walkhighlands

Strathfarrar Overnighter from the North

Route: Glen Strathfarrar Munros circuit

Munros: Càrn nan Gobhar (Strathfarrar), Sgùrr a' Choire Ghlais, Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill, Sgùrr na Ruaidhe

Date walked: 02/06/2023

Time taken: 22.5 hours

Distance: 32km

Ascent: 1988m

Strathfarrar Overnighter from the North

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When scanning the map, the tight cluster of four Munros at Strathfarrar always catch the eye as an appealing option, often considering “I wonder why I haven’t done those yet?”.

“Ahh yes, the road up Glen Strathfarrar is private with controlled access, I remember now.”

A sensible workaround is to take a bike, but having made it this far without any wheels, it seemed counterintuitive to start now and ruin a purist’s journey… (that’s a joke before anyone gets touchy).

The long walk in along the road was considered, but the prospect of pounding the tarmac, mainly on the way back, quickly ruled it out. I could visualise cursing the “gatekeepers”, rightly or wrongly, as I made painfully slow progress back to the car…

There were a few suggestions online of alternative approaches, but very little detailed information or actual attempts, from what I could see. With my 92 outings so far involving 50 nights in the hills this seemed destined to be night 51.

My eventual route:

225_228_Strathfarrar_4_.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



I have broken the golden Walkhighlands rule and tagged it as the “traditional route” in the hope of encouraging those who have had similar thoughts to myself.

My route took me in from the north of Strathconon. I parked up in a small opening next to one other car, confident not to block the road down to Inverchoran houses. The other car had a note about a bothy they were visiting, an ETA back, and emergency contact details. All going well for both of us, when I returned tomorrow, they should be gone.

When I set off just before 11am it was el scorchio. Looking back at the photos this could be deceiving with high cloud but trust me it was muggy. I lathered on as much suncream as I could handle and got going.

I had a wedding to attend the following weekend and I had promised Eilish I wouldn’t die, or more importantly get badly sunburnt. This seemed overkill, but as the Groom to be, maybe not…

There was one guy working on the house at Inverchoran just on the east side of the Allt Cleann Chorainn, which I knew I would need to cross – always the worry they take exception to my (appropriately) abandoned my car at the end of their driveway.

I needn’t have worried, we chatted briefly, and he said he would make sure the other car was back by their intended time or raise the alarm accordingly and wished me well on my route.

Looking back to Inverchoran – spot the red car
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The initial few kilometres were relatively easy going with a landrover track all the way from the car right to the footbridge at the River Orrin.

From the initial high point looking down to the River Orrin Image

The footbridge
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It’s still always a relief to see a footbridge in person. The amount of times OS maps have “FB” only to find a couple of rotting poles remaining.

Almost immediately after crossing the River Orrin and heading south towards the small patch of protected woodland I managed to find another well-maintained bridge, presumably for the deer stalkers.

I was relatively confident this stream from the Allt Coire na Sguile was going to be my last water source right through until at least the evening. I had master plans that the Coire na Sleaghaich at the Bealach nan Botaichean between the third and fourth Munros, Càrn nan Gobhar and Sgùrr na Ruaidhe would hopefully provide some water by the evening… more on that later!

I sat and had my lunch, consumed as much water as I could, fully restocked, and set off up the extremely unvisited northeast shoulder towards Carn an Fhiodha.

Lunch & final water
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Heading up to the 800m on the far right
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Looking back
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The terrain was awful underfoot, but thankfully it was relatively dry. Knee deep heather and peat hags made progress slow, tiring and sweaty! Flies were also providing some extra problems.

I was extremely relieved to reach Carn an Fhiodha where the north shoulder up towards Creag Chorm a’ Bhealaich looked far easier underfoot. I stopped for a second lunch and briefly considered moving west and going up the north shoulder of Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill which would in theory save the minor out and back.

I decided to stick with the original plan, although both appeared viable.

My route on the left, alternative on the right
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Nearly there, Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill looked excellent
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I skirted around the summit of Creag Chorm a’ Bheadlaich to make my way towards the first Munro of the day, Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill. Predictably up until now I hadn’t seen a single other person on the hills but upon reaching the main route there was a hive of people heading both clockwise and counterclockwise, but all on the same paths

The first person I met asked me if I was okay, but not in a “how’s it going sense”, it was very much a “are you okay…(are you sure?!)”. I must have been sweating some amount, I could taste the suncream dripping off my nose like a melting Casper the friendly hill ghost.

After reassuring him I was indeed okay, he had to batter on as he was against the clock and lagging behind his group of friends. Stating a lack of water as his excuse for the pace was a worrying omen.

View towards Munro top Sgurr na Fearstaig from Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill Image

Zoomed
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This was one of the first outings where I had made the conscious decision that I was going to try adding the tops as well as the Munros. It’d be easy enough going forwards but on the preceding 224 I had probably been to some by chance and will have missed a large percentage. Maybe easier if I had made this decision earlier on in my journey, but at least it gives great reason to return to some! Particularly looking forward to the Cairngorms closer to home.

Think this was the view from the top looking back towards the Munros
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View towards Loch Toll a’ Mhuic and the typical path up/down
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The route from the top, then follows the traditional clockwise loop across Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill, Sgùrr a' Choire Ghlais, Càrn nan Gobhar, Sgùrr na Ruaidhe, without ever losing too much height.

From the good viewpoint summit of Creag Ghorm a’Bhealaich looking east
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Many summit markers on the second Munro, Sgùrr a' Choire Ghlais
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Just to be sure, and since I was not in a rush, I visited all three.

After Sgùrr a' Choire Ghlais, the route only dropped to ~850m, so the section up to the third Munro of Càrn nan Gobhar (992m) was a breeze. It was now between 4pm and 5pm so the hills were beginning to get quiet, everyone was all but gone.

The few people remaining were now in a fight against time. I was in a fight against dehydration.

Some nice views back
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View towards Càrn nan Gobhar, I think? Spot the solo walker Image

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On route up Càrn nan Gobhar looking back towards the very visible summit cairns of Sgùrr a' Choire Ghlais
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When I reached Munro 3, Càrn nan Gobhar, I hardly stopped. I only had ~400ml of water, which 500ml was required for my dinner in a bag (yes… the maths didn’t math). The map suggested a stream possible at the bealach between Càrn nan Gobhar and the fourth and final summit of Sgùrr na Ruaidhe.

I left my bag and went a few hundred meters down the stream but there was no chance of any water. Called it quits quickly as every metre down, meant another metre to climb back up. Thankfully it was after 6pm and the heat of the day was all but gone. I decided I’d get to the summit of Sgùrr na Ruaidhe before deciding.

Last person leaving the shoulder of Sgùrr na Ruaidhe Image

My initial route plan was to go down the northeast shoulder of Sgùrr na Ruaidhe towards Luipmaldrig, on the east side of Sgùrr na Cairbe and then through the An Gleannan. I had no idea how much further down the hill I would need to get to get some water or what the ground would be like. Nothing beats a summit camp, so I decided I’d trade one night without any water for staying on the summit.

Tent pitched just off the summit
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Boiled up the remains of my water for a somewhat crunchy half-hydrated dinner
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It must have headed off to sleep about seven – love it! As always, I set an alarm for sunset to see if it was worth getting out of the sleeping bag for. On this occasion it wasn’t, cloud was now just above me and the tent and the sun was long hidden.

I got up at 4am and slowly got ready, very excited by the prospect of getting something to drink soon.

As the “gate to the hills” wasn’t yet open, it felt like I had the place to myself – wonderful feeling!

Nothing beats this early morning feeling
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Whilst getting ready I decided I would beeline it for water in the Coire na Sleaghaich rather than taking my initial planned route. It was one of those perfect early mornings; warm enough not to worry about gloves, cold enough that sweat wasn’t a problem, and most importantly sunburn wouldn’t be a factor. Jackpot.

Stopping every so often to see if I could hear the water yet…
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What. A. Relief.
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Feeling like a newly hydrated plant that had been neglected for a few weeks, I made good progress down the difficult terrain along the of the Allt Coire na Sleaghaich. Often thinking “I’d be better on the other side of the water”, regardless of what side of the water I was on…

Unexpectedly, because it wasn’t on the OS maps, a superb path, presumably for deer stalking just appeared and made the final section down to the River Orrin and absolute breeze.

Said path
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An unidentified bird (it’d be too easy if I managed to focus correctly…) I think it’s a Grey Wagtail – which I don’t think I’ve seen before
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Stop at the River Orrin for a coffee
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The path west down Glen Orrin was visible and I knew within an hour or so I would be back on the main landrover track. East along the glen to Luipmaldrig wasn’t quite as obvious a path, so I decided to take the easy option, rather than aim for a near perfect circular route.

Not a cloud in the sky
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Quick selfie back at the car just after 9am letting the wife to be know I was alive and well (and not sunburnt!).
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Quick stop in past the mighty Conon Bridge to see the bold Mardon for a coffee before enduring the A96 (that fact that isn’t dualled is an absolute governmental shambles of the highest order!) back to Westhill.

Evening treat
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This would be up there with one of my favourite solo overnighters. Nothing beats successfully planning and implementing your own route. I will likely return in the future and do it the conventional way.

At just under 32km with 2,000m elevation and an apparent 8hrs 45mins of moving time, it would be possible as a big day walk, but where’s the fun in that!

Thanks for reading
Andy

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Comments: 1



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andygunn23


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Location: Aberdeen
Mountain: The next one
Gear: AlpackaRaft - Explorer 42

Munros: 240
Tops: 40
Corbetts: 5
Fionas: 1
Islands: 12



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Statistics

2023

Trips: 5
Distance: 109.93 km
Ascent: 7095m
Munros: 10

2022

Trips: 10
Distance: 178.71 km
Ascent: 11324m
Munros: 15

2021

Trips: 6
Distance: 123.1 km
Ascent: 9213m
Munros: 16
Corbetts: 1

2020

Trips: 4
Distance: 75.5 km
Ascent: 5878m
Munros: 8

2019

Trips: 19
Distance: 309.6 km
Ascent: 23228m
Munros: 36

2018

Trips: 20
Distance: 489.9 km
Ascent: 29922m
Munros: 57

2017

Trips: 11
Distance: 286.7 km
Ascent: 13908m
Munros: 33
Corbetts: 1

2016

Trips: 8
Distance: 155.32 km
Ascent: 6040m
Munros: 20

2015

Trips: 9
Distance: 254.25 km
Ascent: 6236m
Munros: 31
Corbetts: 1


Joined: Jul 30, 2015
Last visited: Jun 18, 2024
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