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Half a Mullardoch - glass half full rather than half empty

Half a Mullardoch - glass half full rather than half empty

Postby Graeme D » Wed Jul 22, 2020 4:07 pm

Munros included on this walk: Càrn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Sgùrr na Lapaich

Date walked: 10/07/2020

Time taken: 7.1 hours

Distance: 17.2 km

Ascent: 1490m

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I awoke early on the western shore of Loch Lochy and was busy watering the bushes when a group of lycra clad cyclists went hurtling past in a blur on the cycle path just above my tent!

Early morning on the shores of Loch Lochy

Yesterday on Stob Ban had been a bit of a compromise for my first post-lockdown proper hill day. It had not been my first choice but the lateness of my departure from Perth and the understandable reservations about how my fitness would deal with a big hill day meant that I went for a fairly safe, straightforward option to open up my three day outing.

I had told my wife that I would be doing Stob Ban on the Thursday and scrawled four possible options for the other two days on a piece of paper. It would be weather and fitness dependent. One of those four options was Mullardoch from the dam in Glen Cannich. I knew it would be a big day but after a successful outing on Stob Ban, I knew it was feasible. This route has plagued me in the past with any number of false starts. I had even got as far as camping up by the dam last October before waking in the morning and not being too keen on the look of the neighbourhood weather.

I quickly struck camp and drove north up the Great Glen to Drumnadrochit and then along to Cannich and onto the minor Glen Cannich road. More than once on my way up the glen I stopped and studied the skies overhead, pondering whether this would be another false start for the Mullardoch Munros. Eventually I told myself to get a grip and get on with it. How often in the past have I told myself to have faith when things looked questionable and been rewarded with a great day in the hills?

I was the only car around as I pulled into the parking area and got suited and booted. I had a brew up and made some porridge before hitting the track, being up and running shortly before 10.

Plenty evidence of blue skies above the Loch Mullardoch dam

Looking down Loch Mullardoch - plenty cloud in evidence too

I passed the cairn marking the site of the now submerged Chisholm Stone and passed the clutter of sheds and boating equipment before arriving at the little footbridge across the Allt Mullardoch and taking to the rather unappealing looking slopes of Mullach na Maoile.

Mullach na Maoile from the footbridge

The two stream beds that are mentioned in the route description on here were plainly visible and as per the advice, I aimed to pick a line between them. It was hard going in the muggy July conditions and the sweat was soon lashing out of me. The bright, airy, summertime weather had also vanished by this stage and increasingly was being replaced by threatening skies and a stiff breeze. The former was not especially welcome but the latter was providing some welcome relief.

Ominous weather rolling in up Glen Cannich

Across Loch Mullardoch towards the Affric Munros

Becoming more grim with every passing minute

My mood was darkening along with the sky. What was it about these hills that they seemed so steadfastly determined to p*ss me off and make my life difficult if not downright unpleasant? At least it wasn't actually raining - which was a good thing, as I had realised yesterday when I was preparing to set off for Stob Ban that I had somehow managed to leave my waterproof trousers at home! I remembered what had happened - I had been in the garage looking out all the gear I would need for the three days and had pulled out one pair of waterproof trousers to check whether they were the good pair or the pair with the a*se ripped out of them, when Ailsa and her pal, who were playing in our garden, had come in and asked me to help them with something. I must have hung the trousers back up and then totally forgot that I hadn't put them on the pile to go!

Then the rain started. Not heavy at first but a steady enough drizzle that it managed to soak my trousers through. I cursed my schoolboy error loudly and raged at the Weather Gods and their very twisted sense of humour. B*stards! :(

Miserable ascent of Carn nan Gobhar

Again I thought about jacking it in, but having done the hard slog up the rough terrain onto Mullach na Maoile, I figured I might as well do the first Munro anyway. It's very much the runt of this particular litter and I'm already wet and miserable so I might as well have a runt Munro to show for it! :lol: The other three deserve better though, so I resolved to bail out after Carn nan Gobhar. Not getting all four done wasn't a particular problem for me. Kev and I had been messaging over the past few days and discussing plans for our return to the hills and in the course of these discussions, we turned our attention to doing the western Munros in this round from the west via Glen Elchaig and Iron Lodge, along with some of the Corbetts in that neck of the woods. It turned out that Kev had only done Carn nan Gobhar and Sgurr na Lapaich from Glen Cannich. The idea of leaving a little unfinished business always quite appeals to me, especially if it can be resolved with a different approach route to the current one.

The Munro summit from the cairn to the South

As I hunkered down by the cairn at the south top, seeking solace in a handful of wine gums and a piece of chocolate brownie, the Weather Gods clearly tired of toying with me and decided to cut me some slack and call off the sh*tty weather. I sped off feeling marginally better towards the Munro summit across the slight dip to the north and as I went, it carried on clearing, although the upper reaches of Sgurr na Lapaich to the immediate west remained shrouded in cloud. A light breeze was doing a fair job of drying out my trousers, although I was still having issues with wet underwear which were riding up and requiring regular manual extraction from unspeakable places! :roll:

Loch Tuill Bhearnach below a cloud capped Sgurr na Lapaich

Creag Dubh and into Glen Strathfarrar to the north east

North towards the eastern tip of Loch Monar

A slightly happier chappier

As I dropped west off the summit and descended down towards the Bealach na Cloiche Duibhe, low cloud again swirled in and a light drizzle came on again. The Weather Gods were obviously in one of those funny moods. It was clearly going to be one of those days.

Descent to the Bealach na Cloiche Duibhe

I resigned myself to the long, depressing, potentially wet descent alongside the Allt Taige to the unpleasant loch side path and the trudge of shame back to the car. Being a sucker for a mountain loch, especially one set in a natural craggy ampitheatre such as this one, I thought I should at least check out the loch before I threw the towel in (metaphorically, not literally, although a towel would have been handy at this point). As I headed across towards the water, the drizzle stopped and it began to perk up ever so slightly again. Oh screw this. I sat on a rock for a few moments to see what would happen and after a few minutes I decided to abort the abort, turn around and tackle the east ridge ascent of Sgurr na Lapaich.

Decision made - skirting past Loch Tuill Bhearnach on the way to Lapaich

Initial stages of ascent to Sgurr na Lapaich - decision to continue vindicated already

Looking back to glorious blue sky over Carn nan Gobhar

Loch Tuill Bhearnach nestled below the northern cliffs of Braigh a Choire Bhig

As I climbed the east ridge of Lapaich, the views south across Loch Mullardoch and across to the Affric Munros opened up and there were great views back over to Carn nan Gobhar which was looking not too bad for the runt of the litter. :lol:

I was soon enjoying one of the great pleasures of Scottish hill walking - walking on snow in July! 8)

Carn nan Gobhar, Loch Tuill Bhearnach and snow patch

Sgurr nan Clachan Geala and Braigh a Choire Bhig above Loch Tuill Bhearnach with Loch Mullardoch, Tom a'Choinich and Toll Creagach in the background

Glen Strathfarrar

Another shower rolling in over Carn nan Gobhar

In typical style, I was back into the grey stuff by the time the ridge spat me out right at the summit trig point and shelter cairn. The great views from Sgurr na Lapaich that I had heard all about were only being vaguely hinted at but I was dry again, I had two new Munro summits in the bag and my underwear was behaving itself, so I put that down as being a relative success. :lol:

Sketchy views north

A similar story to the south

An Riabhachan was a non starter. Unless there was a divine miracle and everything lifted in the next 30 seconds, I was heading out across Sgurr nan Clachan Geala to the south. Anything else would probably be pushing my luck well beyond the point where it would end badly! :roll: If i'd ended up bailing after Carn nan Gobhar, the glass would definitely have felt half empty as I returned along the loch. Now it would feel half full, especially if I could avoid any more damp underwear issues! :lol: I'd never really entertained the notion of doing all four, preferring to keep An Socach for an approach from the south west with Kev at some point in the future. An Riabhachan could wait until then too when hopefully it would be a day that inspired more confidence in the weather.

Sgurr nan Clachan Geala

Carn nan Gobhar and Loch Tuill Bhearnach

It is a very fine walk south from Sgurr na Lapaich across Sgurr nan Clach Geala and to the long curving ridge of Braigh a'Choire Bhig. I mulled over the possibility of descending across the 964m point to the west of Loch a'Choire Bhig and down over Mullach a'Ghlas-thuill to the lochside before sense prevailed and I headed east above Loch Tuill Bhearnach towards the 972m termination of the ridge, before dropping south east over the Leacan Riabhach towards the Allt Taige.

Creagan Toll an Lochain leading up onto An Riabhachan

South west to the far western end of Loch Mullardoch - a very remote spot indeed

Carn nan Gobhar and Mullach na Maoile across the 972m point

An Riabhachan with her head in the clouds

South along Braigh a'Choire Bhig

Loch a'Choire Bhig

Carn nan Gobhar and Loch Tuill Bhearnach from Braigh a'Choire Bhig

Descent route back to the shores of Loch Mullardoch

South across the loch to Tom and Toll and memories of a fine day last October

North across Loch Tuil Bhearnach to Loch Monar and the Strathfarrar hills

Any kind of path dropping down towards the loch was at best sketchy and sporadic until I picked up a boggy, grassy ATV track on the far side of the Allt Taige before going off piste and making my way down to the edge of the water just west of the small plantation. Now I saw the poor state of the loch side path with my own eyes and was grateful I only had a relatively short distance to cover on it and not the full whack from the descent off An Socach.

Back on the shore just west of the plantation

It was a hot, muggy, roller coaster trudge back along the path to reach the wooden footbridge back over the Allt Mullardoch and the track for the final kilometre or so back to the dam and the car. Still, overall I felt that it was much more a case of glass half full, all things considered.

West along Loch Mullardoch with the Affric Munros stubbornly holding onto the clouds

There were three other cars in the parking area when I got back, the occupants of one of them having just pulled in as I approached before nipping up to the corner of the dam for a look along the loch before returning and driving off. I pondered my accommodation options for the night and quickly decided just to throw the tent up on a nice grassy patch across the road below the dam.

I enjoyed a good hour or two and a few beers in the sun before a rising wind and increasing chill drove me into the tent for the rest of the evening. A van drove up at one point and checked out the parking area before retreating a short distance back down the road and parking up on the verge. This, it transpires, was The Rec, parking up for the night before a 3.15 start and an epic 17 hour round taking in 12 Munros around Loch Mullardoch. It was a wild old night up at the Mullardoch Dam. Had I not known any better, I could have been forgiven for believing that I was camped at 3000 feet in March or November such was the ferocity of the wind and the drop in temperature throughout the night. Whether I was awake or asleep at the time I don't know, but even if I was awake, the wind ensured that I did not hear the other two cars depart, nor did I hear any sound as The Rec jogged past in the middle of the night.

I was up and on the move sharpish in the morning in anticipation of a lengthy drive back south on the third and final day of my trip. Where to now I wonder???? :D

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Last edited by Graeme D on Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Graeme D
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Re: Half a Mullardoch - more glass half full than half empty

Postby Gordie12 » Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:03 pm

Hopefully the potential court case for flashing didn't put a dampener on your day Graeme :shock:

This is a part of the country I've still to venture in to - looks like a challenge.
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Re: Half a Mullardoch - more glass half full than half empty

Postby kevsbald » Thu Jul 23, 2020 10:42 am

Now then - the two Western Munros plus the Graham are a trip we need to get sorted - it's a 13km hike to Iron Lodge from Killilan, then a nice track up on to the Graham - one for a summit camp and an evening raid?
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Re: Half a Mullardoch - more glass half full than half empty

Postby Graeme D » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:16 am

kevsbald wrote:Now then - the two Western Munros plus the Graham are a trip we need to get sorted - it's a 13km hike to Iron Lodge from Killilan, then a nice track up on to the Graham - one for a summit camp and an evening raid?

I do love a good bit of forward planning! 8) This is now firmly on the list, as well as Knoydart as previously discussed. And of course there's the kayaking to the bothy plan too. And of course we will need to start thinking about the annual November bothy trip soon. :D
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Re: Half a Mullardoch - more glass half full than half empty

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:56 pm

We were on SnL three days before you, more lucky with views, but the car park was packed to bursting. I guess in the first post-lockdown days people simply dropped everything else and headed for the hills, no matter what :lol: I also noticed that the access road to the dam has suffered badly in the recent years...
2020-07-08 sgurr na lapaich 003.JPG

I'm hoping to return here in winter conditions, I have plotted a circular route around the tops of Carn nan Gabhar. As long as we're not locked down again for winter.
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