The Roaches

Memories from the Scotland walking trip - 2009

2008 was the first year for over 20 years that I'd not managed a walking trip to Scotland so we decided to revisit our old haunt, the Cluanie Inn, and conquer the high Munros just outside the Inn - A'Chralaig and Mullach Froach-Choire. A 475 mile drive and a couple of 3700ft Munros was going to give my back a severe test so it was fingers crossed time as I tipped myself out of the car on reaching our destination.

Ratboy and I checked into the Cluanie late on the Friday afternoon and awaited Jon who was to arrive later in the evening. There's not a lot to do in the immediate vicinity of the Cluanie so at around 6pm we had a wee drinkie in the wee bar. Whilst enjoying a wee drinkie we struck up a conversation with a chap from Glasgow who was attempting the South Glen Shiel ridge for charity on the following day. His plan was to have an early tea and retire to bed at around 7pm so he could set off on his walk at 6am the following morning.

I offered to sponsor him but we agreed that we'd meet up in the hotel later the following day.

Anyway, Jon arrived, more wee drinkies were enjoyed and we retired to our rooms in readiness for the following day's walk.

Saturday arrived. The weather wasn't too bad but we couldn't see the tops of the Munros. The plan was to walk a mile along the main A87 road before hitting the rather steep south facing slopes of A'Chralaig (1120m).

On leaving the road we found the faint path that led up the slopes and began the turf clenching climb. At usual, the Ratboy scampered off up the hill leaving Jon and I far behind. What made matters worse was that the Rat had spotted another group of walkers in the distance so he just had to catch them up - that's what he does.

The Ratboy stops to capture Jon and I in the distance. Only another 2700ft to go!

On and up and on and up we went. Our backup second hearts we now being used as our main hearts were now fully occupied coping with the excesses of wine, lager, ale, whisky and Guinness enjoyed the night before. After 1900ft of climbing we finally reached the main ridge which led to the summit of A'Chralaig. Thank Jesus!

There was still a 1000ft of climbing to be done and if anything, the weather appeared to be worsening as we entered the cloud base.

The hard slog was well worth it - just look at the view!

The gradient eased and we climbed the final part of the ridge in mist until we suddenly came across the massive cairn that marks the summit of A'Chralaig. The Ratboy decided that the cairn was climbable but chickened out halfway up.

The Rat attempts to reach the summit cairn but fails.

A glimpse into the glen from the ridge meant that it was time to get the cameras out.

Peak number one was done so onwards and northwards to peak number two was next. As we descended from A'Chralaig there was a hint that the weather could turn for the better. The skies became lighter and the wind dropped. Could we be in luck?

The ridge was a delight to walk over and eventually we reached the central peak on the ridge, Stob Coire na Chralaig, where we enjoyed lunch and watched as the skies slowly cleared. We could now see the summit of the first peak, A'Chralaig, quite clearly behind us which was rather annoying as we'd only left it around twenty minutes earlier!

The summit of A'Chralaig clears as we reach the top of Stob Coire na Chralaig.

We could now clearly see the sharp ridge that leads to Mullach Froach-Choire and set off in anticipation of a bit of 'hands on' work. The weather was improving by the minute as we walked over the narrow ridge. After a short descent we looked up at the slope leading to the Mullach and an even sharper ridge that led to the summit.

The ridge that separates Stob Coire na Chralaig from Mullach Froach-Choire.

The main ridge to the summit of the Mullach is a sharp scramble so we took the bypass path to the east. This involved a short spell of hands on work but was easy compared to the spiky ridge to our left. We caught up with a group of walkers on the bypass path which the Rat found more than enjoyable.

A shot of the main Mullach Froach-Chore ridge from near the summit. The main scramble takes in the rock towers and was deemed 'dodgy' by the team.

We reached the summit of the Mullach and enjoyed a long stop as we took in the views that excelled in all directions. The Five Sisters of Kintail, Ciste Dubh, Ben Fhada and the giants that are Carn Eighe, Mam Sodhail and Sgurr Nan Ceathreamhnan were clearly visible so the cameras came out for a camerafest.

The summit of Mullach Froach-Choire - a rather pleasant place to be on Saturday 26th of September, 2009. Jon doesn't look too happy - what's going on there then?

'See over there? - That's where I'd shit if I had to'.

A rather weak Brocken Spectre from the summit of the Mullach.

We retraced our steps a few hundred yards back to the col above Coire Odhar and began a gentle descent into the corrie. Interestingly, the name Coire Odhar is gaelic for 'dun coloured corrie' (dun being a brownish\grey colour or those that dunt know).

Jon was beginning to suffer from the same 'tripping' illness that beset Ken during the descent of the steep and rocky Stob Coire Nam Beith some years back but the walking on this fine Saturday was over damp tussocky grass and could hardly be described as troublesome underfoot. As we descended Jon stopped - and broke the shocking news that he had to have an outdoor shit.

Jon was rather upset about his predicament but luckily the Rat brought a smile to Jon's face by disclosing the fact that he was carrying a toilet roll. Jon's smile didn't last for long though as the Rat proudly uncovered a piece of toilet paper which was approximately 18 inches long. Jon felt that the expected bowelplosion would require at least three rolls of paper never mind the meagre offering that he was presented with. He found a pleasant grassy depression and quietly got on with his business. The dun coloured corrie was now significantly 'dunner' than before!

The descent to the Glen, shortly before the 'incident'.

I prevented the Rat from recording a video of Jon's outdoor shitfest and then, a few minutes later, Jon returned looking slightly happier than before. The combination of the Rat's toilet paper and Jon's own handkerchief had enabled him to 'clean up his act' and so we continued down the corrie and onto the main path back to the Cluanie.

The going became rather damp as we reached the An Caorann Mor and the first mile of the path itself was very wet. After much squelching we finally reached a hard track and marched into Cluanie after an excellent day's walking.

The view over Loch Cluanie on the return to the hotel with the hills of the South Glen Shiel ridge in the background. I wonder how are charity man has faired? Looks like the weather is turning for the worst.

A couple of wee drinkies were enjoyed in the bar before we showered and ,er, returned to the bar. We never saw the charity man so assumed he'd completed his walk and returned home.

The forecast for the following day wasn't good and this was confirmed by the lashing rain and gales that welcomed the evening.

Jon and the Rat pose outside the Cluanie in rain and wind.

Many more wee drinkies were downed and we awoke on the Sunday to miserable wet weather. We decided to take in what is now our Cluanie wet weather walk which is a ten miler to Loch Loyne over the old drove road.

After the previous day's events we all decided to take seven toilet rolls each out with us - just in case! Fortunately the wind and rain kept our minds off our bowels and we returned safely back at the Cluanie at lunchtime.

Waterproofs on!

After a quick shower Jon decided that he wanted to see Skye so he drove us all the way to Sligachan where we saw nothing thanks to the deteriorating weather and the fact that Skye sees only eight days of decent weather a year.

On returning to the Cluanie, and strangely enough the bar, Jon and Ratty overheard a conversation regarding the car of the charity guy. His brother had come to collect it as the charity guy had fallen on the last of the South Glen Shiel peaks and had spent five hours on the mountain with a gashed head and leg.

A news story detailing the incident is shown below:


Sun, 27 Sep 2009 15:1:12 GMT

About 1950 hours on Saturday, 26 September, 2009, Northern Constabulary were contacted by a motorist - Ms Valerie Gilmartin from Kyle - who reported having seen a flashing, white light on the hillside adjacent to the A87, near to Glenshiel Battle Ground.

Police Officers responded and also saw this light on the hill known as Creag Nan Damh. The Officers signalled with a torch and using an SOS signal, received confirmation of the presence of a person in difficulties on the hill.

Assistance was summoned and members of the Kintail Mountain Rescue Team were called out. RAF Kinloss provided the services of their Rescue Helicopter R137 which arrived on scene about 2220 hours.

About 2320 hours a male person was airlifted from the hillside by the helicopter. This man - a 33 year old teacher from Dumbarton - had been walking alone and fallen an unknown, but considerable distance, sustaining head and leg injuries. He was conveyed by the helicopter to the Belford Hospital, Fort William. He has since been transferred to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, for further, specialist treatment to his injuries. His condition is not life-threatening.

However, as stated by local Inspector Duncan MacLean, " There is no doubt that had it not been for the vigilance and prompt action of Ms Gilmartin in alerting the emergency services, it would have been some time before anybody was alerted to this man's predicament. Concern for his well-being was subsequently reported to Northern Constabulary by his partner (about 0010 hours on Sunday, 27 September, 2009) but without Ms Gilmartin's information, protracted enquiry and search may have been required before the emergency services located him and this would have delayed vital medical treatment. Ms Gilmartin's actions and the Police officers initiative are therefore to be highly commended".

The details of the man, who remains in hospital, are not being released at this time.

I managed to find the walker on Facebook and sent him a message to see if all was OK. I received the following reply -

Hi Sean
Sorry for the delay in replying - the pc keyboard bedside at raigmore hops was a nightmare!
Yep it was me that tumbled. Managed all 7 ok was shattered at 4 and 5 but stocked up on food and water and was refreshed for 7, coming down I felt great due to highwinds and rain I was delayed to 10 hours so took a break around 6pm stocked up for the final descent, rang the girlie and set off down.
At around 6.20 I had taken a tumble on a steepish rocky section that was on the clear path heading to the map marked path. All i remember was tumbling and then coming round on a rock confused and pain free wondereing where the hell was my hat! I patched my self up - realised I couldn`t move and was below the cloud level so could see the road. I set the head torch to flash mode and started patching up using a spare hat to close the headwounds and keep warm - and splinted my leg and tied off the bleeding one with a condom because it was gushing and there was no moving it! No sign of of phone signal not even emergency so I relied on the torch and the good nature of the cluanie staff (who had a routecard - and didn`t start looking till my girlfried rang in a panic after midnight - 5 hours overdue!) eventually someone in a car had seen it and rang the police the rest was an hour of flashing and hearing the godsend rattle that was the helicopter!
I had managed around 4 - 5 hours on the hill side and fallen 200 feet down the mountain. It was a tricky rescue but they got me out and onto belford B&B.
My injuries are mulitple head injuries and lacerations not life threating just nasty!
very band bruising on the left side of my back, bruising on hands and signs of a dislocated little finger but it looked like it popped back in. 12 inch laceration just under my left knee that the surgeon described as "It was very close to been left on the hill" I managed to miss the main tendons and arteries etc and it has been stitched and 4 operations later its good and I`m mobile!
I will be taking it steady in future and I`m just greatful for the woman who saw the torch. I just can`t believe how strong I was and how well I have coped.

Thanks for taking the time to drop a note many thanks

It just goes to show what can happen when on the hills which maybe the reason for Dave and Macca giving up walking?

Interestingly, the following story was published in the Inverness Gazette later that week -


Wed 30 Sep 2009 13:1:34 GMT

Crofter Angus Muldoon has enjoyed 57 glorious years living in the remote glens of Kintail but what he uncovered earlier in the week is making him think twice about venturing back into his own backyard.

Angus has never owned a car or a carriage but has enjoyed ample compensation when happily sliding down the grassy corries using nothing more than a tough old bin bag. Last Monday was a glorious day so Angus ventured onto the western slopes of Mullach Froach-Choire with his trusty bag and prepared for an afternoon of Munro 'sliding' with his dog Nipper.

Angus recalls 'I found a lovely damp spot which was nearly 600ft above the glen and after positioning myself on the bag began my descent at a steady pace. What happened next will haunt me and Nipper forever. As our speed increased we hit what we believe was the rotting carcass of a deer as our entire bodies were covered in a thick glutinous brown slime. The smell was horrendous and after finally managing to find my breath I looked down at a scene of utter devastation.'

Angus continued 'a patch of hillside, approximately 30 sq yards in size, had been completely obliterated. Deer, that had decided to investigate, were found lying on the edges of the abomination - they had been overcome by the fumes and had simply given up. I covered Nipper's nose with my hand and managed to reach the road and stop a passing truck. The driver refused to take me onboard due to the smell but agreed to call the police and the Highland warden for assistance'.

Angus is recovering in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary with severe nostril burn and lungs full of excrement. Ongoing investigations on Mullach Froach-Choire have failed to provide any concrete conclusions but the mountain is to be closed for two weeks whilst nuclear cleanup experts perform a thorough defumication of the hillside. Residents of Kintail, Loch Duich and eastern areas of Skye are advised to keep their windows closed until further notice.


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