An Socach – Crunchy Skulls and Mushy Brains

04 Mar

The Fatdog was happy.  In fact the Fatdog was deliriously happy.  Unfortunately for the Fatdog, I wasn’t!

Crunch”, another skull imploded under the vice like grip of the Fatdog’s jaws.


The track was littered with the remains of what I took to be dead crows.  I can’t recall ever seeing so many rotting carcasses. FD thought she was on a treasure hunt with a prize every 5 minutes and I had a real sod of a time hauling her away from the mangled remains.  You just don’t know how these creatures passed on, but so many of them on such a short stretch was unusual.

From the parking spot at the entrance gate we had ambled past the old Baddoch farm building, over a new broad stepped stile (with dog access through the open railed fence), past a rickety bridge to our right and across another marginally less rickety bridge on the track before walking amongst the haunting stone lined remains of long gone stedding buildings…and we were now in the middle of a carrion eater graveyard.

The Gate to Baddoch Farm

Looking back up the road in the direction of the ski centre

Baddoch Farm with Sgor Mor behind

The track passed through what I assume were old steddings

The Fatdog made more ominous crunching noises behind me.  Another salvo of negativity was blasted in her direction and with great reluctance she dropped her latest prize skull and shuffled forward, head down.

Above the brightly sparkling Baddoch Burn the steep sides of the U shaped glen slowly swept rightwards taking us beyond the throngs on the Cairwell, deeper into the heart of the range.  From our lowly position near the valley floor the higher peaks were still out of sight, in fact we had still to get a glimpse of today’s target, An Socath.  This was to be our first new Munro since Stob Ban (Mamores) last October and was carefully picked for its easy ascent but reasonable length of return walk of 15km.  The past couple of months have been a steady build up of ascent and distance in the hope that I’ll manage a couple of longer walks in April and May before the sciatic nerves tell me to bugger off and demand a summer of protracted indolence.

About 30 minutes from the car the landrover track roller-coastered for a few hundred metres before depositing us at a ford over Allt Coire Fhearneasg where, for the first time, we caught a glimpse of An Socath’s rounded top.  Immediately across the burn a small pile of stones hinted at the way up and after a quick break for a couple of photos the Fatdog took her customary position in front and trundled up the narrow path through the heather following the left hand bank of the burn.

Cross the burn and turn sharp right

Yep, we've lost the path and are now in heather and bog - "Oh Joy!"

Gaining height above the burn the trail steepened and provided a couple of awkward moments on treacherous heather roots which were intent on edging me towards the worryingly steep drop to the right.  It wasn’t long before I realised that we appeared to have run out of path.  Now standing in an expansive swath of brown topped heather covering the corrie floor I checked the map to find where we had gone wrong, but we seemed to be more or less on course.  Time to improvise.  I lined us up with the cairn at the top of the NE spur at the 690m contour and struck out across the heather and bog, the Fatdog close on my heels.

It was a slog but eventually we reached the steeper approach slopes to the cairn.  The Fatdog noticed an isolated patch of snow and was off.  The big white bunny sitting on the aforementioned isolated patch of snow noticed the Fatdog…and was also off, closely followed (well not so closely followed to be truthful) by the Big Black Bunny Basher of Baddoch Burn.  Skulls, snow and big, big, bunnies.  Life didn’t get much better than this for the Fatdog.

Spot the Fatdog...then spot the big bunny!

FD’s penchant for chasing big bunnies started on the nearby Cairnwell about 2 years ago and ever since, as soon as she sees one of these big mountain hares, she charges off in pursuit. She chases nothing else and is generally indifferent to most creatures so why she should pursue something she must know she has no chance of catching I can’t imagine.

A few minutes of unproductive bunny bashing later we reached the big cairn with a clear view of the NE end An Socath’s summit ridge…and the sun was out.  Not only that we had blue sky.

The Big Black Bunny Basher of Baddoch Burn

The Corbett, Creag nan Gabhar, just left of centre

The masts of the Cairnwell (centre)

The track from the cairn led straight over gently rising bog to a steeper climb over some scree.  A group of white coated mountain hares bounded up in front of us, covering the ground effortlessly…which was more than could be said for my efforts.  But I was getting there.  FD made the required token gesture by way of pursuit but settled back quickly to her normal plod.

Nearing the summit ridge

The Fatdog and the Big Bunny resume their game of chase - which always lasts less than 10 seconds for those concerned about the Fatdog's wellbeing!

The steeper gradient didn’t last for long and the terrain eased to a shallower curve taking us onto the wide hilltop.  The stony summit ridge stretched out in front of us leading towards the more imposing NE faces of the higher Munro’s of Carn an Righ, Beinn Iutharn Mhor and Glas Tulaichean.  An Socath’s summit is about 2km from end to end…and we were going to have to walk to the opposite end to reach the high point.

"You've got to be kidding me - that's at least 2km"

Looking back in the direction of Lochnagar

We had left the country of the white coated mountain hare and were now in the land of the white feathered ptarmigan.  These birds are not the brightest eggs in the nest.  They ambled happily in front of us, pure white against the red/brown hillside, chanting their absurd mantra…

“You can’t see me, You can’t see me!”

The Fatdog sized them up but was given an emphatic “No!”  FD continued to study these seemingly unaware creatures intently, head to one side.

The "invisible" ptarmigan

Lost in a world of camouflage delusion, evolution of this species is failing to keep pace with global warming…or even commonsense.  Did they not notice the absence of snow?  I surmised the only reason that they have survived so long was that until the “Gallus Besom” alerted the public at large to the fun of hillwalking, in the 1970’s Munro Show, these creatures were living happily on their own, with only the odd hairy human for company.  Since then they have been in danger of being trampled in the summit rush hour.

Not that there was much of a rush today.  Looking around there was no one in sight…anywhere.  FD and I were on our own today.  However bad news was on its way.  We were about to be joined at the summit by a most unwelcome guest.  Dark grey and swirling past Carn an Righ and Beinn Iutharn Mhor to the SW a snow filled cloud was on course to make contact in about 5 minutes time…which was precisely how long it would take us to reach the drystone summit shelter.

So near...looks like no summit views for us today!

Lunch was an odd affair, with me trying to drink my tea before it turned to slush.  The black Labrador was now a white Labrador and based on today’s experiences wasn’t entirely sure whether she was supposed to chase herself or not.   The good news was that visibility wasn’t dramatically affected by the snow so I wasn’t going to have to navigate back off the hill.  Our hurried lunch complete we packed up and started to plod our way back along the broad hilltop, wind whipped snow driving into our backs.

The Fatdog waits patiently for her big bunny disguise to take effect.

It was about 15 minutes later when we had our only human encounter of the day.  We veered slightly towards the red clad figure striding along the ridge towards us.  A smiling bearded face greeted the Fatdog warmly.  FD was as usual waggy tailed.  There had been slim pickings on the lunch front with only me to scrounge from so the prospect of a backup food supply was a source of relief to the permanently starving canine.  We chatted for a wee while about the various ways up and down An Socath with the Fatdogs new found friend offering alternative routes from about every angle.  Unfortunately after about 8km of hill my brain turns to mush and coherent answers to such questions as “How many feet have you?” become horrendously difficult.

And so when asked which way I came up…I gave totally the wrong glen name…then haltingly described my route, struggling to come up with such simple words as, for example, cairn.  Magnanimously our acquaintance overlooked my obvious difficulty with the English language and helped out with a few of the landmarks.  (Mental Note: I must eat and drink at the appropriate times before brain death sets in at a more serious juncture.)

As he turned and headed towards the summit which was swathed in cloud once more, the Fatdog and I left him to his fate and strolled towards the sunshine at the NE end of the ridge

An Socath summit shrouded in cloud

We find the path down!

In fact it was sunshine all the way back to the car for FD and I.  We found the path down the NE spur that had eluded us on the way up which thankfully avoided an awkward trek through bog and heather.  Now all that was left was a straight forward walk along the landrover track to the car.   We started the long plod back.

Almost back at the track

Back along the track - only half an hour to the car




Posted by on March 4, 2009 in General Drivel


9 responses to “An Socach – Crunchy Skulls and Mushy Brains

  1. mike knipe

    March 4, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Cracking account there. Lovely stuff… I seem to know these hills fairly well… except this one perhaps (was it the one I found that my sandwhiches had blue spots on when I reached the summit cairn?)

  2. beatingthebounds

    March 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I’m not familiar with this neck of the woods so I enjoyed joining you and the FD for a preliminary reconnaissance.

  3. scott

    March 5, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Interesting – I did this hill about 18 months ago, and that was after quite a lay-off from hillwalking for one reason or another. I chose it on much the same basis as you mention!

    I didn’t take either of the dogs that day, and on perusing my magnificent and comprehensive journal (ie the wee description you can put on Munromagic) I see that the trip was full of hare, sheep, deer and ptarmigan. So probably just as well I was dug free.

    No dead crows though. That’s a bit weird, is it not? Somebody been out shooting, do you think?

  4. fatdogwalks

    March 5, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Mike, do you normally use the condition of your sandwiches to navigate or are they used purely as an aide memoire? Good to see you here 😀 – many thanks for the comment.

    Mark, loads of easy Munros in this part of the world – you step out the car and virtually fall over them. Don’t quote me on this but I think this one could only have been about 500m of a “climb”.

    Hi Scott – difficult to tell how many crows there were – there may only have been a couple, but the remains spread out. It was odd that the bits ranged along the verge at the side of the track over such a distance. Given the state of decomposition there was no way of telling how they died.

  5. scott

    March 5, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Ach well, the main thing is that Maisie thought they tasted good.


  6. Tessa Park

    March 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Nice to see you back on the Munros. When was this as there doesn’t look to be too much snow lying?

  7. fatdogwalks

    March 9, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Hi Tessa 😀

    Did this a week past Sunday having waited patiently for the snow to disappear. It’s probably all back now 😦

  8. Clova

    March 16, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Very entertaining tail of a great hill. The caption re Maisie waiting for her disguise is brilliant!

    I love the wide open feeling of this hill and like you I only encountered one other person with a dog. I still remember the conversation we had as it was 2 days after the horrors of 9:11. The contrast between the beauty of where we were and the awful events in the US was sharply felt that day.

  9. fatdogwalks

    March 17, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I think this whole generation has the memory of what they were doing round about that date Sheila. J and I were just off the Ryanair red-eye from Dublin the morning of the “twin towers”. I remember going bleary eyed to work and everyone watching the disaster unfold on their computers.


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