Three-quarters of the way there – [# 212 – 213]

A’ Chralaig (1120m) and Mullach Fraoch-choire (1102m)

  • Pronunciation:             Uh Chraalayk; Mooluch Fruackorrer
  • Translation:                  The Basket; Peak of the Heathery Corrie
  • Total distance:             14.4km
  • Total time:                    4hrs 41mins
  • Total ascent:                 1181m
  • Weather:                       Dreadful! Very strong gale force winds on the summit ridges and driving very heavy rain. Improved slightly during descent from the second summit.
  • Start / end location:   Small lay by 1.5km east of the Cluanie Inn on the A87 – very close to the track leading down from An Caorann Mor. [OS Map Sheet 33 – Grid Ref: NH 092 121]
  • Map:                              A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Looking from the south ridge of Mullach Fraoch-choire to the summit of A' Chralaig

Thankfully, the weather as we started off was dry, but very overcast with all of the surrounding hills shrouded in thick cloud. We crossed the A87 road from our parking place and joined the land-rover track running northward into An Caorann Mor glen. The track began quite steeply but after only 50m we turned off right (east) onto a faint path that took to the open hillside below the open flanks of Fuaran Mor Chluainidh.

Cameron soaking wet by the summit cairn of A' Chralaig

It appeared from the map that this route would be a pathless and unrelenting slog all the way up to the point where we would intersect the south ridge of A’ Chralaig at around 730m in height. However, we were pleasantly surprised that the faint path just kept on snaking its way upward, and although a bit wet underfoot at first, it became a little drier as the angle steepened.

By the time we reached the crest of the broad south ridge the wind speed had really picked up to severe gale-force. The wind was so strong and blustery that we were forced to stop many times to regain our balance as we climbed higher up the ridge. As we neared the summit of A’ Chralaig it began to rain heavily – very heavily! In the atrociously strong wind it was a struggle to get all of our waterproof gear on in time. However, despite protection from our wet weather gear we got absolutely soaked in a matter of minutes.

On the grassy ridge leading to Mullach Fraoch-choire

We reached the large and imposing summit cairn at 1120m or 3,675ft, and Elaine risked exposing her camera to get a single and very quickly taken photograph of me “enjoying” the climatic conditions.  From the summit we dropped down in a northward direction, snaking as we did so to follow the broad ridge that soon climbed again to reach the top of Stob Coire na Cralaig (1008m). A couple of very brief breaks in the cloud cover afforded us a brief view of the next section of the ridge as it curved around the rim of Coire Odhar to reach the summit of Mullach Fraoch-choire. Our view showed us that the next section of the ridge was a lot narrower than what we’d already crossed and was quite castellated along its crest. In the right conditions, the traverse of this part of the ridge provides a classic grade I winter route.

Elaine arrives soaked through at the summit cairn of Mullach Fraoch-choire

We descended to the col just below the 1008m top and then began the short scramble and walk along the castellated ridge to the summit cairn of Mullach Fraoch-choire at 1102m or 3,615ft. Even in the difficult weather conditions, that were just beginning to show glimpses of abating slightly, the scramble along the ridge was never too serious. One or two of the more rocky and exposed sections could be easily by-passed via a little path that ran along the western side of the ridge just a few metres below the crest-line.

From A' Chralaig looking south to Stob Coire na Cralaig (R) and A' Chralaig in the mist (L)

On this summit stood another grandiose cairn alongside a circular stone-walled shelter. This shelter was useful for keeping us out of the wind but did nothing to protect us from the rain, so once again we stayed just long enough to record our presence at the summit via a photograph before retracing our steps back down to the col below Stob Coire na Cralaig.

At the col a path leading directly into Coire Odhar was marked by a little cairn. By this time the clouds were actually beginning to thin and the rain had all but ceased. We even saw a rainbow stretched out in front of us at the bottom end of the corrie. There was, however, no pot of gold waiting for us at the point where the rainbow met the ground. Instead, like everywhere else in the corrie, the terrain was simply a quagmire. Every step we took, although on tussocks of grass, was saturated and awash under several inches of surface water. We quickly concluded that there was little to be gained by trying to avoid the “puddles”.

The weather improves and so does the view down Coire Odhar and on towards the north of An Caorann Mor pass

We marched on, exiting the corrie to the west, before arcing round to the south to join the equally wet footpath running down An Caorann Mor. It was not until our path joined the end of the land-rover track that we’d used briefly earlier that our underfoot terrain improved somewhat. We followed this track all the way back to the main-road, which we crossed to reach the comfort of our warm and dry car.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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