Moruisg and Ceannaichean - the Rule of Three

Munros: Moruisg
Corbetts: Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Date walked: 12/09/2020

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 11.8km

Ascent: 1040m

It had been almost exactly 18 months since Bruce, John and I had been up to Gairloch for a weekend of hill walking and drinking (not simultaneously) from our base in Bruce's old childhood home. That weekend, we had done Beinn Airigh Charr from Poolewe on the Saturday and Beinn a'Chearchail on the road home on the Sunday.

When we had finally started to emerge from lock down in July, we had arranged a return visit and selected the second weekend in September. Our timing turned out to be pretty good as only a few days before the Rule of Six from no more than two households had been intoduced, although it didn't technically take effect until the following Monday so we were still just about on the right side of the regulations.

John was on driving duty this time so Bruce came round to my house to save John the journey out to Methven and we were a couple of beers to the good by the time John arrived. Several beers later and we were in Aviemore where John and I did a supermarket trolley dash round Aldi and Bruce went off to get some fish suppers.

It was well past 11pm by the time we got all the supplies and the gear into the house and John managed to get a beer into himself. We were in bed by the back of 1am with the alarms set for being on the road by 9 the next morning.

The rain had spent much of the night lashing against the window panes but the morning dawned looking not too bad. The forecast was for poor weather to come in again later in the day and into Sunday but for a window of opportunity between the two fronts. We had decided to do the Munro of Moruisg, a hill that gets a reputation for being both very boggy on the approach and somewhat lacking in excitement and appeal, and the neighbouring sometime Corbett, former Munro and now once again currently Corbett of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean.

We were all up just before 7.30 and after getting organised and getting some breakfast and coffee down us, we were on the road south out of Gairloch by the back of 9. John joked that he was regretting having that second beer last night but it was no joking matter for Bruce and I, for whom "that second beer" had merged into all the others that followed. Bruce seemed to be bearing up better than I was. We weren't far out of Gairloch when I began to suffer a bout of dry heave. I'd like to claim that it was John's driving that was the reason for me feeling like I was about to spew at any moment but that would be unfair and disingenuous. The real reason was clearly the cocktail of Innis & Gunn, Bitter & Twisted and Hobgoblin Ruby Ale that had been sunk the previous evening. And the blaring sounds of the Essential Ozzy Osbourne weren't helping matters either. Don't get me wrong - I like a bit of Ozzy but he was playing havoc with my nut right now! :crazy:

We made two unscheduled stops when I needed some fresh air and felt that I was about to decorate the interior of John's car - one by the side of Loch Maree in the shadow of Slioch and one just before the Heights of Kinlochewe. Neither stop proved fruitful and I spent the remainder of the journey to Glen Carron slumped in the back, trying to steal 20 minutes or so of sleep and attempting to block out Diary of a Madman! It looked like there was going to be nothing else for it but the good old fashioned, time honoured and tried and tested method of walking it off.

I think I had managed to get a bit of kip and felt marginally better by the time John pulled into the lay-by on the A890 just west of Loch Sgamhain. I was already suited and booted and waited patiently for Bruce and John to get ready, gulping fresh air and looking less than enthusiastically at the gully-riven north western flanks of Moruisg. The sky was pretty heavy and leaden above us, the slopes looked pretty relentless and lacking in anything resembling interesting features, and I knew from word of mouth, books and other reports that what lay ahead of us at the very outset of the walk was a gargantuan bog trot.

Eventually the guys were ready and I took a deep breath and headed through the gate onto the grassy path down to the bridge over the River Carron and then across to the underpass below the railway where the real bog fest began in earnest. I tried not to think about the fact that when the three of us get together, especially where heavy drinking has been involved, things generally tend to descend into chaos and slapstick, although generally on the hills we manage to hold it together and avoid genuine calamity. What could possibly go wrong!!!!???? :lol:

Please don't let a train come along now!

Looking dark and uninviting to the west towards Sgurr nan Ceannaichean and Sgurr na Feartaig

It will be no surprise to anyone who has done this route to hear that the ascent was boggy and pretty relentless. As John put it, the path (or at least the parts of it that had not been subsumed into a huge swamp) wasn't messing around. It took to the hill and went up. Pretty much straight up. No wasting time with bends or any other frivolous features. But with every step the promise of a brighter day ahead grew in possibility and in all senses of the word.

Looking back down over Glen Carron and north west towards the Strathcarron hills

The odd little patches of blue sky were starting to join together and by the time we levelled out onto the broad summit ridge of Moruisg at the large cairn, there was almost as much blue as anything else. The outlook seemed altogether more inviting and less threatening now than it had an hour or so before and as I knew I would, I had managed to walk my roughness off. It was Bruce who was now feeling the delayed effects of significant ale consumption during last night's journey and in the house before calling it a night. He reckoned the I&G was the main culprit and I think he might have a point.

Beinn na Feusaige and Loch Sgamhain

Bruce and John reaching the eastern cairn on the Moruisg summit ridge

Once you hit the big cairn and reach the big, broad, flat summit ridge, the nature of this route changes dramatically, and all for the better. Gone is the relentless plod up the steep featureless slopes with nothing to look at but the end of your nose, the backside of the bloke in front and the rough, no nonsense muddy path. Now there are views all round which get better with every step towards the true summit, a short bimble along the ridge to the west. It's now a leisurely stroll with hands in pockets and soon the shapely outline of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean dominates the view ahead. The weather was playing ball too and opening up the views. A fairly stiff wind, gusting on and off, was helping to move any clouds along swiftly but was making walking arduous when one of the gusts suddenly got hold of you.

South west along the broad summit ridge towards Bidean an Eoin Deirg and Sgurr a'Chaorachain - John and Maoile Lunndaidh attempting to hide out behind the cairn

John and Bruce approaching the summit of Moruisg with the summit cone of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean directly beyond

North east(ish) from the summit of Moruisg to the distant outlines of Sgurr a'Mhuilinn and Meallan nan Uan

The wind at the summit was pretty fierce - by no means the strongest I have stood up to at a Munro summit but strong enough, and with just a hint of autumnal menace in it - so we didn't tarry before heading off for the walk along the edge of the cliffs that form the headwall of Coire Toll nam Bian.

Yours truly leaving the summit of Munro #225 - photo by John

Start of the glorious walk on carpet-like grass along the rim of Coire Toll nam Bian

Autumn nuts - photo by John

Bruce and John. Or is it!!!???

Allo John gotta new device?

Sgurr nan Ceannaichean - one time Corbett, former Munro, once more Corbett. Call it what you will. I call it a damn fine mountain.

Carn nam Fiaclan, Bidean an Eoin Deirg and Sgurr a'Chaorachain

Bruce with his beloved Torridon mountains in the background

We decided to stop for lunch in a little cleft out of the wind where we had amazing views north west towards the Torridon giants and could sit next to a tiny little pool of water and watch the tadpoles in it.

Lunch with a window on Torridon

The views of the Torridon giants was good enough for us, but Mother Nature then blessed us with a little bit of a trick of the light!

Zippy and Bungle

Then it was off again towards the one time Corbett, former Munro, now once again Corbett. We weren't going to dally - the weather window looked like it might be thinking about closing (the forecast for later in the day did not make for easy reading!). In any case, Bungle wanted to get back to Gairloch to speak to a neighbour about an issue with a dry stane dyke and Zippy and I felt that it would be rude in the extreme to not pay a visit to the Millcroft Hotel to check out what COVID arrangements they had put in place!

Lunch over - Bungle making tracks

A touch of clag rolling up Glen Carron

Maoile Lunndaidh to the south east

Looking overcast above Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Across Coire an Tuill Bhain and the southern and eastern slopes of Ceannaichean towards Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain

Western flanks of Moruisg and distant Lochan Meallan Mhic Iamhair

The entire route from the eastern cairn on Moruisg along the edge of Coire Toll nam Bian, over the 854m spot height, down to the bealach and then up the north eastern spur of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean is a joy to walk. I had been out a few times since lock down restrictions were lifted in early July but this was the first time I had walked with others and as I said, the first time that the three of us had walked and indeed been together in 18 months. A lot has changed since then, not just in terms of the way we all live our lives. For John the changes have been more profound. He left Perth about a year ago and now lives near Kirkcaldy. I barely see him these days - not even at the school gates at the end of the school day when we pick our kids up. His days do not clash with my day this year and in any case, I am banned from standing at the actual gate (by my daughter I hasten to add, not the school or the police!) and have to wait a respectful distance up the hill. :shock:

Descent to the bealach with the ascent up the spur of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean ahead

Across Sron na Frianich to Bidean an Eoin Deirg and Sgurr a'Chaorachain

Moruisg and Beinn na Feusaige - much brighter looking that way

North west towards Torridon

Loch Sgamhain peeking out between Moruisg and Beinn na Feusaige

From the bealach it was a short, straightforward yomp up the north eastern spur and onto the large flat summit area of the Corbett, then over to the little pile of stones marking the true summit, perched on the edge of the cliffs that drop down towards Glenuaig Lodge.

Bungle and Zippy forging ahead

The final pull up the summit cone

Back to Moruisg

Bungle and Zippy reaching the summit with Maoile Lunndaidh and Bidean an Eoin Deirg shrouded in the background

Bungle looking towards Loch Mhuilich

Bungle and Zippy posing at the summit

That must be George on the right

Moruisg from Ceannaichean

Glen Fhiodhaig and a distant Bac an Eich - photo by Zippy

It looked like we had timed our walk perfectly to coincide with the weather window but that window now looked to be starting to close, so we didn't loiter unduly before retracing our steps back down the northeastern spur and then bearing north down the broad grassy ridge, around the base of the Creag a'Chait crags and across the Alltan na Feola onto the path that lead through the area of new plantation and into the swamp that eventually led us back to the railway underpass to rejoin the path back to the road.

Start of the long road home to Gairloch where a few pints await in the Millcroft

Once back at Gairloch Base Camp, Bruce headed off for his meeting with the neighbour while John and I popped the short distance along the road to the Millcroft where we had three pints each in a very sombre and quite surreal atmosphere, in stark contrast to our last visit 18 months ago.

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Graeme D

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Location: Perth
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