Saturday 24 November 2012

A Somewhat Shorter Mullardoch Backpack - Day 2

Saturday 24th November

An unplanned retreat from the high hills, but with excellent views of snowy peaks!

Distance: 8.5km; Ascent: 170m; Sunny; with Colin

Well, last night will probably go down as one of my worst night's sleep in a tent since sitting out a storm on the first night of the 2009 TGO Challenge near Loch Calavie (a mere 13km away to the WNW from my current location).  This was almost certainly due to the frequent gusts of wind shaking the tent and depositing spindrift on the end of the tent where our heads were, which then in turn gradually melted and dripped onto us!  Also after I had a slightly cold night, I made a mental note to make sure I brought a thicker sleeping mat next time I camped on snow! 

Our tent at dawn
At around 7:30am, as dawn broke, we ventured out of the tent to find that the sky was clear and the wind had dropped a bit.  I had been unable to find the gloves that I wore for much of yesterday and came to the conclusion that they must be near the false summit cairn (as that's where I had changed into my thick gloves yesterday).  Therefore I toddled off for what should have been a quick walk over to the cairn, but the soft snow was over knee deep so my progress was very slow!  However I was rewarded with excellent views of the dawn light :-)

False summit of Carn nan Gobhar at dawn
Sgurr na Lapaich at dawn
Initially there was no sign of my gloves by the cairn, but I soon found them after poking around in the snow with my poles - they were frozen solid!  Gloves retrieved successfully, I now returned to the tent by a slightly longer route to try to avoid the deeper areas of snow.

Our scenic overnight halt
Sunrise from our overnight camp high on Carn na Gobhar
We concluded that due to the deep covering of snow present on all our planned hills, our progress would be significantly slower than planned.  And this, combined with the short daylight hours, meant we were extremely unlikely to complete our planned round by Monday lunchtime.  Therefore we made the hard decision to bail out of our planned backpack, rather than heading further into the remote hills.  Instead we would head east to Creag Dubh and then down into Coire an t-Sith, before following the Allt Mullardoch back down to Loch Mullardoch.

Colin headed up to the summit of the Munro to admire the views, whilst I headed back inside the tent to pack up my stuff.  Soon Colin returned and at around 9:15am I set off for the summit, grateful for Colin's steps in the deep snow.  Soon I reached the summit cairn of Carn nan Gobhar (Munro, Marilyn) and was admiring the absolutely fantastic views of snowy mountains in every direction!  Sgurr na Lapaich looked particularly impressive out to the west and there were also good views down to the east end of Loch Monar and the Strathfarrar Munros.

Summit of Carn nan Gobhar
Sgurr na Lapaich from Carn nan Gobhar
Looking north towards Loch Monar and the hills beyond from Carn nan Gobhar
I returned to Colin, and after finishing packing the tent away, we headed ENE along the broad ridge toward Creag Dubh.  There were fantastic views in all directions, although dark clouds were beginning to gather on the western horizon indicating the change in weather forecast for this afternoon.  At around 10:30am we reached the summit of Creag Dubh (Munro Top).

Cairn on Creag Dubh
We found a nice sheltered spot to stop for a rest in the lee of a snow bank, from where we admired the amazing views.  Owing to the hour of the day, the views to the north and west were the best, especially towards Loch Monar, Glen Strathfarrar and the hills beyond.

Looking down Glen Strathfarrar from Creag Dubh
Looking back towards Sgurr na Lapaich from Creag Dubh
The Munros at the head of Loch Monar
Loch Monar dam and the Strathfarrar Munros
Eventually we decided that it was time to say goodbye to the high hills, so we headed east for a short way before descending down into Coire an t-Sith.

Creag Dubh from Coire an t-Sith
As we descended the snow turned to slush mixed with peat bog, but amazingly neither of us slid over on the slippery terrain!

Descending by the Allt Mullardoch
In the corrie floor we picked up a bit of a rough track, with newish looking bridges over some of the burns, which we followed downstream past some waterfalls to reach Loch Mullardoch.

Waterfall on the Allt Mullardoch
Loch Mullardoch
By this point Colin, who seemed to have loads more energy than me today, had zoomed off ahead in a bid to collect the car to save me walking round to the far side of the dam, which was nice!  Although I secretly just think he was in a hurry to get to Fort William for some tea and cake ;-)

Clan Chisholm monument
On the way back to the dam, I came across a large cairn and decided to take a look.  It was a monument to Clan Chisholm, which marked the location of where, according to tradition, the chief held counsels with his Glen Cannich clansmen.

Loch Mullardoch dam
Soon I was back at the south end of the dam, with no sign of Colin so I continued along the minor road and I got almost as far as the road junction before he met me.  After changing into drier clothes, we set off for Fort William to buy a new compass and adjourn to a cafe for an hour or so.  As Colin was a member of the Climbers' Club we had already decided where we were going to stay for the night: their hut in Roybridge.  The hut turned out to a most pleasant bunkhouse, where we made plans for some shortish day walks for the next couple of days.

N.B. 13/02/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 24/11/12 (from 11/12/12) 


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! After all the hills will still be there another day!

      In fact this trip was my third planned attempt on the round, but on the previous two we didn't even start due to weather (the first time) and having to cut a trip short at short notice (the second time). I think I'll aim to have another attempt next year!