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Corbett bagging: Creag Rainich walking circuit

Written by Fiona

September 12 2022

My Corbett bagging friend Ben declared: “It will be brilliant sunshine at the summit.” This seemed very doubtful indeed as we drove through the rain from Inverness to reach the layby on the A832, south west of the Braemore junction in north-west Scotland.

My doubts continued as we started the walk to reach Creag Rainich, plodding along the northern shore of Loch a’Bhraoin, wearing waterproof jackets and wondering if we should stop to also put on waterproof trousers.

The views from the wide track over the large loch were, at best, moody and, at worst, gloomy. To the south, the mountains of the Fannichs rose above us and into the cloud.

But, still Ben was sure the weather forecast would be correct and the sunshine was just around the corner.

I questioned whether we should have brought mountain bikes. The track is very rideable and if you are looking for a straightforward return bike and hike, a mountain bike would be a good aid for the lochside track. (However, we hoped to return form the summit along a ridge… more of that later.)

Almost 5km into the 17km walk and we reached the point at the base of the Corbett where we planned to ascend. The map had indicated a building at Lochivroan and we were expecting a broken cottage or a bothy. There was, in fact, a stone-built bothy in the garden of a rather smart looking property.

To climb the southern flank of Creag Rainich, the main track diverts around the locked gate and perimeter fence. We then looked up and realised this would be a mostly pathless Corbett from this point.

A damp climb of Creag Rainich. (There is rain on my phone camera to add to the effect!)

Steep and wet ascent of Creag Rainich

A typical Corbett usually includes many kilometres of pathless and rough terrain. Creag Rainich fell into this category! There were bits and pieces of trod but mostly we climbed slowly uphill on grass and heather.

The non-stop rain didn’t help matters and Ben and I fell into a bit of a silent trudge. We reminded ourselves that the summit views were meant to be fantastic, although that would only be the case if the clouds lifted.

I am making this outing seem unremarkable and, I think, that after many mountains enjoyed in fine conditions or sunshine this summer, we were probably due a bit of rain and cloud.

The southern side of this Corbett also rises in a series of huge steps, so that just as you think you might be reaching the summit, there is another and yet another climb ahead.

But then, as if like magic, the clouds started to clear to the south-west. We spotted a bit of blue sky – and this continued to widen – before the sun broke through.

The clouds start to lift on the mountains behind us.

Brilliantly, as we walked the higher slope towards the first summit of Meall Dubh and then up again to the 807m summit of Creag Rainich, we were indeed treated to brighter weather. It wasn’t what I would call “brilliant sunshine” but we could enjoy many fabulous views in all directions.

At the summit trig the clouds came and went but for the most part we could see a fine 360-degree panorama, taking in the Fannichs and Dearg ranges, the remote Munro and Corbett summits of the Fisherfield Forest and the impressive ridge of An Teallach.

The summit was a bit wet and chilly but better weather was to come.

A return ridge walk of Creg Rainich

It would be perfectly possible to return the way we had walked, but we liked the look of the wide and undulating ridge to create a Corbett bagging circuit.

From the trig, we returned to Meall Dubh, and then walked generally eastwards. We continued up and down, enjoying the fabulous views to either side and ahead.

There are various different places to descend the ridge with one taking you back to the lochside track. Instead, Ben and I continued to the end of the ridge and then made our way back towards the car.

Stunning views as the clouds lifted.

The descent was off-path again and we did consider trying to gain the track lower down but that would have meant diverting south. By that point, we both simply wanted to make a bee-line for the finish point.

The terrain was rough and boggy but not as bad as I have previously encountered on other Corbetts and the terrain, by this point, was fairly flat.

An amazing highlight was spotting a large bird of prey flying above us. It was high in the sky, but we are sure it was a golden eagle.

We are sure it was an eagle.

We encountered a river, which we easily crossed on big stones, and then completed the final 1km in seemingly no time.

The layby was still busy with other vehicles, yet we had met no one else on this walk. We predicted all the other walkers had chosen to head for the Fannich Munros.

In summary, while at first Creag Rainich seemed like it might prove to be an unremarkable Corbett hike in the rain, it turned out that the ridge provided a superb circuit with fantastic views – and we enjoyed some very warm sunshine in the end.

Creag Rainich: The details

Distance: 17km

Total ascent: 880m

My route: Strava and OS Maps (note the elevation on Strava is incorrect because my Garmin watch is playing up.)

Corbetts bagged: 99.

Written by Fiona September 12 2022 Please support this website Buy me a glass of wine

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