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The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

Postby ngm1scot » Sun Jun 16, 2013 8:37 am

Route description: Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Mairg and Creag Mhor

Munros included on this walk: Carn Gorm

Date walked: 15/06/2013

Time taken: 8 hours

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Warning: This is a long report but its message is important

It was supposed to be Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime on Saturday, attempting our first proper doubler ( I don’t really count the Beinn Ghlas/ Ben Lawers double as such). And it was to Lawers country we eventually returned simply because the forecast, although still bad had a tinge of hope in it: cloud base 800-1050 and a 20% chance of cloud free summits.
Addicted to the early morning starts we set off from Glasgow at 4.20am aiming to be starting to walk by 6.30. It rained almost the entire journey but we were both happy to walk in the rain knowing that it would go off at some point. We got to Invervar at about 6.15 no doubt due to the quiet roads and promptly decided to have a short kip. Alarm set for 6.45. When eventually it did go off, I wished it hadn’t as I had just got into a nice sleep but we got kitted up and headed off.
The route opposite the phone box is shut but the alternative is just a few metres further west along the road.
The burn was rushing down from the hills making a massive noise for so early in the morning: even at this point in its journey it certainly wasn’t running out of steam. This stream was to be our companion for a couple of kms.
River in torrent mode

When a day starts off badly it usually ends badly and the first thing we did was cross the stile at the first gate. It was wet and a bit slippy and the platform a bit high and tricky for an old yin like me. The next gate was when we realised our mistake: we opened the next gate never thinking to open the first gate! Oh well there’s always the way back…
The climb up through the forest is a great bit – well closed in by the trees but with a kind of Lost World feel to it. We got a good opportunity for more views of the burn up close. Quickly we were out of the woods (but only for the first time) and into open country. For me it felt like an escape from the darkness into light and from there the path took us, following the green and gold posts steadily uphill. The rain had made some of the path into mini streams and at times I felt like we were actually walking up a river as there was more water than path but it all added to the pleasure of the day.
I pointed out to Andrew, “See, look that’s our path back down” and passed on uphill. I knew from various reports about the rickety bridge
Dodgy bridge
and arriving at it, gave us a good chance for a wee rest and a drink of water before heading over the river to the steeper climb by the forest edge (with a few bits where the path becomes edgeless). I took a short rest at the top of this stretch while Andrew attended to his comfort and while looking around had a “Prince Charles” moment when I spotted this higher up on the hillside.
Wild creatures

Truly a magnificent beast.
The cloud was still high above us but that was to change and quickly as we climbed up the ridge of Carn Gorm. We reached a good wee vantage point where the path turns sharply to the right and we could see back down into Glen Lyon with the River Tay stretching out languorously as it headed down to the sea. This spot was to become a critical part of our Twilight zone experience on the Carn Mairg circuit. The cloud traily bits were starting to rise out of the forest and we turned to go uphill. Within seconds we were completely enveloped in cloud.
I had intended to get the map from Tiso on Friday but hadn’t quite managed it. I did have the foresight to print out the route description from WH beforehand however and as there was a path the whole way really wasn’t too concerned about the lack of a map. Had this been a pathless walk I most certainly would have been.
One of the problems the cloud presented was the perception of distance and height. As we approached each shoulder on the way up we could just make out the next “big round thing” (and occasionally the next after that) and that in one sense was helpful. On we climbed stage by stage stopping not too often, knowing we had a big day ahead of us. We reached the summit about 2 ¾ hours after starting.
We don’t often these days get hung up on the presence or absence of trigs. In my early days the trig point was everything till I learned that not every hill has one and that not every trig point is at the top of a hill so my “bagging” of trig points quickly stopped. However Carn Gorm has one but the vandals had been at it and it lay on its side like an overturned Dalek.
Dead Dalek
The trig point was to become important later.
Having had our first breakfast just below the dalek trig point, out of the wind and the rain which had started we carried on, there being nothing to see except clag. I think I surprised Andrew at how quickly I descended the hill (well quickly for me) and soon we reached the Bealach. And the avoidable hill. And the bypass route for the avoidable hill.
The OS map doesn’t really show the network of paths and the WH route map does indicate taking the main path to the left which we were certain we did since the next big round thing passed us on the right.
We continued quickly along this bypass path and it did seem to be quite wide at the start only later becoming narrower. I began to become a little concerned when we passed over two or three scree/ earthy slopes and the “main path” became indistinct and more complex. Instinctively I felt that it should by now be curving upwards to rejoin the main route; we must have avoided the avoidable hill by now…
I checked my compass and found we were travelling South West and this was the first point that my head began to get confused. The route description said we should be travelling North East but what convinced me we were on the right road was that we had followed the directions exactly so I rationalised that perhaps the path had turned temporarily South West. We carried on over yet more earth slopes and a path which became narrower and more invisible. Eventually it seemed to lead us up and we went up.
Rocks at the South East side of the avoidable hill
Into a rocky landscape with cliffs and a path that was invisible and laden with potential danger: all we could see was that there was no way down from the top of the crags.
We stopped in the small bealach – if that is what it was – while Andrew headed off up the steep side of the hill in the direction we had just come. He reappeared a few minutes later to say “This way – I can see a peak” So I clambered slowly up this really steep hillside finding little to hang on to and eventually when my lungs felt like exploding I reached the top only to find no Andrew. The cloud was thick and dense at this point. I shouted on him a couple of times but got no answer. Mind starting to play tricks now – “If he had fallen off, he would have shouted, and I would have heard him but what if the cloud had deadened the sound and he had fallen off and now I was alone…..” If he had been here, he would have headed on up and that is what I did. I heard a shout from behind me: Andrew! Turned out he had been all the way back down the hill to where I had waited on him and had come all the way back up. He had left his backpack down somewhere and was now looking for it. He found it I’m glad to say.
What I couldn’t figure out was the complete absence of these fenceposts that were supposed to guide you in bad weather. We headed up to the easy summit that lay ahead of us now, thinking we had missed out a munro, captured a shot of the cairn
Cairn on an unknown (but probably the avoidable) hill top
and turned to go back down the way we had come up and the sun came out giving us for the first time that day a view of the hills.
Andrew had seen something which I interpreted as where we'd been
We looked back the way we had come and were able to spot all of the munro tops we had “passed by” on the bypass route. Andrew could even see the fence posts on the edge of the hill standing out in the sunlight. We reasoned therefore that – having passed the fence posts we must have gone further than I thought and so the one which now lay ahead of us must therefore be number 4. However there was a niggly piece of information in my head: if that IS number 4 then why does the distance reading on my app only say 9km – it should be reading about 13km.

This was another piece of information I ignored because my brain couldn’t analyse it properly based on the visual evidence we (thought we) had. And as we re-ascended Carn Gorm we came upon these false friends who seemed to confirm this was Number 4.
False friends on the way back up Carn Gorm

And here was another piece of missed evidence
Huge clue missed: the mountain curves to the left. If we had been going in the right direction it would have gone the other way

So we now turned back towards what we thought was the direction of travel we had been on – effectively in the direction of the craggy rocky bit except we were going up to the 4th Munro. The cloud descended as did the rain. After what seemed like an age we reached the summit which from this angle looked pointy. We stopped just below the cairn/ shelter to have lunch as it was now about 12.30 and felt proud of ourselves The rain had died down a bit and there was sense of satisfaction having at least covered the distance (if not exactly 4 munros) in 5 ½ hours. We completely bypassed the cairn we had been sitting under and headed for the far away one.
The second Cairn on Carn Gorm, the second time we climbed up
Isn’t it funny I said how these munros all seem to have more than 1 cairn. We headed quickly downhill and soon met our first fellow walkers of the day. They looked at us strangely when we said we had just done number 4 on the circuit although we may have missed out a couple, anyway pleasantries aside, we walked on and I remember saying to Andrew, “They’re doing this the wrong way – it clearly says to go clockwise” and we headed downhill and eventually out of the cloud.
I don’t remember what the first thing was that reminded us of our ascent – the waterfall cascading down in a gully on a distant hillside, or the forest that appeared as the cloud rose above us, or the wee promontory that we stood on and looked back at the languorous River Tay. Andrew became more sure we had somehow got back on to our descent route. I was adamant that was impossible because it was a circuit and if we had done 4 munros then we couldn’t be on the original route. My brain was not coping. I recalled little of the path so it seemed new to me. We got to an immensely boggy bit and Andrew – who was by now 100% convinced this was the same route – said to me “Remember this bit?”
Pretty flowers
I did kind of (because of the flowers) but it seemed boggier now. We compared photographs with the hill outline and it was becoming clearer that it was the same route. On arriving at the forest edge it was now beyond doubt we had come back the same way as the signs all pointed up toward Carn Gorm.
I had to wait till Callander before we got some kind of mobile service with 3G to see the route that the app had captured and at some point we had completed a circle and exactly followed the outward route. We had climbed Carn Gorm twice once in each direction.
So the twilight zone got us. If we had stopped to look inside the cairn that we had lunched beneath (twice) we would have seen the Dalek and realised our mistake; if we had had a map we might have discovered where we were but I relied on a GPS service where there was no mobile phone connection. (The whole of Glen Lyon and Loch Tay seem to have none.) If we had stopped and tried to process the inconsistent data better – distance, direction, the missing fenceposts – we might have eventually worked it out. Only once I had loaded up the route data from my phone app did I discover that the reasons behind the inconsistent data were because we had not only climbed the avoidable Munro top but had done a complete circuit of it. We had been so intent on keeping the hill to our right that we hadn't noticed a path which must go left to Meall Garbh, and when we saw the distant fence posts that was where we should have gone instead of backwards.

The moral of this story is entirely clear
Whether travelling far or near
Take a f*ng map with you
Or the twilight zone will get you too

Apologies for the lack of photographs - to me one cloud seems pretty much like the next

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Re: The Twilight Zone

Postby siobhan_flute » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:48 pm

There is mobile reception on top of the forth munro :wink:
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Re: The Twilight Zone

Postby malky_c » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:59 pm

Brilliant :lol: . I've done a circumnavigation of An Sgorr before too. Unfortunately we were part of a group who had become strung out over half a mile or so, so we had to go around again and catch up the rest of them (who didn't make the mistake).
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