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Glen Turret Horseshoe: a correction and unwitting challenge

Glen Turret Horseshoe: a correction and unwitting challenge

Postby old danensian » Thu May 05, 2022 11:09 am

Munros included on this walk: Ben Chonzie

Corbetts included on this walk: Auchnafree Hill

Date walked: 29/04/2022

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 21.5 km

Ascent: 1200m

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This was originally planned as a gentle jaunt to ease my way back into the hills for the first time since a muddy trudge up Meall nan Meagheach last November, and recovery from a bout of Covid at the end of March. It would be simply up, down, and back. I was also, dangerously, going to be pulling on a new pair of boots, so nothing too punishing.

The Corbett of Auchnafree Hill seemed an easily accessible option, without too many stresses and strains, and I could be home in time to cut the grass before the rains arrived.

It didn’t quite work out like that.

A lingering patch of snow clings to slopes below the summit of Ben Chonzie at the far end of the Loch Turret Reservoir

Having negotiated the potholes and shoogly gate on the way the Loch Turret Reservoir, I was surprised how quiet the carpark was. A lone runner trotted off into the distance and the occupants of a camper van appeared to have made an early start, otherwise, I was alone.

I’d been here in June 2014 with Ben Chonzie in my sights and the bike in the back of the car. Looking at my old trip report I discovered that this Englishman was eager to get back for a football match. Many of you can smirk because, digging out an old Rothmans (yes, I still call it that), I discover that such urgency was a mistake: England lost 1-2 to Uruguay in the World Cup. All I recall now is an undulating boneshaker of a cycle that I vowed never to repeat, for more than one reason, but more of that later.

Anyway, back to the present, and I found myself enjoying a far more pleasant walk, even though initial plans were thwarted. Estate signs warned walkers off the direct ascent to Choinneachain Hill – purportedly ground nesting and lambing – so I simply sauntered halfway along the reservoir and then headed upwards and northeast, following the zig-zag track into the cleft from which the Allt Bhaltair emerges.

Not having to endure the clatter and clang of the bike, and taking in the scenery rather the slalom of stones to be avoided, I searched the sky in vain for the lark singing loudly. I laughed at the gurgling grouse, and was amused at a small flock of squawking gulls clustering on the shore as if having a party. Then I paused to catch sight of a chiffchaff perched on a rowan, and watched a lone duck well out from the shore. It was stationary, just watching intently as if suspicious of the noisy interlopers from the sea.

Chiffchaff serenades my passing

Just before leaving the main track and heading upwards, I was buzzed by a pair of black-backed birds diving and swooping across the path. At first, I thought they were oyster catchers, but the tell-tale flash of orange from their bills was missing. I meant to scour the field guide when I got home, but I never did work out what they were.

Apart from grouse, and slugs stretched out across the rising path, wildlife was in short supply for the next half hour or so. After an initial steep section, bordered by the remnants of burnt-off heather, the path eased into a gentle stream-side ascent to the skyline of Tom Eich, gradually getting narrower and narrower as the skyline got nearer.

Carn Chois across the glen from the head of the Allt Bhaltair

The path was barely discernible by the time I found the high-level gravel motorway contouring between Choinneachain Hill and Auchnafree Hill. There would be no route-finding problems today, merely an uninspiring stride, except for the view across to Carn Chois.

A less impressive stretch along the gravel highway over Ton Eich

On the map, grouse butts abound; carefully crafted trenches from which aerial warfare can be launched could be spotted in whichever direction I looked. For a while, I was accompanied by a wheatear that flitted alongside the track as if teasing. Obviously bored with my presence it retreated deeper into another patch of burnt off vegetation.

Fuzzy photo of passing wheatear on Ton Eich

It’s sad that, only when past the grouse butts on Auchnafree’s final slopes, does the track begin to blend back into the surrounding heathland; it’s still there but not so conspicuous. Do the twelve-bore wielding clients really need to have such a visually intrusive approach for their sport? Or do they prefer their Martinis stirred rather than shaken?

Curious patches of experimentation on the slopes of Auchnafree Hill

Less than two hours after leaving the car I left the political musings behind, wandered between the two summit cairns, and while revelling in how fresh I still felt, enjoyed a barely-earned rest.

The pimple of Auchnafree Hill's cairn on the skyline

Clouds were still on the cotton wool side of fluffy. They had yet to develop the greying bellies that might herald the forecast showers that I suspected I might have to endure. Scattered hanging veils in the distance suggested that getting wet was going to be a lottery. So, with energy to spare, what next?

Auchnafree Hill's spare cairn with Ben Chonzie in the background

Although Auchnafree Hill had initially been my sole objective, only one course of action now seemed logical.

It wasn’t anywhere near the top of my Munro re-visit list, but it would have seemed rude not to carry on and pay my respects to Ben Chonzie. So, I started following fences – and never really stopped for the rest of the day.

Up, down, up and over. In no time I was at the foot of the steeper pull up to the Bealch na Gaoith, managing to avoid the potentially boggy ground around Lochan Uaine. A few spots of rain accompanied me on this stretch, hinting rather than threatening the forecast prolonged slow-moving showers. For thirty minutes or so I enjoyed that fresh, sweet smell of long-awaited spring rain falling on dry ground. Fortunately, most of it missed me, and what didn’t dried off quickly anyway.

Summit shelter on Ben Chonzie

A restful gaze over to the Ben Lawers range from Ben Chonzie

With lungs and legs still feeling relatively lively at top of Ben Chonzie, I decided it was time to correct an omission from eight years earlier. Back in 2014 I’d left my bike at the head of Loch Turret, so had to retrieve it on my way back. Dropping into the upper reaches of Glen Turret meant I’d had to turn away from the western arm of the horseshoe, which was clearly a mistake.

Loch Turret, Carn Chois and the way home - finally - from Ben Chonzie

During an enjoyable stride out over Meall na Seide and homewards, I began to feel sorry for Carn Chois. There’s a symmetry about the horseshoe – a Munro at the head flanked by hills mostly topping out at just over 780m – even if the rounded one is less impressive than the pointy one. But, Carn Chois fails the drop test by about thirty metres and doesn’t qualify for the Corbett status it visually deserves.

Auchnafree Hill from Carn Chois

However, ticking lists aside, Carn Chois is proud enough to stand on its own, and fine point from which to rest, look back, and then head off for Beinn Liath. Sitting by the final cairn on the knoll above the dam was an aesthetically pleasing way to complete a horseshoe – and a slightly longer day than I expected.

Looking back up Glen Turret with the glowering clouds threatening the end of the dry spell

And as for the boots?

The new pair of Mammut Trovat Guides were an identical replacement for a pair that had served me well for the previous five or six years. They fitted like a glove and inflicted neither pain nor abrasions - testament to consistency of quality.

But boy, did my legs and feet ache the next morning.

At least the grass got cut.
User avatar
old danensian
Posts: 456
Munros:282   Corbetts:108
Joined: Jul 6, 2009
Location: Mearnskirk

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