly grassy and featureless from this side, completely at odds with my memories of doing them. Elsewhere, the finest views were to Torridon and Coulin, which were catching the last of the sun. Out west was impressive, but didn't really photograph too well. Overall, a summit well worth returning to for the views.

An Soacach and Aonach Buidhe:
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Aonach Buidhe from Beinn Dronaig:
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Loch Calavie and Bidein a Choire Sheasgaich:
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Torridon from Beinn Dronaig:
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Bidein a Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor from Beinn Dronaig:
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Sgurr na Lapaich, An Riabhachan and An Soachach:
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West to Skye:
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Bendronaig Bothy:
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Originally, I had planned on popping into Bendronaig bothy for a snoop around, possibly leaving a note in the log book. In fact given the excellent reputation of the toilet there, I thought about leaving a log of my own :lol: ! But by this point, it was just another thing stopping me from getting home, so I skipped it and took the shortest line back to the bike. It wasn't the most ideal route, but it was probably the fastest, taking me about an hour.

The 150m of ascent on the bike was quite sore, but at least it used different muscles. After 20 minutes, all that remained was a roll back down to the car. The gradient and number of hairpins prevented this from being an all-out dash, but it was still a relief.

Road Home:
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I got to the car at 7:10pm. Quite a long day. I really enjoyed my time out in this remote corner of the Highlands, and wished I could have had an overnight trip there. Trouble is, I rarely get the opportunity to do more than aa couple of overnighters a year now, so this epic was a good substitute. It was a testament to the good weather, and also to the amount of time I have spent studying this area, that my map remained folded up in my bag for the entire day.
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby Stretch » Mon Sep 27, 2010 1:46 pm

Excellent stuff Malky! I'm sure there were a few of us that had long enjoyable days out yesterday.
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby IreneM » Mon Sep 27, 2010 4:56 pm

Fantastic photies there, Malky, and a huge day.

The weather certainly wasn't like that last week when we were at Bendronaig: everything-and I mean EVERYTHING was soaked after a sodden tramp up the hills.

Luckily, I was in Bothy Maid mode and had a roaring fire going for the rest of my 'Crack of Noon Club' chums when they got back.

Never been bothered by keds before, but they were horrendous there.

Brilliant report and again - amazing pics.
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby gaffr » Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:35 pm

bl.... h...! that's an huge day out in the hills. Have still to get to Dronaig and Buidhe and was considering the bike up the Elchaig. I guess that it would have to be a Sunday at this time of the year....well next year with the light rapidy getting shorter although it could be split with an overnight at Maol bhuidhe bothy. We need the Indian summer :lol: I think that I would have been happy to see that beautiful descending biking trail at the finish of your trip :) Yes coire Ardair is not a place to get close to the cliffs in summer but once the slots fill in with snow and ice it is a very different place.
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby kinley » Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:41 pm

Stunner - cracking route too 8)

We were not too far away - what a day 8)

Cheers for that - got a few places I'd like to visit in that area - you seem to have run over nearly all of them :lol: ;)
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby Craiging619 » Tue Sep 28, 2010 1:37 am

Well done. Looks like you had an epic day. An Cruachan seems to be as remote as it gets!
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby malky_c » Wed Sep 29, 2010 1:04 pm

Cheers all, would've loved to stop off in front of a fire at Bendronaig Lodge instead of heading home, but never mind!

No running involved Kinley. I do run occasionally if I'm really up against the clock, but I tend to find that concentrating too much on where your feet go ruins the enjoyment of being out in these places for me.

Craiging619 wrote:Well done. Looks like you had an epic day. An Cruachan seems to be as remote as it gets!
Bit of debate here, but it is certainly one of the remotest Grahams. Amazing spot - you can't see any roads or signs of habitation in any direction.
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby magicdin » Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:51 pm

Fine report malky-c great photos

That is a great track in from Attadale - I walked it mind you.

And I agree about the stalkers path down from Faochaig - what a terrific line :D
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby LeithySuburbs » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:15 am

Dunno how I missed this report 1st time around. I only found it somewhere down Google's search pages when researching a similar route. Anyway, looks an absolute cracker of a day with some amazing pictures and looks like you got just about the maximum out of it :D .
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Re: A long walk in Killilan, Pait and Attadale

Postby soulminer » Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:30 pm

:oops: Also missed this one :oops:
Nice one, enjoyed that. Great area if the weather is decent :) .
Came out at Attadale after a 2 Corbett,2 munro walk from Craig in very similar conditions- so can appreciate the effort required in your report 8) .
Cheers.
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