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Beinn a' Chlachair, Geal Charn & Creag Pitridh

PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:13 pm
by Graeme D
Right, here goes....

Friday 17th July - forecast seems reasonable for north western areas. Possibility of the odd isolated shower in between sunny spells, so I'm going for it! Dropped my wife off at work and headed up the A9. Approaching Drumochter, the sun really starts to make it's presence felt and I kick myself (not an easy thing to do whilst driving) for forgetting my sunnies! The sun does not last however, as by the time I'm heading along the side of Loch Laggan on the A86, the sky has taken on a distinctly dark shade and large droplets are splattering the windscreen.

Park in the lay-by next to the bridge with view over the moors to Beinn a' Chlachair. A couple of camper vans are parked up but no sign of anyone around, so it's off over the bridge and onto the good track round the bend in the river. At the fork in the track a guy is coming down the road towards us in a big earth mover type thing - other than the dog, the only other sign of life I was to see all day! The rain has held off but the sunnies are certainly not being missed yet.

The terrain is really not what I had expected for this walk. I don't know why (because the OS does not suggest it would be the case), but I had expected more forestry and less in the way of open moorland. Just one of those cases where you get an image in your mind and it sticks. Anyway, over a low shoulder in the moor and the little reservoir comes into view on the right, backed by the huge scoop of Coire Mor a' Chlachair.

Coire Mor a'Chlachair

The south western end of Lochan na h-Earba is soon reached - with a fine broad sandy beach, this looks like a good spot for a first break and a cuppa and a biscuit.

Empty beach - not a deckchair in sight

Over the grassy path and onto the good stalker's path up the side of the Allt Coire Pitridh and after the relatively gentle inclines so far, this is a bit of a shock to the old system. To compound things, the drizzle has come back on. One of those choices between getting wet or having to steam to death inside waterproofs. It's now a case of leaving the path to do a bit of bushwhacking over to and up the flanks of Beinn a' Chlachair. Looks to me like it could be a bog-trotting extravaganza and the trusty old Scarpas have been starting to show signs of weakness in such situations recently. Oh well! I'm pleasantly surprised to find that the ground is pretty firm and I'm soon across without a major bog incident and up onto the edge of the coire with extensive views round the rim to the summit.

Binnein Shuas beyond beach at southern end of Lochan na h-Earba

First clear views of summit of Beinn a'Chlachair open up

From here there's quite a bit of awkward clambering through and over boulders until things get a little easier towards the summit cairn.

Looking back down through the coire

Just my luck though, things really begin to close in and the wind is getting up by the time the cairn is reached. The wind shelter round the far side offers pretty scant shelter to be honest and things are taking a decided turn for the worse, so I quickly cancel plans for a summit lunch and start to head back along the broad ridge towards the cliffs above the Loch a' Bealach Leamhain.

Beinn a'Chlachair summit - it's grim up top!

It's a real grey-out now, very little visibility in any direction and feels more like February than July! I've got everything on (gloves, buff, hat, various forms of jacket) and a near-empty pack on my back as I pick my way along towards the crags. Bearng left takes me away from the worst of the descent off the end but it's still a tricky and rather unpleasant descent given the conditions. Down at the bealach, things have improved slightly so I finally shed a few layers and find a nice flat rock to have lunch on while a few damp items of clothing are laid out to get an airing. It's now another decent path up to the col between Creag Pitridh and Geal Charn before again cutting off and slogging up grassy slopes towards the summit of the latter. A few false summits later and the large sprawling cairn comes into view through wisps of mist and from here, there are occasional glimpses through the mist down to Loch Ericht away to the south.

Approaching summit number 2

Glimpses of Loch Ericht

Geal Charn summit cairn and trig point

It's now a quick yomp back down over bouldery grass to the path and straight over an area of peat hags onto the craggy slopes of Creag Pitridh. There is a winding, narrow path which snakes up to the small summit from where there are fantastic views down to Lochan na h-Earba and Loch Laggan - the best summit views and best summit weather of the day!

Lucy at summit of Creag Pitridh

Binnein Shios, Lochan na h-Earba and Loch Laggan beyond

Head west off the summit (there is briefly a suggestion of a path) and back down over the boggiest terrain of the day to the stalker's path alongside the Allt Coire Pitridh. From here it's a 1 hour purposeful march back past the beach and the reservoir and back out to the A86.

8.5 hours, mixed meteorological conditions, not the best visibility, excellent peace and quiet, but all in all a decent day in the hills :P .

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Re: Beinn a' Chlachair, Geal Charn & Creag Pitridh

PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:58 pm
by Caberfeidh
Excellent photies and write-up! I was up at that Lochan Na h-Earba one winter day and there were ice-floes forming on it. I half expected to see polar bears. Nice to see it in summer conditions.
N.B. my mate got his hub-caps nicked when he left his car in the lay-by there for just a few hours.

Re: Beinn a' Chlachair, Geal Charn & Creag Pitridh

PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:56 pm
by Graeme D
Aye, there be bandits in them there hills!

No polar bears in the loch that day, just the odd killer whale and a school of dolphins :lol:

Re: Beinn a' Chlachair, Geal Charn & Creag Pitridh

PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 11:18 pm
by mountain coward
I enjoyed that walk too although everyone seems to be doing it the opposite way round! Don't suppose it makes a difference really... I liked Creag Pitridh best by far and loved Loch h' Earba and it's glen. We had quite a good day for it luckily, I would have thought it quite hard to find the summit of Geal Charn or Beinn a' Chlachair in the mist...

Re: Beinn a' Chlachair, Geal Charn & Creag Pitridh

PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:07 am
by Graeme D
Can't really go far wrong with the summit of Beinn a' Chlachair, following the ridge. I can imagine Geal Charn possibly being a bit trickier in a pea-souper.