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A Spittal sunrise (almost)

A Spittal sunrise (almost)


Postby joenorris » Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:47 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Ben Gulabin, Monamenach

Date walked: 15/12/2011

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 13 km

Ascent: 1000m

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It had been my intention this holiday to get up to height to watch a sunrise. Ben Gulabin seemed a perfect candidate - a really short walk with a great vista, particularly down Glen Shee to the SE. So it was that I was kicking myself for forcing my body to get up at 5am - I was pretty impressed that I managed to avoid the snooze button on my alarm!

Anyway, I arrived at the Spittal just after 7am, planning to pop straight up the south rib to get up there to see the sunrise. Although it was dark, however, I could see that the summit was shrouded in cloud; perhaps not so promising after all.


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I initially started walking with a headtorch, but soon realised that the moonlight was enough to get by with. There was surprisingly little snow - up to approximately 500m I could get away with just following ribs of vegetation through the patches of snow. So I made fairly quick progress up the side, to the enchanting sounds of all the grouse singing (perhaps 'grunting' would be a better choice of word) and a gradually improving view back down Glen Shee. I took a load of photos here, but unfortunately my shaky hands meant that most of them looked more like abstract art than landscape photos!

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My sole survivor

Just as I reached the cairn at 765m, the clag came in. I had been waiting for this moment, but had been wildly hoping that the gods of Shee would be looking favourably upon me and would get rid of the cloud.

Unfortunately not. So I planned to head to the summit and hope that the clag only covered the 30m or so between here and there, and that I would arrive at the cairn with a glorious sea of cloud below me.

Unfortunately that didn't happen either, and I was sitting on the summit just after 8.30am wondering what on earth had driven me to get up at some obscene o'clock simply to come and eat a pear on a cloud-covered snowy mound. Nevertheless, there was a glimmer of hope - I could tell I wasn't far below the top of the cloud, as it was very bright and there was a tiny patch of blue sky directly above me. If only someone had had the urge to build a Macdui-style enormous cairn, I could be sitting on top of it above the cloud now!

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The summit

Wishful thinking perhaps. Anyway, I planned to cut down to just below the cloud level to see what the view was like from below. Just as I was heading off the summit, however, I caught a glimpse of some trees down to my right. Just a brief glimpse, but it was enough to convince me to wait at the summit for another couple of minutes. Just as I decided to do so, the entire wash of cloud on the summit ridge began to shift and I could see glimpses of views all around, in between the waves of cloud.

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My first view

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Looking south

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Down into Glen Shee

Gradually the entire sheet of cloud began to disintegrate, and I couldn't believe my luck! I headed back to the 765m top to watch the sun emerge above the view right down Glen Shee. The amount of cloud about meant that I was never going to get the proper sun-emerging-over-the-horizon views and the pink snow, although they were still an incredibly exciting few moments.

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North towards Cairnwell

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South from 765m

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The sun appears

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SW to Meall a' Choire Bhuidhe

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Towards Cairnwell

I dandered about the summit ridge for more almost a further hour, just taking in the views and my flask of hot chocolate.

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Looking NW

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Looking E

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Glen Shee

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The summit plateau

Eventually I decided to head down the SW ridge from the summit to take in a bit of different ground. The ridge was nice going, with some interesting crags and new views to the west. I had a mountain hare only 3 or 4 metres in front of me at one point - I think I must have startled it - but unfortunately it was too quick for me to get a photo. I guess I could've taken a photo of its footprints, that's not quite the same though.

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A little spindrift

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The way down

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Glen Shee (note the herd of deer in the bottom left corner)

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Those same deer

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Up Gleann Taitneach - the way up to Loch nan Eun

I eventually reached the track through the Glen after negotiating my way round a few of the crags on the ridge. 20 minutes along the track and I was back at the car just after 11am - a whole day ahead of me!

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The ridge in retrospect

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The (not very) long road home

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The Glen from the Spittal

After a nice lunch in the car, I decided that it would be a shame to drive away from such glorious weather and conditions, so I planned to drive round to Glen Isla and pop up Monamenach from there.


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I had my boots back on less than an hour after taking them off at the Spittal, ready to set off from Auchavan. Before long, I found that this route was much more difficult than that up Ben Gulabin: the track up from Auchavan had deep snow filling it up. Fortunately, a couple of guys were up ahead of me, so I could follow their footsteps to an extent.

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Looking back down Glen Isla

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Back across to Badandun Hill

The track meandered its way up to a very snowy col, with some interesting snow formations about.

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Near the col

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The track

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The Glas Maol crags up Glen Isla

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From the col, it was a very straightforward ascent up a fairly relentless slope to the summit. The snow had firmed up by this point, so it was much easier to walk on top of it.

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The plateau - looking towards Creagan Caise Hill

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The final slope

I reached the summit just over an hour after leaving the car, and met the two guys that had made the footsteps ahead of me. As it turned out, someone had been up before them and made the footsteps. To that unknown person I will remain eternally grateful.

Some nice views from the summit gave me an alternative angle on many of the hills I had seen earlier, as well as wider views to the south.

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Towards Mount Blair

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Near the summit

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Up Glen Isla

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W from the summit

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NW to a prominent Glas Tulaichean

After finishing off my lunch, I headed back down to Glen Isla. Although I fancied staying up there to watch the sunset and complete the day cycle, to be honest I really wanted to get home for a nap. Or, to put it more succinctly, I couldn't be a***d sitting in the cold for two hours!

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The track on the descent

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Looking down Glen Isla

It was a simple walk over all, and a great addition to Ben Gulabin - a real day of two halves. What a cracking day though - both hills giving great walking, interesting terrain and stunning views.

Gotta love those Angus glens.

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Glen Isla
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby dooterbang » Fri Dec 16, 2011 1:47 pm

So glad you waited - thank goodness you had hot chocolate :D

What a great way to spend a morning.

5am is my usual time to get up if i want to walk.

Did start the Tarmachan Ridge one winters morn at 4am and reched the summit as the sun cam eup - was splendid.

Nice photos.

Thanks for posting.
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby EwaMH » Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:17 pm

Awesome photos! Your early start definately paid off!
Been deliberating a boxing day jaunt up Ben Gulabin (spending Christmas in Blairgowrie means at 5am I will definately be sleeping tho! :P ) and you've convinced me so thanks!
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby Fudgie » Fri Dec 16, 2011 3:37 pm

That's the sort of post that inspires me to get up extremely early one morning and be on the hill for sunrise. I've got a heavy tripod but it would be worth carrying it up if I got weather just like you did. You've taken some wonderful pictures there.
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby yellowbelly » Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:41 pm

Fantastic pictures - well worth the wait and the effort of an early start. Made me very jealous and can't wait for my next trip north of the border.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby SMRussell » Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:12 pm

Some stunning shots there! The views to Glen Shee and the Cairnwell are wonderful. Wish we were heading up that way tomorrow. Really want to get the Corbett bagging under way and this has just added to my hunger - but I think we're going to opt for Stuchd an Lochain & Meall Buidhe for our Saturday stroll.

Great report :D
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby rockhopper » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:52 pm

Pity about the sunrise joe, but the rest of the photos more than make up for it - some very nice pictures there - never ceases to amaze me how many different ways snow has of sticking to fenceposts - cheers :D
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby Tommo Gib » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:44 pm

Reading this report i've just realised! I was the lad that laid the tracks earlier that morning so your very welcome joe & the other 2 lads. Wasn't easy either, snow was real soft at 0830 when i set off!!!
I headed across to the Glack of Glengairney after Monamenach then down past Tulchan Lodge before the much easier wander back to the motor. Just as i got back i looked up only to see the 2 lads making their way up.
Cracking pics Joe, thumbs up smiley!!!
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby PeteR » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:36 pm

Fantastic trip and great pictures :D :D That snow looked superb, but I reckon it must have been hard work to walk through the soft stuff. Well worth the effort though from your pictures :D
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby joenorris » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:37 pm

Cheers for all the comments guys.

dooterbang wrote:5am is my usual time to get up if i want to walk.

Did start the Tarmachan Ridge one winters morn at 4am and reched the summit as the sun cam eup - was splendid.


5am is reasonable I guess, particularly at this time of year. Think I'm going to try and make more of the early mornings, I'm not sure about equalling your 4am though - respect to you for doing that!

SMRussell wrote:Really want to get the Corbett bagging under way and this has just added to my hunger - but I think we're going to opt for Stuchd an Lochain & Meall Buidhe for our Saturday stroll.


Looks like you had a cracking day on Stuchd an Lochain too - I think I was a bit luckier with the weather conditions though.

rockhopper wrote:never ceases to amaze me how many different ways snow has of sticking to fenceposts


:lol:

Tommo Gib wrote:Reading this report i've just realised! I was the lad that laid the tracks earlier that morning so your very welcome joe & the other 2 lads. Wasn't easy either, snow was real soft at 0830 when i set off!!!
I headed across to the Glack of Glengairney after Monamenach then down past Tulchan Lodge before the much easier wander back to the motor. Just as i got back i looked up only to see the 2 lads making their way up.


So it's you that I am indebted to! That sounds like an interesting route you did - I certainly could have been much more imaginative than the standard straight-up-and-down route. That upper end of Glen Isla looks cracking, I was totally unaware of those big crags on the back of Glas Maol - a visit may be in order.

Thanks for all the rest of the comments folks.
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby jmarkb » Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:40 pm

Lovely photos!

joenorris wrote:That upper end of Glen Isla looks cracking, I was totally unaware of those big crags on the back of Glas Maol - a visit may be in order.


There's a couple of very good circuits (which don't make a lot of sense if you are Munro bagging!):
Monamenach - Creag Leacach - Glas Maol - Monega Hill and Monega Hill - Glas Maol - Cairn of Claise - Caenlochan Glen. On the latter, there is a very useful stalkers path descending from Caderg which makes light of some otherwise very steep terrain.
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby Alastair S » Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:58 pm

Some lovely photos there :thumbup: Well worth an early start even if you didn't get a decent sunrise.

jmarkb wrote:There's a couple of very good circuits (which don't make a lot of sense if you are Munro bagging!):
Monamenach - Creag Leacach - Glas Maol - Monega Hill and Monega Hill - Glas Maol - Cairn of Claise - Caenlochan Glen. On the latter, there is a very useful stalkers path descending from Caderg which makes light of some otherwise very steep terrain.

I set off to do a very similar circuit a couple of years ago but the weather had other ideas. Turned out to be the coldest day of the year (-18C in Braemar) so I just bagged Creag Leacach & went back the way I'd come. Still took me over 6 hours! Come the spring I must try and get over to Monega Hill - looks like a nice walk.
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Re: A Spittal sunrise (almost)

Postby kevsbald » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:05 pm

Nice one. Very nice indeed. :)
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