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Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables


Postby Graeme D » Thu May 31, 2012 10:20 pm

Munros included on this walk: Tolmount

Date walked: 19/05/2012

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 24 km

Ascent: 935m

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Walk in Friday 18th May 2012
Tolmount and walk out Saturday 19th May 2012
Total time - 15.5 hours of which 6.5 hours spent walking


I hadn't been out in the hills for a couple of weeks, my brief evening snatch of Uamh Bheag in April being all I had to show since the Five Sisters of Kintail and Ring of Steall epics during the Easter holidays. Even my scheduled Bronze Duke of Edinburgh assessment trip in the southern Cairngorms the previous weekend had been postponed because of the gale force winds sweeping the country, so I was feeling a little cabin feverish. I floated the idea of heading out after work on Friday and my wife seemed to think that as long as I was back by lunchtime on Saturday to honour other commitments, it would be a goer. And so to planning! The weather didn't look to good but beggars cannot be choosers. I was just glad to have the opportunity. Even if the weather was going to compromise my comfort and limit my views, it would not detract unduly from my enjoyment of being out on an overnighter.

In the end I settled on Tolmount, a hill that I have always wanted to do by the long walk in along Glen Callater from Achallater farm. Back in January, I set out to do Carn an Tuirc and Tom Buidhe and possibly Cairn of Claise but expressly did not make Tolmount a priority in the knowledge that I wanted to do it via Glen Callater at some stage. Of course, as it turned out that January day, Tolmount would have been the least of my priorities anyway given the way the day panned out.

I nipped home after work to collect Lucy and headed up to Blairgowrie where I made the regular stop for supplies at the Co-op before making my way up the ski road towards the Devil's Elbow and down to Achallater, where I parked in the large purpose built car park by the Jock's Road information board and paid my dues to the Invercauld Estate before heading for the Stables.

I was in full waterproof gear as I started the hour long hike in to the bothy and before long I was cursing the conditions as I stopped to negotiate the chain on a gate and proceeded to drop one of my (non-waterproof) gloves into the olympic size puddle below! Bad start G!

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Glove just about to hit puddle


Although the drizzle stuck manfully to its task for the 55 or so minutes it took to reach Callater Lodge and Stable, no further mishaps befell me. A sign nailed to a fence post just at the entrance to the Lodge reminded me that the TGO Challenge was currently on and it could be a bit busy around here!

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Approaching Callater Lodge and Stables

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TGO refreshment sign


As I passed the main Lodge building and made for the bothy, still a bit undecided about whether to quit here for the night or go a bit further and camp, a bloke came out of the Lodge and asked if I was a TGOer. I replied that I wasn't - I was simply heading for Tolmount and considering my options for where to make camp for the night. He agreed that heading further into the glen, and certainly heading up onto the plateau, could be a grim experience tonight. Probably best to take advantage of the roof and four walls provided courtesy of the bothy, even if it meant running the gauntlet of the legendary Callater Stable Mice and the ghost who, according to popular folklore, haunts the building. The guy suggested that Bill (whoever he was) might even offer me a bed for the night in the Lodge, but if I was happy enough in the bothy, at least I should pop over later for a cuppa. Sounded good to me, so I headed into the allegedly haunted and mice ridden building to make my dinner and get dried off. As I was sorting my gear out, a woman came over from the Lodge and introduced herself and explained that there probably wouldn't be too many TGOers around tonight - tomorrow and Sunday was when they were expecting most of them - but I should nip over later for a drink anyway, once they'd had a chance to have their dinner.

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Loch Callater from my bedroom window

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Saltire flying proudly over Loch Callater


I had noticed a sign above the door of the lodge proclaiming this to be "Cafe Buongiorno" and serving tea and other refreshments. I also seemed to recall reading somewhere that the main Lodge building was now used as a base in the hills by Braemar MRT. I simply assumed that it was being used as a temporary rest stop facility for people undertaking the TGO Challenge, and somehow just assumed that it was this woman, the bloke I'd met when I first turned up, and the aforementioned Bill who were operating it. It wasn't until I nipped out to see a man about a dog and met two guys walking in that one of them put me right. It was in fact a private residence, albeit one without electricity or running water, owned by Bill and the late Stan, Stan having been the husband of the woman I'd met earlier.

As it turns out, there were more people in there than the average attendance at many Scottish First Division games and enough booze to keep a small country going for several months. I was welcomed in to the "kitchen" area by a gentleman washing himself in the sink next to a wood burning stove who informed me that he was about to wash his nether regions and perhaps I'd like to move through to the "men's bar", which turned out to be a kind of living room-cum-snug bar, also equipped with a roaring wood burner.

Lucy and I were made most welcome by the assembled gathering,including two Italian blokes doing the TGO Challenge who seemed to know most of the others from before this year's event. I declined offers of everything except a cup of tea in the interests of making a very early start in the morning. Beer and whisky flowed and much pish was spoken by most of those present, most of it good natured banter and ribbing and in-jokes delivered in Aberdonian and Doric. Kevsbald would have been like a pig in **** in there! At around 11pm I thanked Bill for his kind hospitality and retired to my sleeping bag in the bothy with my alarm set for 4.15am.

I was aware of the odd scratching and scraping sound during the night but did not hear any ghost noises as such. I guess the stories about the mice are true, those about a ghost remain unsubstantiated.

After porridge and coffee at 4.30, I was packed up and away by the back of 5. It looked like a much nicer morning than the evening before had been and the walk along Loch Callater and then over the flats beyond the loch was most pleasant, if a little sticky underfoot. The ascent up onto the plateau was arduous and as I got higher, things closed in more and more, but once on the plateau itself, it was but a short wander to the summit.

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Leaving in the morning - looking back to the Lodge and Stables

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Across Loch Callater to Tolmount at the head of the glen

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Flats at the SE end of the loch

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Looking NW back along the loch

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Still a ways to go to snow covered Tolmount

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Looking up into Coire Loch Kander

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Tolmount close up

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Reaching the plateau and the view back to Loch Callater

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Closing in

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Tolmount summit

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Number 129


Had I had more time, I would have popped over to Tom Buidhe and laid that particular ghost to rest, but I had to be back for late morning and time was marching on already. I toyed with the idea of simply retracing my steps but was keen to walk around the edge of Coire Loch Kander and then skirt around behind Carn an Tuirc before picking up the track back to Callater Lodge.

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Across Glen Callater to Carn an Sagairt Mor

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Back to Tolmount

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Down through Coire Loch Kander

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Back to Tolmount again

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Around the edge of Coire Loch Kander

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Loch Kander

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Carn an Tuirc

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Is that bacon I can smell frying?


I was back at the Lodge around four and a half hours after leaving and was greeted by the smell of frying bacon. I popped my head into the kitchen to bid farewell to the folk from last night and Bill tried to encourage me to stop for a bacon roll. Sadly I had to decline this offer too. One of the Italians asked me where I was headed. When I replied "back to the car then home" he looked a little puzzled, until I realised that he thought I'd just woken up and was about to set off for the day. When I explained that I'd been away at 5 o'clock and had already put in a five hour shift, he translated into Italian for his equally flabbergasted compatriot who just shook his head and took a swig from his mug!

On the walk back along the track to the car I met quite a few people walking the other way, all of whom I greeted with a "Good Morning" and most of whom I took to be doing the Challenge. Not long before reaching the car, I met an elderly gentleman on his own carrying an enormous pack and moving quite slowly. I'm not great at estimating age, but I'd say this guy was around the late 70s or even early 80s mark. I stopped for a chat and he explained that he was doing the Challenge. When I asked him how it was going he simply replied "Och, I'm well ahead of schedule. The weather's been that crap that I've just kept going". Brilliant. Here's hoping I'm doing the same in 40 years time.


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Last edited by Graeme D on Thu May 31, 2012 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby rockhopper » Thu May 31, 2012 10:28 pm

By the looks of it, Graeme, you certainly made the right decision to stop for the night - much better conditions the following day but does look cold ! Nice route and change from the norm - wonder what the scratching/scraping was during the night though. Bet it's good to get back out - cheers :D
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby Gable Gable End » Thu May 31, 2012 11:02 pm

Nice report G.

All of this recent TGO talk is getting me in the mood for next May, fingers crossed that we will get selected!
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby Bod » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:52 am

Nice report Graeme, looks a great way to approach Tolmount and great to see you out with Lucy again up a munro, she looked keen :D :D :D
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby ChrisW » Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:15 am

Great stuff Graeme, good to see you out and about and even more so on a hill I've actually done (albeit from a different route) All in all a great overnighter with excellent company to boot, not sure about the guy washing his 'nethers' in the sink but other than that it's all good :lol:
Looks a wee bit chilly up top, I thought you were back in heatwave conditions over there? Anyway mate, be honest....you saved Tom Buidhe just so you could go back that way again didn't you :D
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby gammy leg walker » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:16 pm

Nice one Mr Dewar,good to see you & Lucy back out,still have Tom Bhudhie & Tolmont to do,am of a mind to go from Glen Clova & over "jocks road",or maybe from Glenshee & over Carn "a Claise
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby Tomsie » Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:37 pm

That area throws up a few surprises for you, whats the challenge a race??
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby Morecambe Monkey » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:52 pm

Nice report Graeme. Like yourself i've not been out in the hills much since The Five Sisters in March(2 long days out in The Lakes & a couple of half dayers in The Yorkshire Dales & that's it). Hoping to redress the balance this coming Sunday by doing Tolmount & the other 5 Munros with Gavin99. Can't wait to get back out there. :D
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby Gable Gable End » Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:08 pm

gammy leg walker wrote:Nice one Mr Dewar,good to see you & Lucy back out,still have Tom Bhudhie & Tolmont to do,am of a mind to go from Glen Clova & over "jocks road",or maybe from Glenshee & over Carn "a Claise


fancy Jocks Road from Clova on route to Braemar for the meet in Aug? Myself and Graeme have voiced some interest in leaving transport at Glen Doll and taking this approach....
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby davetherave » Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:32 am

I have read a few of your older reports in the past. Some of your overnight bothy trips with Kevsbald (wilsons stalker) Those trips normaly include a blended or malt whisky. How the hell did you manage to decline their hospitality ? :clap:

Your route sure beats doing the hill from the Clova side. :)

Cheers Dave
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby Graeme D » Sat Jun 02, 2012 9:34 pm

Gable Gable End wrote:
gammy leg walker wrote:Nice one Mr Dewar,good to see you & Lucy back out,still have Tom Bhudhie & Tolmont to do,am of a mind to go from Glen Clova & over "jocks road",or maybe from Glenshee & over Carn "a Claise


fancy Jocks Road from Clova on route to Braemar for the meet in Aug? Myself and Graeme have voiced some interest in leaving transport at Glen Doll and taking this approach....


I only have Tom Buidhe and Cairn of Claise to do of these six. As GGE has said, I quite fancy the idea of a walk in from Glen Doll en route to the Braemar meet in August. That could take care of that sneaky little bugger Tom Buidhe at least. Get on board Gammy! :D
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Re: Of mice and men - Tolmount snatch via Callater Stables

Postby gammy leg walker » Sat Jun 02, 2012 9:42 pm

Graeme D wrote:
Gable Gable End wrote:
gammy leg walker wrote:Nice one Mr Dewar,good to see you & Lucy back out,still have Tom Bhudhie & Tolmont to do,am of a mind to go from Glen Clova & over "jocks road",or maybe from Glenshee & over Carn "a Claise


fancy Jocks Road from Clova on route to Braemar for the meet in Aug? Myself and Graeme have voiced some interest in leaving transport at Glen Doll and taking this approach....


I only have Tom Buidhe and Cairn of Claise to do of these six. As GGE has said, I quite fancy the idea of a walk in from Glen Doll en route to the Braemar meet in August. That could take care of that sneaky little bugger Tom Buidhe at least. Get on board Gammy! :D


Cannie Graeme,heading for Fisherfield same weekend with a few WH members.
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