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Weasels and the Black Chest

Weasels and the Black Chest

Postby weaselmaster » Sun Aug 26, 2018 10:15 pm

Munros included on this walk: A' Chralaig, A' Ghlas-bheinn, An Socach (Affric), Blà Bheinn, Ciste Dhubh, Mullach Fraoch-choire

Date walked: 26/08/2018

Distance: 57 km

Ascent: 4725m

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In the quest of hunting down Allison's remaining Munros I've been trying to be systematic. The weather does need to lend a helping hand, which isn't always the case. She had a cluster sitting around Kintail - A'Chralaig, Mullach Fraoch Coire, Ciste Dhubh (the Black Chest of the title) and A'Ghlas Bheinn, along with Bla Bheinn and three Mullardoch hills - An Socach (twice) and An Riabhachan). I looked long and hard at a route that could combine all these (well, not Bla Bheinn, that would be mental) but her back has been playing up a bit meaning that big packs are best avoided for the time being, furthermore some of my routes were perhaps not ideal in stalking season. So this weekend we'd have a short trip to Skye to tick off Bla Bheinn, then do a longish loop over A'Chralaig, Mullach, over to An Socach in Affric and back via Ciste Dhubh. If there was time the next day we'd do A'Ghlas Bheinn with a couple of the Tops on Fhada that I need, otherwise we'd do Ghlas Bheinn on its own.

The forecast promised thunderstorms on Friday (hence the shortest walk, Bla Bheinn for that day), reasonable weather on Saturday and rainy misery on Sunday. Hmmm. We set off on Thursday afternoon, intending to head over to Skye and camp somewhere near Bla Bheinn. We pulled in at Ballachulish to use the facilities (which are still free, but not for much longer) and have our tea, spotting Phil Cunningham nipping across the car park from the village hall where he and Aly are performing later on to the Co-Op, maybe for a pre-show bhajii. We continued on - the nights are drawing in now, and as we nearer Kintail I thought it would be simpler just to pitch up at Shiel Bridge and leave the tent there the whole weekend - first time we've been at a campsite for a wee while. I did worry that it might be mobbed, with this being the English August Bank Holiday but that turned out not to be the case. Anyway, we pitched up, got in out of the way of the midges and settled down for a sleep.

Friday morning was wet, we hurried away over the sea to Skye and arrived at the car park for Bla Bheinn just after nine. Clouds were heavy, though clearing the tops of the mountains. Allison spoke of her regret in not going over the ridge between the south Top and the summit when we were here in June for her Full House completion - but it is always good to be back on Skye. Took the standard route up, watched by a crew of sheep, a lot more water in the rivers than when last here. Up to the summit trig, with the clag descending just in time to deprive us of a view.

ImageP1200429 by Al, on Flickr

An Stac
ImageP1200432 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200434 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200435 by Al, on Flickr

On the way back down we spoke to a Canadian gent for a while, learning all manner of things from this somewhat garrulous individual from Vancouver...like the price of real estate in the city, the racial mix (apparently 55% Asian nowadays) and much of his life story. We were in no hurry...

Sun comes out now, of course...
ImageP1200436 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200437 by Al, on Flickr

Back at the car we swithered what to do. The sun had come out - although the sky still looked ominous to the east - and I wondered about heading up Beinn na Cro, a pretty Marilyn just along from Bla Bheinn. Allison, mindful of a big day tomorrow, was not interested. So we headed back, stopping off at the Co-Op ourselves then deciding to visit the Gavin Maxwell Museum on Eilean Ban when we went back over the bridge - we've been reading Ring of Bright Water in the evenings. This proved to be somewhat tricky. There were 3 cars parked outside the gate, which was locked. "Phone for tours" instructed a notice. So I phoned. A woman enquired what I was phoning about and told me there was one tour a day (Monday to Friday) that began at 2pm (it was now 2.30pm). There was nothing to do but come back on Monday- would that be suitable? Well, not really. Seems an odd way to run a tourist attraction. We returned to the campsite - surprisingly graced with some sunshine, and I read for a bit while Allison dozed. A couple of heavily laden young guys, probably doing the Cape Wrath Trail tentatively came past and asked me if they could use the facilities to shower, could they pay someone?. They were not camping. I recommended they ask the owner at the petrol kiosk, Mr Melancholy, but he presumably gave them short shrift as I saw no more of them. A few more tents and vans arrived, but it was pretty quiet.

socach4.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We were up and away by 7 the following morning, rain lashing down as we drove along to the Clunie. Fortunately, it petered out after that and we had a dry if at times chill and windy day. Up A'Chralaig first, remembering the time last year when we set off up here in pursuit of Allison's Tops only to be blown off our feet at 800m and having to retreat. Although it was windy today it was manageable. Enough to stop her nibs getting up on top of the big cairn, mind.

ImageP1200439 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200440 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200441 by Al, on Flickr

We continued on towards Mullach Fraoch Coire, the wind still blasting from the northwest. Funnily, we both recalled the section of path that runs behind the pinnacles being more on the east (hence leeward) side than it actually was (and I'd been here twice before). We made the summit just shy of 10.30. A very long way ahead we could make out An Socach rearing up from the crest of the southern Mullardoch ridge. I'd wanted to come down off the north of Mullach for a while and was pleased to be getting an opportunity. The going was easy, rounded back sloping reasonably gently down towards Glen Affric til the last couple of hundred metres, which were a bit steeper. I was aiming for the bridge that was marked on the map, near the Youth Hostel and hoping that it was a)there and b)intact as the River Affric looked quite deep and fast. We had to go through a deer-fenced plantation, taking the direct route, but this was better than floundering in the bog if one went around the side. The bridge was in perfect order, although it was a little bouncy for Allison's tastes. We walked up to the Hostel and took the path heading into Coire na Cloiche.

On to Mullach
ImageP1200444 by Al, on Flickr

View back to A'Chralaig
ImageP1200446 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Mullach
ImageP1200447 by Al, on Flickr

Ciste Dhubh
ImageP1200448 by Al, on Flickr

Lovely Kintail Hills
ImageP1200449 by Al, on Flickr

A'Ghlas Bheinn (R, in the backdrop)
ImageP1200450 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200451 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200453 by Al, on Flickr

Bouncy bridge
ImageP1200454 by Al, on Flickr

The next section took longer than I'd anticipated, for some reason. The path was mostly fine, some boggy sections as one might expect in this part of the world. Up to the ridge then along to the summit of An Socach. 1.45pm. I hoped we might make Ciste Dhubh by 5pm and be back at the tent by 7 if we were lucky - I don't think either of us were relishing the steep, pathless ascent up Ciste Dhubh. Anyway, we retraced our steps down to the Hostel, meeting the only person we saw all day, an Englishman who'd walked in from Morvich, over A'Ghlas Bheinn. No idea where he was headed - he didn't appear to have any overnight kit with him.

An Socach
ImageP1200457 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200458 by Al, on Flickr

We returned to the Affric-Kintal Way and followed this over the bridge crossing the Allt Gleann Gniomhaidh into Fionngleann where I knew we had to cross the Allt Cam Ban without recourse to a bridge. It was a bit wider than I'd imagined, and very cold but we crossed without incident. Ahead of us rose the tail of the Black Chest - 675m of grinding slog. At least the terrain was short grass and moss, which made matters a bit easier. We aimed for the shoulder between Coire an Athair and Coire na h-Eiridh. And at 5pm exactly we reached the graceful, understated cairn that has replaced the somewhat sprawling mess that greeted me twice previously. It was quite sunny now and warm when you were out of the fierce wind. We galumphed down to the Clunie and back to the car, running a ked gauntlet alongside the river in the final section of the walk.
A biggish day - 30km and almost 2700m ascent.

Shoes off for the Allt Cam Ban
ImageP1200459 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Fhada
ImageP1200460 by Al, on Flickr

It's a long way to the top
ImageP1200461 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200463 by Al, on Flickr

Summit of the Black Chest
ImageP1200464 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200466 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200467 by Al, on Flickr

Back at the campsite, the midges had come out to play. We ate our curry watching a young German couple, cyclists, trying to make their tea outside and doing the midge dance whilst they did so. The only English word I heard them use was "Smidge". I was thankful that we had the luxury of the big tent with its midge screened vestibule to allow our cooking to be done midge free. More rain, quite a lot in fact, overnight.

We rose at 7.30, breakfasted and packed away the wet tent and set off for Morvich and A'Ghlas Bheinn. Plans to include Fhada were shelved due to the weather - persistent drizzle becoming heavy rain as the morning progressed. The road is closed (if you come in on the southern arm towards Morvich Campsite) due to a bridge being re-built, so we parked a bit further away from the Ranger's Station than we'd have done otherwise. A nice walk, despite the weather, into Gleann Choinneachain. Loads of mushrooms in the woods. We went through the series of gates, forded the Allt a'Choire Chaoil on the good stepping stones and headed up through Kintail's own version of the Chalamain Gap to Bealach an Sgairne.

Fly Agaric (nibbled)
ImageP1200470 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200471 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200472 by Al, on Flickr

As we started up the path to A'Ghlas Bheinn the wind really caught us, chill, driving the wind hard into our bodies. The ascent was pretty miserable due to the conditions. After reaching the summit we retreated to a (slightly) more sheltered spot to have lunch then set off back the way we'd come. Not far from the Bealach na Sgairne we were passed by an upcoming hill runner in shorts - mental!. The gleann was much more tranquil than the hillside had been though, and the rain paused too as we walked back. After what seemed a ridiculously short time we were passed by the runner again, presumably having been to the top of A'Ghlas Bheinn and back. He was fairly motoring anyway. Back at the car in just over 6 hours, ready for a long wet drive back to Inverclyde, but with another 6 of her remaining Munros in the bag.

A'Ghlas Bheinn
ImageP1200475 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200477 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200479 by Al, on Flickr

Caterpillar in fur coat
ImageP1200480 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200481 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200484 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200485 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1200486 by Al, on Flickr
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