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The Carn Mairg Quartet – Filling in the Blanks

The Carn Mairg Quartet – Filling in the Blanks


Postby jester » Thu Nov 24, 2022 1:23 pm

Route description: Càrn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Càrn Mairg & Creag Mhòr

Munros included on this walk: Càrn Gorm, Càrn Mairg, Creag Mhòr (Meall na Aighean), Meall Garbh (Càrn Mairg)

Date walked: 13/11/2022

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 22 km

Ascent: 1400m

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In January 2014 my knee problems kicked in in earnest after a relatively easy ascent of Tinto Hill in South Lanarkshire with Glasgow HF Outdoor Club. I rallied a bit in May to lead a memorable trip to Culra Bothy where we did Ben Alder via the Long Leachas ridge and also a cracking ascent of Lancet Edge. However in August of that year I hobbled painfully off of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh in Glencoe and vowed that enough was enough, and that continuing climbing Munros was no longer possible.

In the 8 years since then I have undergone two knee operations, had innumerable sessions of physiotherapy and have learned a lot about myself. In 2018 I was persuaded back onto the hills again and surprised myself with 4 Munros over two days at Loch Callater. I plodded on for a while contenting myself with smaller hills and lower level walks. I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I find it painful walking short distances, but recently (between bouts of various chest infections) I've managed a few Munros, albeit at a slower pace but with camping gear. So I thought to myself, if I can manage that, can I manage more?

Looking at my map of completed Munros on Walk Highlands, I noticed that there were large clusters of blue dots which I had completed, peppered with a few random red dots which remained to be climbed. My OCD kicked in at this point, and I started to think about tidying up my map and picking off those random dots, turning the map entirely blue in those areas. I made a start on that recently when I climbed Stob Coire Sgriodan, which completed the Corrour area quite nicely. Where next though? Beinn a' Chleibh, the smaller neighbour of Ben Lui has long niggled me, but at this time of year the ascent from the Glen Lochy side is a no-go, especially after recent rainfall. That one is one hold for now. The next most accessible were the four Munros on the north side of Glen Lyon which form the Carn Mairg Quartet - Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Mairg and Creag Mhor (aka Meall nan Aighean). I'd taken a week off work and planned to go when the weather broke, but the weather failed to play ball, blasting Scotland with high winds and torrential rain for much of the week. Finally on Sunday, my last day off, the winds fell slightly and the rain ceased but fog was forecast instead. With a bit of luck this could be inversion conditions...

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Invervar - Looking promising for inversion conditions

I set off in the dark, making my way north as the day crept in and the last of the Saturday night revellers crept home. I stopped off in Killin for a toilet break and to grab some supplies, before taking the Lawers road over the hills and down into Glen Lyon itself. I was going to be following the route shown on the Walk Highlands website which recommended parking at Invervar in a small car park. This area is part of the North Chesthill Estate, which has a reputation for being less than welcoming to walkers. Local signage states that the car park is closed during September and October for Deer Stalking. Here we were in mid-November and it was still taped off, which meant squeezing in further down the road, and an additional 10 minute walk at the start and finish. Conditions were bright and clear, with sunlight playing on some of the lower slopes, and I made my way along the road, taking the path marked to "the hill" and the Lint Mill. I'd only gone a few minutes when I had to stop and ditch the Paramo jacket as it was just too sweaty, and I carried out the rest of the walk with a Montane mid-layer only. I spotted a few red squirrels as I made my way through the oak woods, which soon gave way to plantation spruce and then bare hillside. Any hopes of fine views disappeared as I ascended into a thick clag which clung on to the hills for almost the entire remainder of the walk.

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(Not) Welcome...

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To "The Hill"

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A warm and sweaty ascent

This walk would be a challenge in more ways than one. I hadn't done a walk of this intensity for years and I was against the clock, with sunset at ten past four. I was starting slightly later than I'd hoped, the driving taking a tad longer than I thought, and combined with the fog, navigation would be tricky. On a clear day this would be a nice series of summits which would give good visibility ahead, allowing relatively fast progress. Today however I would be relying on the GPX file which I had downloaded, in combination with the map, to keep me moving quickly. I crossed over a rickety metal bridge and skirted the edge of the plantation, before breaking off and ascending the long approach to 1029m Carn Gorm, which appeared to get wetter as I ascended. The water was running heavily down the path, even though there was no rain at present. In these conditions I lost the path for a spell, but recovered it just below the top and was soon standing at the summit cairn, which surrounded the fallen remains of an OS trig point. Apparently the views here are stunning, but not today, so I cracked on, dropping down and skirting the west flank of An Sgorr before following an intermittent line of metal fenceposts to the summit of Meall Garbh. The reason for the missing fenceposts soon becomes clear (which is about the only thing at present) as they now form part of a summit cairn which looks part modern art, part industrial accident...

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Today's walk in a nutshell...

The next section to Carn Mairg would, under other circumstances be a rather pleasant walk, but in this clag became a bit more tricky. On this type of terrain, a mix of rock and grass, the path can be hard to follow at times, and it was made at least reasonable by still having the handrail of the fenceposts to guide the way over the top of Meall a' Bharr. In the mists you get the impression of a huge, rocky outcrop on your left as you ascend Carn Mairg. In clear conditions there is probably a good line directly to the summit along these rocks, but I stuck to a well defined path which runs parallel to this feature. I then began to ascend a rocky spur and for a brief second the mist cleared and I gazed around to see the summit cairn slightly behind me. I had overshot the true summit and was on a small offshoot which apparently has nice views to Ben Lawers in fine weather. I'll have to take their word for it!

From this summit there's a tricky descent over a boulder field, and as is usual when crossing such a feature, the path all but disappears. I gathered myself at the bottom, relocated the path and set off across a flat, bowling green short bealach, before a wet and tricky ascent to the 981m summit of Meall nan Aighean. Out of the gloom appeared two other walkers who had passed me on the ascent from the main road, who I had then passed while they took lunch on An Sgorr, and were only now catching up, admitting they had became misplaced in the mist. I set off back along the path, and quickly realised I'd taken the path towards the 974m western top, rather than the path back down to the long western ridge which drops to Roinn na Creige. I also found that the two other walkers who I had just left behind at the summit had assumed I know where I was going and were bimbling along in my footsteps, to busy chatting to note that it was now me who was navigationally misplaced...

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Once off the summits the views improved - for a short while.

At first this was a pleasant enough descent, but it soon became a steep and short drop, which I found to be particularly brutal on my knees. As I descended the mist cleared, but with sunset at ten past four I finished the walk in the dark, making my way along the road by torchlight, not wishing to fall victim to a speeding car. Although my knee was quite tender I was still very pleased to have filled in this section of the map, although having did so I'd like to return again in clearer weather as I feel this is a real gem of a walk, too good not to actually see. Having did my most recent walks while camping I can see the benefit of staying overnight on the hills, allowing you to take in the area over a greater period, rather than the lottery of what the weather is like over a few hours. As I drove back in the darkness I thought of only one other thing - where's the next gap on my map?
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User avatar
jester
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 500
Munros:128   Corbetts:13
Fionas:7   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:9   
Joined: Mar 1, 2008
Location: An t-Àrd Ruigh

Re: The Carn Mairg Quartet – Filling in the Blanks

Postby R1ggered » Thu Nov 24, 2022 3:07 pm

Great effort, :clap: :clap:
R1ggered
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 133
Munros:175   
Joined: Nov 28, 2012

Re: The Carn Mairg Quartet – Filling in the Blanks

Postby jester » Fri Nov 25, 2022 3:09 pm

R1ggered wrote:Great effort, :clap: :clap:

Thanks. My knee is paying for it now though. :(
User avatar
jester
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 500
Munros:128   Corbetts:13
Fionas:7   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:9   
Joined: Mar 1, 2008
Location: An t-Àrd Ruigh

Re: The Carn Mairg Quartet – Filling in the Blanks

Postby jester » Mon Dec 05, 2022 1:50 pm

Finally finished my video report on this one if anyone is interested.
User avatar
jester
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 500
Munros:128   Corbetts:13
Fionas:7   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:9   
Joined: Mar 1, 2008
Location: An t-Àrd Ruigh

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