Sunday 30 November 2014

Mullach Clach a'Bhlair

Looking south from the car parking area at NN850985

An early start meant we were pulling on our boots before sunrise in the car park at the end of the public road at the southern end of Glen Feshie, just short of Achlean.

Mullach Clach a'Bhlair is classed by some as a boring hill - we shall see...

No messing about, we were soon walking south, along good tracks and around the back of the farm.

Rafe - views south along Glen Feshie near Achlean

The way was clear, Rafie trotted ahead.

Crossing Allt nam Meann at NN853972

The little footbridge over Allt nam Meann was gone, so our first burn fording of the day came sooner than expected. 

Rafe and Jim continue south in Glen Feshie

The views were expansive, improving as the day lightened and brightened.

Rafe and Jim beside the River Feshie (NN852962)

Looking north along Glen Feshie from NN852955

The weather has been good of late, so the crossing of the Allt Garbhlach was made without any wet feet (except Rafe's and he got more than just his feet wet!).

Over Allt Garbhlach to Glen Feshie

The path meandered in and out of the woods, beside the river, amongst tussocky heather and back into the woods - yellow and bronze, blue and silver, green and gold...

Rafe amongst the pines in Glen Feshie

Part of the track was washed away beside a wide turn in the River Feshie following some recent spate - evidence of the power of this big river...

River Feshie - views south from NN848942

The track up to Mullach Clach a'Bhlair is a full on road! Definitely no issues with regards to navigation!!

It was a bit of a shock to the system, though, after our gentle stroll along the Glen floor - it very soon got pretty steep.

Jim and Rafe start the ascent of Mullach Clach a Bhlair
on the track east above Allt Coire Chaoil

Pausing for a look back along the Glen, the way we had come, we spied a group of cyclists. They sped around the corner and onto our ascent track.

Jim and I were soon laying bets on how long it would be before they were off and pushing.

East above Glen Feshie

We were most surprised to watch them keep going up the really steep bit and keep going. We moved off the track to let them by - congratulating them (a couple of families with teenage children) as they went by...

South east from ascent of Mullach Clach a Bhlair
on the track east above Allt Coire Chaoil

But after about another 100 yards, they stopped for a rest! We carried on and overtook them.

Ascent of Mullach Clach a'Bhlair on the track east above Coire Caol
Meall nan Sleac (left) and Mullach Clach a'Bhlair (right)

The views were opening out as we ascended - north and south along the very lovely Glen Feshie, an example of how the different interests in the Highlands can work together for wildlife and the environment...

Jim and Rafe continue the ascent of Mullach Clach a'Bhlair on the track east above upper Coire Caol

As the ascent relented, the cyclists came past us again. We just slogged on.

Looking back into Glen Feshie from ascent of Mullach Clach a'Bhlair on the track above Coire Caol

They stopped for a rest again, we passed again - Hare and Tortoise.

Jim and Rafe on Cadha na Coin Duibh with views to Meall Dubhag and Coire Garbhiach

As we reached the bealach between Meall nan Sleac and Cadha na Coin Duibh, we left the path and walked along the edge of the crags above Coire Garbhiach - glorious moody views.

Views west from Cadha na Coin Duibh over Meall nan Sleac to Glen Feshie

The cyclists stopped to see what we we were looking at - two of them actually climbed up from the track to have a look at the view! We stopped for a chat with them and one walked with us for a while - the usual mountain chit chat - weather and bagging!

Mullach Clach a'Bhlair - misty summit plateau

As we reached the summit plateau we walked into cloud.

The cyclists were off now, speeding away into the gloom.

The plateau was wide and grassy, little in the way of landmarks. We were still on a very good track, but this didn't pass over the summit, so a little in the way of my navigational skills were briefly employed to get to the summit.

Mullach Clach a'Bhlair summit (Munro 114,1019m)

The sun was starting to burn off the cloud as we neared the summit - and there were our mountain biking friends before us, to make for a slightly unusual summit picture - Mullach Clach a'Bhlair  (Munro 114,1019m).

Rafe and Jim - descent from Mullach Clach a'Bhlair
towards Druim nam Bo

The cyclists headed off north along the summit plateau towards Sgor Gaoith (a BGB walk a few weeks ago).We struck out south west over the minor summit of Druim nam Bo to descend back into Glen Feshie.

Rafe and Jim - Druim nam Bo

We had decided not to stop for lunch near the summit due to the lack of view, but as we descended, and as the mist lessened, a rather chilly wind got up. Since there was very little in the way of shelter we decided to keep going (despite time getting on!) until we found a better spot.

Jim and Rafe descend towards Lochan nam Bo

And what a "better spot" we found!

The very lovely Lochan nam Bo

Lochan nam Bo - perfect in every way.

Rafe has a plodge in Lochan nam Bo

After a satisfying (if a little late) lunch, we made for the path marked on the map (zigzagging from sh 737m at NN857913). But whilst tramping around in the heather around Lochan nam Bo, we came cross another track heading north west across the lower western slopes of Druim nam Bo. We went that way.

Descent into Glen Feshie - views north west from south of Coire nam Meur

A couple of times we thought the path was going to disappear, but gradually it improved (apart from it being a bit boggy in places!) It took us gradually down to Allt Coire nam Meur, its banks cloaked in ancient Scot's pine.

Descent into Glen Feshie - views north to Meall nan Sleac
and our asecnt route

Caledonian pine woods above Allt Coire nam Meur

With the late afternoon sun shining obliquely across the slopes and through the trees, it really was absolutely stunning.

Jim and Rafe - Caledonian pine woods above
Allt Coire nam Meur

South west over Glen Feshie from above Allt Coire nam Meur 

The slopes eased off and the path brought us out in Glen Feshie, just where our ascent route left the Glen path.

Jim and Rafe - Glen Feshie (NN849932)

In Glen Feshie (NN848934)

Over the River Feshie (NN846937)

It was then just a case of backtracking our morning route to the start.

Waxing Gibbous over Glen Feshie's Scot's Pine and Coire Garbhiach

The light had changed -  The sun was slipping behind the hills in the west, we were in shadow, but the summits were glowing. The moon at the end of her first quarter hung over Coire Garbhiach to the east. An evening chill was descending.

With an extra layer donned, we ambled back to the car - more than content with our day. 

Rafe wandering north along Glen Feshie

Route:  Car park on unclassified road S of Feshiebridge, 1km N of Achlean (NH850985), follow road S to Achlean, fp S past farm buildings to gate and ford over Allt Fhearnagan (NH853971), continue S along fp to the E side of Glen Feshie, cross ford over Allt Garbhlach (NH851944), continue S on fp and tracks through Coille an Torr, at juntion at NH848935 turn left (E) to track junction on summit plateau at NH882936, continue straight on (SE) along track to NH884929 and take small path to right SW to Mullach Clach a'Bhlair summit (Munro 114,1019m), SW to Druim nam Bo (918m), SW to Lochan nam Bo (NH861915), NW along vague track over Druim nam Bo W slopes, cross over Allt Coire nam Meur and continue on track to track junction at NH848935, return N on outward path to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 21.3km  Ascent: 800m  Time: 5hrs 50mins.

Map:  OS Explorer 403 (Cairngorm & Aviemore)

Mullach Clach a'Bhlair

Saturday 15 November 2014

Ciste Dhubh

Loch Cluanie from the start of the walk by A87 (NH087121)

With the daylight hours shortening, we had an early start from the campsite. An hour or so later we were setting off from the layby on the A87 (NH087121) just as the sun was rising.

Views over Loch Cluanie were stunning.

Am Bathach from NH089122

Am Bathach, our first hill of the day, catching the rays whilst we set off in the gloom in the glen - it loomed above us,

The South Glen Sheil Ridge and Cluanie Inn from ascent of Am Bathach  

It was only about 100 yards along the road before we went through the metal gate and headed north west up the steep nose of the Corbett - no gentle walk in for us today.

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Am Bathach

There's one thing about steep, you go up fast - the views opened up beneath us.

Loch Cluanie, Glen Shiel and a mountain sunrise...

Loch Cluanie sunrise from ascent of Am Bathach

A grassy (and sometimes boggy) path led us up to and along the Am Bathach ridge, welcoming into us into the north Kintail hills - golden green against the blue of a perfect Scottish autumn day.

Jim on Am Bathach ridge

Am Bathach with Ciste Dhubh beyond

I think the pictures pretty much speak for themselves!

Jim and Rafe near Am Bathach summit

Am Bathach ridge looking south from summit

Am Bathach summit (Corbett, 798m) - views north to Ciste Dhubh

We reached the summit all too soon - Am Bathach (Corbett, 798m) - how lucky to have such a wonderful day in the middle of November.

Bealach a'Choinich and Ciste Dhubh from descent from Am Bathach

Once we passed into the shadow of the hill, there was a definite chill in the air and a touch of frost on the grass.

Views east to A'Chralaig from Bealach a'Choinich

But once in Bealach a'Choinich, back in the sunshine, all alone in the hills it was time for a first lunch (actually I think it was more of a second breakfast!). We found a nice flat stretch of rock, perfect for a picnic - and it was perfect, warm, startlingly clear with some of our favourite hills all around - some we have already walked, others still to do...

Na Geurain Ridge from Bealach a'Choinich

To the east was A'Chralaig with its scrambly Na Geurain Ridge, we climbed in May 2013. To the west lies the Brothers Ridge and the Five Sisters of Kintail beyond them - definitely on our tick list for next year.

South from Bealach a'Choinich - a good spot for a bite to eat

After our second breakfast, onward across Bealach a'Choinich, across rocks, past lochans and peat hags.

Rafe - Ciste Dhubh from Bealach a'Choinich 

Am Bathach and Bealach a'Choinich 

As we started to ascend towards Ciste Dhubh, the "path" went through a particularly boggy bit, to the east of some crags. It didn't last long, but it really was quite squelchy!

Bealach a'Choinich  from a boggy initial ascent of Ciste Dhubh

Once beyond the bog, the going got easier and we were soon on the wide shoulder of Ciste Dhubh and the views opened up again - this time to the west - layer upon layer of hills to the Black Cuillin on Skye in the spiky distance.

Am Bathach from the ascent of Ciste Dhubh

West from the ascent of Ciste Dhubh

The ridge started to narrow nicely, a wonderful airy feeling...

Jim and Rafe - An Cnapach and Ciste Dhubh ridge

Rafe - ascent of Ciste Dhubh

The main path bypasses the crag of An Cnapach to the west - but it was definitely worth a quick nip up to the summit - great views and a great photo opportunity!

 Jim and shadow Polly - on An Cnapach - views to Ciste Dhubh

It really was one of those "wow" days.

Polly and Rafe on An Cnapach summit (877m)

Am Bathach and An Cnapach from Ciste Dhubh ridge

The ridge undulated up and then up again as we neared the summit of Ciste Dhubh, reasonably narrow but never difficult.

Views west from ascent of Ciste Dhubh

Rafe and Jim - Ciste Dhubh ridge

Views west to a distant Syke Cuillin from Ciste Dhubh ridge

Jim on ascent to Ciste Dhubh

Rafe and Ciste Dhubh

Jim near Ciste Dhubh summit

Views west  from Ciste Dhubh over Brothers Ridge, Five Sisters and Skye

Loch Cluanie Am Bathach and our ascent route from Ciste Dhubh summit

The summit of Ciste Dhubh (Munro 173, 979m), felt airy, the top of the world (despite not being the highest hill hearabouts!). It was crisp and frosty and clear as a bell.

Ciste Dhubh summit (Munro 173, 979m) - views south west

We could see the hills of Skye in the west, the Beauly Firth in the east, Torridon in the north and Ben Nevis in the south - we were pretty happy!

Views north to Torridon from Ciste Dhubh

We really didn't want to set off down.

After taking about 100 photographs we descended back along the Ciste Dhubh ridge to Bealach a'Choinich,

The light had changed, the views were new...

Jim - descent back along Ciste Dhubh ridge

We met three other groups of walkers as we descended - every one overwhelmed by such a great hill day.

Jim and Rafe - descent from Ciste Dhubh - views south over An Caorainn Beag

We had a second lunch (or was it a first lunch!!?)  in Bealach a'Choinich again - before descening into An Caorainn Beag, west of Am Bathach, to walk out.

Jim in An Caorainn Beag

It was a lovely golden glen, smoothly glaciated, with a tumbling burn flowing to Loch Cluanie.

Views north up An Caorainn Beag

But! The path was pretty nasty - sometimes boggy (really boggy), sometimes a flowing stream, sometimes thick mud, sometimes rocky, sometimes we were hopping from stone to stone and sometimes for short stretches it was fine (which, every time, lulled us into a false sense that the path was going to stay okay). It was one of those paths that you really have to concentrate to walk along and it was just long enough to be tiring! And we were glad to reach the end of it.

Loch Cluanie from An Caorainn Beag (NH077125)

The final stretch was along the side of Allt a'Caorainn Beag, lovely... Especially for Rafie, who really needed a bath after all that mud.

Allt a'Caorainn Beag (NH080122)

Before a very short trot east along the A87 back to the car.

A really memorable day...

Rafe turns back into a black and white dog in Allt a'Caorainn Beag
with views to Am Bathach

Route:  Layby on N of A87 1km E of Cluanie Inn (NH087121), E along A87 for 100m, N through gate onto path on hillside, NW to Am Bathach ridge, Am Bathach (Corbett, 798m), NW to Bealach a'Choinich (sh 591), N to An Cnappach (877m), Ciste Dhubh (Munro 173, 979m), return to Bealach a'Choinich, SE on path through An Caorainn Beag to A87, 500m E along road to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 13km  Ascent: 1000m  Time: 6hours

Ciste Dhubh

Am Bathach

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...