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Monadhliath should be easy, in theory

Monadhliath should be easy, in theory


Postby Fife Flyer » Tue Jan 29, 2019 9:28 pm

Route description: Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain and A'Chailleach

Munros included on this walk: A' Chailleach (Monadhliath), Carn Dearg (Monadhliath), Carn Sgulain

Date walked: 24/01/2019

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 24.8 km

Ascent: 1100m

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A rather short notice plan, especially as my/our last outing was only 4 days ago. The forecast was rather good so I contacted George in the hope that he would like a spot of exercise.
I had a look to see what hills we could tackle whilst Parminder is still in demand down in Englandshire and given the "expected" conditions (snow/ice) this would be a great time to visit the Monadhliath. Everyone knows how boggy these hills are, so a good covering of snow and ice would make them nice and easy, one day I will learn that walking in snow is anything but easy.
George volunteered to accompany me, so I suggested I would pick him up at 6am with a view to starting to walk almost at first light. As we were heading up the A9 we stopped for breakfast on the outskirts of Perth and were kitted up and on our way shortly after 8am.
This group of hills was our second visit, George was there in Nov 2015 and walked solo, my visit was last century March 1997 with my late wife. I could hardly remember anything about the walk apart from the boggy terrain and peat hags, George mainly remembered the walk from Carn Dearg to Carn Sgulain and how it seemed to last forever.

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Car park not very busy, in fact no other cars

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Lovely sunrise

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George pondering the way ahead

The walk didn't start off as we planned, we left the track and followed a path that we thought would be a short cut. After a short time we checked our navigational equipment and found out that we a tad "off piste". This is not unusual for us, so how were we going to get back on track? Are we going to retrace our steps as that would be the sensible thing to do, but we don't do sensible so we decided to try and make our detour a short cut. Firstly we had a small forest to navigate through and then a couple of deer fences to clamber over.
It was fairly obvious that we weren't the only adventurers as there was almost a path, once over the second deer fence we soon intercepted the track.

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Bit of an obstacle

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On our way to intercept the track

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Back on course after the wee detour

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The locals hunting for food

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Kind of demonstrates how cold it was

Once on the track, the sprinkling of snow on the track was hiding plenty of ice so we had to take great care. I can only imagine what the track is like without the snow or ice, umpteen puddles, running water and bogs.
As we gained a wee bit of height the ice on the track was becoming more of a hazard, so we made an executive decision to put our spikes on.

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Plenty of ice

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Time to put on the spikes

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The way ahead

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Next obstacle, not quite health and safety approved

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Looks a bit like the Pap of Glencoe from this angle

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Height gained = deeper snow

As we were walking up Gleann Ballach we were discussing our options, do we follow the WH to the letter or do we improvise. Have a guess what we decided, correct we opted to improvise. There were a few sets of footsteps in the snow leaving the track, we decided to leave the track at a spot that would reduce the amount of descent before the tortuous ascent began. We picked up one of the sets of steps which did make things slightly easier. It is far easier to walk in steps already in the snow as you 'roughly' how deep the snow is before you put your foot down.

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George enjoying the struggle uphill

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The first target

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Summit cairn in the distance, taken during the ascent

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Summit cairn on Carn Dearg, by far and away the best of the three summits

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Video taken on the 1st summit

After taking a few photo's on the summit of Carn Dearg we started the long trek to the 2nd summit and boy was it long. It maybe seemed longer because of the conditions, there were a few random footsteps that we utilised but it wasn't long before we were on our own.

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George leading the way initially, following a set of foot steps, we will be picking up the fence posts very soon

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Slight incline

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Looking back and cloud has now enveloped the Glen

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Looking back via one of the numerous fence posts

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George posing in front of a few fence posts

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Some cracking cloud formations

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Looking back, my footprints and plenty of animal prints

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The long awaited 2nd summit that took us almost 3 hours to reach

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Video taken from the 2nd summit

I can imagine how useful the fence posts are in poor visibility, they do stay on the very wide ridge and kind of wiggle their way north east and east. George did say in the car on the way home, if anyone asks him to visit these three again he would politely decline. I am curious how many fence posts there are so if anyone can answer that question I would be interested to know, there is well over 100.

After the 2nd summit we decided to try a direct approach before the descent of about 100m to cross the small burn. It could have been a good idea but the terrain is absolutely awful, tufty grass, peat hags etc. When covered in snow the depth varies from feet to inches.

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Heading downhill before crossing the burn and then the final ascent

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Burn very obvious now

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Looking across towards our third and final target

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Looking back - our descent route is rather obvious

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A very welcome sight

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George enjoying the final ascent

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Third and final video on the third and final summit

We reached the third summit at 15.45 and as we are all aware at this time of year daylight hours are in short supply, so we didn't hang around. We could see a path that looked as if it was heading back towards the car park so we opted to head in that direction. The initial descent was easy in deepish snow and the terrain was fairly constant with no tussocks and other hazards. We kept checking our navigational gear to make sure we were heading the correct direction, we were slightly off the ideal course but doing fine.
It wasn't long before we picked up a track and umpteen different set of boot prints - where had they all come from?
I should mention that I removed my spikes on the 2nd summit as I had balls of ice building up at both the heel areas and it felt like I was walking in high heels - not that I have ever tried high heels.
When we reached the track, as on the ascent track ice was a problem so I was taking great care in the dwindling light.
We made it back to the car shortly after 5pm, it was just about dark and we were both fairly tired and thirsty. I had a bottle of juice in the car and shared it with George and was like nectar.
Turned out to be a much tougher day than we planned, the trudge after the first summit will stay in our memories for quite some time. A huge thanks to George for volunteering to keep me company, am sure he regretted it once or twice.
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Fife Flyer
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Re: Monadhliath should be easy, in theory

Postby sunshine65 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 12:37 pm

Great pics boys makes me want to get back on the hills again also nice day in terms of weather
sunshine65
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Re: Monadhliath should be easy, in theory

Postby Stuu666 » Wed Jan 30, 2019 1:28 pm

Good report. Had thought about doing this myself on the 24th or 25th but decided the slog through snow would be too much! Glad I avoided now.
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