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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Monadhliath Munros (7)

Once I had a good path I made good progress, and I was soon out of the cloud. I turned and took a last photograph looking back up the Allt a' Chaorainn, and then I pressed on back down to Newtonmore, where I settled in to the hostel for the night. It had been a wonderful day on the hills. Cold and wet, next to no visibility, uncrossable streams, a vicious wind in the bealach and two Munros under my belt. I absolutely loved it. Mrs B, by contrast, would have hated it ... but Mrs B wasn't here.

Monadhliath Munros (6)

Carn Sgulain also has its summit cairn; and again I did not linger.

Leaving the summit behind, I did not attempt any sophisticated navigation. I simply pointed myself something approximating to East South East (erring in favour of East rather than South East, on account of the rather scary looking outcrops on the map) until I hit the streams. Then I crossed over, and turned South, looking for a way down into the valley. There are no paths shown on the map this high up, and there were none on the ground. It was all rough, wet, tussocky grass with occasional boggy patches to relieve the monotony; but in time the going got better and eventually I found something worthy of the name of "path"; and somewhat higher up the valley than it is shown on the map, too.

Monadhliath Munros (5)

Reaching the summit of A'Chailleach in minimal visibility, I didn't stop for long. I took a photograph of the cairn and made sure I visited what appeared to be the highest point of the small summit plateau, and then set myself a course more or less due West. This dropped me into a little bealach where a vicious wind was blowing from my left (the South West). As I dropped down I briefly sighted another walker, but our paths did not actually coincide at any point.

In the bealach I found an easy point to cross the All Cuil na Caillich right near its source, and then I started the easy ascent of the ridge leading up to hill 908 and then on to Carn Sgulain, my second Munro of the day.

Monadhliath Munros (4)

Once safely across the bridge, I had some much better views of the Allt a' Chaorainn as it came tumbling down its wide valley from headwaters which were just below the two Munros I was aiming at for today. There was a little path of sorts, which headed up the hillside; and I needed to go up so I followed it where I could. Before long I was ascending beside the main stream which comes down off Creag na h-Iolaire and Geal Charn, and it was clear that it was not in a crossable state. I could see the little hut at NN 687022, but no way was I going to be able to get across to it. But never mind ... I was heading up, and that was good for now.

As I headed up, I soon entered the cloud, and visibility rapidly deteriorated. I could still see which way was "up", though, so that was all good. In due course I managed to cross the stream and angle across the face of Geal Charn, and then I was on the final ascent of A' Chailleach - my first Munro of the day.

Monadhliath Munros (3)

The path down to the bridge was wet and slippery, and I didn't like the thought of what might happen if one were to lose one's footing on the approach to it, as the river was a frothy, foaming torrent with all the recent rain we had had. So I picked my footing very carefully as I made my way down to it.

Monadhliath Munros (2)

At the car park, I turned onto the track up the Allt a' Chaorainn. Ali had told me that there is a bridge, but that it cannot be seen from the main track and that the path down to it is marked by a little cairn. She wasn't joking about the "little" part!!!

Monadhliath Munros (1)

I decided there was probably time for one more trip to Scotland before the weather turned; and I really wanted to try to get a few more Munros in to get my tally up to 50. So I booked into the Newtonmore Hostel for the nights of 18 and 20 October, and trains North on Saturday 18 October and back South again on Tuesday 21 October. (I still don't understand how the systems allowe them to sell me a railway ticket to Newtonmore for a day when they know that the rail service to newtonmore will be replaced by a bus service which will not stop and Newtonmore ... but we'll skate over that as lightly as possible, as I am sure I will go made before gettign any kind of enlightenment ...)

My plan was to do a two day expedition heading up over A'Chailleach and Carn Sgulain, then along the ridge to Carn Dearg, before heading down to a wild camp by Lochan Uisge. On the second day I'd make my way along the ridge to Geal Charn, then down Glen Markie to the Spey Dam and out by road to Laggan. However, Ali kindly left the mountain weather forecast outside my door on Sunday morning, and it was VERY clear that this was NOT going to be a night when one would want to be wild camping out on the hills. So after a hurried conflab with Ali I recast my plans: I would do an out-and-back to A'Chailleach and Carn Sgulain, then come back in for a night in the hostel. On Monday, Ali offered to drive me to Garva Bridge, from where I could make the ascent of Geal Charn, then drop into Glen Markie and out by road through Laggan as planned. It would leave Carn Dearg to attempt on another occasion (probably on a Challenge, approaching up the River Fechlin and past Loch Killin); but it would give me the three Munros I needed to get my total to 50.

And it wouldn't leave me camped out on a wild and stormy night.

So off I set, up the beautiful road beside the River Calder in lower Glen Banchor, with the beautiful autumn colours bathing the hillsides, and a gentle rainfall spattering my camera lens (oh I'm SO glad I invested in the weatherproof camera ...)