Born to be wild(camping)
by BlackPanther » Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:41 pm
Route description: Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan group, Alltbeithe
Munros included on this walk: Mullach nan Dheiragain, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
Date walked: 14/05/2019
Time taken: 16 hours
Distance: 46.5 km
Ascent: 1778m7 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
"High pressure has settled over Scotland and for the next few days it will be dry, warm, with low winds"
Kevin had no doubts what that meant...
"It's perfect weather for wildcamping!"
I love camping in general. Those of you who know us from WH meets, surely remember that we always bring camping gear. We simply prefer the privacy of our own tent, not to mention the fact that we are both loud snorers, so sharing a room with other people would be a bit embarrassing
When it comes to wildcamping, Kevin has more experience in this field but we both enjoy a challenge of walking a long distance, carrying heavy rucksacks. There's only one condition for a successful wildcamping trip: good weather. What's the point doing it if it rains cats and dogs, or low cloud blocks all the views? So when a prolong spell of sunny weather was forecast for Scotland, we knew we had to take the opportunity.
We sat down and discussed options. The list of hills to-do with a possible wildcamping opportunity included:
1. Lurg Mhor, Cheesecake and Ben Dronaig
2. Fisherfield Corbetts & Grahams
3. Ladhar Bheinn
4. Mullach nan Dheiragain and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
In the end, we decided on the last option as it was the closest one to home and we could do it in two rather than three days. For the Bedronaig group we will probably take bikes, the other two might have to wait for the next year. Besides, the two Alltbeithe Munros shouted at me from my Munro map as the last two red balloons in the whole area of Affric/Mullardoch/Kintail. Also, Kevin had camped in that area before and he remembered an abundance of flat grassy patches with easy access to clean stream water. Plus the walk in is on a decent track.
The idea was to walk in on Monday and enjoy the evening in a remote location, get up with the first light and climb the hills via the usual ridge route, then return to the camp, have dinner and pack up to walk out in the evening. We calculated that we had more than enough time to do it in two days, but just in case, we were prepared to stay for a second night and walk out in the following morning.
The full circular of Alltbeithe Munros is a big walk in itself even when starting from the youth hostel (20km, 9 to 11 hours, 1484m of ascent), but we could shorten it slightly by skipping An Socach which we had already climbed in winter conditions in March 2014 (highly recommended as a separate walk via Coire Ghaidheil). The map presented below is a stitch of 3 GPS files and statistics given above are for the whole trip. Time, distance and ascent for particular stages will be added at the start of each stage.
STAGE 1. WALK IN. 13/05/2019
Distance: 14 km
Time: 3rhs 30min
We started from the big car park in Glen Affric at the end of public road (no charge at the moment). The car park was full to bursting, many people walking about. It is such a popular spot these days, even out of season, even during the week. We prepared for the long haul with heavy load. Kevin carried the tent, I had food and cooking gear. Of course, we forgot a few small items, we always forget something
Panther ready for the adventure!
DSCF2207 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The walk along the southern side of Loch Affric is always a pleasure. We had done it so may times now that I lost count, and I'm always stunned by the view across the loch to Affric Munros:
Thankfully, the mess caused by the new hydro schemes on Allt Garbh has been cleaned as much as it was possible (though it would take decades for the scars to heal).
After a few km on the track, we had a nice encounter with a local reptile:
This curious slow worm sunbathed in the middle of the road. It raised its head when I bent over to have a better look, but didn't seem scared. I didn't touch it, just didn't want to upset it. Let the poor sod enjoy the sun while it lasts He (she?) was in no danger of being run over on the private road along the loch.
DSCF2201 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The walk in was pure pleasure, even with heavy rucksacks. Weather was simply stunning, warm and sunny yet not too hot. I remembered our wildcamping trip to the Fisherfields from Poolewe a couple years back, done in +30*C, an absolute belter but we almost got roasted alive This time, it was cool enough to make this walk more enjoyable, and we stopped ever so often to take photos. We didn't take the big bridge camera (too heavy) but my compact Canon and Kevin's smartphone did the job.
Near the opposite end of Loch Affric:
Views across the loch to Mam Sodhail:
The back side of Glen Shiel Munros, specifically Mullach Fraoch-choire:
On the track past Athnamulloch:
Somehow I convinced myself, that once we reach the opposite end of Loch Affric, it's then half an hour walk to Alltbeithe Kevin shattered my hopes by saying, we still had 5km to go!
Looking west from near Loch an Fheadain:
We reached the bridge over Allt Coire Ghaidheil (this is the starting point for the An Socach circular if done on its own) and stopped here to rest and refill water bottles from the stream. It was a lovey afternoon and I found it hard to believe that we had such a marvelous summer weather in mid May
Waterfalls on Allt Coire Ghaidheil:
DSCF2238 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The track continued with some ups and downs along River Affric:
View back east along upper Glen Affric:
Just as we were approaching the Hostel, I spotted a familiar shape sunbathing on the track. Another slow worm, this one much bigger than the previous one. But only a few seconds later I realized, it wasn't a slow worm at all, but a young adder! The reptile saw us, too, and before we got our cameras ready, it decided to make itself scarce. Kevin managed one snap of the adder disappearing in high grass. Apologies for bad quality of this picture, but I'm glad we got anything at all. Not the first time we saw an adder in Scotland, but they are always so timid and quick to escape, unlike slow worms, who enjoy posing for photos!
I was excited to be so close to wildlife, but maybe not so much in case of adders (I could write a long essay here about different toxins from their venom and how they act on cellular level, but it would make you all fall asleep ). Needless to say, I would NOT recommend chasing them and trying to pet them. We continued our walk to just before the hostel, where we found a perfect spot for camping, by Allt an Faing, a bit upstream from where it joins River Affric.
Panther spotted a good place for a wild camp!
We pitched the tent and unpacked our cooking equipment. In the past, I heard a few surprised gasping comments when I said we use Trangia for wildcamping trips. People say it's too heavy and inconvenient (you have to carry a bottle of methylated spirit as well, which weighs more than gas canisters) but we are so used to it that we would never swap it for a gas burner. Plus, it's much safer for cooking inside the tent in case weather turns nasty. Our Trangia also has a little kettle for boiling water much quicker than in an open pot.
We had something quick for dinner (noodles and Wayfayrer boil in the bag meals) and as we sat in front on the tent, sipping tea, we noticed that the evening turned out very nice and sunny:
Kevin grabbed his mobile phone and started to play with different functions. He discovered, his phone has a panoramic mode for photos.
Panoramic view from our camp:
2019-05-13 affric munros 064 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We decided to take a short evening stroll around the area. Near the tent, Lucy discovered remains of her long dead relative and she spent some time contemplating life and death from lamb point of view.
To baaa or not to baaa?
The less known side of Ciste Dhubh:
Alltbeithe Youth Hostel:
River Affric and Beinn Fhada:
Lucy discovered a bridge over River Affric!
Kevin with his mobile phone on the bridge:
This lamb was born to be wildcamping for sure
Panoramic snap of River Affric and the steep northern end of Mullach Fraoch-choire:
2019-05-13 affric munros 108 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Two more groups arrived that evening, pitching their tents closer to River Affric. We didn't socialize. Every group kept to themselves, enjoying the quiet, wild feeling of this area.
We returned to our tent, had some more tea before retiring inside for a good night sleep. Of course, we both snored so laud that they must have heard us in the hostel
I woke up at about 3 am and left the tent for a few minutes. It was cold outside but the sky was lit with millions of stars, I stood there, holding my breath and trying to recognize the constellations I remembered from old school days. Down here on ground level, the darkness was smooth like velvet, the silence was total. I wished I could just gaze in the sky forever, but the night was indeed chilly, so I returned to my sleeping bag and snored happily for the next three hours
In the morning, Kevin was the first one out. The sun was just emerging from behind the mountain ridge in the east...
...and we knew we were in for another fantastic day!
Good morning, Glen Affric!
As water for the morning tea was boiling, I clambered out of my sleeping bag. The first thing I noticed, was the frost on the tent. It must have gone down to 0*C during the night, but I didn't feel the cold at all, cocooned in my warm sleeping bag. Only my nose was blocked up from snoring, and a hot cup of tea and a few morning stretches quickly brought me back to life!
We finished breakfast and packed up for the climb. As mentioned earlier, we decided to skip An Socach to save time and be able to walk back to the car in the evening.
STAGE 2. CLIMBING THE MOUNTAINS. 14/05/2019
Time: 8hrs 45min
We walked past the hostel to find the start of the stalkers path up Coire na Cloiche, which is obvious and well-worn. The morning was shaping up nicely and we enjoyed grat views back into the glen from the very beginning:
The path follows Allt na Faing and going is very easy, not too steep and luckily for us, after a long spell of dry weather, all boggy sections have dried out:
Before reaching the upper corrie, we topped up our bottles from the stream, just to be on the safe side as we expected no water sources higher on the ridge.
Facing the upper corrie:
The upper corrie is dotted with peat hags and in wet weather this would be tricky to cross, but not today As we gained height, even better views emerged, giving us a vague idea of what was yet to come!
Stob Coire na Cloiche looks very intimidating, but there is a well worn path avoiding all difficulties:
We reached the top of the bealach at half past eight, now we could see the rest of today's walk. WH description suggests going to Mullach first, but we decided to tame "the munstahhh" before climbing the sidekick
The morning sunshine over Mam Sodhail - Carn Eighe ridge:
DSCF2293 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The path up Stob Coire na Cloiche is steep with a few rocky sections, but no real scrambling required:
From the first summit on the ridge, we could now see Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan in its full glory. It didn't look like a monster to me any more, and I was sure by then, it could easily be tamed!
Mullach nan Dheiragain, on the other hand, seemed so far away, it was hard to believe that we could get that far! But in a few hours we would discover that the view was misleading and the second Munro can be reached without much hassle along the ridge past Carn na Con Dhu:
A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch Choire from the ridge leading to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan:
Ciste Dhubh and The Brothers of Shiel:
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan in panoramic version:
2019-05-14 affric munros 071 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The traverse along the ridge has no real technical obstacles. There is one short steep section of path, when descending from Stob Coire na Cloiche:
DSCF2313 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking back to Stob Coire na Cloiche:
There are two more small tops on the ridge (941 and 970m) but the only serious ascent is on the final push to the summit. Before facing the munstahhh, we stopped for a short hydration/snack/photo/phone fiddling break:
...before continuing to the summit. The path was obvious all the way and the higher we got, te better the views. By now I was all smiles!
The multitude of mountains on the horizon to the south-west:
She summited first! I think she found the answer to the question, to baa or not to baa
Lucy guarding the summit cairn, her 108th Munro!
Very rarely I find myself on the summit of a Munro at 10 in the morning! Munro no. 251 in the bag
DSCF2356 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We spent some time on the summit, enjoying the views and the solitude. Because it was so early, there was nobody else on the ridge (we saw another pair of walkers behind us as we started, but they reversed the route going for Mullach first, so we didn't meet them till much later).
A few panoramic snaps, just to show off
2019-05-14 affric munros 083 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
2019-05-14 affric munros 084 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
2019-05-14 affric munros 085 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The corries of Beinn Fhada, and another walk we have in mind, traversing the full ridge of this Munro:
DSCF2332 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The traverse to the second Munro takes time but it's such an enjoyable ridge that I didn't even pay much attention to the extra descent/reascent. For the first 50 m of descent from the summit of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan we had to be very cereful on soft, melting snow, but later on we returned to the safe ground...
DSCF2373 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
It's a bit rocky but no scrambling or any technical issues, just enjoy it, whichever direction you do it!
DSCF2386 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking back at the descent ridge from half way down:
DSCF2390 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
There's more to come! the ridge drops to Bealach nan Daoine:
DSCF2393 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We climbed to Carn na Con Dhu without hesitation. From here, we had a good view back to the ridge of Stob Coire na Cloiche. We were fully aware that we'd have to go back to the other side of the hanging corrie on the way back to the camp:
2019-05-14 affric munros 087 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan from Carn na Con Dhu, panoramic version:
2019-05-14 affric munros 087 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The ridge of Carn na Con Dhu was surprisingly long and dotted with boulderfields and little rocky outcrops, could be very confusing in misty conditions. A vague path can be followed.
DSCF2418 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Mullach nan Dheiragain is the next top on the ridge, it looks very distant but indeed, once you traversed the labyrinth of Carn na Con Dhu, you are almost there!
DSCF2422 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The final climb to the summit of our second Munro didn't take long. When crossing Bealach na Con Dhu we met the other pair of walkers who were doing the circuit in opposite direction.
Mullach nan Dheiragain - Lucy's 109th Munro!
2019-05-14 affric munros 048 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking back at Carn na Con Dhu and Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan behind:
DSCF2424 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The more distant views were hazy, but we could just about make out the familiar shape of Cuillin Ridge:
2019-05-14 affric munros 052 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
We didn't hurry too much and decided to spend some time on this summit, too. It's unlikely we'll ever return to this remote spot, so we wanted to take advantage of the good weather and take enough pictures for a decent report. Mind you, I think we took far too many in the end!
Kevin and the distant Torridon hills:
2019-05-14 affric munros 055 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking back south towards Glen Shiel:
2019-05-14 affric munros 058 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Sguman Coinntich and Faochaig, the two Killilan Corbetts:
DSCF2430 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Lurg Mhor, Cheesecake, Ben Dronaig... all the hills big and small we haven't climbed yet
DSCF2433 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Zoom to the Torridons:
DSCF2443 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Summit pano, south:
2019-05-14 affric munros 088 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Summit pano, east:
2019-05-14 affric munros 090 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
All right, Munro no. 252 bagged, time to head back to the camp!
2019-05-14 affric munros 100 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Initially, we intended to return over Carn na Con Dhu to Bealach nan Daoine, but Kevin said he would prefer to save more reascent by skipping the middle top. How exactly are you going to do it? I asked, he took out the map and showed me his idea. We would drop a little bit down the eastern side of Bealach na Con Dhu and then contour around, staying above 700m, to reach the edge of Coire nan Dearcaig. This option would save us both ascent and distance. I liked my husband's suggestion and we decided to try the contouring.
In good weather and dry underfoot it's pretty straightforward, especially if you have GPS to tell you how high you are. I'm not sure if this shortcut would be safe in wet conditions, and in low cloud, careful navigation would be necessary to find the way to Coire nan Dearcaig.
The contouring route:
DSCF2450 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Mam Sodhail and Carn Eighe across Gleann a'Choilich:
DSCF2456 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The shortcut proved to be a good choice of route. I calculated that we saved at least an hour by taking it, so we definitely would have enough time to walk out in the evening
Panther grinning What a day!
DSCF2457 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The route back can be seen here, it requires crossing the corrie and climbing to the bealach on the very left of the photo:
DSCF2458 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The bottom of Coire nan Dearcag must be a boggy nightmare in wet times, but we found an easy way to cross, hopping over streams and puddles, admiring the slabs above Loch Coire nan Dearcag:
DSCF2469 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The main ridge of Affric Munros and Beinn Fionnlaidh from the bottom of the corrie:
DSCF2476 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The final obstacle of the day, a short if steep climb back to the bealach below Stob Coire na Cloiche:
DSCF2470 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
I hoped for some sort of path but couldn't find any traces, so we simply climbed straight up to the bealach. The slope is steep-ish and wet in places, but ist's only a short ascent, soon we were back on the ridge we started from and heading for the stalkers path into Coire na Cloiche. Weather was still fantastic, sunny but not too warm. We returned to our little camp at half past three and spent the next hour and a half cooking dinner (another boil in the bag experience, but after clocking in 1200m of ascent, we'd eat our own shoe soles if we had nothing else ), eating and then packing up for the walk out.
STAGE 3. WALK OUT. 14/05/2019
Time: 3hrs 30min
Five o'clock sharp, we lifted our heavy rucksacks and headed back along upper Glen Affric, waving good bye to Alltbeithe and the surrounding mountains. As we walked, we enjoyed the same fantastic views in reverse. At some point I spotted a badger crossing the road, but as my camera was safely put away in one of the side pockets of my sack, I didn't get a photo. Towards the end, my feet started to feel sore, simply from the sheer distance we walked today, but I didn't complain. Sore foot soles are a small price to pay for such a great experience
Having returned home, we both shared the feeling of time well spent. Heavy rucksacks or not, we definitely had fun and we'll be back for more. Was Panther born to be wildcamping? Yes, she was!
But if you think this is where our May holiday madness ends, you're wrong! Thursday morning saw us facing another epic, this time a 50km bike & hike including the hill of rock and water. TR to come soon.
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- Joined: Apr 19, 2010
- Location: Angus
by Lakeswalker » Thu Jun 06, 2019 4:33 pm
I had to laugh about your comments on “Heavy rucksacks or not,” thinking back to my wild camping trips about 40 years ago. A Vango Mark IV 3 person tent, an Optimus stove and paraffin, food for several days plus goodness knows what else. I hate to think what the weight of each pack was as we walked in to the Cairngorms in winter.
My meagre list of Munros shows that at least it was a successful trip.
by dogplodder » Thu Jun 06, 2019 5:15 pm
by HalfManHalfTitanium » Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:54 pm
She is currently in the middle of A level exam stres, but your report and photos brought a huge smile to her face!
I was once bitten by an adder - and ended up spending a night in Bangor hospital. The consolation was a great view of Snowdon lit up by the setting sun out of my hospital window.
It's always a bit magical to spot any of Britain's small reptile population.
Great mountain photos too! - this looks like the best way to manage these two remote peaks.
by BlackPanther » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:53 pm
I'm glad my TR brought up a few smiles and might be useful as a reference for the future exploring of the wonderful area of Affric!
It's actually a great area to find the illusive reptiles. Adders can often be spotted sunbathing on tracks. Once Kevin went for a bike ride in Glen Strathfarrar, and he had to do a "giant slalom" on the road to avoid the countless snakes We also see different lizards quite often, so for anyone who'd like to spy on them with a camera, it's the best place to be
Initially, I was thinking about doing the Alltbeithe Munros in a single day trip using bikes, but in retrospective, I'm so glad we decided to overnight. It's such a superb, quiet and remote corner of Scotland, it deserves a longer trip and proper lurking around, especially the hills themselves.
by dav2930 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 10:36 am
You certainly can't beat wild camping in weather like that and in such a beautiful place. A wonderful escape from the **** that surrounds us in our everyday lives.
A really enjoyable report and great pics. Reminds me that I still have these Munros to do, as well as Lurg Mhor and Cheesecake. Wild camping is the way forward I think!
by J9Disco » Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:51 am
by BlackPanther » Tue Jul 14, 2020 4:03 pm
J9Disco wrote:Fabulous report and pictures.....did you leave your tent whilst you went to bag the Munros and collect/pack up prior to the walk out?
Thanks 2019 was a superb year, especially April and May. Shame we couldn't do any wildcamping this year, though we managed a few good day-walks last week, before Kevin returned to work. Reports will be ready as soon as I sort through hundreds of photos...
As for the tent, it's easier to leave it when bagging hills but all depends on what kind of route you plot. On this particular occasion we were returning to the same spot (rather than walking through) so we could leave it. We actually thought we'd be too tired to walk back in the evening and planned to stay for the second night, but the hills proved less tiring than expected
On the other hand, we missed on visiting an interesting plane crash site nearby. We didn't know it was there at the time
by J9Disco » Mon Jul 20, 2020 1:03 pm
I always look for the Panther reports when doing Munro homework as you guys always have great pictures and good route details. Keep up the good work.