Saturday 25 May 2013

The Strathfarrar Four.

Loch a'Mhuillidh - looking east in Glen Strathfarrar

We waited with another 11 cars at the car park at the end of the private road in Strathfarrar, for the Gatekeeper to come out of her cottage (some of us first timers, rather bemused !).

At 9am on the dot the Gatekeeper appeared. Everyone jumped into their respective cars and jostled for position at the gate. The Gatekeeper took registration numbers and told us, in no uncertain terms, that the gate would be locked at 7pm (she didn't say what would happen to us if we had to stay in the Glen overnight - eaten by wild beasts perhaps?).

Whacky Races - Everyone set off at high speed up the winding single track road, avoiding potholes, in an attempt to get as much walking time on the hill as possible.

Loch a'Mhuillidh - Glen Strathfarrar

We passed the end of the path at Coire Mhuillidh and drove about another km up the road, hoping to save our sore feet at the end of the day, with only a 5km road walk rather than 6.

The day was glorious, warm sunshine reflecting blindingly from the loch as we walked our km east along the road, a nice gentle start. Rafe wasn't so happy though, having to be on his lead.

Sgurr a Choire Ghlais and Carn nan Gobhar from Coire Mhuillidh

We soon headed off into the arms of the hills, into Coire Mhuillidh on a fast deteriorating path along the side of the burn, the way was rather boggy in places, to the point where we lost interest in trying to avoid it.

Carn nan Gobhar from Coire Mhuillidh

About an hour on, surrounded by 3 of our 4 Munro's of the day, their snow sprinkled peaks all around us, we crossed the Allt Freumhach, gurgling down from the slopes of our first summit of the day, and headed off up the grassy slopes.

Rafe and Jim - A boggy ascent of Sgurr na Ruaidhe

The way was steep and very boggy, probably due to Thursday's snow melting quickly into the moss.

Walkers ahead on Sgurr na Ruaidhe
just before the false top

We were catching up with other walkers now (those that had parked right at the bottom of the Coire), stopping for a chat as we went. Jim was on a mission, determined to leave them all behind, with me in tow.

Views west to on ascent of Sgurr na Ruaidhe

There was a very nasty false top, quite a long way from the real top, giving us a horrid shock as we came over the brow to see we still had quite a long way of steep bog-trot ahead.

Rafe and Jim - Ascent of Sgurr na Ruaidhe

Sgorr na Diollaid with Ben Nevis (far right) beyond, from Sgurr na Ruaidhe

Eventually we made it to the first summit Sgurr na Ruaidhe at 993m, superb views all around and with our next two objectives clear to the north and west.

Sgurr a Choire Ghlais from Sgurr na Ruaidhe

Sgurr a Choire Ghlais and Carn nan Gobhar
Sgurr na Ruaidhe

Rafe - Bealach nam Botichean

A quick and easy mossy descent into Bealach nam Botichean followed (fortified by a cereal bar) and up to the second top, seemingly easy and short after the first ascent of the day.

Bealach nam Botichean with views to Ben Wyvis

Sgurr na Ruaidhe from ascent of Carn nan Gobhar

Green and blue - NH277438 by Carn nan Gobhar

The summit of Carn nan Gobhar was just 1m shorter, but completely different underfoot, no soft moss and grass, just lots of boulder hopping.

Carn nan Gobhar's rocky summit

The views though were possibly even better, with the views to the next top, the tallest of the day looming ahead.

Sgurr a Choire Ghlais from Carn nan Gobhar

We had our first lunch here, amongst the rocks, just below the summit, with views to Glen Orrin and the Beauly Firth.

Bealach Sneachda and Sgurr a Choire Ghlais
from the descent from Ghlais
 Carn nan Gobhar

More boulder hopping, down this time, led us to Bealach Sneachda with views of a 200m pull up to Sgurr a Choire Ghlais with rather an alarming amount of snow left on the summit.

Rafe and Jim
Ascent of Sgurr a Choire Ghlais

Although the views were amazing, it was a bit of a "head down and get on with it" ascent, very steep at points.

Walkers descend from Sgurr a Choire Ghlais

We kicked steps in the snow as we made our last 30m of so of ascent onto the summit plateau. Once again the views all around were breathtaking, the rest of our route laid out ahead to the west. Photo fest again.

Sgurr a Choire Ghlais summit looking west

Rafe - Sgurr a Choire Ghlais summit looking south

From Sgurr a Choire Ghlaislooking west - the rest if the route

Looking back to Sgurr a Choire Ghlais
Bealach Toll Sgaile

Creag Ghorm a'Blealaich from Bealach Toll Sgaile

Ascent of Creag Ghorm a'Blealaich

The next summit, Creag Ghorm a'Bhealaich was a Munro Top, with views to Torridon and beyond, we were amazed to see how close Loch Maree was as the crow flies.

Creag Ghorm a'Blealaich and Sgurr a Choire Ghlais

 Views to Sgurr a Choire Ghlais and Creag Ghorm a'Blealaich

Views to Sgurr Fhuar-thuill from Creag Ghorm a'Blealaich

Jim ascends Sgurr Fhuar-thuill

Views west from Sgurr Fhuar-thuill

Views south from Sgurr Fhuar-thuill

Loch Maree from Sgurr Fhuar-thuill

Our last Munro, Sgurr Fhuar-thuill, at 1049m, was an easy pull up, seemed like a good spot for a second lunch, with another Munro Top, Sgurr na Fearstaig, just beyond.

Rafe looks for his second lunch on Sgurr Fhuar-thuill

North from Sgurr Fhuar-thuill

Sgurr Fhuar-thuill, Creag Ghorm a'Blealaich and
Sgurr a Choire Ghlais from Sgurr na Fearstaig

The views were definitely worth every one of the 1550m of ascent we had climbed that day.

Views south from Sgurr na Fearstaig

Rather than go back to the bealach between our last two hills, we carried on down the south ridge and once past a bit of cornice launched off the side and down a short, very steep slope to the stalkers path in Toll a'Mhuic.

Jim - Descent into Toll a'Mhuic

We followed this path south to the Strathfarrar road. It was rough, boggy and peaty for almost it's entire length, following the Allt Toll a'Mhuic from its lochan.

Allt Toll a'Mhuic

It was a long track but we were distracted by waterfalls falling from beneath snow drifts, to be swallowed up again by the next snow drift, beautiful.

Allt Toll a'Mhuic

Allt Toll a'Mhuic

Allt Toll a'Mhuic

Allt Toll a'Mhuic

Allt Toll a'Mhuic

Further down the burn, swelled by snow melt, turned into a torrent and eventually dropped into a gorge, to be heard but not seen below us.

Rafe cools his feet in the River Farrar

When we reached the road we stopped by the River Farrar for a third lunch (or was it a first tea) watching red deer feasting on the green, green grass on the other bank.

We set off on our 5km road walk with sore feet, but determined to finish. After about a km a car stopped, other walkers who had the luxury of a car at either end of the road, asking if we wanted a lift. As time was starting to be tight (we didn't want to be eaten by wild beasts, or worse, get a lecture from the Gatekeeper !) Jim accepted the lift and went to collect the car, whilst I walked on with a wet and muddy Rafe until Jim picked me up after about another km or so.

It was a shame not to walk the glen, it really is a wonderful spot, but it was gone 6.30pm by the time the Gatekeeper reluctantly let us out.

River Farrar and Sgorr na Diollaid

Route:  Pull in by the Glen Strathfarrar private road by Loch a'Mhuillidh (NH273384), follow the road east to track N into Coire Mhuillidh, follow the E bank of Ally Coire Mhuillidh, cross Allt Freumhach and continue on track NE up the slopes to Sgurr na Ruaidhe (Munro 151, 993m), Bealach nam Botichean, Carn nan Gobhar (Munro 153, 992m), Bealach Sneachda, Sgurr a Choire Ghlais (Munro 60, 1083m), Bealach Toll Sgaile, Creag Ghorm a'Blealaich (Munro Top 59, 1030m), Sgurr Fhuar-thuill (Munro 82, 1049m), Sgurr na Fearstaig (Munro Top 70, 1015m), S along the ridge to NH226433, SE down steep slopes to path in Toll a'Mhuic at NH227443, follow path S to road, E to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 22km  Ascent: 1550m  Time: 8 hours

Red deer in Glen Strathfarrar

Sunday 19 May 2013

Meall na Teanga and Sron a'Choire Ghairbh.

Laggan Locks and Loch Lochy
from Kilfinnan at the start of the walk

We parked up at Kilfinnan, by Loch Lochy, in drizzle and a cloud base of 300m with little hope of having much in the way of views from the tops. 

Allt a Choire Ghlais at Kilfinnan

An easy walk in on good forestry tracks above the shores of the loch warmed us up, to the sound of cuckoo's in the wood and the occasional view down to the water below. 

Rafe at the start of
The Coffin Road 

The Old Coffin Road through the glen of Allt Glas-Dhoire was further away than we had expected, and we had been checking the map before it came in sight, but it would have been difficult to miss with its Scottish Rights of Way waymarker. 

Nearing the edge of the woods above Allt Glas-Dhoire

The morning was brightening as we ascended steeply through the lovely mixed woods, with waterfalls to our right and even a glimpse of an oft heard cuckoo flying by. 

Rafe in the glen of Allt Glas-Dhoire

We came out of the trees to views of a wonderful wild glen with the bealach in the distance draped with cloud, now at about 600m. The path was good and not too steep and we made good time.

Mist on the cliffs of Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Looking back to Loch Lochy in the glen of Allt Glas-Dhoire

Our hopes of the mist rising though was dashed as the cloud spilled down over the bealach and towards us and we walked into the gloom. 

Jim and Rafe entering the gloom, above Allt Glas-Dhoire

At the bealach we made a choice to go for Meall na Teanga first, to the left, south, as the visibility was so poor and we wanted to get the hill with the most potential navigation issues done whilst the day was still young. So compass at the ready we started through the murk. As it happens there was an easy to follow path the whole way and there were no worries, apart from avoiding the odd patch of bog and one of old frozen snow above a steep drop. 

Rafe - At the bealach between
Meall Dubh and 
Meall na Teanga

We had our first lunch on the way up, when we found a good flat rock with a view of white swirling mist all around. Surprisingly it wasn't cold at all and the mist thinned tantalisingly at times, but never enough to give us any views. 

The glen of Allt Glas-Dhoire from the ascent of Meall na Teanga

Mist/Fog/Cloud on Meall na Teanga

We continued up to our first Munro summit of the day, Meall na Teanga, 918m, only just making it onto the list. 

Rafe on Meall na Teanga's summit, 918m

After the usual photo call at the cairn, we descended back to the bealach, stopping briefly at our rock for a second lunch. 

A big grassy bank - ascent of Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

We then headed north, zigging and zagging on a very good and easy path up towards our second summit, Rafe bounding ahead. As we ascended towards the ridge the path steepened up and we slogged up the grassy bank. 

Sron a'Choire Ghairbh West Top, Meall Dubh and Meall na Teanga

The cloud was thinning rapidly giving us glimpses of the summits around us and as we topped out on the ridge we were rewarded with the most wonderful temperature inversion. 

Meall a'Choire Ghlais and Ben Tee from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

We fairly ran up to the summit in the hope that we wouldn't be overtaken by the mist coming in again, but no, the view was improving every minute. 

Meall a'Choire Ghlais and Ben Tee from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Sron a'Choire Ghairbh West Top

Every hillwalkers dream, to be on top of the world in the sunshine with just the tops of the mountains poking out of a sea of swirling cloud. 

Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Rafe on Sron a'Choire Ghairbh's summit, 937m

This was Sron a'Choire Ghairbh another of the smaller Munro's at 937m, but we'll never forget our time up there. 

From Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Meall a'Choire Ghlais and Ben Tee from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

From Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Views north from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

From Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Rafe and Jim descend from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Meall a'Choire Ghlais and Ben Tee from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

Meall Dubh and Meall na Teanga from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

We chatted to another summiteer from Glasgow about hill walking and life, before returning the way we had come via many photographs, into the mist. 

Jim and Rafe - Meall Dubh and Meall na Teanga from Sron a'Choire Ghairbh

The descent was quick on such good paths and not far below the bealach we came out of the cloud into warm sunshine with views to match. 

Rafe at the boggy bealach at the source of Allt Glas-Dhoire

The cloud was dissipating, and by the time we reached the woods the summits were all in view. The final 2. 5km along the forestry track was a bit of a slog, but the sun was out, it was pleasantly warm and the air was full of the smells of spring. Another amazing day...

Meall Dubh and Sron a'Choire Ghairbh above Allt Glas-Dhoire

Route:  Grassy area just before the road crosses the Kilfinnan bridge (NN278958), follow the Great Glen way W until a fork in the track where the Great Glen Way turns left down towards the loch, turn right here (sp Loch Lochy Munro's)and go through a gate following a track undulating, but mainly gaining height slowly, after about 2. 5 km turn right at a Scottish Rights of Way waymarker (NN252937) and up through the woods, steeply, on a good path and out onto the open hill on the north bank of Allt Glas-Dhoire. At the bealach (NN223937) turn S and follow the track around the flanks of Meall Dubh to another bealach at NN 222932 and then up the north ridge of Meall na Teanga (good path), Meall na Teanga (Munro , 918m), return to first bealach and continue N on a good path, zig-zagging and then directly to the summit of Sron a'Choire Ghairbh (Munro , 937m), return to bealach and return to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 19km  Ascent: 1250m  Time: 6hrs 30mins.

Allt Glas-Dhoire and Loch Lochy

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...