Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A failed attempt at A' Chailleach and Carn Sgulain

Scottish Highlands A' Chailleach and Carn Sgulain

Date: December 2008
Yompers: Me and Craigy
Hills Climbed:
Map: OS Explorer 402 (Badenoch and Upper Strathspey)
Distance: 5 1/2 miles

I really wanted to get out there and do some top quality yomping and nailing some hiking trails in the snow whilst ticking off a couple of Munros. So whilst I was working up in the Highlands I decided to make an attempt on A' Chailleach and Carn Sgulain as they were both real close to where I was staying and with the short days you haven’t got the light, and as a result time, on your side.

We drove up out the back of Newtonmore and parked in the small car park at the end of the paved road (693997). The hiking trail heads north here running alongide the western side of the woodland. There was already an awful lot of snow even at this level and the path was like an ice rink which made it pretty trecherous and slow going (although in the greater scheme of things we were making good ground at that time). It was really easy to navigate however and we just followed the path which ran along the river. There is a ford marked on the map which in fact appears as though it is more for vehicles then to be attempted by foot so I wouldn't recommend relying on this, especially if the river is running.

Not wanting to retrace our steps to cross the footbridge we dodged over the rocks firstly to an island in the middle of the river and then over to the far side. This is always a load of fun (unless you go arse over breast and land in the drink – on this occasion however we didn’t).

We again followed the river, now on the other side until the hill opened up. We saw a mountain hut half way up the side of the hill (687023 - pictured) where we decided to take a break and eat our lunch. In fairness it was pretty full of sheep dung and was fairly nasty so we savoured the sunshine and ate outside. After a reasonable break we trudged on. It is beautiful in the snow but it can make it really hard going and with no hiking trail in sight you end up wading through it knee deep and not knowing where you're putting you're feet always makes it that bit more taxing. Navigating is pretty hard too as you have few points of reference and all the minor streams are covered.
We did plug on for the top of the ridge where we hit a plateau (675038). In places here where it had drifted it was now up to my thighs. Now we were on this plateau it was really hard to pinpoint how far it was to the summit. It was a really clear day but with a total snow covered top there was little in the way of reference points. With time running a touch low and folks already descending we decide that it was time to play it safe and head back, this was certainly not the place to be caught out after dark. It was at this point when a sat nav device would have been handy just to take stock of precisely where we were and the distance to the top. Without it though safety is the best policy and we took the decision to head back to the car.

We did take a moment to absorb the white panorama before us and it really is stunning in the snow!
Heading down, the snow made the descent a load easier on the knees and a hell of a lot quicker than trudging up although you don’t really get to take much of the scenery in when you are bouncing down in a semi jog.

We passed the hut we’d taken lunch near not long later and stuck to this side of the river until we crossed the river via the foot bridge (691013) to avoid any chance of taking a tumble into the drink. After all this was clearly all snow melt which would have been just a tad on the brass monkeys side!
Over the bridge and we skated all the way back down to the car on the sheet ice, this was some kind of exciting hiking trail. Fair play we’d achieved not a great deal but we’d had a great few hours out in the wild and seen some great hills in the snow. I’ll come back at some point soon and have another go at them, possibly in a bit less snow.

View Highlands December 2008 in a larger map


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