The big 5-0!

An Socach (944m);

  • Pronunciation:            Un Soroch
  • Translation:                 The Snout
  • Total distance:             15.1km
  • Total time:                   5hrs 30mins
  • Total ascent:                856m
  • Weather:                       Started very bright: mainly blue skies and rising sun. An Socach always covered in cloud. Extensive mist developed mid-morning dropping down to 600m. Light winds.
  • Start / end location:   Glenshee ski resort top car-park – east side of A93 [OS Map Sheet 43 – Grid Ref: NO 141 779]
  • 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.

    Elaine on the summit of An Socach - our 50th Munro

On paper this should have been a fairly easy non-technical route. It was certainly non-technical, but it turned out to be quite exhausting in the conditions.

As with “The Cairnwell Three” walk a couple of days ago we parked up at the Glenshee car-park. This time we were much earlier than any of the skiers and only shared the car-park with a little gang of snow buntings.

The weather was much brighter than it had been for over a week so we were really excited to be out on the hill: even more so because if today’s outing was successful then this would be our 50th Munro climbed.

Admiring the view towards An Socach - the summit is towards the centre of the picture, but shrouded in mist

From the car-park we crossed the main road (A93) and made our way through the jumble of ski related buildings on the west side of the road. The only activity this early in the morning came from a small group of ski-tow operators chatting as they waited on the piste to be ferried by skidoo to their respective stations. As we passed this group a skidoo took off up the slopes with a tow operator riding pillion on the back along with a collie in a red dog “coat”. At one of the mid-way tow stations the tow operator and the dog got off the skidoo, whereby the dog then proceeded to chase the skidoo right the way up to the top station: we were quite jealous of the dog’s speed and agility as it raced up the snowy slope.

Cameron relaxing near the summit of An Socach

Only 30 minutes after leaving the car-park and climbing WNW up one of the pisted runs we reached a col with a picket fence that denoted the westerly boundary of the resort (800m elevation). From this col we dropped down 50m and skirted the north side of the Loch Vortachan as we continued WNW for 1.5km from the end of the loch to intersect the land-rover track running alongside Baddoch Burn. We would not have known that there was even a loch there but for its location and extent as marked on the map, as it was completely covered in snow, and presumably frozen over underneath. The march from the col passed the loch and then into the little ravine carrying Baddoch Burn was quite taxing due to the snow, which was knee-deep, damp and sticky. In a few places an icy crust had formed over the snow and at times just held our weight enabling us to achieve quick progress. Sadly though, most of the time as we placed our full weight on each step we broke through the icy mantle and sunk up to our knees. It definitely was not fun! Once again, we were shown how these sort of conditions had little impact on the local mountain wildlife as numerous hares demonstrated just how easy it was for them to speed across the surface of the snow with absolute impunity.

We crossed the Baddoch Burn to the reach the NW side and then fought our way up the snow slope to intersect the land-rover track, which we followed WSW for a few hundred metres before once again making for the open hillside. Our objective was to reach the col between An Socach summit ridge and the top marked 938m to its NE. The mist at this point had dropped right down to just above the level of the Baddoch Burn so we could not see the col above. Instead we followed the course of a burn that originates from the col: staying on its eastern side all the way to the col at 900m. Elaine broke the trail most of the way up to the col, which I was very grateful for.

Looking down towards the East side of the Glenshee Ski Resort

Upon reaching the col we turned west to follow the rocky ridge leading to the summit of An Socach at 944m or 3,097’. The summit, like the rest of the hill, was shrouded in thick mist so when we arrived at a pile of snow covered stones about 1.4km along the ridge we wondered if this was the summit cairn. However, we were aware from a guidebook that there was a cairn and a rough rocky wind-break “shelter” on the summit about 100m away from each other.  So we searched around in the mist until we actually arrived at the summit cairn.

Unsurprisingly it was much easier, as we retraced our steps, to descend back to the Baddoch Burn, but then the long slog back up to the col adjacent to the ski resort was a real physical chore. As we got closer to the col we first heard the voices of the skiers before finally seeing them emerge from the mist. It was great being able to walk on firm pisted snow after our physical challenges of wading through the deep heavy snow and we made very quick progress back to the car-park and our waiting flask of tea and cake.

Happy 50th to us!

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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6 Responses to The big 5-0!

  1. Laura Fairbairn says:

    Congratulations on number 50!

    • Cameron says:

      Thanks Laura,
      Yes, 50 Munros climbed at last and every one a good challenge. Roll on the next 50, in hopefully more spring-like weather.
      Hope that you and Neil enjoy your trip to the Lakes.
      Best wishes,

  2. Well done on conquering your 50th!! Probably made even more of an achievement considering the difficulty. Cheers

  3. David Comins says:

    Well done on reaching number 50, An Socach. We only recently ‘did’ this Munro but in summer. We walked up the track from the A93 near Baddoch, hoping to avoid as much of the ski resort as possible. From near the top of the track our routes merge. I remember we had good views and came to the conclusion that the ‘normal route’, as taken by you, looked arduous even in summer so goodness knows what it was like last week. Well done!

    If we ever climb this hill again it could be we cycle up to Altanour Lodge. This looked distinctly possible from the top.

    All the best for the next 50 and beyond ( a bit Buzz Lightyear-ish!). Have you any outline plans of which hills you will do each month?

    I hope Laura and Neil will drag me up some Lake District hills next week after the wedding.

    Annie and Dave

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Dave and Anne – great to hear from you. I like the idea of using mountain bikes on the route that you mentioned, travelling up the land-rover track alongside the Baddoch Burn. I noticed that the last km or so looked a little steep, but it would carry you to within a km or two of the summit. Very nice. Not one to try, however, in snowy conditions! I hope that you get some good climbs done in the Lakes, but more importantly you do a cracking job of being the perfect “father of the bride” to Amy before hand.
      All the very best,
      Cameron and Elaine

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