Monadh Liath:
A' Chailleach, Carn Sgulain & Carn Dearg

Saturday 15th June 2013

Weather/Conditions: Reasonable, overcast/sunny, ochre-coloured moor day. Dry and clear air with sun breaking through.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 23.4km / 1100m / 6h 20m
Accompanying: Alone

The Monadhliath is an odd range of hills. I've always thought they're the most non-Munro Munros around. They're a range of big grassy lumps spanning an area as great as any Scottish mountain range, yet featureless enough as to be nearly completely forgotten about. I suspect if there were no Munros here, these hills would be borderline forgotten about. There aren't any precipitous drops, immense corries or even lochans. The Monadhliath have weathered into hills without feature. Stand on the Munros and look north and you'll see heathery hills recede almost to the horizon. I mean none of this in a negative way, it's simply a modest mountain range. On the Monadhliath, you've only got the heather, peat hag and the cry of the birds.

I did a round of three Monadhliath Munros; A' Chailleach, Carn Sgulain and Carn Dearg, on a day of good weather when the rest of the country seemed to be stuck under rain. It might have been the late night the night before (or the subsequent lie in), but for no obvious reason, I felt really tired all day. A' Chailleach is easily visible from the car park, but as I plodded on, it never seemed to arrive. There are few paths on the Monadhliath and I seemed to spend an eternity slogging up through endless tugging heather, which goes almost to the Munro summits.

I got to the summit of A' Chailleach, looked to the fresh horizon, and saw pointed peaks. Everything clicked into position very quickly. First I saw the twin paps of Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail. Then I saw Sgurr a' Chaorachain in Monar. From a tiring slog, I was suddenly inspired. Those hills are just a couple weeks from the end of my journey! They didn't look so far away, either... There's so far to go, but the sense of progress is heart-warming.

Carn Sgulain was Munro #2 and a lot easier than A' Chailleach had been. It's just a rise in the moorland; one of the most non-descript Munros going. Again, I could see those distant North-west Highland peaks - the most inspiring element of the day.

On the way to Carn Dearg, I had yet another funny encounter with birds exploding into action at my presence. The adult Ptarmigan shot off, and her little chicks (balls of fluff on sticks) wobbled away. She played the broken-wing routine, and let me get as close as I've ever been to a ptarmigan.

Since I couldn't be bothered doing any ascent I didn't need to, I skirted the side of Carn Ban, and came upon it's rocky southern coire. It's a fascinating place unlike anywhere else I've seen. I'd have missed it if I've been bothered to go over the summit. Tilted slabs were rimmed by a broken cliff at the top. The slabs had great scratch marks all down them, running the same direction, some creating grooves in the rock. They must have been generated by some force. Grass tufts among the slabs were disturbed and uprooted, hinting at avalanche activity. But that doesn't explain the grooves which are perhaps glacial. A fascinating place any way.

Carn Dearg arrived soon after, and I did it without a rucksack to save energy. Another summit with a view. It's probably the most impressive Monadhliath peak and has had one side visibly chopped off by glaciation. But all I could think off was the long walk back, so headed down through the heather, back to the track and away back to the car, which by now was some distance away.

After the walk I headed back to Boat of Garten for the night. I went out to get internet (and failed) and by the time I arrived back, Colin had a party in full swing – pretty awesome to walk in on! Unfortunately I had to get to sleep, for another big mileage day over Drumochter.

360° Panoramas

A' Chailleach

Carn Sgulain

Carn Dearg
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 1.40pm Glen Banchor
(1.35) 3.15pm A' Chailleach
(2.05) 3.45pm Carn Sgulain
(4.07) 5.47pm Carn Dearg
(6.20) c. 8.00pm Glen Banchor
Uploaded: 2018-10-25