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An Socach and surrounding hills

An Socach and surrounding hills

Postby GL650Dude » Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:48 pm

Route description: Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan group, Alltbeithe

Munros included on this walk: An Socach (Affric), Mullach na Dheiragain, Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan

Date walked: 10/10/2009

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 30 km

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Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, Mullach na Dheiragain and An Socach (Glen Affric)
October 11th, 12th, 13th 2009

These were my last few Munros that I needed to do to leave only Sgurr Eilde Mor (most easterly Mamore) as my final hill. I had previously set out to do them as part of an ambitious walk which included the Mullardoch four but which ended prematurely due to weather, equipment failure and sheer exhaustion. My October holidays provided one last window of opportunity and so I kept a close eye on the BBC weather web site as the time approached half hoping there would be a good excuse to delay plans until next Spring. Not so, the forecast for the first Monday of the week was excellent and I put myself into planning mode. The youth hostel at Alltbeithe had already closed for the season in September which seems ridiculously early and would have been my preferred choice of accommodation. These are particularly remote hills that cannot be climbed in a mere day especially so late in the year unless you are some kind of super human. My only alternative was to camp.
I decided to walk in from near Cluanie Inn as it offers the shortest route to Glenn Affric and the hostel were I planned to camp. In retrospect I should have chosen one of the two other routes in (from Morvich or Cannich) as the path through Alt a Chomhlain is unbelievably boggy. Tackling it carrying a heavy rucksack with camping equipment is a challenge all on its own.
I arrived at the start of the track at 4pm, rather later than expected due to some slow traffic. I was going to leave the car at Cluanie Inn where it would be more secure but being slightly behind schedule and the fact that it was raining, I decided to chance leaving it in the lay-by which is only a short distance from the beginning of the track.


Full wet gear on, I began the walk. The track at the start is very good and I had walked much of it before earlier in the year when returning from Mullach Fraoch choire.


Even on the good surface my feet were soon soaked with so much surface water. After about an hour of walking the track comes to a sudden end. The path that continues is about as boggy as a path could possibly be. Jumping over peaty pools of unknown depth soon saps the energy. I often misjudged my ability to leap with dire consequences. Met two others walking out who had been on a low level circuit and staying at Cluanie Inn. They were looking forward to having a few beers and said they would be thinking of me during this process.


Some 2.5 hours later I arrived at the suspension foot bridge over the river Affric. I was hoping that others may also be camping at the hostel and so I was happy to see a tent pitched there already.


The owner of the tent soon appeared and introduced himself as Craig. He seemed like a typical outdoor person. I managed to pitch my tent just before darkness fell. It was comforting to have company and to be beside the hostel which offered a degree of shelter. The rain had ceased and the night sky was clearing. Two walkers and a dog then appeared from the darkness having just completed what I was planning to do. It had taken them 10 hours and they were also camping, somewhere along the Morvich path.
There was some good benches at the side of the hostel where we could sit and prepare some food. Craig had a proper gas camping stove, I only had a small metal contraption which is fired from small tablets of fuel - tricky business even when there's not much wind. Managed to make some hot coffee. We spotted another walker crossing the river Affric bridge, walking in complete darkness with no headtourch. Then another passed by walking towards Morvich, no headtourch either. We chatted until about 9pm by which time a fantastic vista of stars had appeared in the night sky. This was great to see but meant for a cold night in the tent. It turned out we had much in common other than the hills.. music, pubs and biking to name a few.


Began walking at 7:45am. Weather was fine and early morning sunshine could be seen at the summits of the hills. It wasn't really cold either, great climbing weather. The path from the hostel is great and very easy to find. Being in the middle of nowhere and since these were my last Munros I had decided to take my tabacco for a few "Condor" moments. Had my first one at about 650m, at this point the good path deteriorates but is still reasonable walking.


Reached An Socach around 10am, a rather dull hill it must be said. Although the sun had long disappeared, the cloud was thin and very high. The views were extremely clear. Ben Nevis was very distinctive but I could also see peaks which were much further away. The view of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan was quite imposing (above) and I could see why I friend had described it as "a brute of a hill". At 1151m it was the highest point of the day and it looked quite far away! Still, I had the whole day ahead of me and I had already decided to spend a second night camping so there was no rush. Had another Condor moment then back along to the top of the path from the hostel and onward, West, along the ridge. The views were really astonishing and although steep in places, I can't remember struggling much at this point.


It did take just short of 3 hours for me to reach the top of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. The most striking view of the day was seeing the Cullins of Skye and the Cullins of Rhum from here. This mountain has a top just to the West of the summit and connected by a narrow ridge.


I decided to leave the rucksack and visit this top for an even more unimpeded view although this cost me about 45 minutes. Had some lunch back at the summit but had no water at this point. I had meant to fill my flask up earlier in the day but just forgot. This is a VERY long ridge walk with no opportunity to fill up along the way but luckily I did have plenty of juicy oranges with me which did the trick.


Descended down the North East ridge heading towards the distant Mullach na Dheiragain. Again, it looked a long way off and it also involves walking over another top. It's quite hard going as the terrain is undulating and there are some boulder fields to cross. Eventually reached what I thought was Mullach na Dheiragain only to see another summit cairn yet further on. I had dumped the rucksack back along the ridge so had no map to refer to. To be on the safe side I decided to go on. This is one of the most remotest Munros and I couldn't bare the thought of discovering later that I had not reached the summit. Anyway, turns out it was only a top!! That cost me at least another half hour but I would recommend doing it anyway especially if you have no plans to return to this remote area.


By now it was 4pm and although all three hills were completed I still had to get back. So, back along the ridge then dropping down to the corrie below Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, crossing it, bit of a climb back out the corrie then back down all the way to base camp just before dark.
Craig was already there having spent his day walking to Morvich. The hostel, although closed, was not entirely unavailable. The toilet was open or I should say, unlocked, which was a comfort to know and a dormitory left open, presumably for emergencies. Craig couldn't resist the temptation of using it (he had been very cold the night before) while I retired to my tent.


Next day the rain had arrived and the cloud was right down almost to the tent. Said my farewells to Craig and headed out with an even heavier rucksack thanks to the tent being soaked. Took 3 hours to get back to the car and I must admit it was a struggle.
That's me almost done Munro bagging.. just 1 to go, Sgurr Eilde Mor, which I hope to do before the end of the year.

GL650Dude 8-)

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Last edited by GL650Dude on Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby HighlandSC » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:00 pm

Nice report I enjoyed that. Quite an adventure!

Look forward to hearing about the Condor moments on your final one.

And welcome to the forum :D
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Re: An Socach and surrounding hills

Postby holtlynx » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:17 pm

Great post, not least because it is so valubale to have accounts of reaching these more remote hills which require a certain amount of forethought. Just turning up at the roadside layby and heading (my ususal technique!) doesn't quite cut it.
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Location: Glasgow

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