We live in the South East of England, so any hill walking trips in Scotland have to be planned well in advance and can’t be cancelled just because of a forecast of really bad weather. For the first week of our trip we had booked a chalet at Culligran cottages, just within the Glen Strathfarrar gate. Although during the week we had our own key to the gate, this did not give us unlimited access to the glen. Most people are not aware that there is a second gate, owned by the Braulen Estate, where the Culligran Estate meets the Braulen Estate, just east of the Deanie Burn. This gate has been there for a couple of years. It may or may not be closed, but we weren’t going to take any chances. When we booked our accommodation, the owner said that we would be able to hire bikes and we thought this would be a good idea, despite not having ridden for a few years and never at the same time as hill walking.
As we were driving up from the South on the 30th and 31st of August there was a yellow weather warning and the weather just got worse. By the time we were on the A9 the weather was appalling.
Sunday 1st September
Another appalling forecast but we knew we would have to try to go for it (no stalking on Sunday). We put the hired bikes in the back of the car, drove along the glen and parked just east of the Braulen gate. We took the bikes out of the back of the car and cycled about 4kms to the flat grassy area just beyond eastern end of Loch a' Mhuillidh where we left the bikes and started walking.
In fact the weather for the day turned out to be much better than forecast, with only a small amount of rain. The main problem was the rain of the previous day causing streams in torrent and lots and lots of bog!!
The route to Sgurr na Ruaidhe was supposed to cross a stream feeding into the Allt Coire Mhuillidh, but the stream was impassable, causing us to take a long diversion through the heavy bog. Eventually after crossing another branch of the stream we found a bridge!!!
We had parked the car at 9:00 and were at the top of Sgurr na Ruaidhe at 12:50
The descent from Sgurr na Ruaidhe to the bealach between it and Carn nan Gobhar is along a very pleasant grassy path. We reached the top of Carn nan Gobhar at 14:30
Just as we were leaving the top of Carn nan Gobhar we met another walker coming in the opposite direction (from Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais) - the only other person we saw in the whole day. We all remarked that the weather was better than expected.
Another fairly pleasant descent, from Carn nan Gobhar, to a bealach, before a steep climb to the summit of Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais. It was very windy at the top, which we reached at 16:00.
We had hoped to combine these 3 Munros with Sgurr Fhuar-thuill, but we ran out of time and energy by the time we'd reached the top of Sgurr a' Choire Ghlais. We decided (maybe foolishly) to descend from there to the glen and leave the last hill for another day.
The descent into the glen started easily enough, but got steadily worse as we hit the seemingly endless bog / long spikey grass, continually jarring our ankles. At one point 1 got one foot stuck in the bog and Ian had to apply some force to get it free. The worst of the descent was the final part, down to the road, where the ground was very steep and the grass very long and wet, and we were exhausted. Then (approx 19:20) we still had to walk about 3 km back to the bikes (approx 20:00), cycle another 4 km back to the car, load the bikes into the car (easier said than done) and drive 5 miles back to Culligran. At this point it was getting very dark. (Ironically the Braulen Gate was still open at 8 p.m., when it was meant to have been closed at 7. If we'd known this then we needn't have bothered with the bikes - although the cycle ride along the well made-up road through the glen did turn out to be a great experience.
Total distance covered during the day (for all 3 Munros): 26.2 km, inc cycle rides, i.e. 18 km walked.
Thursday 5th September
It was Thursday before we attempted Sgurr Fuar-thuill.
The day started with persistent heavy rain. We drove to the start and waited in the car for an hour for the rain to ease. When it didn't we started driving back, and only turned round because we met our neighbours from Culligran, who were driving back to the parking area having already given up once themselves! The weather did improve significantly from then on. We started the walk in light rain, but that soon stopped and there was very little rain for the rest of the day.
Biggest problem was crossing the Allt Toll a' Mhuic, which flows from the Lochan Toll a' Mhuic down to the River Farrar, and one of its tributaries. For the Allt Toll a' Mhuic we had to take our boots and socks off and paddle (both on the way up and the way down). For the side stream we just about managed to cross on stepping stones. Our neighbours from Culligran had diverted round the west side of the Lochan on the way up, but managed to cross the streams (without paddling) on the way back.
The wind was also a concern, particularly on the narrow stalkers' path which crosses the side of the corrie below the summit. On the descent the wind was tending to blow us away from the side of the hill, which was a bit scary.
There was a decent view from the top, with some haze in the distance. Very windy in parts, especially near the summit.
Total distance walked: 12.8 km. We eventually started out at 11:35. We were at the top at 14:40 and back down again at 17:25.
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