Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, An Socach, Mam Sodhail
Beinn Fhionnlaidh, Carn Eighe
Tom a' Choinich & Toll Creagach
Saturday 20th July 2013
Weather/Conditions: Another really hot day. Morning was stunning with inversions and sunrise on Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan. The sun rose across to Mam Sodhail and got the long ascent to this Munro luckily in the shade. After that it all got hot again and I was back to the Mullardoch dam feeling desperate.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 30.2km / 2230m / 12h 50m
I peeked out the tent to see a band of fire on the horizon. The sun would be up soon. My day would take in the seven remaining Munros of the Affric round, and I was sure I was going to make it.
I packed up and headed off to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (#1). I dropped my rucksack to go to the summit unhindered. I felt wrecked at this point, but I got to the top, glad to see the cairn, and looked around at a newly-risen sun and every glen filled with mist.
I got water from the coire beneath Ceathreamhnan and continued over An Socach. It had been worryingly warm, even before the sun came up. The air was absolutely still. Deer ran off down the slopes of An Socach and mist filled the base of Gleann a' Choilich. The scene was so similar to how I saw it last year, but the difference was I actually felt pretty good this time. Last year I was completely wrecked by this point, and there were still five mountains to go.
More by accident than design, I got the long haul to Mam Sodhail in the shade of the sun. The ascent was long and steady and this brought me way up above 1100m - An Socach looked tiny now, I could nearly taste the end of the trip.
But Beinn Fhionnlaidh awaited, first.
I bypassed Carn Eighe, dropped the rucksack and headed out to Fhionnlaidh, which is out on an arm. It gives a great view down the desolation of Loch Mullardoch. Although some may grudge the need to go out and back, both times I've enjoyed getting rid of the rucksack. On linear ridges like these, you're usually stuck with hauling the weight around.
Carn Eighe, at 1183m, is the highest mountain north of the Great Glen. The Affric ridges form a kind of rooftop to the northwest. It was all downhill from here, I suppose. The last two Munros lie out on a huge east ridge, and are a bit of highway back to the dam, and ultimately, the car. By now the sun was giving me a grilling and the uphills were becoming hard work.
I didn't really enjoy the last two Munros. I was breaking in a new pair of trainers on Affric, and they made my feet hurt to the point I couldn't really walk properly. I arrived at Toll Creagach, #12, more relieved than joyous, and soon fell asleep in the shade of the trig point. It was good to be done these hills, and it took a huge chunk out of the Northwest Munros.
I woke to my phoning ringing: mum and dad were calling. After Affric, they'd be up on holiday for the rest of my Munro Round. They were on their way up the A9, so I thought I'd better get going. Am Fraoch-choire was hard work with a heavy rucksack, and I pounded out the miles back to the dam. Tired, dehydrated, frustrated and hot, I reached the public road and dropped that b****** of a rucksack once and for all. I walked the final miles to the car, attacked on all sides by clegs, picked up the car (which was an inferno inside) in order to return to pick up the rucksack, and headed out of Glen Cannich for good.
To be honest, I was glad.
I met mum and dad in the sun in the centre of Beauly. For the next week I'd be in Torridon. I was a bit too spaced out for the drive west, so mum took me in their car and dad drove mine.
The Affric round had been good; and tough. I'm of the opinion now that these hills are very hard for their quality - if that isn't too critical. I wonder if the best way to approach them, fitness permitting, is to go with a daysack in c. 18 hours. Carrying a camping rucksack 55km (with 5km ascent) is very hard work. Physically I was in much better form by the end of this one than I was last year. The only thing I could have done without was the absolute grilling.
Photos: Campsite, Carn na Con Dhu
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
Carn Eighe to Toll Creagach & the Mullardoch Dam
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
An Socach (Affric)
Carn Eighe - 180° North
Carn Eighe - 180° South
Tom a' Choinich
(0.00) 5.20am Carn na Con Dhu, left campsite
(0.40) 6.00am Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
(2.10) 7.30am An Socach (Affric)
(3.30) 8.50am Mam Sodhail
(5.05) 10.25am Beinn Fhionnlaidh
(6.23) 11.43am Carn Eighe
(8.43) 2.03pm Tom a' Choinich
(9.45) 3.05pm Toll Creagach
(12.25) 5.45pm Mullardoch dam, south side
(12.50) c. 6.10pm Mullardoch dam parking, north