A' Chralaig (A' Chraileag)

Cluanie Munros

Hillwalking route on the Munros above Loch Cluanie

Above the northern shores of Loch Cluanie, hiking along the connecting ridges of A' Chralaig, Mullach Fraoch-choire and Sgurr nan Conbhairean gives superb views over the Five Sisters and Affric to Skye, Torridon and beyond.



Route outline


Munros

A' Chralaig, 

Carn Ghluasaid, 

Sgurr nan Conbhairean, 

Sail Chaorainn, 

Mullach Fraoch-choire

Ascent 1850m (6060ft)
Distance 23km (14m)
Time 8:50hr
Start Lundie
Grid Ref : NH144103
Finish 1.5km west of Cluanie Inn
Grid Ref : NH092120
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


North of Loch Cluanie, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and A' Chralaig are two dominant mountains in a group of five Munros all linked by ridges. Most hillwalkers will opt to climb these peaks in two separate clusters, however with the lowest point between the groups being a col at 740m, it makes sense to bag them all in one outing !

There are some well defined stalkers paths over grassy terrain on the eastern three Munros, Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Sail Chaorainn. The western pair of A' Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire are more airy in comparison, with some easy rock-scrambling to enjoy.

In winter conditions, the narrow ridge on Mullach Fraoch-choire becomes challenging !



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Route description


1. Getting to Loch Cluanie

Memorial to John Sandeman at the foot of Carn Gluasaid

Memorial to John Sandeman at the foot of Carn Gluasaid

The A87 travels from the A82 at Invergarry in the Great Glen towards Kintail and eventually on to the Isle of Skye.

As the road climbs westwards from Invergarry then drops northwards through Glen Loyne down to Glen Moriston, it meets with the A887 approaching from Invermoriston on Loch Ness.

To the west of this junction is Loch Cluanie shored up by a dam at its eastern end. Around 4km west of Loch Cluanie Dam, there is flat area below the road (marked 'Lundie' on maps), with ample space to park or stay overnight.

6km further west of this point is the hillwalking route's finish point, therefore savvy folk will arrange some form of transport between the two points.


2. Carn Ghluasaid

Mast above Loch Cluanie on old military road

Mast above Loch Cluanie on old military road

From the flat area at Lundie, head across the A87 and onto the remains of an old road and reach the start of a bulldozed track by a bridge over a burn and memorial boulder.

Head up the track as it climbs uphill and higher up, follows the course of an old military road. Just after crossing through a gate in a deer-fence and close to a phone mast , a small cairn marks a split in the track, turn right and follow a soggy path northwards.

The path twists and turns as it climbs uphill over more damp ground. Higher up the route crosses a flat area of rock which has over the years had hillwalkers mark the way by placing boulders - most helpful if trying to navigate in mist !

Further on, the path heads towards heather-clad Coire nan Clach, then turns onto Carn Ghluasaid's western shoulder , zig-zagging and climbing steeply on ever more rocky ground.

Carn Ghluasaid ahead

Carn Ghluasaid ahead

The gradient on Carn Ghluasaid's shoulder easies and rocky terrain fades into the grass-covered ground of its flat summit plateau. The path becomes fainter as two cairns are neared. The highest point on Carn Ghluasaid is marked by the northern of these cairns which stands overlooking craggy Toll Creagach Beag below.

Carn Ghluasaid ahead

Carn Ghluasaid ahead


3. Sgurr nan Conbhairean

Sgurr nan Conbhairean from summit cairn on Carn Ghluasaid

Sgurr nan Conbhairean from summit cairn on Carn Ghluasaid

Leaving Carn Ghluasaid's summit cairns behind, aim westwards and on a faint path, follow the rim of Toll Creagach Beag. The path drops to a wide grass-covered col, then becomes more distinct as it heads uphill and around the western side of the minor summit of Creag a' Chaorainn .

A detour to the cairn on Creag a' Chaorainn's highest point is worthwhile for the views of Sgurr nan Conbhairean's east facing crags.

After contouring around the western side of Creag a' Chaorainn, the path drops down on a gentle slope over stones and scree to Glas Bhealach, from where a sharp quick pull up 140m takes you to the summit of Sgurr nan Conbhairean . On a blowy day, there's a well constructed hide under the cairn to shelter a couple of people out of winds.

Shelter on Sgurr nan Conbhairean's summit

Shelter on Sgurr nan Conbhairean's summit

Due to Sgurr nan Conbhairean's significant prominence over its neighbours, the views from the summit are excellent !

Shelter on Sgurr nan Conbhairean's summit

Shelter on Sgurr nan Conbhairean's summit


4. Sail Chaorainn

Staying away from cornice edge on way to Sail Chaorainn

Staying away from cornice edge on way to Sail Chaorainn

From Sgurr nan Conbhairean, initially drop north-west, following the line of the mountain's north-east coire, then gradually turn in a more northerly direction. Over the best part of 1km, loose height on a gentle gradient, dropping to a wide bealach above Coire nan Lochan Uaine .

To reach Sail Chaorainn's highest point, there is a mere 70m left to climb while following a well defined path heading north-east over meadow-like ground on the hill's wide summit plateau. The tiny stone cairn marking the Sail Chaorainn's summit stands on a rocky line above grass.

Approaching Sail Chaorainn from the south

Approaching Sail Chaorainn from the south

To the north of Sail Chaorainn are two Munro Tops, Carn na Coire Mheadhoin and Tigh Mor na Seilge. Details of a detour to these peaks can be found on the Ceannacroc Circuit hillroute (see 'Alternative and nearby routes' below).

Approaching Sail Chaorainn from the south

Approaching Sail Chaorainn from the south


5. A' Chralaig (A' Chraileag)

Looking back from A' Chralaig over Bealach Choire a' Chait to Sgurr nan Conbhairean

Looking back from A' Chralaig over Bealach Choire a' Chait to Sgurr nan Conbhairean

An about-turn on Sail Chaorainn, return to the bealach above Coire nan Lochan Uaine. The next bealach, Bealach Choire a' Chait, lies around 2km to the west and there are two possibilities to get there :

The easy-to-navigate route :
From the bealach, head back up towards Sgurr nan Conbhairean . Reaching a height of around 1050m, a faint path can be picked up that contours around Sgurr nan Conbhairean's summit, saving an unnecessary additional climb of 50m or so. Beyond Sgurr nan Conbhairean, head down its south-western shoulder which gradually narrows to a fine grassy ridge and travels up to Drochaid an Tuill Easaich . The ridge swings north-west and drops gently towards Bealach Choire a'Chait .

The direct, pathless route :
From the bealach above Coire nan Lochan Uaine aim south-west, keeping above some steep ground, heading into Toll Easach. A height of 100m or so is lost while hiking on wet loose grassy ground. Cross Toll Easach (a good opportunity to refill waterbottles), then climb slightly to reach the northern end of Drochaid an Tuill Easaich's north-western ridge from where drop a few metres to Bealach Choire a'Chait .

A path crosses Bealach Choire a'Chait then heads uphill, over wet grass and boulders. The path then turns to a generally westwards direction and climbs for around 1km to reach the southern shoulder of A' Chralaig.

Now on bouldery ground, A' Chralaig's summit is just under 1km directly ahead with less than 100m of ascent - however somehow it feels further !

Summit cairn on A' Chralaig

Summit cairn on A' Chralaig

The views westwards improve as height is gained, and, depending on the season, there may well be a cornice on your right (it can last well into May and beyond). A' Chralaig's well-constructed and huge summit cairn is quite a surprise - stop here for a while and take in the vast panorama.

Summit cairn on A' Chralaig

Summit cairn on A' Chralaig


6. Mullach Fraoch-choire

Mullach Fraoch-choire's southern ridge above Stob Coire na Craileig

Mullach Fraoch-choire's southern ridge above Stob Coire na Craileig

Leave A' Chralaig's vast cairn behind and aim northwards on a path following the mountain's ridgeline. Terrain underfoot initially is a mix of grass and rock, with a few places needing hands-out-of-pockets. Further on, the crest of the ridge becomes easier underfoot while dropping down to a bealach above Coire na Craileig.

A climb up 50m or so on the other side of the bealach reaches the minor summit of Stob Coire na Chralaig with its tiny cairn on grass. Turn sharp right (north-east) and head down an increasingly narrowing ridge to a col above Coire Odhar - notice the head of a stalker's path descending into the coire.

On the other side of the col, the path starts to climb, encountering a couple of narrow sections requiring a little care. The ridge gradually turns more northwards, then hugs the west side of Mullach Fraoch-choire's southern ridge, Na Geurdain .

Further along, the path cuts over to the east side of the ridge and drops slightly. The path climbs again and crosses between some small rocky towers and back over to the west side of the ridge. A short steep pull on loose brown gravel, leads out of the ridge and a path leads the way on a grass-covered slope to the well-constructed cairn on Mullach Fraoch-choire's summit.

In winter conditions, snow can bank up on the eastern side of the ridge and freeze solid making for challenging progress. In such conditions, experience in the use of ice-axe, crampons and possibly rope will be needed.

On Mullach Fraoch-choire's summit, looking to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

On Mullach Fraoch-choire's summit, looking to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

As with A' Chralaig, the views from this peak are stunning, particularly over to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, A' Ghlas Bheinn and further to Skye and Torridon.

On Mullach Fraoch-choire's summit, looking to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan

On Mullach Fraoch-choire's summit, looking to Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan


7. Return

Returning along Mullach Fraoch-choire's southern ridge

Returning along Mullach Fraoch-choire's southern ridge

Bidding 'farewell' to Mullach Fraoch-choire's cairn, return along Na Geurdain to the col above Coire Odhar.

From the col, the old stalkers path leading north-west down into Coire Odhair looks promising. Alas this path gradually disappears into thick deer-grass and progress becomes increasingly squelchy and quite tiresome.

My preferred route is to head back up Stob Coire na Chralaig then enjoy a fast descent down a delightful grass-covered slope aiming south-west and crossing the Allt Coire a' Ghlas-thuill on the way.

Descending Stob Coire na Craileig, Am Bathach ahead

Descending Stob Coire na Craileig, Am Bathach ahead

Both of these descent routes end up on the Cluanie-Alltbeithe path, which becomes a track , from where a hike in auto-pilot mode, while admiring the views on the right up to Ciste Dhubh and Am Bathach, leads back to Loch Cluanie.

Descending Stob Coire na Craileig, Am Bathach ahead

Descending Stob Coire na Craileig, Am Bathach ahead


8. Splitting the route into two

Descending Sgurr nan Conbhairean

Descending Sgurr nan Conbhairean

This group of five Munros can be split into two shorter outings :

Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean to Sail Chaorainn
Starting at Lundie, head up Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean to Sail Chaorainn as described above.

From Sail Chaorainn , return to Sgurr nan Conbhairean , then head over Glas Bhealach and around Creag a' Chaorainn to the wide grassy col before the rise up Carn Ghluasaid.

At the col, look for a faint branch in the path and veere right to contour around the top of Coire nan Clach and pick up the path on Carn Ghluasaid's western shoulder at around c800m . Trace the path back down to Lundie.

A' Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire
From the long lay-by at the western end of Loch Cluanie, walk back along the road for 500m, crossing a bridge over the Allt a' Chaorainn Mhoir to meet with the a track heading north towards Glen Affric Hostel.

Head up the track, cross a burn, then, when the track starts to level off, you should be able to find a small cairn on your right. The cairn marks the start of a rough path heading north-east directly uphill. Terrain is on wet grass for quite a way, but gradually firms up and dries out as height is gained.

On A' Chralaig's southern slopes

On A' Chralaig's southern slopes

The southern arm of A' Chralaig is reached , where the route above is followed to A' Chralaig's summit and onwards to Mullach Fraoch-choire .

On A' Chralaig's southern slopes

On A' Chralaig's southern slopes





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To cover the full route on OS Landranger series, both number 33 and 34 will be needed

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Alternative and nearby routes »


Ceannacroc Circuit

East of Loch Cluanie, a track heads from the old Ceannacroc Bridge into the wilds, from where some Munros, a couple of Corbetts and a few Munro Tops can be linked in a remarkable high-level hike.

Peaks : 1 Munro and 2 Corbetts

Ascent : 1480m (4860ft)
Distance : 34km (21m)
Time : 8:10hr

Affric Corbetts

In a quiet corner south-west of Glen Affric, paths lead away from the main trails to the foot of a circular hillwalking route bagging the grass-covered Corbett peaks of Aonach Shasuinn and Carn a' Choire Ghairbh.

Peaks : 2 Corbetts

Ascent : 1125m (3690ft)
Distance : 23km (14m)
Time : 7:40hr

Beinn Loinne from Cluanie

The old road from Kyle of Lochalsh climbs from Cluanie Inn to a height of over 400m, from where a soggy hike over a lochan-pitted moorland reaches the trig point on Druim nan Cnamh, the highest point on Beinn Loinne.

Peaks : 1 Corbett

Ascent : 620m (2030ft)
Distance : 17km (11m)
Time : 5:15hr

Meall Dubh from Glen Moriston

From Glen Moriston and Glen Loyne, excellent estate tracks put in place for the construction of windfarms enable a bike to be used to cycle up the hillsides of Meall Dubh, leaving a mere 1km of hiking to reach its summit.

Peaks : 1 Corbett

Ascent : 850m (2790ft)
Distance : 25km (16m)
Time : 2:30hr









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