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A tale of two Lapaich - wanders in Affric

A tale of two Lapaich - wanders in Affric

Postby weaselmaster » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:18 pm

Munros included on this walk: Càrn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Mam Sodhail, Sgùrr na Lapaich

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Càrn Fiaclach, Creag Dhubh (Affric)

Date walked: 30/10/2017

Time taken: 19.75 hours

Distance: 59.1 km

Ascent: 3797m

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A good weather forecast for a change - time to head North for some "proper hills" after our walk in the Pentlands last weekend. Back on the trail of more Munro Tops for Allison - a small cluster sat within the Mullardoch Hills. For a variety of reasons a full round of these wonderful hills wasn't on the cards at present, but i reckoned it would be possible to pick off the 4 Tops on mam Sodhail from Glen Affric, affording an opportunity to climb the mighty Sgurr na Lapaich from the southern side. Then another smash-and-grab on the northern side of Loch Mullardoch, picking up Tops on carn nan Gobhar and the other Sgurr na Lapaich. I drew out some satisfying circular routes for both and reckoned we should have a smaller day in between doing Marilyns as the forecast suggested up to gale force winds that day :lol:

Drove up on Thursday night to Cannaich campsite, arriving about 9pm after shenanigans on the A82 south of Fort William where a lorry had shed its load, closing the road for a time. Fortunately, we know the campsite well and found our usual pitch amidst the trees. A fine quiet night, if on the chilly side for a change. Friday morning appeared a bit cloudy as we set off down Glen Affric. Be warned - there are lots of road repairs going on there at present with roadsigns warning drivers to expect long delays. no such problems today though - a few workmen repairing the tarmac over the final bridge, who cheerily waved us through. A lot of cars already at the car park for 9.15am.

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I remember my first sight of Sgurr na Lapaich from Affric, a couple of springs ago when on our way to the Corbett of Aonach Shasuinn and deciding I really wanted to climb it from here, not just as a scamper down from Mam Sodhail. On that fine morning snow capped its upper reaches, inviting and icy.

Spring 15
ImageP1060553 by Al, on Flickr

My original plan had been to begin with the Simm of Am Meallan, but this was shelved largely out of concern that it would make an already long walk for this time of year overlong. Walking along good track by the eastern reaches of Loch Affric, the trees bearing their autumnal robes, we came to the stalkers path that would take us up, just before Affric Lodge. Widened and bulldosed this allowed rapid progress to be made. Around 500m we parted company from the track, which continued northwards, and stepped onto boggy hillside, making for the shoulder of Lapaich. We found a walkers' path as we clambered up the narrowing shoulder, reaching a fine cairn. wind was considerable here, chill and blustery. Before us the long "finger" that reaches up to Mam Sodhail stretched out - almost two and a half miles to the parent summit, which was, sadly, cloaked in fog. I thought back to that fine afternoon when I had last been here, my round of all the Tops in the Mullardochs - a high camp on the bealach between mam Sodhail and Carn Eighe, cloud inversions - ah!

ImageP1170892 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170895 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170894 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170897 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170899 by Al, on Flickr

Looking towards Mullach Cahda Rainich & Mam Sodhail
ImageP1170901 by Al, on Flickr

Anyway, we pressed on over the second Top of Mullach Cadha Rainich and the climbed more steeply to the enormous cairn on Mam Sodhail. Wind was now fierce and cold, freezing any exposed skin. Clag made the next part a little difficult - there's a rocky descent to the start of the next "finger" down to An Tudair and we missed it a couple of times :( Finally, after compass and some sweary words, we set off to the shapely form of An Tudair (which I think translates as "little stinker") - navigation made easier by lifting of the clag :lol: We had some protection from the worst of the wind as we walked along the ridge, good views across to Sgurr na Lapaich.

ImageP1170902 by Al, on Flickr

Mam Sodhail
ImageP1170904 by Al, on Flickr

An Tudair
ImageP1170906 by Al, on Flickr

The "fingers" to Sgurr na Lapaich and An Tudair
ImageP1170908 by Al, on Flickr

An Tudair
ImageP1170910 by Al, on Flickr

From here we regained the parent ridge and made our way to the last "finger" of Creag Coire na Each. Cloaked in fog once again we crossed bouldery ground to the small mossy cairn then began our descent along the curving ridge of Creag a'Chaorainn. Through the mist, the river gleamed like a sacred serpent or a carven white horse on chalk downs. We met with some sunshine as we lost height, making for the track we could see skirting to the south of An Tudair Beag. Crossing the Allt Coulavie was trouble free, a short ascent then onto narrow track. A long way ahead we could see the end of Loch Affric, about 5 miles to go to the car. But 5 miles in sunshine, out of the wind and in one of the lovely glens - not much of a chore. We slowly lost height then joined the broader Affric Way. Autumnal colours abounded, ochres, siennas, umbers. Bracken withering to rusty brown, vibrant greens of the Caledonian pines, whites of the silver birch saplings. My GPS told me we'd covered 27km in just over 8 hours, which seemed reasonable, Allison admitted to some aches and pains and was ready for some food. We returned to the car and drove back along Glen Affric, the roadworkers long gone home. The sky burned with an infernal glow as we sat outside the tent eating our meal.

Creag Coire nan Each
ImageP1170912 by Al, on Flickr

Silver serpent
ImageP1170914 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170917 by Al, on Flickr

It's a long way back
ImageP1170920 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170922 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170923 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170924 by Al, on Flickr

Another peaceful night, but wind whispering ever louder in the treetops over the tent. Saturday's forecast was for very strong winds and with this in mind I'd selected two smaller hills - Carn Fiaclach beside Dog Falls in Affric and Creag Dhubh down by Cougie. With no particular time pressure today we rose late and breakfasted at leisure. Drove down to the car park at Dog Falls where lots of "normal" folk were out for walks with their dogs and kids. I'd read Malky's report on this hill which noted the steep and slippy nature of the pathless ascent through the trees. I had also looke dot see if it was viable to join the two hills together into one walk, but this would have been extremely challenging through forestry and also very long - so much as I dislike "there and back again" routes, I did submit.

sat_1(1).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We took the forest path initially, enjoying views across to the north of Loch Affric through the trees. After a short while we left the path and set off up steep heather-clad hillside making our way slowly through the trees. The heather provided good holds up the stiffer parts. After some time we came out to a more level area, trees were less crowded together and the top of the hill was finally visible. The summit is adorned by a skeleton trig point and provides very fine views all down Glen Affric. Mouthwatering. We dallied for a time, although even at this modest altitude the wind was strong enough at times to buffet us almost off our feet. Descent was easier and we were soon back on the forest trail. I suggested we walk along to see the Falls and have lunch there. The falls are a little underwhelming, not least because you cannot actually see the waterfall from the viewpoint as the water slices deep into a rocky cleft which hides it from sight. But a pleasant enough amble anyway.

Bridge near Dog Falls
ImageP1170925 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170928 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170929 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170931 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170932 by Al, on Flickr

Carn Fiaclach
ImageP1170935 by Al, on Flickr

Dog Falls
ImageP1170939 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170941 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170943 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170944 by Al, on Flickr

Fed and refreshed we drove along what must be one of the most pot-holed roads in Scotland, to Cougie. We'd last been here when climbing the Graham Carn a'Chaochain last December. Road hasn't improved any and indeed the concrete "bridge" at Drochaid na Luib is a bit hairy. Not a journey for a car with low slung suspension anyway. We parked at the outbuildings and walked past the "pony trekking and camping" centre which looks as if it has seen better days. I note from their website that they offer "slay rides" in addition to pony trekking, which sounds moderately worrying.

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As we walked along the track there's an unusual barrier in the form of an electric fence wire that can be stepped over if you are brave, or opened by means of an insulated handle. We chose the latter and set off up the forestry track towards our target, the 539m Creag Dhubh. I'd routed us to ascend through a fire break in the trees - however when we reached this spot the fire break was well and truly broken, with collapsed and recumbent trees everywhere. Not fancying a stumble in the stumps we continued further along the track til the plantation ended. Another steep pull up heather clad hillside then a tentative trek through the overgrown remains of felled forestry, with plenty of rotting branches and holes to catch you unawares. I was most taken with the sky today - the clouds were most unusual and gave the sense of us being underwater looking up at breakers from beneath. Creag Dhubh
is actually a fine montecule and like Fiaclach earlier, has some fine views to offer. From the windswept summit we continued to enjoy the phantasmagorical shapes in the sky.

Creag Dhubh from Cougie
ImageP1170945 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170948 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170949 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170950 by Al, on Flickr

Creag Dhubh
ImageP1170952 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170962 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170963 by Al, on Flickr

More strange clouds
ImageP1170971 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170975 by Al, on Flickr

We journeyed back to Cannaich with the threat of rain in the air, but it came to nothing. A shower, hot food and an early night was the plan - sleep however was banished from about 9pm by live music - I'm assuming from the nearby Slater's Arms. Like, rock music that went on for the next three and a half hours. Not what I was anticipating up here in the quiet countryside, but there you go. So the extra hour in bed with the clocks going back failed to refresh.

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We had an earlyish start the following day, lack of sleep or not - a route of around 20km to the north of Loch Mullardoch then the lengthy drive home in the dark. We packed up - nice when the tent's dry - and reached the car park by Mullardoch dam before 9am. A lovely clear morning driving along the road, several royal stags bellowing as we passed, walking on and by the roadside with an air of lofty indifference to our doings. No other cars in the car park - that was a bit surprising. We set off along the track noticing how it had been widened since our first visit with heavy packs 4 years ago. We reached a pumping station or some such Hyrdo building and set off to our right into Coire an t-Sith. The hydro track goes quite a way up here too, until it reaches an inlet and we're returned to old fashioned boggy stalkers' path. We folloed this for a time then broke off to our right and made up the gentle slopes of Creag Dhubh, Carn na Gobhar's eastern Top. As we climbed we were met by an intensely cold north wind and by the time we reached the summit cairn we were frozen. Fond memories of camping up here on my last visit on a balmy night were banished by the frost.

ImageP1170976 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170978 by Al, on Flickr

Good track up by the Allt Mullardoch
ImageP1170979 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170980 by Al, on Flickr

Creag Dhubh
ImageP1170981 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170986 by Al, on Flickr

Pressing quickly on to the summit of Carn na Gobhar I had to stop and layer up, including donning my thickest winter gloves. Happed up like a pair of Esquimaux we got to the cairn and decided to descend a bit in search of shelter for lunch. Ahead loomed Sgurr na Lapaich - a mighty 350m of re-ascent, with the beautiful Loch Tuill Bearnach glowering at its foot. Ascent seems much easier when there's a path to follow and so it was to the scrambly boulder-strewn upper reaches of Lapaich. Views from the top were special - Strathfarrar to our right, Achnashellach then Torridon to the left with Slioch and An Teallach beyond. Nearer at hand, the little heap of An Cruachan sat, in the centre of the loch valleys. What a fine place this is.

Carn nan Gobhar - frosty underfoot
ImageP1170987 by Al, on Flickr

Looking at Lapaich
ImageP1170988 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170990 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1170993 by Al, on Flickr

Sgurr nan Clachan Geala
ImageP1170994 by Al, on Flickr

Looking NW
ImageP1170997 by Al, on Flickr

Our way ahead
ImageP1170999 by Al, on Flickr

Not a sound disturbed our walk - no planes, persons or even bird call. Continuing down to the Top of Sgurr nan Clachan Geala the views continued to inspire - the mighty bulk of An Riabhachan to the west - oh for another day to be camped out in these hills. Continuing down the shoulder we passed the explosion of white rocks that give the Top its name on our way to the Simm of Mullach a'Ghlas Thuill. Thius is really a fine walk and a good venture into Mullardoch if time is limited. Coming off the eastern tail we scooted down over boggy ground aiming for the stalkers' path we could see across the Allt Taige. This was definitly an old-time path - ATV tracks evident but boggy and squelchy for much of its length. Back onto solid track for the final section we passed a recumbent black bull looking sad and lonely - we noticed later that his cows were some miles away on the road east of the dam. A last look along the loch as the sun started to sink, we regained the car around 4pm.

ImageP1180002 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Clachan Geala
ImageP1180004 by Al, on Flickr

These'll be the clachan geala
ImageP1180005 by Al, on Flickr

An Riabhachan and beyond
ImageP1180008 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1180009 by Al, on Flickr

Mullach a' Ghlas thuill
ImageP1180011 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1180014 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1180017 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1180018 by Al, on Flickr
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Re: A tale of two Lapaich - wanders in Affric

Postby dogplodder » Tue Oct 31, 2017 12:34 pm

Enjoyed reading that. Having a touch of hill withdrawal twitchiness it's good to be able to do it vicariously at least and see that we've actually had some fine days recently! 8)
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Re: A tale of two Lapaich - wanders in Affric

Postby PeteR » Tue Oct 31, 2017 1:17 pm

Looks superb.

A reminder that I really need to get back into some big hills.......
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Re: A tale of two Lapaich - wanders in Affric

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:48 pm

Wow! That sequence of sky pics is truly spectacular - reminds me of the sky in Monch's "The Scream" :shock:

What a fine area this is! I have it in mind to repeat your mega Mullardoch Round (with all the tops) in the next year or so.
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Re: A tale of two Lapaich - wanders in Affric

Postby malky_c » Tue Oct 31, 2017 9:08 pm

Slay ride - well it is Halloween after all :lol:

Interesting skies, and nice colours on Carn Fiaclach in particular :) .

Good to see that An Tudair looks like a nice little bit of ridge. You won't believe how many times I've been within a short walk of it, but always missed it for various reasons. Might make a nice winter traverse.
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Re: A tale of two Lapaich - wanders in Affric

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:28 am

Glad you enjoyed Panther's home turf yet again :D :D

The Affric Sgurr na Lapaich should be a Munro. It's distinctive enough and it has 109m drop, which makes it the 8th most separate Munro top... Indeed, there are over 40 Munros with less drop. I agree, it's worth a "proper" climb from Glen Affric rather than a nip-up from MS side. We did a similar circuit once (including Benn Fionnlaidh, but it was summer so we had more daylight) and will be back for sure.

We saw that strange cloud on Saturday, driving from Inverness to Beauly, might be wind gusts creating those weird shapes? Spooky cloud for Halloween :shock:
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