LAST week I wrote about Sgurr na Lapaich, the highest of the four Mullardoch Munros.
This week it is the two-mile distant An Riabhachan, only slightly lower at 1129m/3704ft, yet separated by the lowly 828m Bealach Toll an Lochain.
It is unusual in having a 1½-mile-long south-west/north-east gently undulating ridge, mostly above 1100m, yet never quite broad enough to be considered a plateau. Beautifully seen from Loch Calavie to the northwest, especially when snow-covered, the summit ridge catches the eye more than Sgurr na Lapaich.
The name is usually taken to mean the grey one; perhaps due to the ridge’s sparsely vegetated terrain contrasting with the lush grassy slopes on either side. To the north-east are extensive crags overlooking Toll an Lochain. At the south-west end are two blandly named subsidiary Tops, 1086m SW Top and 1040m West Top. The highest point of the ridge is at map ref 133344.
An Riabhachan has a unique claim to fame. A helicopter, carrying an expectant mother to Raigmore hospital in Inverness, had to touch down on the ridge during a snowstorm. The baby arrived before the weather cleared. Neither mother nor son (now an adult) has returned to the hill.
A popular route starts from the Mullardoch dam, walking the length of the rough northern shores of the loch, or by hiring a boat and hoping for a calm day, to reach the private chalet by the Allt Socrach. I prefer an approach described last week; by car, or bicycle, from Glen Strathfarrar and over the Loch Monar Dam to the Gleann Innis an Loichel power station, map ref 183381.
Take a note of the locked gate and vehicular access hours – 9am to 8pm July, August; 7pm September; 6pm October. The gate is closed all day Tuesday, and Wednesday until 1:30pm. There is no restriction at any time to walking or cycling on the Strathfarrar road, a right of way. The main stalking dates run for nearly four months from 1 July to 20 October, albeit stalking increases as the season progresses. There is no stalking on the Sabbath. Take reasonable steps to find out where stalking is taking place by phoning 01463 761360, or failing that, Braulen Estate 01463 761235. The “Heading for the Scottish Hills” website – www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/hftsh – does not appear to cover the area.
Head west from the power station by track and stalkers’ path as far as map ref 159373, from where another path leads to a ford at the junction of the Allt an Fheadain and the Allt an Eas Bhain Mhoir. Once across the former, seldom a problem, the path by the Allt an Eas Bhain Mhoir is vague but soon becomes well-defined, cutting into the hillside and slanting south-west. The grassy path eases the 250m climb into the wild isolation of imposing Toll an Lochain, holding Loch Mor and Loch Beag.
The path is less obvious from circa map ref 149361 (possibly requiring a search on return) head to the northern end of Loch Beag and the base of the Meall Garbh ridge whose rocky outcrops are easily avoided on the western climb. Then curve south by the rim of Coire Gnada. The next 250m climb, surprisingly easy on stonier terraced terrain, leads to the north-east end of the summit ridge, a rounded bump with a small cairn. Briefly a subsidiary Top, but rightly deleted, and only marginally lower than the Munro, it would be all too easy on a misty day to stop here. At this point, which sees many a tramping boot, I was surprised to come across a clutch of ptarmigan chicks. It is then an easy stroll to the large summit cairn.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east