Mam Sodhail

M14 | 1181 m. | 3875 ft.
Translation: Hill of the barns
Pronuncation: mam sool

2015 was to be the year, when we wanted clear the far north of red flags (unbagged Munros on the maps of www.bgmb.de). With a few left to tick in Torridon, Fisherfield and the Ullapool hills we had a long drive north ahead of us in order to get where we wanted to: Our hunting lodge by Loch Coulin and the B&B in Ullapool to start with. But before the far north could be tackled we had unfinished business a little further south in Glen Affric which needed our attention. For me that meant Beinn Fhionnlaidh and for Frank it meant the whole group of Carn Eighe, Mam Sodhail and Beinn Fhionnlaidh. So our trip up from EDI took us to the Tomich Hotel, ideally suited as a starting point for this grand tour in Affric. We arrived early enough to sit outside, to bask in some of the warm sunshine and to have nice pint of lager. After a good meal, an early night and a full breakfast, we were at the start of the hike before ten o’clock the next morning: The parking where the Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh flows into Loch Bheinn a’Mheadhoin.

Since we had already climbed Toll Creagach and Tom a’Choinich from there years earlier the Landrover track was well known to us. We quickly made progress on this good track and reached the spot where the path by the Allt Toll Easa branches off. We continued straight ahead on the path beside the Abhainn Gleann nam Fiadh further up into the wide open corrie/moor. After two more kilometres we headed up steepish terrain on grass and snow fields leading towards the Garbh Beallach. From there we continued up narrow sections of the ridge (the stalkers’ stairway) towards Sron Garbh and Stob aí Choire Dhomhain. The ridge between these two is studded with a few rock towers which meant some pleasant scrambling or bypassing on the path provided for either of us. Soon the summit of Carn Eighe came into view. Once there we had a break and enjoyed the views from this remote summit. On my last visit more than a decade ago I had not been afforded with such nice vistas so this was a first for me, too.

Then we continued our hike and walked down the steep and stony north ridge of Carn Eighe, reached the more grassy part of the ridge connecting Carn Eighe and Bheinn Fhionnlaidh, dumped our rucksacks close to point 917m (which we bypassed to the left) and climbed the roughly 200 metres towards the summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh. The steep climb delivered us by the summit cairn from where good views of the Mullardoch hills brought back memories from our 36km and 12h trip of the Mullardoch Four on a hot day years and years before. What a truly memorable day that had been!

From Beinn Fhionnlaidh we headed back towards point 917m, picked up our rucksacks and started a rising traverse across the grassy west face of Carn Eighe which became increasingly more interspersed with gullies filled with stones and scree the closer we got towards the beallach between Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail. From the col we climbed the very steep and rocky east ridge of Mam Sodhail. Soon the summit of this Munro No. 3 was attained. From there two decent options for a descent were theoretically available. Either down Coire Leachavie or down the ridge ending in Sgurr na Lapaich. I write theoretically since the ridge offered much better views and the headwall of Coire Leachavie was guarded by a steep snow field and cornice the negotiability of which I could not really judge from the summit.

So after a muesli bar or two had been munched we continued towards Sgurr na Lapaich. Across the corrie debris from avalanches that had issued from below the summit of Carn Eighe and had reached down to the shore of Loch Uaine bore witness of the long and severe winter in the Highlands. (And we were to learn the next few days that winter was not over yet ;-). The ridge was easy and undulated not too much. Only one or two smaller re-ascents had to be endured. Yes our legs were already quite wobbly (at least mine were, this being day number one of the vacation). From Sgurr na Lapaich the speed and ease of the descent were greatly increased by interlocking snow fields which helped save energy and were good for our tired muscles and joints. Once on the flattish terrain east of Sgurr na Lapaich we headed in an easterly direction to reach the Landrover track connecting Gleann nam Fiadh and Glen Affric at the point where it turns sharply towards the east. From there it was an easy but speedy stroll towards Affric Lodge. Once on the tarmac road we turned east and walked another three kilometres towards the parking where our faithful V70 was waiting. A few minutes before we reached the car we passed the start and finish area of the big fell-running event that was to take place the next day in the exact area we had used for the approach and the way off the hills. From the parking we headed off towards Ullapool which we reached by 9:30 p.m. that night not without having lived through a major scare on the drive when – by a hairs breadth – we missed a deer parading the A835 between Loch Droma and the Corrieshalloch Gorge in the dark. Adrenalin!

28 kilometres and roughly 10 hours spent out in the hills was the bottom line of your first day in Scotland in 2015. Not bad for starters, I should say. This was to be one of only two days without sleet and snow in 2015. And it was a very rewarding day in the Glen Affric hills, an area of Scotland to which we certainly will return in years to come, i.e. after the long-awaited compleation.

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1999 The fair weather which had helped in making Alex’ and my two-day tour in the Cairngorms an enjoyable one had given way to more showery skies. We had had a day’s rest on our way from Blair Atholl and had finally made it to the Tomich Hotel in Tomich village. Alex had taken off another day due to the pain his feet caused him. However, he had offered to drive me up Glen Affric to the parking at the end of the public road. I set out from there at about 11 a.m. and walked down the private road to Affric Lodge which lies hidden by trees on a peninsula in the Loch. The footpath continues on the north side of Loch Affric through a sparse population of protected Scots Pine and leads on for about 3,5 km to where a side path branches off into Coire Leachavie. The path soon joins the Allt Corrie Leachavie and follows the burn into the upper reaches of the corrie. Up on the ridges deer were moving on this first day of the stalking season. And of course I heard a shot and later on my way back I found the path to be sprinkled with blood. The headwall of Corrie Leachavie is gained by zigzags on the left-hand side. The headwall was shrouded in clouds from time to time. Once on the ridge I felt the strong westerly wind that brought in the clouds from the west. In less than ten minutes the summit of Mam Sodhail was gained and even though it was cold and visibility was only average I could not but admire the beauty of the clouds and the hills around. All of a sudden the clouds towards Carn Eighe cleared and I could see the way ahead to this second hill of the day. A sharpish descent and an an easier reascent from the beallach between the two mountains lead me to the summit of Carn Eighe where I rested inside the stone shelter and had a snack. It was quite cold for the time of the year. I had to wear gloves. After having decided not to bag Beinn Fhionnlaidh I returned to mam Sodhail and rested at the ruins to the south/west of the summit. From there the Kintail hills, Ciste Dhubh, the Five Sisters, Beinn Fhada, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, A’Chralaig, Mullach Fraoch-choire and others were well visible. A fantastic panaroma enhanced in its effect by the clouds which hugged some of the tops from time to time. Contemplation of beauty. Finally I started my way back down Coire Leachavie to Glen Affric and the Scots pines. At six o’clock I reached the public road where Alex had been waiting for a short time. More than 22 kilometres, two magnificent hills and I did not talk to anybody. That was peace of mind for half a day.


Description Carn Eighe and Mam Sodhail are almost identical twins and the highest mountains north of the Great Glen. They stand side by side at the ends of two long ridges on the north side of Glen Affric between Loch Affric and Loch Mullardoch. To the north of Carn Eighe another long ridge goes out towards the west end of Loch Mullardoch, and near its end is Beinn Fhionnlaidh, a very inaccessible mountain, unless one approaches by boat along the loch. This is undoubtedly the easiest way to climb Beinn Fhionnlaidh, the alternative being to include it as part of the traverse of Mam Sodhail and Carn Eighe, thereby making a very long day out.Start the traverse from the carpark at the end of the public road in Glen Affric. Walk 1 kilometre west towards Affric Lodge and take the stalker's path north over the moor to Gleann nam Fiadh. Go up that glen for 2 kilometres and follow the stalker's path north-west into the corrie below Sron Garbh, one of Carn Eighe's eastern tops. Reach the ridge at the col north-east of this top and traverse over it and two more minor tops to reach Carn Eighe. Descend the north ridge and at its end reach Beinn Fhionnlaidh. Return to Carn Eighe and traverse south-west to Mam Sodhail. The return to Loch Affric may be made down the stalker's path in Coire Leachavie, or alternatively traverse the very long ridge which leads from Mam Sodhail to Sgurr na Lapaich, and from there go south-east then east to regain the stalker's path used on the outward route.

2017-09-19T14:14:59+00:00April 24th, 2015|1999, 2015, 2017 - 2010, Glen Affric and Kintail|