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Visiting crampon country

Visiting crampon country


Postby BlackPanther » Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:29 pm

Route description: Glas Maol Munros circuit, Cairnwell Pass

Munros included on this walk: Creag Leacach, Glas Maol

Date walked: 05/03/2013

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 10.5 km

Ascent: 736m

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A couple of years ago we set off to climb the six Munros on the eastern side of Cairnwell Pass. Unfortunately, we had some delay on the way and only arrived in Glenshee area at midday. So we managed to bag four out of six (Carn an Tuirc, Cairn of Claise, Tom Buidhe, Tolmount) and decided to leave the last two for another day.
Since then I was saving Glas Maol and Creag Leacach for a winter climb, considering they were one of the easiest Munros in Scotland. Last year this approach worked with The Cairnwell 3, we had a fantastic wintry outing. Generally, all hills surrounding Glenshee Ski centre are better to be left for snowy conditions. The amount of skiing paraphernalia, especially on The Cairnwell itself, makes a sad scar on the landscape... Yet I always appreciate the charm of rollin'-rollin' hills, especially when covered in white.
Because we had already climbed all the other Munros around, we could make this a shorter walk and not worry about time and speed. The day before, when we had visited Beinn Mholach, we encountered quite a bit of snow on higher ground, but it was very soft, melting and slushy - we didn't need crampons at all. However, Kevin expected that after a cold night and on the level of 1000m, the snow will be harder, perhaps even icy on the surface, so crampons were packed into rucksacks again.
Getting from Beauly to Cairnwell Pass takes over 2 hrs of driving and the whole journey will cost you (depending how efficient your car engine is) give or take £20 - petrol is getting more and more expensive these days.
Two words about the route - if including only Glas Maol and Creag Leacach, this walk is very easy and in summer conditions could be completed in 3 hours or even less if you are superfit. We took our time, mostly because we had more than we needed :lol: :lol: and we didn't exactly want to spend more time sitting in the car rather than out on the hills.
In winter, this route shouldn't be underestimated. It may seem an easy stroll, but as we found out, even on gentle slopes icy patches can be a nuisance.

Track_05-MAR-13 GLAS MAOL.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


The best starting point for this circuit is the car park at Devil's Elbow.
Views from the car park:
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The tops of both Munros still had a thick snow cower, which was OK with me, it meant wintry fun :D
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At this point weather was quite nice, quiet and some blue sky above, it looked like we were going to have a lovely day:
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From the car park, we crossed Allt a'Choire Sheiridh and climbed the steep slope onto the shoulder of Leacann Dubh, crampons not necessary just yet:
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An alternative route would be climbing straight on to Meall Gorm, but we took the easier option :lol: :lol:
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Sadly, the nasty haze was still in the air and high cloud approached as well, chasing the blue sky and sunshine away...
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The shoulder leading to Meall Odhar (the lower top of Glas Maol) gives the easiest access to the high ground. More like a stroll rather than a Munro walk!
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Navigation didn't present any problems, either. The path/track was more than obvious:
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Even from here, good views across the pass to The Cairnwell...
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...and south to Ben Gulabin:
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Glas Maol as such didn't scare me..
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Looking back along the shoulder with the summit of Creag Leacach to the left:
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As we neared the top of Meall Odhar, I realised that we were not in Kansas any more :( Although I must say, this side of the pass is not as bad as Cairnwell and Carn Aosda.
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As it was Tuesday, the slopes were not busy and just as well...
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The haze was definitely thickening, or maybe just the cloud was making it worse. Don't know, but the result was pretty awful...
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We walked quickly past the ski rubble, I was eager to leave the snow fences behind. I much prefer mountains au naturelle :wink:
Kevin had said earlier, that I should be ready for a crampon exercise and he was right. The final climb to the summit of Glas Maol is rather steep. In the summer I would probably hop up there on one leg, but now... Completely different story
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Looking back to Meall Odhar, with the dark weather "attacking" from the right:
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We stopped to put crampons on and then continued uphill on the steep slope. The surface was quite hard and icy so I couldn't imagine climbing "barebooted", one could end up with a broken leg...
In next to no time, we reached the summit cairn and the trigpoint - they were hardly visible under the white cover:
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Of course, I wouldn't be myself if I didn't utter a few meows :lol: :lol: That was in fact, my first new Munro since November last year :shock: At last I gave my statistics a kick!
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The summit of Glas Maol was under the cloud but the mist restricted the views to almost nothing... Shame:
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We could just about see the ridge leading to Creag Leacach:
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We spent some time wandering about the summit plateau, drank some hot tea and had a good laugh when I almost fell over (my crampon got stuck) :D Eventually, it was time to continue to the second Munro of the day.
We walked to the small cairn of Bathach Beag:
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Sadly, weather wasn't going to improve. Quite the opposite, we witnessed the return of the twilight zone:
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Looking back to Glas Maol behind us, I could hardly say what was the sky, what was the slope...
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...but regardless of the conditions it was still a good adventure and my smile stay put!
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Even in very misty conditions, the route to the second Munro is obvious:
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Views east (or what was visible):
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Looking down to Glen Isla:
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OK, it may not be a difficult expedition but a good training session how to use crampons :lol: :lol:
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The walk along the ridge was all fun and games :D
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The Cairnwell:
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The summit now only a few steps away...
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Munro No. 93 done and dusted!
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Creag Leacach would be a great viewpoint in better weather, all we saw were the contours of the nearest hills, but we still took a longer break here, we still had plenty of time and we wanted to enjoy the mountains long as we could:
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We continued to the unnamed lower top (943m) where I tried to find a good place to sit on the rocks, sadly my backside didn't enjoy the cold :lol: :lol: At least I didn't tear another pair of trousers!
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The final descent from the lower top was easy enough with crampons on, we shuffled down the snowy slopes like skiers :lol: :lol: Having crossed Allt Coire a' Bhathaich, we climbed a few metres on the other side to join the narrow path, descending back to the car park.
As we returned to Devil's Elbow, weather was much gloomier than earlier that day...
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So another two Munros ticked and though they are not the most inspiring of mountains, we still made the most of this route. Any hill could be fun, I guess. Everything depends on the attitude :D :D Meow!
I was worried that it would be all the good weather for the whole week, but we were granted a bonus day of climbing. Added one more Munro to my stats on Wednesday, and in contrary to the described above, a mountain that makes your muscles screeeeeeaaaaam!!! The story will come soon.
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BlackPanther
Mountain Walker
 
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Re: Visiting crampon country

Postby The Rodmiester » Fri Mar 15, 2013 6:08 pm

Some nice wintry scenes there BP, great pity you walked on the West side of the dyke to Creag Leacach as you missed the wee stone shelter on the East side, nice place for your cuppa and some calorie input. View from inside looking out
IMG_1359.JPG
That's the Munro count started again then! :)
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The Rodmiester
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Re: Visiting crampon country

Postby ChrisW » Fri Mar 15, 2013 6:47 pm

Fine report BP, shame the weather didn't play along entirely but at least you got out there and added to your Munro tally. :clap:
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ChrisW
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