Thursday 22 September 2016

Canoe to Mam Sodhail, Carn Eige and Beinn Fhionnlaidh

Jim - wheeling  the canoe down the track from the car park at the
end of the road in Glen Affric to access River Affric

We've been waiting for a chance to do this one, for a while.

The forecast was for a calm and clear day, so we set off from the Forestry car park at the end of the road in Glen Affric with a canoe full of walking gear and high hopes for a great day... A canoe west into wild country, followed by a 3 Munro hill-walk.

It was a few hundred yards along the track that follows the north shore of the River Affric, with the canoe on it's little trolley, before we found a good spot to launch...

Views west along Loch Affric

Once on the water, we paddled west, out onto the Loch. The water was mirror smooth and the reflections clear and sharp. Stunning!

Views west along Loch Affric

It was about 4km along Loch Affric before we pulled the canoe onto the shore and stashed our non-hill-walking gear amongst the vegetation...

The start of the walk - beside Loch Affric (NH153225)

...and headed off, through gale and pine to pick up the Glen Affric stalkers path above the Loch.

An Tudair above Coire Leachavie from beside Loch Affric

A bit further west, we took the new path (hydro scheme!) up Coire Leachavie, with our first Munro objective, Mam Sodhail, wreathed in cloud, ahead.

The western end of Loch Affric from NH148230

The path gave for easy walking - we gained height quickly - the views back across Glen Affric buoying us up...

Jim ascending into Coire Leachavie
Mam Sodhail in cloud

...and the views of the hills ahead, pulling us on.

Waterfalls on Allt Coire Leachavie

Once past the little dam and hydro "shed" the path deteriorated somewhat - rather rocky in some places, boggy in others - but it was clear and obvious as we ascended into upper Coire Leachavie. An Tudair to our left, the coire rim and Mam Sodhail in front and the Mullach Cadha Rainich/Sgurr na Lapaich ridge to our right.

Views south along Allt Coire Leachavie to Loch Affric

The path followed the lovely Allt Coire Leachavie, punctuated by tumbling waterfalls all along it's length.

Ascent of Coire Leachavie
Views north to Mam Sodhail

Waterfalls on Allt Coire Leachavie

We stopped for a first lunch at the top of a steeper pull, the views down the glen green and gold.

Jim - Upper Coire Leachavie

Once into the upper coire, we could see another walker, tiny in the distance, making his way up the zig zags in the coire wall below the bealach. It looked something of a slog.

Upper Coire Leachavie

We decided that a quick scrabble up onto the ridge to the east was a more appealing prospect.

So - right turn and up!

Views south down Coire Leachavie from ascent to Mam Sodhail South Ridge

We were soon above the coire bogs and in amongst the boulders on the short, steep climb up to the ridge at the bealach between Mullach Cadha Rainich and Mam Sodhail.

Ascent to the Mam Sodhail South Ridge

Mam Sodhail and Carn Eige from Man Sodhail South Ridge

New views - north to Mam Sodhail along its south ridge and Carn Eige (Munro objective number two) over Gleann nam Fiadh.

Looking back down into Coire Leachavie from Mam Sodhail South Ridge

Mam Sodhail South Ridge to Sgurr na Lapaich and Coire Leachavie

Jim and Rafe - Ascent of Mam Sodhail

A vague path followed the ridge up to the summit. We followed the path.

Carn Eige and Loch Uaine from ascent of Mam Sodhail

We were soon at the top - the views opening up again to the north. Loch Mullardoch and her Munro's,  beyond to the Loch Monar hills and as far as Torridon - the hills went on forever.

Jim - nearing the summit of Mam Sodhail

On the summit of Mam Sodhail (Munro 14, 1181m) there was a massive cairn, which had to be climbed for photographic purposes. Once on the top, Jim confirmed that it was hollow, just a circular wall - it would have been good shelter from the wind had we needed it. Rafe would have had some trouble gaining access though!

Rafe - Mam Sodhail summit (Munro 14, 1181m) - Views north west

Jim and Rafe - descent from Mam Sodhail summit
Views to Loch Mullardoch, Beinn Fhionnliath and Carn Eige

We continued north, down into the bealach, an excellent place for a second lunch.

Good view for a second lunch
Gleann nam Fiadh and Loch Uaine from descent from Mam Sodhail

Loch Mullardoch from bealach between Mam Sodhail and Carn Eige

Looking back to Mam Sodhail from bealach

Jim - start of the ascent of Carn Eige

The ascent of Carn Eige, fuelled by Jim's excellent sandwiches, was easier than expected, not too steep and with an obvious path. Carn Eige is, apparently, the highest point north of The Great Glen!

Carn Eige summit (Munro 12, 1183m) - views north to Beinn Fhionnliath

Carn Eige summit - views east to Stob Coire Dhomhnuill ridge

The views from the Carn Eige summit (Munro 12, 1183m) were as wonderful - and as it was two metres higher, possibly slightly better, than Mam Sodhail.

Stob Coire Dhomhnuill and the east ridge looking like an excellent walk - but for another day!

Descent from Carn Eige - views to Beinn Fhionnlaith and Coire Lochan

It also looked like a long drop into Bealach Beag before the climb up to Beinn Fhionnlaith - our last new Munro of the day.

Jim - views to Beinn Fhionnlaith and Stob Coire Lochan

The descent wasn't too bad, and we picked up Stob Coire Lochan (Munro Top 221, 916m) along the way.

Looking back to Carn Eige

Stob Coire Lochan summit (Munro Top 221, 916m)

Coire Lochan, Stob Coire Lochan and Carn Eige
from ascent of Beinn Fhionnlaith

The views were eye wateringly lovely, all the way.

Loch Mullardoch from ascent of Beinn Fhionnliath

Beinn Fhionnlaith (Munro 128, 1005m) was dwarfed by her enormous neighbours - but the airy summit hung above Loch Mullardoch - a magnificent place to be.

Beinn Fhionnliath summit (Munro 128, 1005m) - views west

Time was getting on, we now had to start heading back to the canoe - we dropped off Beinn Fhionnlaith and into Bealach Beag again.

Rafe and Jim descend south from Beinn Fhionnlaith

Rafe and Jim - descent into Bealach Beag - views to Stob Coire Lochan, Carn Eige and Mam Sodhail 

At 832m, Bealach Beag was a long way below where we needed to be. Rather than trudging back over Carn Eige again, we decided to bypass the hill to the west, ascending 200m or so across Creag an Fhuarail Mhor and Creag an Fhuarail Beag to the bealach between Carn Eige and Mam Sodhail.

It was a slog! Initially there was a path. Then there wasn't. We just made a bee line for Mam Sodhail summit!

It was a slog.

Crossing Creag an Fhuarail Bheag on the way to Mam Sodhail

Back in the bealach between Carn Eige and Mam Sodhail

We were ready for a third lunch by the time we got to the bealach. Food and views. Again.

A good view for a third lunch - Gleann nam Fiadh and Mam Sodhail South Ridge

Views back along Creag an Fhuarail Bheag and
Creag an Fhuarail Mhor to Beinn Fhionnliath

Once fuelled up again, the final 200m or so, back up to Mam Sodhail summit, was much easier than expected (we were getting pretty tired by now - except for Rafe who was still trotting about and grinning!)

Jim - Reascent of Mam Sodhail

A skein of cloud blew in and draped itself over Mam Sodhail as we neared the summit - it was suddenly cold. The weather that had been hanging about across the west coast all day, looked like it was moving in. We didn't mess about and headed south along the ridge. We still had a long way to go...

Mam Sodhail summit (Munro 14, 1181m)

Descent along Mam Sodhail South Ridge

But we needn't have worried. The cloud blew away as quickly as it blew in - the skies opened up again.

Jim - Mam Sodhail South Ridge
Views to Mullach Cadha Rainich and Sgurr na Lapaich

We dropped off Mam Sodhail's south ridge, just about where we gained it on ascent, taking a diagonal route across the hill, down towards the stalkers path beside Allt Coire Leachavie.

Views south over Mullach Cadha Rainich and Sgurr na Lapaich to Loch Affric

Jim - Descent into Coire Leachavie

Once back on the path, a little footsore, we continued south, back to the canoe.

Jim and Rafe - Views south along Allt Coire Leachavie

Western end of Loch Affric

It was early evening - the light had changed - Glen Affric in all it's glory.

Descent back towards Loch Affric and the canoe

Loch Affric

We had a fourth lunch beside the Loch. We had stashed a couple of flasks of tea with our gear. A cuppa was very welcome.

Loch Affric - good place for a fourth lunch

We canoe'd back along Loch Affric as the sun went behind the hills. It was calm, quiet and restful - a gentle paddle. Time to breathe in the beauty. And Rafie had good rest whist he watched the world go by.

Paddling back in the gloaming
Views west across Loch Affric

The midges had a bit of a feast whilst we sorted our kit at the car - but, who cares.

What a day!

Nearing Affric Lodge
Views west on Loch Affric

Route:  Canoe from end of Glen Affric road (NH201233) to north shore of Loch Affric (NH153225), N to track at NH152228, W to track juntion (NH148228), NW along track into Coire Leachaive to above waterfalls at  NH127247, N across coire floor and ascend steeply on pathless hillside to Mam Sodhail to Mullach Cadha Rainich ridge, NW to Mam Sodhail (Munro 14, 1181m), N to bealach, NE to Carn Eige (Munro 12, 1183m), N to Stob Coire Lochan (Munro Top 221, 916m), N to Bealach Beag (832m), N to Beinn Fionnlaidh (Munro 128, 1005m), return to Bealach Beag, S on vague intermittent path, ascending to bealach between Carn Eige and Mam Sodhail, S to Mam Sodhail again (Munro 14, 1181m), SE along Mam Sodhail to Mullach Cadha Rainich ridge to NH131249 approx, descend across open hillside to path in Coire Leachavie, SE along track to junction (NH148228) E to NH152228, return to canoe, canoe to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 18km  Ascent: 1750m  Time: 8 hours 30 minutes

Map: OS Explorer 414 Glen Shiel & Kintail Forest

Mam Sodhail

Carn Eige

Beinn Fionnlaidh

1 comment:

Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor

Setting off from Glen Feshie - it was chilly - before the sun had a chance to peep over the hills...  Off we go! Jim - Setting off near Auch...