A Mullardoch Squelch! (Carn nan Gobhar)

5 06 2011

Sat 28 May 2011

The first look out of our chalet window didn’t hold out much promise – it was raining heavily and still blowing a gale. I could see Richard wasn’t enthused about a walk at all so decided I may as well do some Munros from Loch Mullardoch as they weren’t ones he would find inspiring anyway. Now I’d heard before that Mullardoch was very wet walking but had no idea how wet it would turn out to be! I was briefly cheered up by the sight out of the chalet window of several cows charging off down to Glen Affric in a mad bunch – they must have had a yen to visit the nature reserve and get dry in the forest!

Richard decided to come with me down Glen Cannich for the trip and mooch around the Mullardoch dam area so we drove to the dam and parked just below it on some fairly solid, flat ground. The carpark is actually the other side of the dam up another road but I didn’t want to waste time messing around right at the start of the walk. I couldn’t imagine where people park when they want to get the Mullardoch boat as we were right below the boathouse and only yards away. I’m pretty sure most will park where we were.

Before I switched off the car we were worrying the little Polo would be rolled over by the absolute hurricane battering it from the side. It was decided we would park with its bum into the wind and slightly further along the grassy track. That was slightly better but it still took both of us to hang onto the tailgate while I unloaded my gear. As it was a torrential shower just then, I had to squash back into the car to get togged up.

Once I had all my waterproof gear on, I opened the door and was dragged hurriedly out by the gale – I was really worried the door pull would just break off and then my door would rip off and blow away! I set off uphill towards the top of the dam and the boatman’s cottage – I could barely move at all against the wind. To be honest, the weather was so atrocious, I was pretty much just waiting for an excuse to turn back and go touristing for the day with Richard! I decided I should at least give it a fair shot though and ploughed on for a while. There were white horses and a fair sea running towards me on the loch.

Once I’d passed the boathouse and reached the jetty, the wind didn’t seem quite so bad – still a stiff gale but at least I could make headway against it. I’d just read a walk report last week on one of the forums about a similar walk and the guy had great difficulty in crossing the Allt Taige which lay ahead on my route. I decided I’d go at least that far and see how things were.

There is apparently an upper and a lower track but I couldn’t really see anything continuous. Every time I thought I saw a more definite and solid track and went either uphill or downhill towards it, it petered out again. In the end I just plodded on. Every few yards of very wet walking (the water was permanently above the level of my boot toes whenever I put my feet down), there was a mini-burn coming down the hillside which needed to be jumped – these were a few feet across and this made the going pretty exhausting. Luckily, I’d put my brand new boots on as my older ones were still damp from the Strathfarrar 4 the day before so my feet were staying dry… for now.

After crossing the bridge over the Mullardoch Burn, the path rises and becomes quite a bit more definite – didn’t really get much drier though. I could see four backpackers heading towards me just below my route. I shot off down the hill to quiz them about the Allt Taige crossing. Unfortunately, they hadn’t actually crossed it. They said they’d set off for four nights camping but had spent the night in the next corrie and had such a terrible night they were leaving again. I outlined my plan of reaching Sgurr na Lapaich and they looked dubious but said I would find out about the burn crossing in about 20 minutes. They said I should at least be able to bag the Munro immediately above us, Carn nan Gobhar – to be honest, I was already exhausted. I thanked them and set off again…

Shortly after arriving in the corrie – I saw several things, one good and two bad. Firstly, there was a bridge across the Taige… but Sgurr na Lapaich was completely white with snow down to the corrie and, with the gale whipping across it in the direction of its eastern crags, looked pretty evil. The second bad thing was that there was another burn shortly after the Taige with no bridge. I went to investigate possible crossing places…

After a bit of wandering up and down the bank looking for crossing places, I could see it was going to be a boots-off wade. Now, I don’t mind doing that but it did look pretty fast-flowing so I wondered whether I should really. With that and the look of Lapaich, and the fact that I was exhausted, I decided it would be foolish to continue and decided to just cut my losses and head up the corrie for the col and Carn nan Gobhar. When I later saw the steep, snowy ridge I’d have had to descend off Lapaich, I was pretty glad I’d decided against it!

It was a long grind up the exceedingly wet and boggy corrie and I only had occasional use of a very wet path. The col didn’t seem to be getting any nearer. After about half an hour of that I’d had enough and just cut up onto the ridge of the hill. It was rough going and full of holes but better than having to walk any further to the col. Fortunately, it wasn’t a big climb before I reached the path running up the ridge. From there things improved slightly.

The path was really good going and it wasn’t much further to the summit but the wind was blowing across my route now and was horrific. I didn’t mind too much though as Carn nan Gobhar is a nice, rounded type of hill so I didn’t have to worry about blowing over a crag. I was very tired now but the summit soon hove into sight and cheered me up. On reaching the cairn however, I could see there was a better built, beehive-type cairn on another summit further along the ridge. It looked quite a bit lower but usually the better built cairns are the true summit so I thought I’d better go for it. I couldn’t really get my map out or it would have been shredded. It had also started to hail viciously…

It was really difficult crossing the short plateau to the second cairn due to the wind really blasting across the more open area and the hailstorm. When I got there I was pretty sure the other had been the true summit but decided to look it up when I got back. From there it was a really easy, and sheltered, yomp down grassy slopes and a nearly non-existent climb up to the ‘top’ of Creag Dubh which I also wanted to bag. The sun even came out briefly…

I didn’t hang around on the top’s summit, although it was very pleasant, as I knew I had a long, wet squelch back to the car. I headed down the south-east ridge to the next col where I found a small traversing path onto the next hill where I knew there was a stalker’s path descending the nose. There was a brief dry underfoot section down the nose of the hill until I met the stalker’s path. The path was again underwater. This continued all the way out of the corrie and back to the car, again jumping burns every few yards all the way back! By now, my feet were pretty wet as my boots had eventually lost the fight against their constant drowning – I think wellies are the only suitable footwear for walking anywhere at Mullardoch!

I washed the bog debris off my boots at the jetty and was whisked by the gale back down to the car. I had a drive round to the official carpark – Richard had explored the routes to it while I was away and taken loads of photos which I’ll use in this report. I didn’t even bother to take my camera out of our accommodation! We then parked up in a sunny spot (now I was back, the day was drying out) and had some food and I started my flask – I was starving! Then we set off back to Cannich. We saw more cows on the way back – this time they were blocking the road and couldn’t really be bothered to move – one was nursing her calf. I wound down the window and asked them politely to move while edging forward. Eventually all except the nursing mum moved and we had to just squeeze past her.

About two miles from Cannich I saw a backpacker. Thinking what an awful long nine miles it was down the glen, I stopped to ask him if he wanted a lift. Richard hurriedly cleared all the clobber off the back seat into the boot. He said I should really pick up his colleagues ahead of him as they were more tired than him. He said there were three of them – I said we could probably squeeze in two and drove off to look for them.

We soon caught up the next guy and squeezed him and his huge, heavy pack into the back of the Polo. We then caught up with the other two and said we could give one of them a lift. We were only about a mile out of Cannich by then though and at the top of the hill – they both said they weren’t bothered. I decided it was probably best to go back for the first guy so we did. Richard got into the back and the guy squeezed into the front with his pack… the Polo suddenly went very dark indeed! Now with only half a windscreen – his pack went right up to the roof and was pressed against his face and the windscreen – no left-hand wing mirror and a now struggling and thoroughly overloaded Polo, I set off back up the hill.

I found it hilarious and was giggling until we came round a corner down the hill and came face to face with a car rushing up the hill. We both did an emergency stop, my passenger’s face got even more flattened against his pack. It was fun reversing back up the narrow road for the previous passing place with hardly any view out of the windows and the essential wing mirrors blocked. I did get congratulated by the guys on my excellent and speedy reverse though.

We dropped the guys at the pub in Cannich where the guy from the front seat said me and him had exactly the same boots – vegan ones! They’re pretty unusual and I’ve never met anyone else wearing them before. I then realised these were the guys I’d met on the lochside who’d aborted their camping trip.

To end our day, when we got back to the chalet, we were treated to a gorgeous double rainbow which Richard managed to get a snap of. A promise of better weather the next day maybe? Nope…

Stats: 11.5 miles, 3795 feet of ascent, 5 hours


Long Way Round Mullardoch – I was hoping to Reach the Distant Ridge on the Right


Wet and Windy Mullardoch – my Munro Poking Through Behind

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8 responses

5 10 2014
Cairns Diving

Hey there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let
you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly.
I’m not sure why but I think it’s a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

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5 10 2014
mountaincoward

They are now 🙂 It was a WordPress issue yesterday but it’s been fixed now thank goodness!

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23 06 2011
bob

Only ever seen a strong double rainbow, one that showed up well in a photograph, in the far north.Twice in thirty years of walking.Well done.There,s always some consolation in going out in bad weather…. for the first ten years anyway.

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26 06 2011
mountaincoward

The “well done” will have to go to my walking buddy Richard as he was the one who ran and got his camera and got a shot of it

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6 06 2011
Janet

Nice photies 🙂

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6 06 2011
mountaincoward

I’ll tell Richard – they’re his…

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6 06 2011
Alan Bellis

Impressed….not about you walking in that foul weather, but that you (a woman!) could reverse a car, and with obstuctions as well! ;)…..

…..Only joking 😀

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6 06 2011
mountaincoward

Maybe they were scoring me on how many things I managed to hit as I whizzed backwards;-)

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