Date: Saturday/Sunday 28th/29th April 2012
Distance: 28.6km + 22.5km
Ascent: 1400m + 700m
The upspiral of optimism that comes with intense scrutiny of the weather forecasts for wild-camp weekends had continued to a peak rather than the more usual trough. Time to consider the plans.
A bit of a tricky choice – initial forecasts seemed to favour the west so we went for our Glen Elchaig plan.
Started a wee bit later than usual at 1000 – long days mean more leisurely starts, especially if carrying a tent. The fields at Killilan have gone green and were filled with ewes and lambs. Spotted a Shills car sticker in the car park.
Set off along the long road out to Iron Lodge – saw our first swallows of the year swooping into the large barn in the village.
For those without cycles it’s a 2.5 hour walk out to Iron Lodge along an estate road -13km in a long arc heading first SE towards Carnan Cruithneachd and then NE towards Carn na Breabaig.
The views are slow changing as you wander up the glen.
From Iron Lodge we took the track running up between Aonach Buidhe and Carn na Breabaig – this is a bit rougher but still a decent track. Air temperature was cool but the sun was warm – down to base layers.
Saw our first cuckoo of the year fly by to land in some birch before starting up the familiar call.
Once up at Loch Mhoicean we took stock – the plan had been to camp on Carn na Breabaig allowing us to drop the camping gear here. Other options included An Cruachan or Aonach Buidhe camps. In the end laziness prevailed and we dropped the camping gear here before heading on to An Cruachan. Saw the only walkers of the weekend – 4 coming off An Socach here.
We cut uphill for An Cruachan at about NH 087 348 – the stalkers path up Aonach Buidhe from here looked substantial.
The climb up An Cruachan was easy enough – 350m up grassy strips to the summit. A Golden Eagle juvenile circled over us in the passing – folks may be unusual out here.
Nice to arrive at one of the remotest hills in the country – certainly a large and essentially uninhabited area on view.
Turned around and headed for the camping gear – did wonder if we shouldn’t have taken it up Aonach Buidhe.
About an hour back to the gear – the skies were clearing nicely to reveal some excellent evening sunshine. A 250m pull on slightly tiring legs to the summit – noted as a decent potential pitch on a very wet day last September.
Lots of big pools and several flat pitches allowed a choice of sites. Changed into evening wear – powerstrech and insulation – and pitched the tent.
Stunning views of Mam Sodhail/Carn Eighe and Ceathreamhnan from here – the Cuillin was the view out the tent door.
Cooked tea as the sun was setting, taking some pics and eating at the same time.
Tucked into bed by 2200 – a surprisingly toasty night in the tent despite subzero temps. Was going to get up for some night shots but rolled over instead.
Up for dawn – 0533 saw the first Alpenglow on Ceathreamhnan. A beautiful morning.
Watched the sunrise effects til past 6 and then got back in the tent to heat up some cocoa and eat breakfast.
A very leisurely start – the sun felt warm and we took the opportunity to let it dry the sleeping bags and defrost the tent (no wind and frost had meant a bit more condensation than usual).
Didn’t get packed up and moving til 0800.
Again – a discussion of route. We had planned to head back over Meall Sguman and down to the Falls of Glomach – but Aonach Buidhe was reeling us in. We’d been over Aonach Buidhe and Breabaig last September on a terrible day and had missed out on any views. The Breabaig camp had provided restitution for half of that sin – blue skies and clear air demanded the completion.
Headed quickly back down to Loch Mhoicean, took the track 800m NE before heading up onto the long arcing ridge that makes up the southern lip of Coire Toll a Chaorainn.
About an hour’s climb had us at the summit. The views of the Affric Hills built behind us all the way – as we reached the top we suddenly had a panorama of Skye, Torridon, Fisherfield and Strathfarrar.
Stunning views – the best we’ve had of the area.
Air temp was still pretty biting so we wrapped up warm – sat and admired the vista for a full hour.
Tore ourselves away – descended down the east ridge of Aonach Buidhe, heading for the track running between Aonach Buidhe and Faochaig.
Heard my first Ring Ouzel of the year – and spotted the male sitting out singing about 100m away, with a female running around too. Nice to see – quite hard to spot later in the year.
Took the track downhill – temperatures rose quickly with descent so we were back to baselayers.
Finally started on the last leg – the 13km back along the glen. A truly beautiful day with the Glen convincingly green, blue skies and no midge. What more could you ask?
Glen Elchaig is stunning – well worth a low level wander sometime. Saw a couple more Golden Eagles high up on the ridgelines. Then a treat – a juvenile Sea Eagle flapping around at low level. Landed in some birch on the far side of the river.
Eventually returned to the car and set out for home. Cracking weekend – possibly the best conditions I’ve seen in the NW for years.
A great trip – wish we could be everywhere on days like these.