Monday 31 January 2011

Mullach nan Coirean

According to just about all the books and websites, this hill is invariably climbed along with Stob Ban. Our recent approach of  "never doing two hills when you can just do one" has been paying dividends in the form of early returns home though, so we decided to stick to the system last weekend. Originally we were going to do Stob Ban on its own, but I had stumbled across a couple of photies on tinternet that suggested the last stretch to the summit was kind of steep; and the potentially tricky combination of axes, crampons and slippery dugs on leads resulted in a rethink.

We started from the carpark just before the bridge at Achriabhach, and walked back up the road for a hundred yards or so to the start of the forest track. The Forestry Commission diversion signs asked that we followed a path through the trees, rather than going up the track itself. Given that was the intended route anyway, there was no point in muttering about access restrictions. Apart from anything else, the sign said the tree felling would be finished by January.

It's a bit of a boggy tramp through the forest, but the path (such as it is) is easy enough to follow. After a while it heads up and away from the side of the Allt a' Choire Dheirg, and follows the line of a deer fence, all the while rising steeply. Progress was kind of slow, but the weather was improving all the time, and once we got to the end of the "diverted" section the views were picking up quite markedly. (There hadn't been a great deal of sympathetic landscaping done at the new fence crossing point, as yesterday's post illustrated.) 

From this point the route onward was obvious enough - again uniformly steep though - and as we got higher we stuck the dogs onto their leads, as the combination of crags, loose scree and icy patches wasn't altogether ideal. It never gets narrow, but there are some sizeable drops on the east side that kind of start close to the path. Near the summit there were also some corniced areas, and dugs and cornices definitely don't mix.

There's an impressive cairn at the summit, and we certainly had the best weather of the day for the fifteen minutes we spent at the summit. Ben Nevis was basking a wee bit too.

On the way down we elected to ignore the diversion, largely on the basis that continuing down the north east ridge seemed to offer a preferably shallow gradient, and also because the tree felling was finished, if the signs were to be believed. That much was true, but the path that we were looking for had been completely obliterated/hidden/destroyed by said tree felling and we had a rather unpleasant twenty minutes picking our way across the boggy, branch-covered, tree stump-littered slopes back to the forest trail proper. It doesn't quite compute with me why the signs seemed to be assuring walkers that once the logging was finished things would be back to normal. That route - which I assume is the traditional descent - is now deeply unpleasant.

Anyway, we weren't far from the car by then, so it didn't take much of the shine off the day's adventures. The journey home was also enlivened by the fact that just as we passed the Bridge of Orchy Hotel the SAR helicopter rose up from the carpark right beside us. It adds a wee frisson to your driving experience, having a helicopter flying alongside you for a hundred yards or so. I don't know if it actually contained the lucky/unlucky Adam Potter at the time, but I suspect it was certainly the same one that had picked him up earlier. And I notice from the reports that he had his dug with him. And no crampons on at the fateful moment.

I'm even more glad that we plumped for Mullach nan Coirean now.


Looking back during the slog up beside the deer fence
The lower slopes of Stob Ban (foreground) and Sgurr a Mhaim looking a bit spooky

Rugged, eh? Looking over to the Aonachs
The route onward, from the subtle diversion signs
Stob Ban, its summit hidden in the middle of, em, some other Mamores
Sgurr a Mhaim perking up a bit
Andy on the last pull up the ridge
Jorja looking unimpressed
Skye looking cauld
Ben Nevis
Meall a Chaorainn, the next wee hill to Mullach
It's not just the fantastic views, it's the fresh air that makes it special!
The Ben. Again.
Sgurr a Mhaim finally gets the finger out and appears in a picture
The traditional descent route
What used to be the traditional descent route

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