First footing Mam Sodhail – via Sgurr na Lapaich. January 2011.

Date: Saturday 1st January 2011
Distance: 22km
Ascent: 1400m

New Year’s Day 2011 – another year ticks around. 🙄

We’d got some days annual leave left over and had managed to cobble time off from Xmas Day through to the 5th Jan.

New Year’s Day was our 6th consecutive hill day – conditions having been benign but pretty uninspiring in terms of views/photos. Total sunshine time only about 5 minutes in 5 days.

The forecast for the first looked good – low winds, 90% cloud free munros and extensive sunshine – thought a first-foot of the 2nd highest point NW of the Great Glen might be fun.

The forecast was spot-on, except the sun. Another flat, dull day. But I liked the route so a TR might be worthwhile.

A reasonable drive in – a few slippy roads. Parked up at the Glen Affric road end at 0730. A couple of distant Tawny Owls were audible. Booted up in the dark and set off with headtorches on.

Turned N at Affric Lodge on the great estate track heading N up Am Meallan. Enough light to turn off the torches by 0815. Continued along the track with a view of our target ascent – Sgurr na Lapaich.

The snow-line had ascended and the ridges looked reasonably clear.

We’ve ascended this way before – gives a very fast ascent to wide views. If the forecast had been right we should have had a view of dawn from about 600m – we didn’t – blanket cloud, but high enough to leave the tops clear.

Once the ridge is attained we got a view along Loch Affric.

The ascent of Sgurr na Lapaich was easy enough. A few patches of ice to avoid but nothing confluent. Microspikes were helpful.

Spotted a few ptarmigan on the way.

Got to the summit of Sgurr na Lapaich – I hear this was on the original munro list. It is a cracking summit – last time we were over an inversion.

The ridge from Sgurr na Lapaich to Mam Sodhail is a fine high level bimble – no problems.

The final 200m ascent of Mam Sodhail was a bit steeper and the crampons and ice axes were useful.

Had some lunch at the huge summit cairn, -6C with a bit of a breeze felt pretty parky. With no-one else around I phoned home to wish my parents a Happy New Year (I don’t usually talk on the phone on the hills).

These were our best views in 4 visits to this summit – and still not great. We could however make out Skye and most of Kintail and some of Torridon.

Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan – camping up there just a few months ago:

Watched a group edging over the headwall of Coire Leachavie. We headed their way. They seemed a happy bunch heading for the summit.
We had a plan to descend down the W arm enclosing Coire Coulavie – over Creag Coire nan Each and Creag a Chaorainn to pick up the stalkers path at the mouth of the Coire.

There was sunny skies visible to the far south – Beinn a Bheithir I think:

Coire Coulavie:

Crampons were off again at the 1068m top and back in the microspikes as the terrain was flat and the snow/ice sparse.

The western arm of Coire Coulavie provided a very easy-angled looping descent – and some great views of Loch Affric:

The arm dropped us to the mouth of Coire Coulavie and across the Allt Coulavie. We had to search around a bit to pick up the rather faint stalkers path, but once on it there was a quick descent to the Glen floor.

Mullach Fraoch Coire from Glen Affric.

Once on the track we made good progress back to the car in decreasing light – headtorches needed for the last 10 minutes.

A shame about the grey conditions. The route is a cracker – fast to gain height and about 7km on the ridge. The views should be spectacular.

We’ll be back for this one again.


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