Walk of the week: An Socach

An Socach. Picture: Andrew Smith/Geograph [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/213963] (CC)
An Socach. Picture: Andrew Smith/Geograph [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/213963] (CC)
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KNOWN collectively as the Mullardochs, the four Munros on the north side of Loch Mullardoch are most often approached from the top end of Glen Cannich to the east, the nearest road-end, then walking the length of the northern shores or taking advantage of the available boat hire.

Prior to the damming of the loch in the 1950s, leaving telltale signs of stalkers’ paths disappearing into the water on both sides of the loch, it was possible to cycle along the north shore, as the Rev Robertson did in 1899.

However, on a poor day, the westerly outlier, 1,069m/3,507ft An Socach, is often left for another day. It is thus not infrequently tackled as a solo hill, perforce from the west by a variety of routes, but all involving a long day. The most common approach is from Glen Elchaig – the route I used some years ago with the Mountain Lamb and again last month, this time with Jimbo and Rhona for part of the way.

An Socach means “the snout”, which may refer to the eastern nose of the ridge overlooking Bealach Bholla, linking the hill to An Riabhachan. There are two other Munros so named: one above Glen Ey, but the second, a modest bump some six miles to the south in Glen Affric, is unlikely to be confused with its much higher and more substantial namesake.

The Route

The parking spot at Killilan, map ref 941303, is reached by the minor road on the north side of Loch Long. It is 8 miles up Glen Elchaig and Srath Duilleach to Iron Lodge, at first on the gentle gradient of the estate road then on a more undulating but generally smooth track. Though some latter sections can be wet and muddy by cattle feeding spots, taking a bicycle is assumed in the time quoted. (Our group split at Carnach, Rhona then bound for the two Corbetts at the top end of the glen, Faochaig and Aonach Buidhe).

By now at only 140m, wave goodbye to Iron Lodge and follow the good path/track on the north side of the Allt na Doire Gairbhe, easily gaining height above the narrowing gorge. A more level strath then leads to lonely Loch Mhoicean on the watershed with outflows at either end. Even if you intend going no further, as was the case for two visitors from Austria on our day, the cycle and short walk will be most satisfying.

Leave the track and cross the stream just before the south-west end of the loch. Follow the shore for a short distance then head north-east, bypass the peat-hags and climb some 300m on seemingly never-ending grassy slopes. Eventually reach the lovely curving ridge above Coire Lungard, just north of Meall Shuas, and enjoy the gentle stroll, following the worn ATV track.

Slant slightly left to a spring, circa map ref 092326, whose obvious small stream is a welcome source of water and respite before the final 250m climb on steep grassy slopes, which can be zigzagged.

Head a slight distance north on the summit rim to reach the boulder-surrounded trig point, a superb viewpoint overlooking the rough upper Coire Mhaim and the nearby Coire na Brogaichain, which contrast with the gentler grassy western slopes, and are all the more spectacular on our atmospheric day of sunshine, showers and swirling cloud.

The return to the loch takes little time but it is still a long way back to Iron Lodge. With superb timing, we arrived back at the glen at the same time as Rhona – a trio of happy hillwalkers then freewheeling most of the way back to the car park.

MAP Ordnance Survey map 25, Glen Carron & Glen Affric

DISTANCE 25 miles, of which 16 cycled

HEIGHT 1,100 metres

TERRAIN Tarmac road, track and stalkers’ path, then grassy slopes to summit

START POINT parking spot at Killilan, map ref 941303, by head of Loch Long.

TIME 8 to 9 hours