Friday 23 November 2012

A Somewhat Shorter Mullardoch Backpack - Day 1

Friday 23rd November

An afternoon Munro ascent to start our backpack, with an adventurous summit camp

Distance: 7.5km; Ascent: 850m; Light snow; with Colin

Colin arrived by train in Stockport yesterday evening and, after pizza for dinner, we drove north to a Travelodge on the outskirts of Perth for the night.  A lack of time during the previous week had meant that I hadn't had time to pack and had merely thrown everything I might need into the car!  Therefore this morning, Colin headed out to buy food for the weekend whilst I organised my gear and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn't forgotten anything crucial!  I had however brought lots of unnecessary stuff - oh well it would just have to sit in the boot by Loch Mullardoch for the 4 days!

It probably won't have escaped your attention that we woke up in Perth this morning, which is still a heck of a long way away from Loch Mullardoch!  Therefore this morning was spent driving north to Inverness and then slightly south again to Drumnadrochit before heading west to Cannich and then finally along the single track road to Loch Mullardoch, where we had lunch in the car whilst watching the rain!

Loch Mullardoch dam
At around 1:30pm we set off walking back down the road from where we parked the car!  The reason for this was due to the fact that it's not possible to walk across Loch Mullardoch's dam as there's a significantly sized section without a walkway above it!  And as today's walk was the shortest in terms of distance we decided to get the tedious road walk around to the north side of the dam done today.  However we were soon at the road end on the north side and continued along the initially reasonable track.

Heading west along the north shore
The track soon deteriorated into a boggy mess due to the large amount of recent rainfall.  After a kilometre or so we reached a newish looking bridge over the Allt Mullardoch and just beyond a small cast iron shelter, where we took brief refuge from the rain.  Soon we began the steep ascent up the SE slopes of Mullach na Maoile and the rain stopped - only to be replaced with snow.  The ground was very heathery around here and as we got higher it was covered in a layer of fresh snow, which made for slow, slippery progress!

Resting in the snow
However eventually the angle of the slope eased as we became more established on the ESE ridge of Mullach na Maoile.  Around this time the cloud lifted a bit and the snow stopped for a while, which meant we had some good views back down to Loch Mullardoch and up into Coire an t-Sith towards Creag Dubh.

Loch Mullardoch from the slopes of Mullach na Maoile
Creag Dubh from slopes of Mullach na Maoile
After what seemed like ages, we finally reached the summit of Mullach na Maoile.  By now it was becoming clear that due to the fresh snow we were unlikely to reach our planned campsite by Loch Tuill Bhearnach before nightfall.  However the snow did bring the advantage that as long as we camped above the snow-line we would have a water supply regardless of where we ended up pitching.  Therefore we decided to press on up our first Munro of the trip and we could always camp somewhere near the summit if necessary.

Approaching the summit of Mullach na Maoile
The ascent of the SSE ridge of Carn nan Gobhar seemed to take a long time, not helped by the strong westerly winds blowing spindrift into our faces!  Around half-way up we dug out our torches as the gloom was gathering somewhat.  The upper section of the ridge made for slow progress through snow covered scree, but we eventually reached the large cairn at the false summit.  I dug out my thicker gloves in the shelter of the cairn and we continued onto the true summit a couple of hundred metres away.

Various reasons resulted in us deciding against descending the west ridge by torch light and, as the summit area was too stony and exposed to the wind to be a pleasant spot for camping, we instead descended east away from the wind.  After a couple of hundred metres we found a slightly more sheltered area and so opted to camp here.  As the snow was fresh we had to clear a lot of it out of the way to allow us to pitch the tent such that the tent pegs were actually anchored into the ground, rather than the snow.  However we soon had the tent up and were safely inside the warmth of our sleeping bags having dinner - I was glad I had brought my winter bag with me!

N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 23/11/12 (from 04/12/12) 


  1. Nice one Alistair - that winter bag was a good move!

    1. Thanks Martin. Day 2 will follow either tonight or tomorrow...