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Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!


Postby BlackPanther » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:03 pm

Route description: The Loch Mullardoch Munros

Munros included on this walk: An Riabhachan, An Socach (Mullardoch), Carn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Sgurr na Lapaich

Date walked: 20/07/2013

Time taken: 12.5 hours

Distance: 31.5 km

Ascent: 1850m

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It was going to be the hottest weekend since the heat wave started this summer. The most logical place to go would be a beach, maybe a lochside. Bikini, sunglasses, a chilled drink and a parasol...
We chose a 30km climbing circuit instead. :crazy: :crazy: :crazy:
We knew we wanted to do some hillwalking, grab the opportunity while the good weather spell lasted, but what we ended up doing could easily be called pure madness, considering the heat.
The very idea was hatched in 2008, one sunny spring day we were sitting on the summit of Sgorr na Diollaid, savouring the views. On that day Kevin introduced me to the Munros of Loch Mullardoch, I was surprised to find out that one of them was called Sgurr na Lapaich.
"But isn't there one named Sgurr na Lapaich just across the loch, in Glen Affric?"
"Yes, indeed, they both share the same name, but only the Mullardoch 'un is a Munro. And a very interesting one."
"Then I want to climb both Lapaichs!"
Kevin laughed.
"One day, for sure. It's a long, tiring route, especially if you want to include all four Munro peaks to the north of the loch. I was up there once, managed three out of four."
I had a long wish list of mountains to visit, and the full Mullardoch circuit was always the ultimate test, the dream I was afraid to fulfil in fear that I'd have to give up half way :shock: So I worked out, that the last of the four, An Socach, could be climbed in a separate trip from Glen Elchaig, using bikes. With this option in my mind, I was eager to go up there and do the first three peaks. Especially now, having climbed the other Sgurr na Lapaich last year, I hoped to collect a pair of identical twins :D
And... I don't know HOW it happened but we completed the Mullardoch peaks!

LOCHMULLARDOCH2.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


OK, so that's how the story begins. Early Saturday morning, mist laying low, bags packed, 4 litres of water prepared. Kevin looked at me suspiciously when I packed in a bag full of apples, but later he thanked me for that idea - the juicy fruits really saved us later that day, when our water supplies run out :D
We drove to Mullardoch dam, the small car park at the bottom was almost full, we somehow managed to find last parking space. As soon as I opened the door, I was attacked by clouds of midges, but hey, I've been expecting that :lol: :lol:
We got ready and walked up the track and past the dam. The mist was still lying low, but above us, a few patches of blue sky showed up, which meant, the fog would soon burn out.
At the moment, we were a part of a new movie "Tractors in the mist":
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The first stage is on an overgrown track, I can imagine on a wet day it would be very boggy. Soon we reached the bridge over the Allt Mullardoch and at this point the mist started to break:
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We crossed some sheep pens and picked a very faint path heading straight up the steep-looking slope of Mullach na Maoile, leaving the fog behind:
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The man emerging from the mist :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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The sky cleared within minutes!
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...and as soon as the ground steepened and we began the proper climbing, we were hit by both the rising temperature and the clegs. Midges I can put up with somehow, but the big, noisy flies sucking blood out of me... Come on, why must climbing be so painful???
Looking down, what was left of the mist above Loch Mullardoch:
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10 minutes later...
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The climb quickly turned into a torture - the path disappeared in the high bracken, midges and clegs kept biting, the heatwave squeezed energy out of us. No wonder I look miserable here:
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We reached the point where the angle of the slope eases a bit and I collapsed on a large rock - Dear Lord, what are you punishing me for????
We took a short break, rehydrated and rested a bit, then continued up to the lower top.
That's the EASY part of the slope!
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I immediately felt better when, having reached Mullach na Maoile, I saw the summit of Sgurr na Lapaich:
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On the top of Mullach na Maoile, a quick stop to record the views...
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Before getting to Sgurr na Lapaich, we had to visit Carn nan Gobhar first. This Munro seems boring compare to its more rocky neighbour, but it's a good viewpoint nevertheless. A simple jaunt up from Mullach na Maoile was much less exhausting than the earlier torture up the steep slopes!
Just below the summit, the slope became rocky:
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View down back to Mullardoch dam:
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Aaaah! Sgorr na Diollaid twin horns peeking out!
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There are two cairns on the summit area of Carn nan Gobhar, the smaller one being the true top, but we sat down by the larger one, just because it offered some shadow:
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Views were extensive already, and this is only the first prelude :wink: East to Strathfarrar Munros:
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Loch Monar, the smaller part of the dam can be seen:
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The classic Mullardoch postcard: Loch Tuill Bhearnach and the top - Sgurr nan Clachan Geala:
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The true summit of Carn nan Gobhar:
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Time to go! I noticed that the slopes of Sgurr na Lapaich were in shadow at the moment, so I wanted to get there quickly, before the killing sun comes back!
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The descent from Carn nan Gobhar was easy, and we quickly walked past the picturesque Loch Tuill Bhearnach to tackle the next stage of the climb...
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On closer inspection, it didn't look too bad!
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Thanks to the shadow, this steep climb didn't feel too exhausting, either. There is an obvious path to the summit, avoiding most of the big boulders, apart from a short, steep bit where we had to hop up a few large rocks, but nothing that can be called scrambling. I stopped just below the summit in a small snow patch and smeared some cold snow on my face. Whoooaaaah! That was Climbing with a capital C!
Kevin busied himself with photographing while I played my snow games...
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View back to the corrie:
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The summit was now only a few steps up! Luckily, the big rocks can be avoided to the right:
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Back to Carn nan Gobhar:
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Loch Monar and the remote country to the north:
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The summit shelter of Sgurr na Lapaich is surprisingly large and it has a trig point inside. This is also the highest Munro top on this ridge, at 1150m:
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It was time now for a lunch break and sunscreen re-applying. I have to do it more often than the average person, as I was gifted with pink albino skin and even a slight UV damage makes me swell up and causes burns. Suntanning in my case simply doesn't exist. But I have embraced my condition and can cope with it, as long as +50 factor is available :D
Just one thing, sun allergy doesn't mean I'm a blood-sucking vampire :lol: :lol: :lol:
I'll leave you now with views from the summit of Lapaich. Enjoy :D
The day was hazy, but we could still see Torridon hills on the NW horizon:
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Zoomed:
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The southern tops of SnL:
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Loch Monar and the true wilderness, with the big bulk of Maoile Lunnadaidh right in the centre:
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Zoom to Sgurr a'Chaorachain:
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Me digging in my rucksack in search for sunscreen...
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We have now done the minimum plan and still felt all right, though it was hot like hell. Adding the third Munro to our round seemed logical now, and we definitely had the determination to continue, so we moved on to another descent:
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We descended to Bealach Toll an Lochain. The western slopes of Sgurr na Lapaich are much less steep than the eastern ascent path, and much greener...
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...but the two little lochs in Coire Gnada stole the show! My favourite view from the whole day, an absolutely cracking pano, looking at these blue shapes from above... The contrast between green and blue...
Loch Mor:
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Loch Beag and the view across Loch Monar:
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Loch Mor again with the top of Sgurr na Lapaich towering above:
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The pull up to An Riabhachan is not as steep as the climb up SnL, but we didn't get the benefit of any shadow this time, so the ascent was real painful, we felt like two sausages on the grill, sweating and panting. Just some more torture. Madness it must be :roll:
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Higher up, the ridge narrows and in better conditions it would be superb ridgewalking, but we were too overheated to really appreciate it. Having reached the ridge itself, I uttered a big sigh of relief, especially when I felt the touch of a refreshing breeze on my face. The summit cairn was now only a stroll away:
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Ufff! An Riabhachan done and dusted! And thank heavens the cairn is big enough to offer some shadow!
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Views from the summit were just as good as from Lapaich, especially to the north and west:
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South to the opposite end of Loch Mullardoch:
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Across the loch, the Affric duo of Toll Creagach and Tom a'Choinich:
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An Socach, the fourth Munro of the chain:
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It was only four o'clock and as we sat on the summit of An Riabhachan, Kevin opened the map and we started talking about possible routes to do An Socach. Glen Elchaig with a bike looked like a long and tiring day in itself, so did approaching the hill in a separate outing from Loch Mullardoch dam. We calculated it was only about 4km away from where we were, plus something like 200m of additional ascent. If we decided to go for it, the only problem that bothered me was water, or lack of it to be precise. There are no good water sources high on the ridge until you descend from An Socach to the banks of Allt Coire a'Mhaim. But then I remembered the pack of apples in my rucksack - aaah, the life saving supply! :lol: :lol:
We took the decision quickly, packed up and started the approach to the last Munro. Soon, I was delighted to see the ridge between An Riabhachan and An Socach - fantastic high level walk:
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On the initial descent from An Riabhachan, we encountered one short section, where the path is very steep and eroded - not a scramble but care is required here, especially on a wet day. We crossed the first col at 1080m, and continued up the minor top (not named on the map). Here, we stopped to catch our breath and admire the steep side of An Riabhachan:
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Having crossed Bealach a'Bholla, we tackled the final climb of the day. The heat was still annoying, squeezing us dry, we opened the last 750ml bottle of water and munched apples on the way up, just to stay hydrated. It took us more time than we anticipated to get to the summit ridge, but in the circumstances, I was glad we didn't collapse :shock:
Views kept as alive, too...
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Loch Monar, rarely seen from this angle:
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An Riabhachan from An Socach:
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When the summit cairn come into sight, we were too exhausted to celebrate but shared a huge smile... Yesss!
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Zoom to the Torridons once more:
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On the summit of An Socach:
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A new Munro for Kevin, too:
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The long ridge of Lurg Mhor:
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Looking down to Loch Mullardoch:
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To the west, Glen Elchaig:
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We hoped to stay here for a bit longer, savour the views and rest after the torture, but we were once again put to the test - as soon as we arrived by the trig point, so did a cloud of midges!
Just as well, we started the long return walk. First, we followed the curving ridge around Coire Mhaim:
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The view was now dominated by the main Affric Munros: Mam Sodhail, Carn Eighe and, in front of them, Beinn Fionnlaidh:
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I took every opportunity to record the views in this seldom visited corner of Scotland... To be honest, who apart from dedicated Munro baggers would bother to come here?
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The descent is easy, on grassy slopes, with an obvious path most of the time:
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The unusual side of Beinn Fionnlaidh, its slopes falling straight to the blue waters of Loch Mullardoch:
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At the level of about 500m the path petered out and we were faced with an ocean of peat hags, as seen here:
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We were so relieved to discover that most of the hags were bone dry - we simply walked through them and soon found a path, then a wider track along the banks of Allt Coire a'Mhaim. And we could now refill our water bottles - just in time! :D :D
Clegs chased us again down in the glen, they seem to like Kevin more than me, but we both ended up with a few itching, swollen lumps on our arms. It was simply not possible to avoid them altogether :?
Eventually, we reached the bridge over Allt Socach and picked a faint path along the shore of Loch Mullardoch.
Not much water in the loch...
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The path was overgrown and boggy - surprisingly after such a long period of dry weather - and we soon got tired of it, so we descended to the shoreline, where it was much easier to walk on the sand and gravel. This option is only available when the "tide line" is very low:
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At least the return walk felt pleasant:
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We made good progress for about 5km, but then the ground became too stony, so we climbed back up to the path. I felt blisters forming on my feet and had to slow down to reduce the pain - but just as well, we could now admire the Mullardoch sunset:
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We managed to find the path all the way back to the dam, though in places it is covered with bracken... I must say, it's a long, long haul back to the starting point, but as soon as we saw the dam, it was easier to push forward.
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We got to the car, I took my boots off just to see two big blisters on my heels. Obviously, that took me out of the loop for Sunday, but even if I didn't have sore feet, I guess we deserved a day of rest after such an epic adventure on the hills!
Funny, how the Munro bug works. A couple of days later, I have already put aside the painful memories of heat, exhaustion, thirst and sore heels, now hoping for another sunny weekend and planning the next outing. Maybe I should change my name from Black Panther to Top-Cat? Meow! :D
Last edited by BlackPanther on Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BlackPanther
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:17 pm

I can't think of a better way to spend a scorching day that doing a tough round of hills!
Great report and fab pics as usual BP (or should that now be TC?) :clap:
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby Lightfoot2017 » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:07 am

Fabulous report and superb photos. Well done. :clap: :clap:

Quite keen to do this round later this Summer…but hopefully, it’ll be a tad cooler than when you managed this! :shock:
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby mrssanta » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:38 pm

Well done on a long day. Maybe we will plan to do this lot earlier in the year before the bracken gets too high.
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby Collaciotach » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:55 pm

Nice one :clap:

Aye clegs is real bad just now :(
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby ChrisW » Tue Jul 23, 2013 11:11 pm

wow- what an absolute stunner BP, everything about this is fantastic (except maybe the cleggs :lol: Fantastic effort on such a hot day.....but so rewarding too :clap:
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jul 24, 2013 6:52 pm

Many thanks for all kind words :D
Even with clegs chasing us and the sun baking us alive, we still had a great time. Next weekend doesn't look as good, but we are making our plans regardless :lol: :lol:
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby dooterbang » Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:19 pm

When first looking at this I though you guys had done the whole 12!!

I've still to do these so appreciate your description and many photos.

Was sooper hot eh, glad you made it out alive :)

Arran is looking good this Saturday...if you fancy some Corbetts.
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby malky_c » Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:14 pm

A timely reminder for me to go and do some of these again :) . I haven't really seen much of the western end of this quartet due to the poor weather I had up there. Great photos.
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby Kevin29035 » Tue Dec 24, 2013 12:33 am

Hey, just realised I did Ceatheamhann - Toll Creagach on this day! Was a SCORCHER. I was thoroughly **** off when I got back to the Mullardoch dam.
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby gaffr » Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:24 pm

I know what you mean regarding the return along the loch shoreline, :) In 1982 on the day of the World cup final in Spain I 'rushed ' the shoreline of the loch to get back to my camp at the dam to listen to the match between W. Germany and Italy on my radio after a very fine day out on the tops. Pleased not to be going anywhere too far on the following day.
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Re: Loch Mullardoch round - UNA TORTURRA!

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:18 pm

dooterbang wrote:When first looking at this I though you guys had done the whole 12!!

I've still to do these so appreciate your description and many photos.

Was sooper hot eh, glad you made it out alive :)

Arran is looking good this Saturday...if you fancy some Corbetts.


If you're looking to do the full 12, there are a couple of other great reports that inspired me to do it in a oner: mgmt!'s report of 1/05/11, and andrewdoggett's report of 29/5/12.

Great pics.

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