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Cold pursuit

Cold pursuit


Postby BlackPanther » Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:47 am

Route description: Tom a' Choinich and Toll Creagach, Glen Affric

Munros included on this walk: Toll Creagach, Tom a'Choinich

Date walked: 30/11/2019

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 18 km

Ascent: 1128m

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A weekend of lovely, crisp and cold weather is what panthers like best :D And the last days of November turned out exactly as we had hoped for: high pressure over Scotland. Hooray! Time to pursue some proper winter walking!
We had a few options but decided on a local pair of Munros in Glen Affric. We intended to visit them during the last WH meet, but weather didn't play along, so Tom a' Choinich and Toll Creagach had to wait for a better day. A day like today :D

As this duo is less than an hour drive from home, we had visited them on several occasions before, last timein late 2015 when we enjoyed a superb high traverse of the two on a sunny October day. Since then we kept saying, that Tom and Toll would make a good winter outing.

The Affric Boys, as I call them sometimes, might be twins but they are far from identical. Tom a' Choinich is a steep, rocky monster, a brute of a mountain, unforgiving in winter conditions. His brother Toll Creagach is a complete opposite: a gentle giant with grassy slopes, a round dome inviting the walkers to visit any time of the year. The traverse of the two should be done clockwise, starting from Tom a' Choinich. This way, the boggy upper Gleann nam Fiadh is tackled early on and the steepest sections are also done at the beginning. The whole circuit should not take longer than 8 hours even if you stop every 10 minutes for photos like we did.

Track_TOM AND TOL 18 KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Because days are so short now, we had to be in Glen Affric for the first light. After a careful drive on an icy road (-6*C) we arrived by Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin just as the first rays of sun lit the morning sky:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 001.JPG

The new car park near Chisholme Bridge is great, as is the new path from the car park into the glen. I must say, the estate did a good job camouflaging the hydro works. I had been very upset about the hydro havoc in Glen Affric, but thankfully, the scheme in Gleann nam Fiadh doesn't seem to have much environmental impact. The old stalkers track has been improved and is now much easier to follow (it used to be quite boggy) and the dam on Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh is not a big sore in the eye, either. The vegetation is already recovering nicely, so at least in this case I can say, I don't mind the hydro scheme!
The upgraded track:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 006.JPG

The hydro dam:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 014.JPG

As we walked into the glen, we were witnesses to the amazing spectacle of the mountains waking up and presenting their best features in the morning light:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 010.JPG

Once past the dam, the approach to Tom a'Choinich involved a lot of bog-hopping. Thankfully, it was still below zero at the moment and most of the bog was frozen solid. Yet we uttered a sight of relief when we reached the start of the path climbing alongside Allt Toll Easa.
The path soon turned out to be very icy and our progress was slow on the slipepry surface. We carried crampons of course, but at the moment it was easier just to avoid the icy sections by walking alongside the path on the grass and heather.
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 036.JPG

The ridge of Creag na h-Inghinn awaiting us:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 037.JPG

The climb up Creag na h-Inghinn is always fun. In summer conditions, anybody can do it as there's no proper scrambling on the main path, but in winter this slope demands respect as there are several rocky sections which require care when iced over. We took it slowly and carefully. maybe these days I'm being overly cautious but one hole my knee caused by a slip on icy surface is enough for me. I'd rather be safe than sorry.
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 046.JPG

Or maybe it was just a good excuse to take frequent stops for photos? Weather was fantastic, next to no wind and in the morning sunshine, the surrounding hills looked stunning, especially Toll Creagach:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 044.JPG

Looking down to the crags of Creag na h-Inghinn:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 047.JPG

About 150m below the summit we encountered a very icy, steep-ish section where I decided to stop and put my crampons on, just for safety. With spikes on my boots, I gained confidence and even overtook Kevin in the cold pursuit to the summit :lol:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 059.JPG

Kevin in his element:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 123.JPG

Toll Creagach from Tom a'Choinich:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 055.JPG

Zoom to the ridge of Starthfarrar Munros:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 056.JPG

The final ascent to the summit is a gentler approach, with grand views to the vertical cliffs of Coire Toll Easa:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 132.JPG

I kept my spikes on for the final walk to the summit. I remembered that the initial descent from Tom a'Choinich is quite steep and eroded so I guessed correctly, I might need them later on. At the moment, it was all plain sailing:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 067.JPG

On the top, we took a well deserved tea break. It was a multiple repeat for all of us (including wee Lucy) but in conditions like today, I could repeat these hills over and over and never get bored!
Kevin by the cairn:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 140.JPG

Wee Lucy (well camouflaged!) on the summit. At the moment she's on 121 Munros and hoping for more :lol: :lol:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 143.JPG

Now to the views. We had plenty of time to enjoy and record them. I must say, Tom a'Choinich is probably one of the best viewpoints north of the Great Glen. On a clear day, you can see the Cairngorms, Ben Nevis, The Cuillin ridge, Torridon and the Fannichs at the same time!
The proof is in photos below...
View north to the Munros north of Loch Mullardoch. Torridon hill can be seen in the distance, between An Socach and An Riabhachan:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 073.JPG

To the west, Carn Eighe and Beinn Fionnlaidh, the ridge of Cuillin peeking out from behind them:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 078.JPG

Zoomed:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 076.JPG

The Cairngorms to the south-east:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 083.JPG

The Fannichs zoomed:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 081.JPG

I could go on like that forever... but it's time to traverse to the second Munro!
As soon as we started the descent to Bealach Toll Easa, Kevin admitted that he needed crampons, too, so I had to wait for him when he fiddled with his spikes :lol: The descent is indeed steep and quite rocky, so in winter conditions it requires care. In crampons, we encountered no problems at all.
Kevin photographing the descent route, probably to show off later and brag about it, how brave he was tackling it :lol: :lol:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 146.JPG

The younger Affric brother awaited us with patience:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 149.JPG

We checked our time - it was only 1pm when we reached Bealach Toll Easa so we had more than enough daylight to include the second Munro. Hey-ho!
Earlier in the day, it was tricky to get a good photo of Ben Nevis as the sun was behind it, now we could admire the highest mountain of Scotland in its full glory:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 104.JPG

Zoomed:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 103.JPG

The traverse to Toll Creagach is easy and gentle (there is a well worn path which we didn't follow exactly as it was covered in snow). The views were still fantastic and we took every opportunity to take more photos :D
Panther near the summit of Toll Creagach:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 106.JPG

Kevin heading for the trig point:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 168.JPG

Two good girls on the top of Toll Creagach:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 118.JPG

The wind has picked up and the summit felt quite cold, so we decided to descend a bit before taking our second tea break. But before we left, a few more snaps for our album...
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 109.JPG

Toll Creagach is not as good a viewpoint as his bigger brother, but it offers a good vantage point to look down to Loch Mullardoch and surrounding mountains:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 115.JPG

View south with Ben Nevis on the horizon:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 165.JPG

The descent line is easy to pick - just follow Allt a'Choire Odhair down to Gleann nam Fiadh and you will end up next to the hydro scheme in the glen :D
Heving dropped about 200m, we found a suitable sheltered spot and sat there for a while, watching the sun set over the western horizon:
2019-11-30 tom and tol affric 173.JPG

On the way down, we spotted a pair of ptarmigan and a mountain hare, not to mention deer popping up everywhere :D

We managed to return to the car park just before the last rays of daylight faded out. We had an unforgettable day, a wonderful hill experience, a fantastic cold pursuit! Early winter days simply can't be better than this. Such a shame that all the snow is now gone from the mountains, but fingers crossed the true wintry conditions will come back to Scotland soon. Hoping for white Christmas now...
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BlackPanther
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Re: Cold pursuit

Postby Graeme D » Thu Dec 05, 2019 2:02 pm

Really enjoyed this pair when I did them back in October. Nice to see them now in winter clothes. :D
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Graeme D
 
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Re: Cold pursuit

Postby Border Reiver » Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:28 pm

Nice to see photos of this area again. I first climbed these two in July 1994, in conjunction with Sgurr Na Lapaich, Mam Sodhail and Carn Eighe, but I was hurrying a bit later in the day and hadn't time to enjoy them fully. So I went back in early March 1996 and climbed them both again, this time taking my time and appreciating the walk all the more. In June 1998, I was in Glen Affric with elderly relatives and had time to spare and an arthritic knee, so I slowly and carefully climbed Toll Creagach again.
I love the Glen Affric area that I first visited in the 1960's.
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