I recently wrote about Sgurr na Lapaich that dominates the head of Glen Affric and is often mistaken on approach for Mam Sodhail.
Some seven miles to the north over Loch Mullardoch is another hill of the same name. Well seen from the Strathfarrar hills, it is no surprise that this Sgurr na Lapaich, at 1150m/3773ft the highest of the four Mullardoch Munros, featured in the early surveying activities of the Ordnance Survey (as did Mam Sodhail).
Occupied for three months in the summer of 1846, the remains of the surveyors’ shelter can still be seen just yards WSW of the summit trig point. At odds with the general trend of the Mullardochs, Sgurr na Lapaich runs north/south between Loch Mullardoch and Gleann Innis an Loichel. There are steep but mostly crag-free slopes to the west, whereas the eastern side has a three-mile escarpment gouged by three large corries, all with lochans. This spectacular peak and its awkward, convoluted summit area, has a mundane meaning, peak of the bogland, perhaps referring to the peaty Garbh-choire, which in its lower level is less rough than the name would suggest. The popular route is from the Mullardoch dam, over Carn nan Gobhar, then a climb north-west to an awkward boulder field, nowadays negotiated by a well-worn weaving path.
I prefer the approach from the near-tautological Glen Strathfarrar, over the Loch Monar Dam to the small Gleann Innis an Loichel power station, map ref 183381, then an easily zigzagged climb on the steep northern grassy flanks. There is, however, a contentious locked gate just west of Struy Bridge. Vehicular access is allowed from 9am-6pm April; 7pm May; 8pm June, July, August; 7pm September; 6pm October. The gate remains 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, and there is apparently no objection to driving over the dam. To avoid the immediate rough climb through scrubby woodland, continue west on the track from the power station, then cross the Uisge Misgeach by a side track, map ref 173379.
(Rhona accompanied me this short distance before heading west for the most remote Graham, 706m An Cruachan.) Head south-west, then south, by the western of the two mapped streams and so into Coire Buidhe Mor.
Ease the gradient by heading eastwards to the ridge just south of An Leth-chreag. Once on the ridge it is a gentler gradient over mossy, then stonier, terrain. The deleted Top, Rubha na Spreidhe, has a large well-built cairn that could on a very misty day be mistaken for the summit. There is, in fact, another 100m to climb. The lack of a worn ridge path, until reaching a bouldery area, indicates the relative non-use of this approach, contrasting with the obvious path of the popular route.
The last section on the narrow ridge above Coire nan Each needs caution on a poor day. The well-preserved stone trig point then marks the actual summit. The weather forecast was accurate in that the cloud level gradually rose, just light mist at 900m, then it was into clear skies and a wonderful panorama. Nevertheless, on my late June day I was still surprised to see the large number of extensive snow patches. A previous late November day in 1982 had been quite different. My diary notes… “misery on way up to Rubha na Spreidhe; almost turned back in blizzard but the ridge ahead had exposed rock. Stood on bump in snow. Trig point! Got out fast!”
Map Ordnance Survey map 25, Glen Carron & Glen Affric
Distance 6 miles
Terrain Track, then steep grassy slopes to ridge
Start point Gleann Innis an Loichel power station, upper Glen Strathfarrar, map ref 183381
Time 5 to 6 hours
Nearest town Beauly
Recommended refreshment spot The Priory Hotel, Beauly
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west