Pain and discomfort on the Northern Mullardochs

An Socach summit in the centre of the photo

Statistics

Area: Killilan to Inverness

Munro’s: An Riabhachan, An Socach (Mullardoch), Carn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch), Sgurr na Lapaich

Date walked: 29/07/2011

Time taken: 17 hours

Distance: 36 km

Ascent: 2300m

Introduction

With Friday booked off from work I was looking forward to a planned trip around the Mullardoch Munros. I had planned to drive up on the Thursday night and after driving for 8 hours on Thursday (work included) I arrived at Mullardoch Dam at around 2130. I was pretty tired and after finding a suitable pitch I set up camp about 1km from the Dam. It was a lovely evening and with a slight breeze there were no midges.

The Walk

I quickly settled down for the night and woke up at 0420. It was already getting light outside and after some pasta for breakfast I was out the tent and walking up the road at 0500. It was a lovely morning. No midges, no Clegs and the sun was shining. I had full camping kit in my backpack and I was hoping to do the round in two days. This went wrong pretty much from the start. The heat didn’t help. It was already 15 degrees or so and it just got hotter and hotter.

I walked the 1km to the dam on the tarmac and then followed the track into the hillside. Just before the 3km point I crossed the bridge over the Allt Mullardoch and started to head North West up the hillside to Mullach na Maoile. Its pathless undulating terrain and I am feeling tired. My pack weight is not excessive, around 40lbs, and I am not walking hard yet I am struggling. This is not a good start. I arrive at the top of the Mullach which is only 5km from my start and it has taken me 2 hours. The sun is shining and its warming up but I am soon in the clag as I ascend Carn na Gobhar. Almost 3 hours to get to the first Munro and my big plans are already being slimmed down to something more manageable hahaha.

So onwards down to the Bealach and then ascend Sgurr na Lapaich. The last 200m of ascent is reasonably steep and in the clag but with 30m to climb I ascend above the clouds and get a superb inversion. It’s around 9am and the clouds below me look amazing. This was a welcome lift to my spirits.

I now descend the steepish slope to the bealach. As I drop down there is a couple of loose steps and I have a tumble. One of my walking poles (cheap ones from Aldi although they have supported my dodgy knees on numerous Munro’s) bends at 90 degrees and I gash my ankle on a rock. I try to straighten the pole and it snaps in half. This is a problem because I use the poles to support both knees on the descents and I now have to consider my options. Having done two of the Munro’s I may as well continue and complete the other two on the Northern ridge but I certainly won’t be attempting the south side on this occasion. So onwards I go up Creagan Toll an Lochan and on to the summit of An Riabhachan. It’s now 11am and I only have one more Munro to do.

It’s quite an easy walk down to the Bealach and up to the last Munro, An Socach. I met a walker at the Bealach and he tells me it took him 3 and a half hours to walk in and the path was horrible so that cheered me up no end hahaha. When I get to the summit I stop to change my soaking wet top and there are hundreds of midges attacking me. So I have to grab my kit and continue along the ridge to Meall a Chaisg until I find a little breeze to keep the buggers down.

I now descend the hillside keeping to the ridgeline. I met two walkers here ascending the ridge. They again told me the path out is a 3 hour walk which I was not looking forward too. I was tired. I had been on the go for 8 and a half hours with half of that in blazing sunshine. Looking at the map there is a path following the Allt Coire a Mhaim down the valley to Glen Cannich and there is also a path marked which runs along the shoreline of the loch which I think I can see. I like the idea of the steeper descent down to the loch just to get it out of the way so I choose to head directly down to the loch side. As I descend I think I can see sheep near the path below me.

This was a BIG mistake. As I approach the sheep they turn out to be piles of deer bones bleached white by the sun. The path turns out to be a small stretch of dry grass and the path on the map does not exist on the ground. I am not happy. Why oh why didn’t I go down the Burn side. It’s taken me 9hrs to walk 22km. I am knackered. I walk along the shoreline but it’s pathless and the only option is to traverse the steep slope on an approximate bearing to the Lodge at Glen Cannich. It takes me over an hour to walk 2km and I am coming to a standstill. The sun has cooked me. I have no option but to set up camp and get some food and rest. So I pitch my tent and get into it and have a good meal. the sun is turning the inside of the tent into a sauna but I open the door and a good breeze blows in cooling me down.

I sleep for an hour or two and wake up at 1800 hrs. I could stay here all night and walk out in the morning but with 1km of pathless walk to get to the path and 3hrs along the path I will be back at the dam by 2200 hrs so I decide to pack up and move on. I feel better. The sun is still beating down but its past its cooking temp and is now just going to baste me hahaha. I get over the rise and see the dam in the distance. It seems miles away but it’s a site for sore eyes. Its now a long midge and cleg infested walk back to base. I must have been bitten millions of times with no wind and the sun not strong enough to deter the little buggers. The path isn’t great but certainly much better than walking on pathless terrain.

For whatever reason this was my toughest walk to date and I have done some big walks. I was unusually tired and I can’t put my finger on why at the moment. On a good note I bagged 4 Munros, had a wild camp, got sunburnt and fed hundreds of midges all in one day. 17 hours from start to finish. I still can’t believe it.

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