Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

A bit of Monadhliath

I’d been planning a few trips into the Monadhliath before the forthcoming wind farms completely change the place (i.e trash) but my knee injury put me out of action for a couple of months earlier in the year some what delaying things.  Despite the forecasted long spell of good weather various commitments got in the way of a longer trip but a few days wandering is always welcome.

Day 1 – 23km, 580m ascent

Mon D1

Dropping the car off near the old Coignafearn Lodge (about 10 miles up a single track road from Findhorn Bridge) the easy wander up to Dalbeg was in very pleasant spring sunshine; yes April in Scotland can be glorious.

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I headed up the LWR & then a couple of km cross-country to the rounded summit of the Corbett of Carn na Soabhaidhe, a last look before the vista is destroyed.

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Just 150m to the west of the summit is the end of the construction road for the 23 turbine Corriegarth Wind farm

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With 33 turbine Dunmaglass farm to the north & the 67 turbines Stronelairig just off to the SW one of the largest areas of truly wild land will be destroyed; but that’s a battle that seems lost.

Not wanting to retrace my steps I headed off south cross-country over to the head waters of the River Eskin, the passage eased by following the ‘white highways’ (the snow filled drainage lines) still quite firm going despite the temperature (~18C) & bright sunshine.

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I passed this way on the 2014 TGO Challenge coming over from Glen Markie so the pleasant grassy LRT down the glen wasn’t a surprise but still a pleasant dawdle.

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I pitched up early on the bank of the River Eskin (NH 652120) & enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine; +17C & only a light breeze, almost tropical for the Highlands.

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It was nice to enjoy the solitude tucking into an industrial quantity of the last of my rabbit casserole; one of my favourite dehydrator recipes.

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As the sun fell below the skyline the temperature dropped like a stone, 5C by 8pm.  An early bed with both doors of the Duomid open watching the light fade & the stars come out to play, the only way I feel it gets better than this is to be pitched up on the plateau.

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Day 2 – 26km, 850m ascent

Mon D2

06:15 a might nippy, -5.7C, ice coated both the outside & inside of the Duomid; definitely a morning for breakfast in bed. My chosen pitch was unfortunately in the shade from Calpa Mor (814m) to the SE but once the sunshine peeked over the hill the Duomid rapidly thawed out to leave a dripping tarp to pack rather than a frozen one.

I still had the pleasure of frozen trail shoes thanks to my own incompetence, not tucking them away in my bivi sack overnight & this helped increase the pace a little heading up the LRT south towards the head waters of the Findhorn.

The morning sunshine & grassy LRT made for an easy start to the day, at least for the first hour.

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Beyond the end of the track I soon start to look for a passage to the ridge line to the SSE, the opportunity to ford the Abhainn Cro Chlach soon presented itself (~NH 639075)

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A bit of a chilly wade but only shin deep & the feet soon re-warmed on the ascent through the heather to gain the Allt Fionn-tom Mor which turned out to be another ‘white highway’ up into the cloud enveloped ridge line.

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The line of rusting fence posts made for easy navigation across Meall a’ Bhothain to the Munroe Carn Sgulain.

I pulled up in the bealach before Am Bodach hiding from the cold wind amongst the peat hags, I was rewarded when the skies cleared giving a nice view of A’ Chailleach to the SW.

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The friendly line of fence posts had to be left on Carn a’ Bhothain Mholaich, where they turn to the north, to take a cross-country trog east across the heather & peat hags to gain the LRT under the Corbett Carn an Fhreiceadain.  I originally thought to head north to Dulnain Bothy 1# but thought I’d take in the Corbett while I was about.  The track to the summit won out over a direct pathless ascent, a bit longer but probably shorter in the long run.

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Thoughts of retracing my steps & heading down the Bothy 1# were put to one side when I notice a newish looking track heading off north from the ridge line about 0.5km east so thought I’d check it out. It appeared to be heading off towards the Caochan na Gaibhre so I thought I’d give it a go.

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The track ended in less than a km at a line of grouse butts but it was a straight forward hop down to the grassy banks of the stream & down to where it joined the Dulnain.

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A short way downstream I notice the remains of a couple of shielings on the bank of the Allt Coire Chlaigann Mhoir, must have been a tough life up here even in the summer months.

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The route downstream was an easy ramble following the grassy river bank with only the occasional diversion necessary to avoid the really squelchy stuff.

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Called into #2 bothy to have a look, like you do, all I can say is that it deserves its reputation as being a dump.

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I’d no problems finding a nicer  place to pitch up only a short distance downstream.

Day 3 – 15km, 350m ascent

Mon D3

Another very cold night needing the addition of the down jacket to the sleeping attire at some point in the early hours.  The topography meant that I got the sun at least an hour before yesterday ensuring the Duomid was defrosted & dry for packing when it was time for the off.

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I followed the river easily downstream only needing to digress up the heather slopes on a couple of occasions to avoid a precipitous traverse along the river bank, quite a scenic passage.

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Called into the Dulnain Bothy (#3) & left a note in the book as is my habit; a far nicer residence than #2, well maintained by the Alvie Estate.

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I was to head up the Allt Spioradail but from the glen I’d noticed a large waterfall a little way up the steep sided gulley through which it flowed so headed up the heather slopes rather than follow the stream.

The falls were larger than appeared from the glen below, perhaps 20m with steep slopes on its flanks, I was glad to have chosen a less than direct approach.

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Above the falls I followed the Caochan Crom nan Eag winding its way west, a nice grassy trail just needing the stream to be hopped across a few dozen times to gain the ‘best’ line. Some way up (~NH 771148) I came across a group of shielings (shown on the 25k but not 50k maps), seems a far less desirable spot than in the glen below.

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The bealach above was typical Scottish peat hag & bog.

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But it was relatively short lived & the green highway alongside the Allt Mor was soon gained.

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Further downstream I came across the end of a relatively new looking track (~NH 747151); I’d half an idea than I knew where it led, having seen ongoing construction during my 2014 TGO crossing, so abandoned following the stream & headed along it.  I quite quickly came to a familiar junction (~NH 745163).

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Today I’d come down the track across the Allt Mor ford & to the right (SW), on the 2014 TGO I’d turned left for ~1km before heading cross-country over Carn Caol.

Heading off downstream I soon came across a few of the locals; a couple of feral goats with their kids, they took off uphill like true mountain goats when I appeared from around a bend.

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A short way ahead I soon located the start of the old stalkers path at an old gate way across the other side of the river (~NH 734171).

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I did manage to get across the river without even getting the feet wet & the path around to the ruins of Coignafeuinternich was easier to follow than I remembered (the middle section is a bit ill defined where it passes through some boggy ground).

A quick meander down the road was all that was left to do to get back to the motor meeting up with the first person I’d seen in 3 days, a twitcher strewn with lots of optical gadgets hunting eagles.  The only disappointment was that the trip hadn’t been longer.

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5 comments on “A bit of Monadhliath

  1. Robin
    April 22, 2015

    Lovely stuff. Such a pity this area is going to be wrecked. Brilliant backpacking country. I’ll be going through Stronlairig and the Dulnain on the Challenge. Bothy No 2 is a dump! I see you’re experimenting with an apex guy on the Duomid. Are you taking it on the Challenge?

    • Paul Atkinson
      April 22, 2015

      The bothy near the end of the Burma Rd isn’t much better than #2, all the TGO folk last year chose to pitch up outside.
      I think the Duomid will be going on the TGO unless the forecast is for hurricanes then the Trailstar would be my choice.
      I’ve found adding the a apex guy with both doors open helps keep the back panel nice & taut + if it’s really windy I’ve rigged it upwind to take some of the load off the pegs.

  2. Robin
    April 22, 2015

    Yes, I was disappointed by the Red Bothy. The apex guy makes a big difference. As you say, you can have the doors open and everything stays taut.

  3. Kirsten
    April 22, 2015

    Another lovely trip, Paul. We obviously had travelled a very similar route before meeting at the Red bothy last year. Thanks for all the photos and details. I can vouch for how cold it was camping those nights – I was in Strathconon then Cannich.

    • Paul Atkinson
      April 22, 2015

      Certainly was a lot colder than the “touch of frost in rural areas” that the BBC forecast. I really would have appreciated my winter bag.

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2015 by in Trip Reports and tagged , .
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