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Beinn a' Ghlo lives up to its name...

Beinn a' Ghlo lives up to its name...


Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Sat May 11, 2013 4:24 pm

Route description: Beinn a'Ghlo

Munros included on this walk: Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain, Carn Liath (Beinn a'Ghlo), Carn nan Gabhar

Date walked: 06/05/2013

Time taken: 8.8 hours

Distance: 22 km

Ascent: 1240m

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Although I’d managed a few lower hills since the start of the year, Scotland’s 2013 Fimbul-Spring had left my Munros tally stuck at a paltry 51 since early January :( , with snow covering the higher hills well into April and the thermometer constantly dropping to new record lows :wtf: . However, May had come at last and I was itching for a bigger walk on the holiday Monday. The weather forecast was pants for the west coast :( , but looked a bit better for the east of the country. So when my friend Tom (whose wife was off for a walking weekend with her pals) offered an outing to Beinn a’Ghlo, I jumped at the chance.
We set off from Glasgow around 7:30, and thought that we’d managed a relatively early start, but on arrival at the car park at the end of the public road up to Loch Moraig we found it pretty full already – in fact, we were lucky to snaffle the last proper space. The Veiled Hill was living up to its name, with all three Munro summits resolutely covered in a low lid of Clag :? .
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Ah well, hopefully it might clear as the day went on... Aye, right :lol: .
The route continues up the farm track to Shinagag Farm (ignoring a left turn for Monzie Farm just after the car park) until a path branches off to the left at a Shed at the side of the road. This Shed is the only building for miles around, and even manages to get itself marked on the OS map. We actually left the track a couple of hundred metres short of the Shed, where an indistinct path headed off from a gate in the direction of Carn Liath. This soon joined the main path to become an impressive superhighway up Carn Liath’s south ridge, giving very good going :) .
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There were some nice views back down to the south, with Loch Moraig prominent in the foreground.
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It was a fairly steep climb all the same, and predictably enough I was peching a bit on the ascent, with Tom just about visible in the distance ahead :lol: ... however, I plodded on, and the summit arrived surprisingly soon. Carn Liath is the Grey Cairn, and it was certainly pretty grey and murky today.
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However, despite the Clag, a fantastic romp of a ridge walk ensued along Beinn a’Ghlo’s delightfully sinuous ridgeline :D .
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The ridge twists left, then right, then left again down to the bealach with the second Munro, the strangely named Braigh Coire Chruinn-Bhalgain. That would be “The Upland of the Corrie with the Round Blisters”. The thought of a hill covered in Round Blisters had me envisaging some sort of giant Dalek :wtf: , but in fact it turns out to be a steep-sided but shapely whaleback, with the Round Blisters largely being the figment of some cartographer’s imagination :? . As we came down to the bealach, the Clag lifted a bit and we got some fine views of B.C.C.B.’s southern slopes – somewhat spoiled as usual by me plonking myself rather gormlessly in front:
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Down at the bealach, views opened out to the east, and it was a relief to see an excellent path continuing all the way up B.C.C.B.’s south ridge.
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On the other side of the bealach, there were some good views back over Carn Liath, before we climbed back up into the Clag.
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Both B.C.C.B. and the third Munro, Carn nan Gabhar, are quite bouldery towards the top, and perhaps because of the irresistible temptation of all that rock to work with, all three Munros sport various large cairns before the true summit, to mislead the unwary :? .
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However, we eventually got to the true summit. Time for a quick photo again, and a quick lunch break. Some sort of Moroccan flatbread thingey with falafel and roasted veg that my wife got reduced from Marks & Spencers, since you ask. Very tasty actually, in a healthy wholegrain sort of a way. Tom had ham sandwiches; much more sensible :lol: .
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Another bit of grand ridge walking followed, with Carn nan Gabhar’s south Top, Airghiod Bheinn, looming through the mists to the south-east.
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However, we had to keep our wits about us, as this next bit is the only navigationally tricky section of the Beinn a’Ghlo traverse: it is necessary to find an initially indistinct descent path down B.C.C.B.’s poorly defined east ridge to the bealach with Carn nan Gabhar, instead of following the obvious ridgeline of B.C.C.B.’s northeast ridge down into upper Glen Tilt. It is all too easy to miss the descent path in the Clag: we met a couple of guys later on who had indeed carried on a good way down into Glen Tilt and then had to back-track, cursing as they went :( . Luckily for us, however, we spotted the descent path without too much bother. It comes just about 100 metres after an initial minor rise on B.C.C.B.’s northeast ridge; if you come to a second minor rise about 500 metres further on, then you’ve gone too far.
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Down at the bealach (called the Bealach an Fhiodha), there was a fine view out to the north, towards the main Cairngorm massif:
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And another fine view to the south:
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See that big snowfield on the south side of the bealach, though? That’s the standard descent route. This didn’t occur to us at the time, however, as we plodded on up Carn nan Gabhar’s western flanks. The Cairn of the Goat felt immediately more Serious to me than the previous two Munros: it’s the highest hill of the three, and also the most remote. It also still had a fair amount of snow on it, which made it fairly hard work, although we only had to cross one big snowfield, which thankfully had a fair few previous sets of boot-prints on it to mark the way.
After a fairly steep rising traverse up the western slopes, the path arrives at Carn nan Gabhar’s true ridgeline, where the gradient eases off to reveal a potentially ankle-twisting boulderfield :shock: , reminiscent of the summit environs of Schiehallion. Predictably given all the raw material lying around, Carn nan Gabhar again sports two large cairns before the true summit cairn. The second of these even has a trig point to make it all the more confusing :? : however, this is NOT the true summit.
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We eventually reached the third, and highest, cairn. Time for the obligatory summit photos: I think I won the Silly Hat Competition this time :lol: !
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We plodded back down the way we’d come up, fairly uneventfully except for some moseying about at the upper edge of the big snowfield, trying to find the boot-prints marking the easiest line back down. We picked them up eventually though, and made our way back down to the bealach, only to be confronted by a steeper snowfield filling the upper glen of the Allt Bealach an Fhiodha, which is the standard way down :shock: . As we didn’t see any alternative other than an unappealing trudge up Airghiod Bheinn followed by a steep descent down its scree-encrusted southwest ridge, or an even more unappealing re-ascent of B.C.C.B., we set off in some trepidation down the snowfield. To our pleasant surprise, the snow turned out to be just firm enough to give easy going without being dangerously slippy, and the descent down the upper reaches of the Allt Bealach an Fhiodha had a distinctly epic feel to it, with Beinn Bheag and Carn Liath prominent in the foreground :D .
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Unfortunately, the next section brought us right back down to earth :shock: . On emerging from the steep snowy bit, we picked up what might loosely be described as a path (or more accurately described as the Boggy Morass from Hell) running first on one side of the Allt Bealach an Fhiodha, then on the other, but eventually making up its mind to run down the west side of the burn to run round the eastern flanks of Beinn Bheag (a minor eastern outlier of Carn Liath). Probably the meltwater from all that spring snow made the path a lot boggier than normal (which is probably fairly boggy to start with, judging by some earlier walk reports): in its upper reaches it gave truly execrable going, with lots of big peat hags and minor streamlets crossing it every 20 metres or so: really, we just had to laugh (if you didn't laugh, you'd cry :lol: ). Eventually it did join what is apparently a stalkers’ path, with some evidence of path maintenance, but it stayed fairly boggy all the way round Beinn Bheag until eventually (with obvious reluctance, and still muttering ominously under its breath) handing us over to a farm track well south of Carn Liath. This photo is of one of the path’s better bits – it was much worse higher up, but I was having too much fun rolling around in the mud to take any photos at that point :lol: .
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It’s a long and fairly knackering walk back in from Carn nan Gabhar to Loch Moraig, and it was a great relief to finally catch sight of the Shed in the distance:
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Oh Shed of Wonder, Shed of Light :D ! I wonder what’s in it ... a quad bike and two pairs of wellies, quite possibly.
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From here, it was still a surprisingly long way back to the car, although the fine views of Loch Moraig were some consolation.
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A Grand Day Oot, all the same, and a good long outing to open this summer’s walking season :D .
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bobble_hat_kenny
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Posts: 314
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo lives up to its name...

Postby mrssanta » Sat May 11, 2013 5:36 pm

maybe the Round Blisters of the Corrie were on the feet of the cartographer? That looked like you were fair enjoying your day out, and another three in the bag too.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo lives up to its name...

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Mon May 13, 2013 4:56 pm

mrssanta wrote:maybe the Round Blisters of the Corrie were on the feet of the cartographer? That looked like you were fair enjoying your day out, and another three in the bag too.

I think your suggestion there as regards the origins of the "Chruinn-Bhalgain" is a fascinating hypothesis, and quite possibly the answer to a long-standing conundrum.
Aye, it was still a grand day's walking despite the Bog Factor and the Clag, and certainly a very nice three ticks :D .
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bobble_hat_kenny
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo lives up to its name...

Postby gammy leg walker » Mon May 13, 2013 5:19 pm

Brings back memories,that walk out never again.
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