Day Meet to Glen Affric, Sunday 11 October 2020

We followed the by now familiar routine of having a number of mini-meets on the same day to minimise the size of each group. This time the chosen hills were Mam Sodhail, Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach.

Catherine, Karen, Helen and Arthur had a fine day in Glen Affric making a circuit of the An Tudair and Sgurr na Lapaich ridges leading to and from Mam Sodhail.  We had intended to approach Mam Sodhail via Creag Coire nan Each, but a revolt in the party about losing height from the end of the old stalkers’ path down to the Sputan Ban waterfalls saw us climbing the steep slopes of An Tudair Beag instead, pictured above.  And we got our first taste of the winter’s snow, kicking a few steps in soft wet gooey stuff.  The cloud came and went, but it stayed mainly dry.

Looking back to Mam Sodhail from the Sgurr na Lapaich ridge

We had a look at the old Ordnance Survey shelter below Mam Sodhail summit.  It is part of the remains of one of the Colby Camps from the first half of the 19th Century used in the first  triangulation of Scotland.  The theodolite that they used was about 3 feet in diameter and weighed 300 pounds. The OS sappers would have stayed in the camp for weeks at a time in all weathers while making the survey.

The limits of our geomorphological knowledge were tested by the stratifications on the west flank of Tom a’Choinich on the other side of the glen (frost heave, water erosion, something else) and was it a landslip or a fault running along the ridge to Sgurr na Lapaich summit?  We did, however, recognise the bog we had to cross to regain the track after the rough descent off the nose of Sgurr na Lapaich.

Dan, Paul, Irene and John on Toll Creagach

Dan, Irene, John and prospective member Paul headed up the hill from the new car park just short of Chisholme Bridge in Glen Affric. It’s a really good (and cyclable) track for a while to the intake of a new hydro scheme, before becoming ‘rather  liquid’. The stalkers’ track mapped as going up the Allt Toll Easa morphs into a good path to the top of Tom a’Choinnich, with some fine views to the south and west. First snow of the season on the summit, with the clag arriving just in time to spoil the view.

Without the need of discussion, we found ourselves descending the ridge east towards Toll Creagach, a very rounded hill after the craggy Tom. There’s a cairn and a trig point, but I’m not convinced that either is at the highest point of the hill! From there a long and increasingly boggy slope down to the bottom of the glen and back to the cars. We may not have had any sun, but the absence of wind and rain was good.

Participants: Catherine, Karen, Helen, Arthur, Dan, Irene, John and prospective member Paul.

Day Meet, Sunday 20 September 2020

Fourteen club members and prospective members ranged far and wide on this meet.  A group of five headed to the Easains west of Loch Treig; half a dozen of us cycled down Loch Ericht, four visiting the tops and two going to the (closed) Culra Bothy; and three folk ventured north to the remoteness of the Reay Forest Grahams.

Brian and Arthur with three prospective members – Ross, Paul and Tom – had a grand day on the Easains; Stob a Choire Mheadhain and Stob Coire Easain. The fine weather and the relative isolation of these hills gave us great panoramas all round. On Stob a Choire Mheadhoin summit we met Phoebe, who – at 10 months – was on her third Munro. She did  have mum and dad to thank for a wee bit of help, though.   Rather than retrace our steps and try to avoid the boggy old tramway on the lower reaches of Coire Laire, we followed a walkers path along the steep side of Coire Làire on the 500m contour back to Creag Fhiaclach. It is probably a moot point which is the muddier route.

Geal-Charn from Carn Dearg

A team of six biked down the excellent Loch Ericht road, enjoying great views much improved by recent tree felling. Past the bizarre fairytale castles, mostly of recent construction, and up to Loch Pattack. Across the ford, and the hill team ascended Carn Dearg; Michael and Wendell called it a day at that, while Lorna and John continued up Geal-Charn. Meanwhile Catherine and Ewen cycled up to Culra enjoying the sunshine, and stopped off at Loch Ericht on the way back for a swim (Catherine) and a paddle (Ewen). A coffee at Dalwhinnie rounded off the day.

Ben Hope from Carn an Tionail

The weather gods were initially in the mood for toying with Helen, Richard and Robin as they set off for Sutherland Grahams Carn an Tionail (759m) and its smaller neighbour Beinn Direach (688m), threatening a day of unremitting clag. Luckily salvation was at hand, as the higher they climbed the cloud base rose too, and by the time the first summit was attained the trio were rewarded with a stupendous view across Scotland’s “Empty Quarter”, from the triple peaks of Quinag in the west to faraway Morven and Maiden Pap 40 miles to the east. The drop to the Bealach nan Rath and the 150m re-ascent to Ben Direach proved easier than anticipated, after which came the sting in the tail – a tiresome slog of almost 3km of peat hags, tussocky grass and bog pools – before thankfully regaining the estate track for an easy stroll back to the road at West Merkland. It was unanimously agreed that it had not been a good day, but a very good day.

Participants: Brian, Arthur, Wendell, Michael, Catherine, Ewen, John, Helen, Robin, Richard and prospective new members Tom, Ross, Paul and Lorna.