Saturday 29 June 2019

Maoile Lunndaidh - anyone for cricket?

We've been down this road before...

It was May 2016 when we set off from Craig with fairly similar skies - grey with the clouds down, shrouding the summits - although today, being a bit further on in the year, there was a bit more in the way of green stuff on the trees and definitely a lot less of the white stuff on the hills.

Setting off from Achnashellach Forest car park at Craig

That day we were aiming for the two Munro's of Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a'Chaorachain - and a pretty good walk it was - today we were looking to climb Maoile Lunndaidh, walking wise, just around the corner from the other two - about 8km longer than our last trot this way. But we've done a few longer ones this year and we were feeling fit. (!)

Jim - just beyond the railway crossing at Craig 

It felt like only yesterday.

Jim and I yomped off, confident we knew where we were going. Over the road and over the railway line and onward along the track into the woods.

Misty hills and summer foxgloves near Craig

There's been some changes!

A few more forestry tracks added and an awful lot of trees felled. It looked like it was quite a job to get them out over the steep glen. There wasn't any felling going on today, but there were plenty of tree chopping and moving machines scattered across the hillside - including some high wires and cranes. I received a lecture on their use from Forester Jim, who took great delight in pointing out the qualities of the various monster machines.

It was quite a mess. Hopefully a few years down the line, when replanted/regenerated, the scars will be healed and the woods will be wild.

The forest track heading over Cona Mheallain with the mist shrouding Sgurr nan Ceannaicheann ahead

There was only one point when we felt the need to consult the map - just to be sure we were taking the right one of the myriad of tracks - soon we were pounding the limestone track above the gorge of Sloc Mor and over the first pass into the glen with Sgurr a'Chaorachain and Sgurr Coinnich directly ahead - we could just about see the bealach between them, everything above was swathed in grey roiling clouds. They looked a long way ahead - and Maoile Lunnaidh was away around the corner, hiding behind Sgurr nan Ceannaichean, the moody mound rising above us on the left.

Descent into the glen of the Allt a'Chonais with the mist slowly rising on Sgurr a'Chaorachain and Sgurr Coinnich ahead

But it was a good track and we made good time. It was fairly warm and muggy - a bit different to last time when we were about blown off our feet.

Bridge over the Allt a'Chonais - glad we're not going that way today

The track meandered above the Allt a'Chonais (which meandered more), the views opening up as we wandered further into the hills and the skies brightening, one or two blue gaps appearing in grey.

Jim - Heading east towards Gleann Fhiodhaig

It didn't take as long as we expected to reach the corner and Pollan Buidhe - we, and the track, turned east and were soon in new territory - but it was still a while until we could see Maoile Lunndaidh and even then the summit was still cloaked in cloud.

Looking back towards Bealach Bhearnais from Gleann Fhiodhaig

Gleann Fhiodhaig - with our first views of Maoile Lunnaidh

Jim and I stopped for a first lunch beside the little patch of forestry which is generally used as a landmark for leaving the track and heading out across the moor to the hill - there was a handy rock for our backsides and a good view down the glen.

Looking back to where we turned off the track and onto the open moor
(NW from NH110471 approx)
Views to forestry plantation (NH1047) and a mist shrouded Sgurr nan Ceannaicheann

As we sat, taking in the outlook, a couple of cyclists sped by, with a cheery hello. They stopped a couple of hundred yards along the track (just about where we had intended to strike out across the bog!) and appeared to be having a bit of a conflab about where to go next.

They were still there - looking at maps and pointing - when we caught up with them. Yep, they were going up Maoile Lunnaidh and they were pleased to have their opinion of what line to take confirmed.

Carn nan Fiaclan, Fuar-tholl Beag and Fuaran a'Bhuilgich from near the start of the ascent
The route followed the watercouse seen to the left and up the right hand "ridge" of Fuaran a'Bhuilgich

We yomped across the moor - only to be pulled up short by an infant River Meig within a few yards - a narrow burn, but deep within its banks and rather fast flowing. We had a quick scout around for somewhere to cross (very much aware that we were being watched by the other two walkers just behind us!) - As usual, Jim, with his long legs, was soon across - a couple of widely spaced rock and he was away. I, on the other hand, managed to put my foot in it. Squelching slightly on the right hand side I grumbled on...

Waterfalls on Allt an Fhuar-thuill Bhig (NH116439)

Over the first rise (the lower nose of Sron na Frianich) at the very lovely waterfalls at the confluence of the An Crom-allt and Allt an Fhuar-thuill Bhig we had a bit of a conference. The route in the guidebook took us up the steep, pathless, slopes of Carn nam Fiaclam, seemingly unrelenting until they disappeared into the mist - naw, we're not going that way!

Waterfalls on Allt an Fhuar-thuill Bhig (NH114466)

Walking poles are definitely a useful tool for pointing out potential routes - we'd go up there, and then there and onto that ridge and up!

Decision made, we headed up beside the Allt an Fhuar-thuill Bhig, picking our pathless way beside the cascading water, turned right and took the ridge to the west of the coire, ascending Fuaran a'Bhuilgich around and up onto the west ridge of Carn nam Fiaclan.

Jim - Waterfalls on Allt an Fhuar-thuill Bhig (NH115463)

Now where have those other two walkers gone?

Fuar-tholl Beag - ascent of  Fuaran a'Bhuilgich

They were well ahead, taking the same route as us, except that they had headed straight up rather than across to the Allt an Fhuar-thuill Bhig - they definitely missed out on those lovely waterfalls!

Ascent of Fuaran a'Bhuilgich - views north to Moruisg


And that pesky summit cloud just took itself off...

Ascent of Fuaran a'Bhuilgich views west to Sgurr nan Ceannaicheann

Pretty good views - and once we reached the west ridge of Carn nam Fiaclan we got our first sight of Loch Monar - we'd had a little canoe paddle there on a very chilly day over Easter.

Jim - Fuaran a'Bhuilgich with views to Carn nam Fiaclan

Jim - ascent of Carn nam Fiaclan with views to Loch Mhuilich and Loch Monar beyond

Great walking - extravagant views of some of the most inaccessible wild countryside - privileged!

Looking back to Fuaran a'Bhuilgich with Sgurr a'Chaorachain beyond - from ascent of Carn nam Fiaclan

Thrift - ascent of Carn nam Fiaclan

Carn nam Fiaclan's summit (993m, Munro Top 89) seemed to be the extremity of the rocky terrain - looking onwards to Maoile Lunndaidh a smooth greensward stretched away.

Carn nam Fiaclan summit (993m, Munro Top 89) - views to Maoile Lunndaidh

Easy (very easy) walking - we could have had a game of cricket on the flat and wide summit plateau.

Jim - summer snow patch on the way to Maoile Lunndaidh - views into the coire of Fuar-tholl Mor

We zigged and zagged across the plateau, taking in the views to the north west and south east - both equally impressive.

When you find a patch of snow in June - you just have to go down and have a bit of a plodge, don't you? Rafie would have loved it.

Starry saxifrage near Creag Toll a'Choin

Red deer having a cooling paddle in lochans in the coire of Fuar-tholl Mor

We had a second lunch just above the snow patch, looking north, down over the coire of Fuar-tholl Mor and a small herd of deer having a paddle in a lochan.

Looking back towards Carn nan Fiaclan from near Creag Toll a'Choin

Loch Monar over Creag Toll a'Choin

Jim - Creag Toll a'Choin - views to Maoile Lunndaidh

Beinn Eighe over Sgurr nan Ceannaicheann from Creag Toll a'Choin

We could see the other walkers far away, tiny in the distance - well ahead - it gave some perspective on the size of the plateau.

Mica exposure in Toll a'Choin

Mica Ridge and Creag Toll a'Choin - views to Loch Monar

Jim - ascent of Maoile Lunndaidh - views to back to Creag Toll a'Choin
Anyone for cricket? or possibly bowles??

It was a meandering stroll to the summit of Maoile Lunndaidh (1007m, Munro 125), breathing in the sky and the scene - we reached the top too soon and we didn't really want to go back down yet.

We sat for a while...

Across Gleann Fhiodhaig to the north, Moruisg sprawled against the azure horizon - a little different from when we were up there

Maoile Lunndaidh summit (1007m, Munro 125)

Jim - descent from Maoile Lunndaidh - views to Sgurr nan Ceannaicheann

But time was getting on and we had a long way to go.

Jim - descent from Maoile Lunndaidh - views north to Moruisg

We took Maoile Lunndaidh's north ridge down, pathless, picking our way among rocks and towards the confluence of a couple of burns by a gorge at the nothern end of Coire Fuar-tholl Mor.

Descent from Maoile Lunndaidh - views into coire of Fuar-tholl Mor

The patch of forestry was ahead (a long way ahead) in the glen below.

Jim - descent into coire of Fuar-tholl Mor

The coire of Fuar-tholl Mor looked interesting - crags and lochans and waterfalls - but it was a bit late for exploration. If we're ever back this way...

Coire Fuar-tholl Mor

As we neared the gorge, a path appeared, rather rough and muddy, we took this following it down the northern bank, high above the water in the burn. The path became increasingly eroded and slippery before depositing us on the open hillside above Gleann Fhiodhaig.

Gorge on Allt an Fhuar-thuill Mhor - views west along Gleann Fhiodhaig 

Allt an Fhuar-thuill Mhor

The vague path became vaguer, until it was indistinguishable - we yomped on, a very gradual descent across the hillside with the patch of forestry getting gradually (very gradually) nearer.

Jim - descent back into Gleann Fhiodhaig

Crossing the An Crom-allt

Once over An Crom-allt and stumbling back over the nose of Sron na Frianich we strolled along the bank of the River Meig until we found a place to cross dryshod.

Jim - beside the infant River Meig
Suddenly it was warm.

Looking back to Maoile Lunndaidh - back on the glen path

Back on the track, we made good time, striding back along our outward route - enjoying the summer weather and the clear views.

Looking back to Maoile Lunndaidh

Jim - return along the glen path with views to Pollan Buidhe

A couple of further lunches were eaten en route.

Return along the glen of the Allt a'Chonais - views back to sunny Sgurr a'Chaorachain and Sgurr Coinnich

The Coulin Peaks from descent towards Craig
The final pull over the limestone track above Sloc Mor was something of a tough grind - it was warm and muggy, the road was stony and the miles behind us made the ascent and the descent seem steeper than on the way out - thank goodness for the superb views of the Coulin peaks ahead.

Great memories of climbing some of those hills - Beinn Liath Mhor and Sgorr Ruadh.

Sgurr nan Ceannaicheann - now out of the mist! from near Craig

Last week we completed the South Glen Shiel Ridge. That's seven Munro's in 28.5km.

This week - one hard won Munro for exactly the same distance - that's Munro Bagging for you!

But another great day - love these Scottish hills.

Sgurr nan Ceannaicheann from Craig

Route:  Achnashellach Forest car park at Craig (not sp) (NH039493), return to road and cross, cross rail track at crossing, take track initially E parallel to road and then S crossing bridge over River Carron (NH047494), continue on main forestry road, ascending SE keeping well above Sloc Mor, continue through deer gate (NH067487) and onward, descending into glen, following track beside Allt a Chonais S then E to just beyond small forestry plantation (NH104474), leave the track and take to trackless hillside (there are a couple of cairns beside the track, but no definite route/path), cross the infant River Meig where possible, and head SE over the end of the nose of Sron na Frainich to waterfalls (NH115466), ascend S steeply up W bank of Allt an Fhuar-thuill Bhig, at NH115463 (approx), head SW along wide ridge of Fuaran a'Bhuilgich, then E to sunnit of Carn nam Fiaclan (Munro Top 89, 993m), SE to Creag Toll a'Choin (1007m), NE to Maiole Lunnaidh (Munro 125, 1007m), descend NNW to gorge and waterfall (NH126470), follow watercourse and cross below gorge (NH121471) contour around lower slopes of Carn nam Fiaclan aiming for forestry plantation, cross An Crom Allt and infant River Meig again and to the track which was the outward route, return to start

Statistics:  Distance: 28.5km  Ascent: 1200m  Time: 9 hours

Maps:  OS Explorer 429 Glen Carron & West Monar
             OS Explorer 430 Loch Monar , Glen Cannich & Glen Strathfarrar

Maoile Lunndaidh - 1007m - Munro 125

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...