Misgivings on Moruisg

24 01 2016

Mar 2010
I always thought, whenever I drove down Strathcarron, that Moruisg (the mouse) was the simpler of the Munros down the glen and therefore decided to tackle it first. Little was I to know how wrong my day would go and how Moruisg was to make me very nervous about tackling all the other Strathcarron Munros – a nervousness which was quite unfounded as they are all fine really.

I decided to spend the night at the bunkhouse of my favourite Scottish Hotel – the Ledgowan. The proprietor handed me the key to my room and, on entering to make up my bed, I noticed the top bunk was already made up (there is one set of bunks in each room and 5 or 6 rooms). I made up my bed and unpacked and then headed straight off to the bar for my tea and an evening by the fire chatting to my mate the Brummy barman ๐Ÿ™‚

I was quite late leaving the bar and the other occupant of the room had already gone to bed so I let myself in quietly and went to bed. I awoke in the morning to movement above – the upper bunk occupant was getting up. A pair of feet appeared on the top rung of the ladder… followed by a pair of… hairy legs!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ I was sharing a room with a male stranger! Luckily I’m no prude and also quite confident about looking after myself so wasn’t bothered – but I could imagine how many lone women might react. As all the other rooms were unoccupied, I was amazed I’d been put in the same room. Mind you, it’s only the same as bothying really…

A nice German man turned out to be the owner of the hairy legs and, luckily, neither of us was at all abashed. We both got up and went into the kitchen for our breakfast where we had a great chat and discussed our plans for the day. I probably tried to persuade him he wanted to do Moruisg but unfortunately he didn’t and had other plans.

We set out for our separate walks and I drove off down the glen to the parking for the hill. I had a good look at Moruisg as I exited the car in deteriorating weather and thought it looked forbiddingly steep…

Moruisg

I also had a study of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean next door to Moruisg as, although that had recently been deleted from Munro status, it was now a Corbett and looked quite nice – I’d include that too, I decided. I studied the north ridge of Ceannaichean for a descent as the map said a path came back from the corrie you would end up in. However, there was a small area of steep cragginess partway down the ridge and I started to waver about whether I would be happy descending the ridge or not. I decided I’d see when I got there…

Sgurr nan Ceannachain
Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

The track sets off across very wet ground towards the exceedingly steep hillside. On the way you have to cross the river (luckily via a bridge) and also the railway. I marched quickly across to the foot of the hill and started off up the boggy convex slopes just to the left of an area of gullies.

The ground was wet and featureless and the path had by now given up. The ascent turned into a boring slog and, about half way up, suddenly went exceedingly steep as expected. I started to wonder whether I’d be happy coming back down as, at that time, I had a horror of ‘steep’ (I still don’t like it to be honest but cope better nowadays). There were also areas of hard snow about and I think I just had microspikes with me and no ice axe…

As I neared the summit ridge, the mountain disappeared into thick cloud, as it often does for me, and a bitterly cold wind sprung up. I knew I just had to reach the highest part of the ridge and then turn right until I hit a cairn so continued.

It was far too cold to stop for any kind of break at the summit so I just continued on down the long southern ridgeline for Sgurr nan Ceannaichean. It was quite some way…

Despite the mist, it was quite a nice walk around the rim between the two corries and eventually I was heading up the easy north-east ridge to Ceanneachain. The mist cleared as I traversed the route to the summit and I had a peer down my north ridge. I still wasn’t sure about the steep section and, in typical cowardly manner, was wondering whether I should just escape down the easy back via Coire an Tuill Bhan to the Craig track and have a long walk back up the road to the car. I could always hitch a lift…

I stopped briefly on the summit and had a good look around – more for escape routes than for the view. In the end, I decided I didn’t fancy the much longer route via Craig and went back to look at the north ridge again. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t sure and ended up chickening out.

After wavering for quite some time, I decided to go back to Moruisg and, if I couldn’t see a less steep portion of western flank to redescend, I’d just follow the northern ridge until I was happy to descend the western side. I knew that I’d have no chance of crossing the river and the excessively boggy land back to the road but decided to deal with that when I got there.

Moruisg fm Ceannachain
Heading back on the long plod to Moruisg

By now the weather began to deteriorate again and, not having had a break yet, I was getting a bit low on energy and feeling cold and tired. I soldiered on back into the mist until I reached the cairn on Moruisg once again. From there I continued on along the fairly well defined north ridge.

Suddenly, out of the mist loomed a split in the ridge which I hadn’t noticed on my earlier perusal of the map. I whipped the map back out and could see I needed the left-hand fork. The map said the western flank didn’t really get any less steep anywhere along its length – it started to look like I’d have to descend the whole north ridge, taking me a long way out of my way…

I decided to have a peer down the side of the ridge into the mist – to start with, the slope didn’t look too bad so I tentatively set off down. After quite a descent, a long band of hard-frozen and very steep snow hove into view – there were no gaps in the band and I really didn’t fancy tackling it at all! I wavered for a minute but decided I had to go back up to the ridge.

With a sigh I plodded back up once again and continued on down the north ridge until I finally exited the mist. Now I could see there was no more snow below me but there was a woodland instead – the Coille Mhoruisge. I hit the mid-point of the woodland fence – it was one of the 9 foot high deer fences so I needed to find a stile or, alternatively, follow the fenceline to one end or the other of the woodland and descend from there. Trust me to pick the wrong direction…

No stile appeared and I’d gone right (towards the lower part of the ridge) instead of left. I later saw that, if I’d gone to the left-hand edge of the wood (west), there was a bit of a path raking down across the mountainside.

I reached the end of the wood and looked at my descent ground – it looked horrible. It looked much steeper than the map suggested, was very rough and full of gorges and gullies and I had quite some time of it battling my way down. I eventually reached the railway with a sigh.

All the way down I’d looked at the river and could see it would be far too deep to cross to reach the road. The ground leading up to it was horribly wet too. It was about two and a half miles back to the car parking and the easiest way was along the railway really but it’s single track and I had no timetable so would be a dangerous choice. Under Moruisg, the ground on the south side of the railway was either woodland or horribly wet, rough ground and, on the thin strip of land on the north side of the railway, I’d have to negotiate field boundaries all the way.

I was pretty exhausted by now and I ended up choosing an inadvisable route back to my outward path (but am not prepared to admit here what it was)… At one point, I slipped down a banking and twisted my knee badly. I limped on until I finally reached my outward path and, with a sigh of relief, followed the boggy path back to the car.

I think I really would have been better descending the back of the hills to the Craig track and thumbing it back up the road after all. And anyway, the north ridge from Ceannaichean would actually have been fine and is regularly used.

Sgurr nan Ceannachain fm Craig Track
Sgurr nan Ceannaichean from the Craig Track

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19 responses

2 03 2016
fedup

Well done on braving the weather ๐Ÿ™‚ All on my todo list which isn’t getting any shorter!

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2 03 2016
mountaincoward

are you hoping to do all The Munros?

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3 03 2016
fedup

I’m 40 shortly so was hoping to make a bit more of an effort, although I’ll climb anything if it looks interesting so will probably get side tracked with a few corbetts, grahams, hewitts etc….

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3 03 2016
mountaincoward

I tend to do the smaller ones in winter if I’m up there as, unless it’s the east or the Cairngorms, I find the Munros a bit too daunting in full winter condition!

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13 02 2016
MartinJ

Oh my – the Ledgowan. I finished with the munros last year, but reading your blog has brought it all back – the agony, the ecstasy! I stayed in that bunkhouse more times than I really now like to recall.

Just wondering where you get “the mouse” from for Moruisg. My munro book suggests it’s derived from “Mor Uisg” – “Big water”. This is quite appropriate, given your experience up there, of course, but doesn’t feel quite right somehow. On the other hand, my Gaidhlig dictionary gives “luch” for mouse.

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14 02 2016
mountaincoward

Hmmm – now you mention it, Mor Uisg would be ‘big water’. Maybe it was ‘the mouse’ in my Irvine Butterfield ‘High Mountains’ book – might have to try to find out where it was. If some people have it down as ‘the mouse’, it’s probably going by the dun-brown colour and plainness of the hill I would think. But I’m sure your translation is the correct one.

Belated congratulations on your compleation by the way ๐Ÿ™‚

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14 02 2016
MartinJ

Don’t feel bad about it. I’m not at all convinced myself by “big water”. The adjective, in Scottish Gaelic, almost invariably follows the noun – so it should be uisge mรฒr. I never really took to Irvine B so I can’t check your reference.

But the SMC munro book, Munromagic and Walkhighlands all go with “big water”. Furthermore Walkhighlands has someone that sounds very much like Cameron Sorley doing the pronunciation/translation and I guess he ought to know.

I like a good mystery – especially now that I’m officially retired.

Incidentally, I may have “compleated” (and thank you for your congratulations – I still get a warm glow every time I think about it) but I harbour a nagging guilt because I bypassed Ceannaichean and Claidheamh. They /were/ munros when I started my campaign however. Maybe I’ll find some last reserves of energy later this year

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19 02 2016
mountaincoward

I checked my Irvine Butterfield and the SMC book which are the 2 I use and it’s ‘Big Water’ in both of those. No idea where I got ‘the mouse’ from but I remember seeing it somewhere.

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29 01 2016
surfnslide

I did these two way back when they were both munros on a spectacularly dreary day. And now they’ve gone and removed one of my ticks, Outraged! ๐Ÿ™‚
Went up Ceannaichean first as there is a cracking stalkers path all the way to the top from the south. Long road walk back to the car though. Lots of stories I could tell that will stay in the munros!

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29 01 2016
mountaincoward

Is that the nice path up the back of Ceannaichean from the Craig track? I saw that on my visit to Maol Lunndaidh and it looked really nice

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29 01 2016
surfnslide

That’s the one, stalkers paths make the going do much easier, this one finishes pretty much on the summit

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28 01 2016
chrissiedixie

Having spent quite a bit of time travelling round Europe, you get used to things like unisex showers with joint changing areas, as well as unisex toilets… ๐Ÿ˜€

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28 01 2016
mountaincoward

You certainly do. I found that for the first time in the 1980s when I went camping to the Camargue in the South of France. It didn’t shock or bother me at all but my Mum was horrified about the shared washrooms etc. when I told her on my return!

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27 01 2016
45degreesmc

Yes – I had a similarly unsettling situation in Skye, where as a “mature” male I had to share a six-bunk room with five young Eastern European ladies who were on a hiking holiday. I nearly complained :o) Regarding Moruisg, myself and a couple of friends had each had pretty rotten days on this Munro (and it’s neighbour) in the past, but finally got it in perfect conditions earlier this year. It was sublime – report here

https://45degreesmc.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/inver-croft-cottage-achnasheen-16th17th-october-2015/

Hope you get a day like that on Moruisg one day – the views are superb.

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27 01 2016
mountaincoward

Yeah, I read your report on Moruisg. I wonder if anyone ever gets a great day on it. I had a cr*p day on Maol Lunndaidh too where I had to cling to rocks to get up as it was so windy. It was misty and wet too.

I think abroad you often have to share rooms and wash rooms with members of either sex (and possibly the in-betweens too ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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24 01 2016
underswansea

Great shot of the snowy ridge. Looked cold and windy. Very fine report. I would ask more about the staying late in the bar, the ‘tea’ and eventually the hairy legs. But like they say, what happens in the Munros stays in the Munros! ๐Ÿ™‚

Seriously though, that sure sounds like some sound hiking. Take care. Bob

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25 01 2016
mountaincoward

The German guy was quite nice but I try not to molest guys so much younger than me – might scare them away from Scotland altogether! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Love the “What happens in the Munros stays in the Munros” quote – think I’ll use that!

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24 01 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

Despite the title of your blog I don’t know many people (male or female) that would be committed enough to attempt mountains in such a remote area in poor weather on their own. A commendable obsession I don’t share as I used to wail and moan bitterly if I started a walk in gloomy weather. Not because I was scared( I usually had companions) but just because I was fed up already :0)
You are obviously made of “The right stuff” Carol.
Sadly, I don’t remember much about that set of Munros at all as I probably grumbled and trudged round them in similar conditions, bitching like a diva all the way from start to finish.

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24 01 2016
mountaincoward

I was very lucky with the rest of them (except Maol Lunndaidh) as I had superb weather after that ๐Ÿ™‚

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