The Mullardoch Round

The Mullardoch Round is one of the biggest Munro-bagging challenges in Scotland: 55km, just under 5000m ascent and 12 munros altogether, four on the north side of Loch Mullardoch and 8 on the south. The round takes in the four highest hills north of the Great Glen: Carn Eige (1183m), Mam Sodhail (1181m), Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (1151m) and Sgurr nan Lapaich (1150m).

I picked up Jim – Milanese Munro-bagger – at Edinburgh airport on Monday evening. He’d flown over from Italy for another epic week of hillwalking. Nearing the end of his Munro-bagging adventure – spanning nearly 30 years now – the Mullardoch Round together with In Pin on Skye would bring his tally up to 277, leaving him 5 to go. Jim said he liked the aesthetic of doing the 12 munros on either side of Loch Mullardoch in one long journey, and to do the In Pin on Skye as part of a full traverse on the Cuillin. So our objectives were set. The Mullardoch Round on Tuesday Wednesday with a bivvy high up on the ridge and Cuillin Traverse on Friday.

Our mode of travel for the round was light and fast: innov8 hill running shoes, Alpkit bivvy bag, lightweight cook kit, minimal kit and some lightweight freeze dried rations courtesy of Summit to Eat. I managed to get all my kit into a 22 litre Osprey Talon Rucksack – total weight maybe 6kg.

The forecast for Tuesday was a bit grim, windy and drizzle with a windchill of -5c. As long as we kept moving we’d be warm but in those conditions any hanging about chills you quickly. We left the car at on the south side of the Loch Mullardoch dam at 11am then crossed over to the north side and headed west along the new hydro track. We made quick progress and got to the summit of our first Munro, Carn na Gobhar Hill of the Goats (992m), in 1 hour 40 min. Pausing briefly at the top for some grub we got pretty chilled and so we added some layers and ran for a bit to warm up. The next three munros were ticked off pretty fast and we reached the end of Loch Mullardoch in 5 hours 30 min, our only discomfort being the cold and – for Jim – a nasty looking blister on the heel of his foot: caused by the out of the box new mudclaws.

Now for the hard bit, the big ascent of Mullach na Dheiragain summit of the Kestral (982m). The 670m pull up to the summit on tired legs was slow and steady. I set my stopwatch to keep track of our progress and bang on target we reached the top in 67min at a rate of ascent of 1min per 10m contour line. The next 3.5km section to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan Hill of the Quarters (1151m) was slow going too with plenty of ascent. Reaching the top our objective for the day was in sight: just had to descend to the col to the west where we’d find some water and a place to bivvy. In all day 1 took 10 hours and entailed 3000m ascent.

Our bivvy site was pretty nice: sheltered, dry and close to a stream. Our Summit to Eat rations – bolognais and salmon and broccoli pasta was pretty good and warmed us up. We sept well and woke to a lovely temperature inversion. After a relaxed breakfast of museli and coffee we headed off.

The second day was altogether more chilled. We lingered more in the sunshine and enjoyed the views. The ascent of Carn Eige Notch Hill (1183m) from Beinn Fhionnlaidh Finlay’s Mountain (1005m) was quick hard work but upon reaching the summit, 10 munros ticked off, it felt like we were on the home straight.

From Carn Eige we ran much of the flat and easy downhill sections and before long we were on the summit of our last Munro – Toll Creagach The Rocky Hollow (1054m). I was expecting the decent to take about an hour but our route along the northern ridge of Toll Creagach led us to some difficult ground with the longest, thickest heather I have ever encountered. We laboured on and reached to Loch shore. It was hot and we were a little sunburnt. We napped and enjoyed the cold water for a bit then finished the last section to the car. Altogether our Mullardoch Round took 20 hours – a challenging and rewarding two day adventure.

Just now I am writing this from the Campsite at Sligachan on Skye. We are enjoying a rest day before tackling the Cuillin ridge tomorrow. Here’s hoping our legs will recover a bit. It’s gonna be hot and sunny.

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