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Pounding the chest

Pounding the chest


Postby BlackPanther » Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:20 pm

Route description: Ciste Dhubh and Am Bathach, Cluanie

Munros included on this walk: Ciste Dhubh

Corbetts included on this walk: Am Bathach

Date walked: 02/01/2019

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 13.5 km

Ascent: 1080m

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Every keen hillwalker has his/her favourite hill. Or, at least, a shortlist of favourites. If I had to draft such list, it would be far too long :lol: :lol: but I know for sure that the route along the ridge of Ciste Dhubh and Am Bathach would find its place there. I don't know why I'm sentimental about this particular duo (so is Kevin, also for reasons unknown). We have been up there on a sunny summer day, in the middle of colourful autumn and in the depths of proper winter. By proper winter I mean 5 inches of soft snow and big overhangs on the Black Chest :D
Sadly, this year snow decided to pack up and move to mainland Europe. I heard on the news that the Alps are drowning in tonnes of the white stuff, at the same time we're sitting home praying for at least a few specks. I have my own conspiracy theory for the snowless winter: Obviously the Russians have put Grampa Frost on a very short leash and he can't reach out as far as the British Isles :lol:
Despite the lack of winter conditions, we were still eager to visit the hills of Glen Shiel on January Bank Holiday. Ciste Dhubh and Am Bathach seemed the best option as a shorter day. Forecast was very good, cold but dry and sunny in the morning, with some high cloud pushing in from the west in the afternoon. So off we went, having packed extra warm clothing, hot tea and Lucy the Lamb, who is now getting dangerously close to her 100th Munro.
Our route follows the WH walk description. On previous visits, we returned via An Caorann Mor as there is a reasonable track there, this time, just for a change, we walked back down the path in An Caorann Beg. Which one is better? Hard to say. One thing for sure: both options are boggy :wink:

Track_CISTE DHUBH 02-01-19.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


We started from the layby on the north side of the A87, below the slopes of Am Bathach, just as the first rays of light brightened the mountain slopes and the shades of pink and orange reflected in Loch Cluanie:
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Ready to go! The layby was busy with people getting ready for adventures :D Many of them picked the very route we were attempting, but to be honest, we didn't expect to be alone in Glen Shiel on a sunny bank holiday...
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Sunrise over Loch Cluanie:
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Frrrosty morning! The way up Am Bathach:
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We couldn't resist stopping every other step to turn around and admire the morning spectacle in the eastern sky:
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South Glen Shiel ridge in the morning sunshine:
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I have been up this slope a few timed before and in different conditions, one thing I have to say: it's painfully steep. The very first time up Am Bathach, I almost returned my breakfast sandwich :lol: No such problems this time, I'm obviously more used to acute angles:
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Just as the sun emerged from behind the mountain ridges on the opposite side of the glen, the whole world turned reddish-pink for a short time. Fantastic experience, well worth getting up at a painful 5:30 am...
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Panoramic snap from near the southern top of Am Bathach, looking back south:
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Panther and the sunrise:
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To the east, the long ridge of A'Chralaig...
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There were people both in front and behind us, but we didn't really set a fast pace. We had more than enough time to complete the traverse of both mountains in daylight. On such a lovely day, it would be a sin not to enjoy every minute spent up there!
Sgurr an Fhuarail and the ridge of "our" Corbett:
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When standing on the southernmost top, the whole Am Bathach ridge seems miles long, but the view is misleading. I remember walking it in full winter conditions, when we struggled to pull our legs out of deep snow. Nothing like that today, not even a sprinkle of the white stuff:
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The summit of Am Bathach and Ciste Dhubh behind:
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The sun was getting stronger but there was still chill to the air, definitely temperature below zero. Yet very little wind at all, almost a total silence... The ridge has a few ups and downs on the way to the true summit, but it's all easy angles and a grassy path marks the way:
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We took so many photos that day that it would be impossible to show them all, just the best ones...
Sgurr an Fhuarail's eastern corries:
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The summit of Am Bathach. It was Lucy's first visit to this hill, my fourth and Kevin's... he doesn't know, lost the count :lol:
Lucy posing with the Black Chest in the background on the summit of her 81st Corbett:
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It was hardly 10 am when we reached the first summit and too early for lunch, but we stopped for a short snack break anyway, just to enjoy the views. Kevin spent the next 15 minutes or so with his camera, trying different settings to catch the amazing views in the best light. My camera, sadly, went on strike (too cold!), so I simply watched the morning spectacle with my eyes wide open. Am Bathach is an excellent viewpoint any time of the year, a frosty January day was no exception...
Ciste Dhubh and Mullach Fraoch-choire. Notice the shadow of Am Bathach on the slopes of the Black Chest:
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View west:
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I usually refer to "The Chest" as to the eastern face of the mountain, the vertical crags just below the summit:
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After a lengthy photo session we descended to Bealach Choinich, which drops to 591m:
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...before attacking the steep southern side of Ciste Dhubh. Despite being steep and wet in places, this slope is grassy so not as hard to walk on, even when the ground is frozen. A well worn path climbs just to the right of the rocky outcrops (right side of the photo below) but we didn't bother, just wend straight up the pathless grass.
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A glimpse back to Am Bathach:
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The ridge of A'Chralaig - Mullach Fraoch-choire:
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We stopped just where the ground eases off, to put on warmer clothing as it was getting colder now, the wind picked up a bit. Taking the opportunity, Kevin snapped some more photos of brothers and sisters:
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Black Panther and the Kintail Brothers:
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We decided to include An Cnapach into our route, even though there is a good bypass path below this rocky outcrop, but the additional meters of ascent are well rewarded by lovely views from the rocky edge of this top:
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In full winter conditions this ridge is prone to forming overhangs (as we experienced ourselves) so care should be taken when soft snow is about, but this time we had no need to be overly cautious and could enjoy the edgy traverse:
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After traversing An Cnapach, an obvious path leads to the highest part of the mighty mountain... Behold the Black Chest!
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One of my favouirite views from Ciste Dhubh ridge is when looking back at An Cnapach and Am Bathach behind it. Two pointy twin peaks. Apologies for the reflection in this picture:
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There is no proper scrambling on the way to the summit, just a rocky path which has become more eroded recently as a result of countless feet walking up and down this route. As in case of many popular hills, the well worn paths turn into nasty scars, but there's nothing we can do about it apart from growing wings and learning to fly :wink:
Lucy on the summit of Ciste Dhubh, her 98th Munro!
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The summit of Ciste Dhubh is small and surprisingly airy. There was just about enough space for the two of us to find comfortable seats by the tiny summit cairn.
Happy New Year with tea and sandwiches :lol: :lol:
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As we sat there with our lunch, weather began to change. Grey cloud started to push in from the west, the sky above the brothers/sisters ridge suddenly became darker...
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...but to the north, the clear blue sky still prevailed:
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Panorama north, including Beinn Fhada, A'Ghlas-bheinn and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:
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Distant Mullardoch Munros:
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More people were coming behind us and the summit was getting crowded so we left the top to the newcomers and packed up for the descent.
Panther ready to go!
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On the frozen path just below the Chest itself:
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On the way down, despite the loss of good light, we took more nice photos including this one, of a walker on the top of An Cnapach:
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Looking down the ridge:
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On the bypass path below An Cnapach:
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We had a short discussion about the return route, Kevin had walked down both glen (An Caorann Mor and Beg) and said, both were just as boggy. I have never done the Beg route so we decided to take this one for a change.
And it was wet and boggy all the way...
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At some point, Kevin said:
"Who would expect that the most challenging part of the day would be trying to stay upright on a wet path in the glen!"
I think my face says it all...
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Despite this small hiccup on the way back, we still enjoyed the whole experience :D :D
Aiming for the road near Loch Cluanie:
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Finally, a short walk along the road brought us back to the busy layby. We took six hour roughly, to complete the traverse, but that included countless stops for photos as the day, especially earlier on, was brilliant and we wanted to use it up to the full.
So with our first Munro of 2019 climbed, I feel like pounding my chest with pride. Not that it was particularly difficult, but I'm glad we didn't waste a nice day. Visiting one of my favourite hills in the first days of January is certainly a good prognosis for the coming year!

The weekend after we popped up another Munro. Still no snow, but more nice views from the very far north of Scotland. TR in progress :D
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BlackPanther
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Re: Pounding the chest

Postby goingforawii » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:13 pm

Some lovely photos there! :)
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Re: Pounding the chest

Postby dogplodder » Wed Jan 16, 2019 11:55 am

What a great day you got! You've now put me in the mood for getting the grandsons up here as it would give them an entertaining ridge without too long a day. :D
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Re: Pounding the chest

Postby PeteR » Wed Jan 16, 2019 1:12 pm

I remember that climb up Am Bathach....... :shock: On paper it looks great, but is a real lung-buster. The combination of the two hills though does make for a grand outing and you certainly captured some great images from your day :clap:
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Re: Pounding the chest

Postby Mal Grey » Thu Jan 17, 2019 8:53 pm

Wonderful conditions, except for the bog! Love the pictures looking back across the pointiness.

Poor Lucy looks left out from your cosy summit seating!

We missed Am Bathach out, something I regret. So we did the bog twice! In typical manner, bastardising the poor old Gaelic language, we refer to this pair as Tit and Buttock...

Keep 'em coming...
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Re: Pounding the chest

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Jan 18, 2019 12:13 am

Some great photies there, BP. And I love your "I've just enjoyed a deep bog" expression :lol:

I'll be up there in just 4 weeks :D :D :D . And hoping for plenty of snow.
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Re: Pounding the chest

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:31 pm

Thanks, everyone :D
This ridge is a good one for even less experienced walkers (certainly in summertime) and it doesn't take ages to do. The boggy return walk is a bit of a disappointment at the end of the day, but not enough to dismiss this route as fantastic!

Alteknacker wrote:Some great photies there, BP. And I love your "I've just enjoyed a deep bog" expression :lol:

I'll be up there in just 4 weeks :D :D :D . And hoping for plenty of snow.


Alan, I think your prayers for snow have been answered. It's all white now in Northern Scotland, down to seal level. Hopefully the cold spell will last a few weeks!
I usually enjoy the deep bog, mostly the moment when the experience is over :lol: :lol:

Mal Grey wrote:Poor Lucy looks left out from your cosy summit seating!

We missed Am Bathach out, something I regret. So we did the bog twice! In typical manner, bastardising the poor old Gaelic language, we refer to this pair as Tit and Buttock...


Lucy was just busy looking at the views! It was the first time on the summit of Ciste Dhubh, when we had any views at all. Three previous times, it was always cloudy!
For me Ciste Dhubh is a "pirate mountain". I can imagine singing "Fifteen Men On The Dead Man's Chest" when climbing the Black Chest :lol: :lol:
Kevin said on the way back "Next time when we do it, we return over Am Bathach. Prefer to climb the Corbett twice and leave the bogs out altogether."
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BlackPanther
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