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Mapless on the Cairn Mairg Round!
Route description: Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Mairg and Creag Mhor
Munros included on this walk: Carn Gorm, Carn Mairg, Creag Mhor (Meall na Aighean), Meall Garbh (Carn Mairg)
Date walked: 20/10/20092 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We set off reasonably early and drove round the corner into Glen Lyon. I’m fairly familiar with the road as I’ve ‘camped’ in my car further down the glen a couple of times – lovely place. Of course the road is a bit narrow and at one point we were stopped by a driver coming the other way who warned us that there was a sheep transporter coming along. I continued driving, wondering why it necessitated a warning when suddenly it appeared -it was huge – almost like one of those Australian road trains and articulated! I couldn’t see why anyone would want to drive something that size down Glen Lyon... but then people have sent artics up the Hard Knott Pass in the Lakes in winter for fun before now (took over a month to recover the last one!)
We drove up and down the glen past Invervar but couldn’t see where on earth the supposed parking was. We tried a few places, including a huge ‘works’ entrance as it was a Sunday so we assumed they wouldn’t be coming to work that morning. But I still didn’t feel comfortable parking there and had visions of some huge lorry coming and scraping past my poor ol’ Sunny. We decided to have one last pass of Invervar and suddenly Richard saw a vehicle down a track towards the river. I stopped and backed up for a look – yup, there was the parking and there was just one space left...
A guy had just arrived and was setting off at the same time as us and we reached the locked gate together. It had notices on saying things like we could go through the gate as it was a Sunday but any other day, forget it. The guy was a Scot and told us they were talking rubbish as they couldn’t prevent us going any other day of the week. I just thought that it was a good job it was a Sunday as I couldn’t do with the hassle. On my own, I’d just have sneaked in somehow but I’m sure Richard wouldn’t have! We set off through the forest together and stopped for a route discussion at the exit. The guy said he was going anti-clockwise on the round but that really that was forbidden by the estate – I couldn’t imagine how anyone could or would have a say which direction you did a round of mountains!
Just after we split up, I decided to have a quick check of the map – at which point I realised I didn’t have it. I told Richard and he just said ‘Run back and get it then’. ‘No, I don’t have it with us’ I said. He said did I mean it wasn’t in the car either and I said that it was back at the lodgings at Lawers. It being a good day visibility wise I decided it wasn’t worth giving up on our objective and that we should continue and hope the weather didn’t change. I had a vague idea of the route plan and directions in my head. The only problem was that I didn’t just want the Munros, I wanted to collect the ‘tops’ too – and I couldn’t remember exactly which they were, just that the second hill was a top, there was one somewhere along the long ‘back ridge’ and another past Carn Mairg. Of course, this meant that we had to visit every bump and pimple along the route – 11 in all – should just have been 7... Popular, I wasn’t!
Despite the guy we’d just left saying it was a barely noticeable climb to the first Munro, Carn Gorm, we found it a real grind – it seemed to go on forever... We passed a group on the way to the summit but strangely, although they made it to the summit, they didn’t continue on the walk – I thought everyone did the whole thing as a round.
It had been hot and sunny and sheltered from the wind on the way up and I was down to my t-shirt and feeling very hot. Suddenly we reached the summit and the fierce north wind hit. I couldn’t get my clothes on fast enough, piling every single garment on that I had. We left the summit as quick as we could, after noting there were the first snows on the Cairngorms. As soon as we set off down the back we hit ice and so had to go really slowly and carefully – not what you want when there’s a freezing wind-chill! It was icy all the way to the col.
The next summit, An Sgorr, a beautifully shaped top, I liked best of the day. It was really easy but far too attractive to miss out using the path which contoured behind it. We looked back from a sheltered spot in the sun and out of the wind and could see the other party were on Carn Gorm summit.
We continued onto Meall Liath – an extremely easy climb once again. We assumed the first top was the summit but I said I had to go onto the other summit as that might be the ‘top’ along the ridge. Richard set off for Meall a Bharr but then suddenly he was coming up the hill towards me just as I was descending again. He said he’d remembered that particular Munro had 2 summits and that there wasn’t much in it so was worried it might be the Munro. After that we stuck together as I visited everything which looked like it had a summit of any kind. We must have looked like 2 drunks zig-zagging along the ridge instead of following the path. We noted that the party behind were still on Carn Gorm’s summit – perhaps they’d frozen to the spot?
It was pretty quick progress with the cooling wind along the ridge and we were soon admiring Schiehallion from Meall a Bharr and looking forward to Cairn Mairg – the joint-most attractive hill on the round in my view.
From the top of Cairn Mairg, we could see a familiar hat below us on a lee slope – it was the guy we’d split up with outside the forest – he was using some kind of radio with a huge aerial (stop with the huge erection jokes!) – must have taken some carrying up there. It was getting late in the day so we scooted off for the top to the east of Cairn Mairg – at this point I expected a revolt from Richard – I thought he’d refuse to do it and just head across for Meall na Aighean but he plodded up with me.
At the summit we noticed bad weather heading our way quite rapidly so thought we’d better get a shift on, being mapless as we were. We shot off down the plain slope for the col and the path up to Meall na Aighean, stopping for a very quick coffee and a bite out of the wind near the col as it had been too cold to take any breaks before that.
We were soon on Meall na Aighean but didn’t linger. As we headed off down the steepening ridge, which surprised us by being a lot further to the north than we thought as we came over the edge of the second top, the weather hit us and it started to rain. Luckily it didn’t cloud right over and we could still see where we were headed. It seemed quite a long and arduous descent and I was pretty glad to get back to the forest as I was starting to feel it was a long day.
- mountain coward
by John Burgess » Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:19 am
Nice report - brings back good memories. My avatar photo was taken up there last winter on a round with my son. I missed the car park the first time I was up there - only found it after walking back to Invervar from a spot I'd found half a mile further down the road.
All the best,
by Alan S » Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:05 am
Its so good to see what a view looks like from these hills,wish i had seen it
How long did it take you to do the whole lot it must have been a long day
Ive never understood how an estate can dictate which direction you can walk in i wonder what the reason is
Has anybody ever found the car park right away it seems so obvious once you find it, i think i parked at the same place as john
- mountain coward
by malky_c » Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:44 am
We ended up chasing the 'slower' group round the rest of the circuit. They assumed we were still in front so picked up the pace. In the occasional break on the clouds, we could just about see them about 15 min ahead of us.
We did finally catch them up on the last descent to Glen Lyon, but we were knackered by that point.
I think the point of my story was that having a map and compass doesn't always help!
- mountain coward
by Dannyboy » Mon Dec 21, 2009 2:06 pm
by sloosh » Mon Dec 21, 2009 2:15 pm
No pics of the pretty cairn on the top of Meall Garbh?
No map? Are you sure you got to the top of Meall na Aighean? j/k
- mountain coward
by Graeme D » Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:03 am
Dannyboy wrote:I bet youre glad you didnt turn round after discovering your lack of a map! Cant really ask for better weather(well you can but often it gets worse!) Think i did these with my dad a while ago but we didnt go to every bump- you have to wonder why people do it- even yourself!?
Well I'm trying to do most of the tops and, on such an easy round, it seemed silly to miss them - even though we didn't know which they were... I was just surprised Richard joined me to all the bumps!
- mountain coward
by The Morgans » Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:10 pm
- mountain coward