walkhighlands

Perfection on An Socach but bloodshed in Glen Affric

Route: Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan group, Alltbeithe

Munros: An Socach (Affric)

Date walked: 23/07/2019

Distance: 31km

Inspired by Black Panther and the SMC book we decided to head for Glen Affric's An Socach from the car park at east end of Loch Affric. We deposited the car there (a bit later than planned) and were on our way, optimistic the overcast skies would clear to give us a stunning blue sky day. :D

We crossed the bridge and noticed how full the river was, the fullest I've seen. Thankfully we didn't have any large burns to cross or this might have been a problem.

River Affric from car park
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Cloudy sky
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Grazing horses
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It was easy walking on the track, the only problem being Moira was in shorts. This in itself was not a problem but a concerted stealth attack on bare legs from clegs was. They land so softly you're not aware of them until they've ripped into your flesh, injecting anticoagulant to give a quick meal of blood and, despite my best efforts at whacking them off, Moira's legs were soon streaming with blood so she looked like she'd been running through a field of barbed wire. And depending on what they've been on before they dig their mouth parts into you, they may leave behind some nasties that turn into a horrible infection with swelling and pus that requires antibiotics to deal with. They are the blight of Highland summers for man and beast alike - evil brutes for which I can see no useful purpose. And unfortunately a midge-repelling breeze has no effect on them at all. :evil:

Fisherman's hut
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We made good time to Athnamullach but chose not to stop for a break by the river as now (for variety) the midges were out in massed forces and if we'd hung about would have been all over us. We stopped a bit higher up where a cooling breeze did a good job of keeping them away and we thankfully seemed to have moved out of cleg territory. To our delight the earlier cloud had started to clear. :thumbup:

Blue sky appearing over Sail Chaorainn
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I've no photographic evidence but after heavy rain the night before the track was waterlogged in many places requiring off piste diversions which were often very boggy. I was more careful where I put my feet on the way in but on the return more inclined to walk right through it. :wtf:

Track to Alltbeithe
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About 2.5k on from Strawberry Cottage we reached the bridge from where the stalker's path winds its way up to the ridge, arriving at a col a little to the east of An Socach's north top. There was a waterfall just upstream from the bridge.

Alltbeithe YH was visible from here
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A pretty decent path follows the river and fence up, fairly steeply for about 200m before the gradient eases as it reaches Coire Ghaidheil. Once on more level ground there were some very boggy patches to be negotiated, which slowed us down. It would definitely have been quicker going after a dry spell. The path was indistinct in places around the entrance to the corrie but higher up was more established and easier to follow as it took a rising traverse up to the col on the ridge. 8)

Stalker's path up Coire Ghaidheil
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View back from col
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The path spilled out on to the ridge right beside the remains of a stone built shelter. This was a useful marker for where the path started when we returned to it on the descent. We had a brief stop here and reminded each other to drink plenty as the day was warm.

A rest at the col
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An Socach's north top
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Starting up ridge
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We picked up a faint path from the col which seemed to fizzle out fairly quickly. I was tending round to the right (which is where I later discovered the path had gone) but Moira suggested we head straight up, which is what we did (in zig zag fashion, with a bit of grass clutching) until we topped out and found the path again coming in from the right. As we gained height the views improved all the time, with the Mullardochs to the north and the Affric trio I did with Liz and Roger in pride of place. What a day that was. :D

Beinn Fhionnlaidh, Carn Eige, Mam Sodhail
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Once on An Socach's north top the view to the west opened up and we got our first sight of An Socach with its south ridge stretching down towards the glen we'd come from. SMC suggested ascending by the south ridge and back the way we'd come and it was tempting to continue on down that ridge, except we knew from the map it was very steep further down and our knees didn't fancy that. So although a longer distance we decided to stick with the devil we knew and return the way we came. :wink:

An Socach's south ridge from north top
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An Socach summit (921m)
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North east to An Socach's north top
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South to Mullach Fraoch-choire
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West to Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan (pointy one)
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It was good to see the ridge connecting the two remaining Affric Munros, which I hope to return to soon, probably staying a couple of nights at the hostel.

Panorama from Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan to Mullach na Dheiragain (Moira's pic)
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We had a leisurely late lunch at the summit before starting the return journey. It was no hardship to reverse our outward route as the view north to the Mullardochs was so easy on the eye and this time I kept a lookout for the path that wound its way down to the col again.

Distant Loch Mullardoch and other An Socach
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We picked up the stalker's path and made better time in descent although the muddy sections further down were still pretty lethal and Moira took a tumble to add bruises to her cleg bites. :thumbdown:

Back down the stalker's path
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Look at that sky now
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Bridge at Athnamullach, Strawberry Cottage on left
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River Affric
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Last look back at Athnamullach
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Walking from Athnamullach back to the car we were once again subject to a brutal cleg attack and although more covered up than Moira they got their wicked way with me and two days later I counted 12 angry hard weals which drove me half crazy with itchiness - and I'm still bearing the scars two weeks later. And yes I did use Smidge but it seemed to make no difference. Added to that they can bite through clothing and from the bites I had around my waist can get under clothing wherever there's the slightest gap. :-o

If I sound fairly obsessed with clegs that would be about right. They are almost (almost but not quite) enough to stop me going out to where they might be. I went into Fisherfield on Friday well covered up and using Lifesystem Expedition Plus (containing controversial Deet which I'm told is the only thing that will repel them) and still got a few bites, but this time not on exposed skin but through my sleeve. So the answer might be to wear as little as possible and slather skin in toxic chemicals.... :shock:

All I can say is roll on autumn!

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