by The Rec » Fri Jul 17, 2020 2:50 pm
Munros included on this walk: An Riabhachan, An Socach (Affric), An Socach (Mullardoch), Beinn Fhionnlaidh (Carn Eige), Carn Eige, Carn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Mam Sodhail, Mullach nan Dheiragain, Sgurr na Lapaich, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, Toll Creagach, Tom a'Choinich
Date walked: 11/07/2020
Time taken: 17 hours
Distance: 56 km
Ascent: 5000m3 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).
Towards the end of lockdown, when I started to let myself daydream about being back in the mountains again after 3 months locked in Falkirk, I stumbled across the route of the Mullardoch Round online. 12 Munros, in an area I was yet to explore, over a 35 mile loop over a fairly natural line sticking mostly to high ridges. It jumped straight to the top of my to-do list.
After a day trip to do the 4 Ben Lui Munros proved my fitness was still there, I started planning for the next weekend. I had been doing plenty of running over the lockdown but knew I wouldn’t be at full speed so aimed to make the most of the daylight and start at 3am, which would give me 20 hours of daylight if needed.
Within 2 minutes of closing my laptop from a day working from home (the new normal!) I was on the A9 heading north. I found a nice spot to park my little van just before the car park at end of the Mullardoch road and got my head down for a disturbed sleep (overexcited!).
I was a little slow getting going but managed some breakfast and coffee before leaving the van at 3:20 and jogged along the nice easy start of the ani clockwise loop of the loch along the hydro works road and up the Allt Mullardoch in the dawn light. As the track ended the jogging stopped and the heather bashing began.
I got to the top of my first Munro (Carn nan Gobhar) at 5am in time to see the first signs of the sun rising to the north East. It’s easily the earliest I’ve been on the top of a mountain.
The 4 Mullaardoch Munros passed by relatively quickly. The tops were in the clouds but I was getting plenty of views of the remote scenery in between.
I had 2nd breakfast (Hobbit) on the summit of An Socach (the first one) and headed down the long descent to the river that flows into the head of Loch Mullardoch.
My feet were already wet from the boggy descent and the fact I was in fell running shoes, so I didn’t have to faff around crossing the river, I just waded across and got straight on with the LONG climb up Mullach na Dheirgain, fllowing vague vehicle tracks through the bog. As the route headed towards a narrowing of the ridge a faint walkers path developed for the final approach to the summit.
The long ridge from here lead to the mountain I was most excited about climbing, Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan. One of Scotlands more remote Munros and the turning point of the days route. Half way in number of Munros and just over half way in distance. That coupled with the fact that the strong headwind I had been fighting up until then was now at my back speeding me along the ridge to the 2nd An Socach of the day (you know it’s a big route when you do 2 Munros of the same name in the same day).
Then came the toughest part of the day, the out and back to Beinn Fhionnlaidh, the one Munro on the route that sits away from the natural line, and one that takes a significant effort to include due to the height lost before slogging back up to Carn Eighe. This effort came at the same time as the worst of the weather.
The wind picked up and the small light showers I’d been having up to then were replaced with a sustained period of heavy rain. It was here that I paid the price for going light with my kit. I was wearing everything and was still cold.
Thankfully with only 2 Munros left and my legs still feeling good I was able to keep moving on and as the route dropped below the cloud level the weather eased, the views opened up and the remainder of the route was a joy.
I reached the top of Toll Creagach, the final Munro of the day, at 7pm.
With a comfortable 4 hours of daylight left to get back to the Dam, so I could have a comfortable stroll from here to the finish. I’d read horror stories of the walk out down Fraoch-Choire, but keeping to the far right of the Choire seemed to avoid most of the ankle twisting tussocky stuff and a boggy path soon appeared as I dropped down between the stream and the deer fence, which I could follow all the way to the road.
I hit the road at 9pm and decided to run the final mile along the tarmac back to my van. 30 seconds later I decided NOT to run the final mile along the tarmac back to my van!
All in all, 17 and a half hours spent in some of the most remote mountains the country has to offer and while the weather wasn’t perfect, it was great to be in the hills again and I had a big beaming grin on my face all the way home.
For those interested in kit, here is what I took.
As you can see, I went very light and probably could have done with a few more layers to be on the safe side. My running vest is only 5 litres though, so I had to compromise! I have since ordered a bigger one
by Avocetboy » Fri Jul 17, 2020 3:02 pm
by The Rec » Fri Jul 17, 2020 3:19 pm
Avocetboy wrote:Excellent Rec, many thanks for posting. Having been planning to do exactly the same with a fellow Walkhighlander for some time. Did you manage much running between the tops or was it a case of kind of fast hiking? Did you take all your water/ or did you top up from streams etc.?
I tried to just briskly walk up the climbs and jog the descents. I was very careful though so was going pretty slow! I was alone and very aware of how remote i was, so was taking extra care not to have a pratfall! So yeah.. fast hiking is probably closer to the mark than fell running
I took 2 x 500mm soft flasks and topped up one of them at a little stream I crossed when traversing the west face of Carn Eigh heading to Fionnlaidh. I think it would be harder to find water en route during a dry spell though.
by Graeme D » Fri Jul 17, 2020 4:51 pm
by The Rec » Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:44 pm
Graeme D wrote:I guess it was you who drove up to the car park next to the dam in your van on Friday evening (dark van if I recall) and sat for a moment or two before turning and retreating a short distance back down the road to park in a little area on the right. Mine was the white car parked just at the entrance to the parking area and I was in the green tent tucked behind a big rock on the grass across the road below the dam. I had pitched there after doing Carn nan Gobhar and Sgurr na Lapaich. Small fry compared to what you would do the following day! Nice one and what a way to blow away the rustiness of lockdown.
Cheers Graeme. Yep, that was me. I saw there were folk camping and thought they'd probably not want to hear me making my breakfast at 3 in the morning, so found a quiet spot. Saved me a hill at the end of the walk too
I don't think any of those hills count as "small fry". Proper mountain country! I'll def be back to do them in less of a rush.
by Alteknacker » Fri Jul 17, 2020 11:38 pm
It took me a good bit longer than that! It's a wonderful route, as you say, and a pity you didn't get all the views. Mind you, I found the lack of water a real issue, because it was quite warm when I walked it, so maybe the damp weather was a bit of a blessing in disguise for you.
What a way to celebrate lockdown release!!!
by Graeme D » Sat Jul 18, 2020 2:19 pm
by kevsbald » Wed Jul 22, 2020 1:25 pm
I use a Salomon 10-litre rucksack for days such as this; you can get quite a lot of food and clothing in there - would also recommend collapsible walking poles, if you don't have them.