Monday, 17 July 2017

Monar - Cheesecake

Not being a car owner, I often have fun and a bit of a challenge getting to some Munros by bus and train. But the railway line between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh offers some rich pickings with good access to the hills on the south side of Glen Torridon and to the Monar Munros. It was to Monar I headed in May (yes, I'm a bit behind on trip reports) to bag several Munros, one with a beguiling but totally unpronounceable name. It's Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich and it's more commonly known as Cheesecake.

Achnashellach is the train station that's closest. It's a request stop so you have to be sure to tell the guard that you want off here or, if you're joining the train here, you have to wave madly at the driver as he approaches to get him to stop the train. 

From Achnashellach, a walk up the road and then a trudge along the track of the Pollan Buidhe put me by the banks of the Allt a'Chonais. There were good camp spots here that made a perfect basecamp for tackling the first few hills - Moruisg above the lonely cottage at Glenuaig and the cosy pair of Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a' Chaorachain on the opposite side of the glen.  

If you should get caught out in bad weather in this area, the owners of Glenuiag Lodge have converted a shed beside the lodge into a shelter for hillwalkers complete with bunk beds, lighting and an electric heater. Mind you, the mattresses looked like they could tell a story or two.

But it's Cheesecake that draws the eye and dominates the view in these parts. As I gazed south at its shapely lines, the afternoon sun illuminated the folds of its lower slopes while the pointed top was backed by gunmetal grey clouds.

A long walk over the remote Bealach Bhearnais put me on an ancient stalkers' path, its route marked out by cairns of stones, so old that they were now covered with moss and expertly camouflaged, contrary to their original purpose.

The quiet shores of Loch Calavie provided an easy ascent of Cheescake and its near neighbour, Lurg Mhor. This is the softer side of the hill and the ascent was straightforward, though the top was tight and pointed such that you wouldn't step back for that summit selfie for fear of falling off.

I walked out from Cheesecake to Attadale, another request stop on the Inverness to Kyle line that has a pretty little station right at the beach. I made a hot coffee in the shelter while I waited until it was time to wave madly at the driver to get him to stop the train.

Fact File
Start: Achashellach train station. Trains from Inverness.
Finish: Attadale train station. Trains from Kyle and Inverness.
My route: From Achnashellach I walked up the A890 (quiet out of season) to Craig and crossed the railway following a track that continues to Pollan Buidhe. Lots of camp spots further up the river and worth a wee detour to the Allt a' Chonais pinewood which is signposted. For Moruisg, I continued along the track to the cottage at Glenuiag and followed a stalkers' path above the cottage that zig-zagged up onto the plateau. The start was tricky to find but head up the left of the rockfall behind the cottage and there is a single rowan roughly where the path starts. Once on the plateau, it's a straightforward walk to Moruisg though you might take a bearing as the top itself is not visible at this point. The top is marked by a large, arty cairn.  For Sgurr Choinnich and Sgurr a' Chaorachain, I set out up the footpath to the Bealach Bhearnais which starts at the wire bridge at grid ref NH074466. It's a good path to the bealach. From the bealach the east ridge of Sgurr Choinnich is easily climbed - a path starts to the left of a strange stretch of drystone wall. The continuation to Sgurr a' Chaorachain is straightforward on an obvious path. I returned the bealach to descend as I'd left heavier kit there. I continued southwest over the bealach - the middle section is rough, boggy and pathless - then picked up an excellent old path that heads towards Loch an Laoigh and Bendronaig Lodge. Just before the lodge a path  branches to the left to Loch Calavie. An easy ascent can be made to the bealach between Lurg Mhor and Bidein a' Choire Sheasgaich from the track here and likewise easy acsents of both peaks can be made from the bealach. To walk out to Attadale I continued passed Bendronaig Lodge and kept on the track ignoring branches to the left in the forestry. This area is currently undergoing hydro work and the devastation was horrific. It will take years to recover so, to be honest, I wouldn't recommend this route until then.

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