Mullardoch 4, a great ridge, return by bog

Route: The Loch Mullardoch Munros

Munros: An Riabhachan, An Socach (Mullardoch), Càrn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Sgùrr na Lapaich

Date walked: 20/06/2022

Time taken: 14 hours

Distance: 31km

Ascent: 1900m

I'd arrived in Cannich the previous evening after climbing another hill, too late to buy provisions. This meant I had to wait for the Cannich shop to open at 8am, delaying the start of the walk until 9am. Mine was the only car in the car park, so I wasn't to see anybody during the whole day. It was perfect weather when I set off, although it was forecast to deteriorate later in the day.

Soon after the start, while still on the vehicle track leading from the dam, I found myself walking past some cattle and calves sitting or browsing by the side of the track. They didn't move, and then I realised that one of the cows sitting looking at me right by the track was particularly stocky - it looked distinctly like a bull, although thankfully it didn't do me the courtesy of standing up to show whether I was right. After a resultant quick swerve into the heather on the other side of the track I was relieved to soon be past them.

Mullach na Maoile, with Càrn nan Gobhar peeking out behind

Soon I crossed the bridge over the Allt Mullardoch to start the ascent up Mullach na Maoile. It was slightly boggy to begin with, but during the slog up the steep slope, the ground between the two burns was reasonably dry underfoot. Luckily there were no biting insects, allowing this part of the walk to be done in a T-shirt in the warm conditions. The views across Loch Mullardoch to the Affric munros got ever better as I climbed.
Toll Creagach, Tom a Chòinich, Càrn Eighe and Beinn Fhionnlaidh seen across the loch from Mullach na Maoile

When I finally made it to the top of Mullach na Maoile, the rounded stony lump of Càrn nan Gobhar loomed high ahead, with Sgùrr na Lapaich and its ridge separate to the left. An impressive sight, giving a good taste of what was to come.
Càrn nan Gobhar, and Sgùrr na Lapaich to the left

Much of the climb up Càrn nan Gobhar was over rocks, which although still fairly steep was easier than the heather previously. Once past the cairn, it was an easy walk over the broad flat ridge to the actual summit, where the mountains to the north first came into view. As the WalkHighland Munros book says, the route up Sgùrr na Lapaich looked dauntingly steep from there.
Sgùrr na Lapaich seen from Càrn nan Gobhar summit

The descent to Bealach na Cloiche Duibhe was straightforward, but I noticed the beginning of a slight issue with my left knee when descending, despite using poles. Nothing to worry about, I thought.
Looking back up Càrn nan Gobhar

Once at the bealach, the route ahead didn't look so bad. Some bits were quite steep, but no scrambling was required, except that when near the top, the path was occasionally indistinct and I went too far to the left and needlessly ended up climbing up the pile of huge rocks - the path actually went further to the right, largely avoiding the rocks.
Looking south from near the top, with Loch Tuill Bhearnach and Sgùrr nan Clachan Geala in foreground

From the summit of Sgùrr na Lapaich, the views are impressive.
View north to Loch Monar and beyond

Close up of Càrn Eighe to the south

The long ridge of An Riabhachan from Sgùrr na Lapaich's summit

Another big descent down to Bealach Toll an Lochain, and my knee is complaining more, and beginning to force me to slow my descents.
Looking back up Sgùrr na Lapaich

Again, it was a fair climb up to the An Riabhachan ridge, but once up it, it was a fairly level walk along the grassy ridge to the summit. The weather was starting to close in by this time, so although visibility was fine along the ridge, more distant mountains were beginning to disappear in the mist.
The An Riabhachan ridge continuing onwards from the summit

Now the walk continued along the long ridge which was quite narrow in sections. The wind was gusting by now, mostly from the left, which made it feel a wee bit exposed in places where there was a steep drop-off to the north, but there were no real problems from this. The one place which did make me nervous was a small rocky outcrop on a steep sided section of the ridge, which the path unexpectedly went straight over the top of. I have to confess to going on all fours over it.
An Riabhachan West Top and An Socach, seen from the South-West Top

After the West Top, the ridge drops steeply towards Bealach a Bholla. I was very glad of having the path to guide me down the steepest parts, which might have been difficult to negotiate otherwise. My knee by this time would have preferred that I'd remained at the West Top, but I struck an agreement with it that I'd go carefully and slowly, so despite complaints, it helped me reach the bottom.

The ascent up An Socach was again fairly steep, and the mist was by now fully obscuring anything more than 100 yards away. It was very disappointing to miss the views from the top - the fact that the most interesting thing was the trig point, which was round rather than triangular, sums up how wonderful the visual experience was.
An Socach's trig point

Now for the final descent, which was initially over a mile on grass along the top above the coire. Eventually it started to drop down the ridge and after quite a while, and many complaints from my knee, I reached the dreaded peat hags of Coire Mhàim. They turned out not to be too bad, and I quickly made for the Allt Coire a Mhàim and crossed to its northern side, where there was a path.
Soon after reaching Allt Coire a Mhàim

From now on until I reached the vehicle track near the dam, it was a march mostly in the rain and through bog, sometimes only slightly boggy, most frequently quite squelchy, but often very splashy especially after crossing the Allt Taige. Oh for better waterproofing in my boots! They are fine for short spells in water, but my feet were fairly sodden by the time I got back. It was a long trek back, first down along the burns to the loch, which took 50 minutes, and then along the side of the loch, which took 2½ hours before reaching the track. Then 20 minutes to the car, which was such a welcome sight at 11.20pm. Thanks to the short nights, I hadn't had to use my headtorch even in the murky conditions.

All in all, despite the clouds, the rain, the bog and the surprisingly long walk back from the foot of An Socach's ridge (yes, I know, all the books and reports say it's a real trek), I would definitely recommend the walk. The trek back somehow serves to confirm the achievement of traversing the four hills. But I won't be repeating it for quite a while!

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Càrn an Rìgh and 2 others from Inverey

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, Càrn an Rìgh, Càrn Bhac
Date walked: 29/04/2022
Distance: 45km
Ascent: 1800m
Views: 567

An Socach from Glen Clunie

This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Munros: An Socach (Braemar)
Date walked: 17/01/2022
Distance: 19.26km
Ascent: 597m
Views: 65


Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Braeriach
Gear: Skis
Member: Scottish Wildlife Trust

Munros: 21
Corbetts: 1

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Trips: 3
Distance: 95.26 km
Ascent: 4297m
Munros: 8

Joined: Jan 16, 2022
Last visited: Jul 02, 2022
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