Page 1 of 1

Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:30 pm
by Graeme D
CurlyWurly, Kevsbald and myself had originally planned on doing these 3 the weekend before Christmas but when Kev pulled out, Darren and myself changed plans and did Sgairneach Mhor and Beinn Udlamain instead. These 3 were therefore a bit of unfinished business, but with the forecast suggesting that snow storms might be heading into northern areas over the weekend, we had a Plan B in the shape of a couple of Corbetts further south. However, as it turned out, it looked like it would be fine, albeit bitterly cold at Munro level.

Darren and Kev drove through to Perth from Dunfermline and Glasgow respectively as a huge pre-dawn full moon almost filled the sky. After a quick cuppa at my house, we were into my car and heading out of Perth by 8am.

Drumochter Summit (not to mention Layby 79) was a very different place to 6 weeks ago when Darren and I were last up here. However, as we turned off the A9 and onto the road leading over the bridge and down into Newtonmore, the snow become more evident on and near the road. After a little bit of searching, we soon found Old Glen Road leading off Newtonmore High Street and heading up towards Glen Banchor. With the snow on this side road looking distinctly dodgy, I was glad I had taken the Toyota, which has proved itself very capable in the recent bad snow, and not the old Astra, which has always proved itself to be worse than useless in anything more than the lightest of dustings. A short distance along the road we had to stop as the road was blocked by a car which was stuck in the snow and being slowly shoved and cajoled out of the way by what looked like the group of walkers who had until recently been passengers in the car. With the road beyond now climbing and our momentum lost, the car started to struggle and despite having my right foot nailed to the boards, the fight was lost before the top of the incline was reached. I rolled back down the slope a bit to try again, but our momentum was gone and with the road being little more than ice with a dusting of powdery snow on top, it looked like we were going to have to abandon the car and face an additional stretch on foot at the start and finish of the day. We decided to give it one more go with Kev and Darren pushing and me hugging the verge as close to the beech hedge as possible to try and get whatever grip there was there. Despite the increasingly noticeable burning smell, we made it and proceeded to smugly drive past a large group of walkers on foot all the way to the parking area at the end of the public road.

We quickly donned cold weather gear as Lucy ran around in the snow and the three people in the car which pulled in just behind us got their gear together, including skis. By 9.35 we were off and heading up the east side of the Allt a’ Chaorainn with the eastern coire of A’ Chailleach immediately and clearly visible to the north-west.

Setting off - A' Chailleach in the distance

Looking west down Glen Banchor

Lucy and the Old Woman

The going is quite tricky in places as the path is quite tortuous, especially as it comes close to the stream on the left. There are also large finely polished slabs of black ice cutting right across the path and in other places, crusty bogs which look quite firm but which suck the unsuspecting walker in with a loud slurping noise :( .

Looking down the Allt a' Chaorainn towards An Torr

Serious icicle formation!

We can make out quite a few groups making their way up the south eastern slopes of the Old Woman above the howff which is also clearly visible against the white backdrop of the hillside. As we come almost level with the howff off to our left, we have not seen any sign of the supposed rickety bridge over the stream, so we have to carefully negotiate our way over some icy protruding boulders before making a beeline for the howff and a quick tea break.

Approaching the howff, Lucy leading the way

Darren and Kev outside the A' Chailleach Hilton

While we are in the little howff having a cuppa, the lone female walker who had been ahead of us (but had continued on up the path further than us, presumably in search of a better crossing opportunity) came in. She didn’t seem too sure whether she was going to go for all three Munro summits or just the first two, but then we hadn’t quite committed ourselves either.

As we continue on up towards the ridge, the views back down into Glen Banchor and to Newtonmore open up and several groups or individuals can be seen ascending below us. The cliffs of Carn Dearg soon come into view far to the west and the fine clear skies in that direction are a positive sign if we want to bag all three summits. Away to the east, however, the Cairgorm summits are shrouded in cloud. Not much of a view from up there today by the looks of it!

Others ascending

Darren and Lucy approaching the ridge

Fantastic patterns in the snow

Kev and Darren take in the vista

First views of the cliffs of Carn Dearg

The girl from the howff passes us as we are stopped for some photos and a natter. When we finally emerge onto the ridge for the short haul to the cairn, the going is like walking on pavement, so hard frozen is the stony ground. When we reach the huge shelter cairn, the girl is still there and we are soon joined by another foursome.

Munro summit #1

The wind chill is ferocious and the girl isn’t hanging about. It’s all we can manage to hang about for 5 minutes and grab a quick drink and a bite to eat. The shelter cairn is choked full of snow drift so there isn’t much shelter to be had and we head off before our eyeballs begin to freeze. Kev said he reckoned it was the fiercest he’d ever experienced on top of a Munro and he was having serious doubts about what the hell he was doing there! He actually ran most of the way down to the Allt Cuil na Caillich before starting the climb up onto Carn Sgulain, Munro number 2 of the day :lol: .

View of Carn Sgulain from above Allt Cuil na Caillich

View east towards the Cairngorms

There is some serious snow swimming to be done between A’ Chailleach and Carn Sgulain and one of the guys who had arrived at the first summit is fighting his way up away to our left. Either he was fitter than us or he found a route of less resistance because he made it to Sgulain ahead of us before promptly departing for Carn Dearg. The girl was also setting off as we arrived and she had decided she was going for Carn Dearg too.

Myself, Darren and Lucy - Carn Sgulain: Munro #2

Carn Sgulain summit looking across to A' Chailleach

The weather still looked fine and it was early enough still, so after another quick bite and a slug of the slush that had formed in our bottles, we decided to aim for Carn Dearg as well. In any case, we could tell from the view ahead and from the map that there were routes off and back to Glen Banchor without going all the way to the third Munro.

Start of the long trek across the tops to Carn Dearg

We weren’t too far into the 8km trudge along the fence posts before the weather began to close in above the cliffs of Carn Dearg, and we spot the skiers flying down the northern slopes of A’ Chailleach. We ploughed on unfazed, crossing the tops of Meall a’ Bhothain, Meall na Creughaich and Carn Ballach before leaving the fence posts at Carn Ban and taking a bearing almost due south for the final Munro of the day.

Weather closing in above cliffs of Carn Dearg

Carn Dearg - clearing a bit?

The long walk from Carn Sgulain was now taking its toll on our legs and I could feel my vision beginning to swim a bit – it certainly didn’t help that my snow goggles were icing up! Lucy also seemed to be finding it a bit tough now and was taking on a distinctly iced-up appearance. She was increasingly objecting to any sort of stop, and when we did stop and set down our packs, she was immediately trying to cower in against them for a bit of shelter :( .

Darren and Lucy - heads down, ploughing on stoically

The cairn of Carn Dearg sits perched right on the edge of the cliffs and we seemed to strike it lucky with the weather, which cleared briefly while we were at the summit.

Clearer skies as we approach Carn Dearg

Carn Dearg - cairn and cornice

Kev begins to ice up at summit #3

Lucy fails to appreciate the joys of Munroing in January!

We quickly returned to the bealach and dropped down into Glen Ballach. Everything I had read and heard about the walk out from Carn Dearg was true – it was a real killer at the end of a long day.

By the time we reached the Allt Fionndrigh my legs were really starting to go and by the time we were under the crags of Creag Liath, the head torches had to go on. It was pitch dark long before we reached the turn at Glenballach and hauled our aching limbs through the kilometre and a bit trudge back to the car.

We were the last car out of the parking area and drove back out the glen with thoughts of dinner foremost in our minds. Just as we were coming into Newtonmore we passed the girl who said she had completed all three Munros and walked out of the glen. Maybe the three of us aren’t quite as fit as we thought after all!

I don’t know how the other two guys managed to drive back home from Perth, because I felt like I had lost all feeling in my legs by the time I stepped through the front door.

An absolute belter this one was! Cheers for a cracking day guys! :D :D :D

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:40 pm
by kevsbald
I saw that girl taking something white up her nose...honest.

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:44 pm
by Graeme D
kevsbald wrote:I saw that girl taking something white up her nose...honest.

No doubt you'll be testing for anthrax! :lol:

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:51 pm
by mountain coward
Great photos - reminds me of last year when I did it although there was less snow then... I didn't know about the 'invisible bridge' when I did it and ploughed up the burn to the one marked on the map - it was long gone! I suspect your bridge has now washed away after the torrential rains in late autumn/early winter. Poor Lucy though - she really didn't look to be having fun towards the end!

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:47 am
by Graeme D
mountain coward wrote:Poor Lucy though - she really didn't look to be having fun towards the end!

No, she was toiling a bit. She must be getting a bit too old for that kind of malarkey! Come to think of it, she might not be the only one..... :lol:

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 1:37 pm
by CurlyWurly
Excellent report Graeme, I dunno about Lucy being tired, I was shattered. Only just recovered :)

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:40 pm
by albagubrath
kevsbald wrote:I saw that girl taking something white up her nose...honest.

Snow perhaps?

Great report Graeme. Sounds and looks like it was a cracking day

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:11 am
by mountain coward
Graeme Dewar wrote:
kevsbald wrote:I saw that girl taking something white up her nose...honest.

No doubt you'll be testing for anthrax! :lol:

Ah now, along with Megadeth - another great thrash metal group! :D

Re: Three blokes, one dog and the Old Woman of the Monadhliath

PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:13 am
by Wanderlust
I did this walk in the opposite direction last Friday (the 12th), had great views all the way up to Carn Dearg, clouded up as I approached the top. I remember reading on the walk descriptions of this one that in poor visibility that you can follow those fence-posts all the way to Carn Sgùlain.

It started to clear when I got to Sgùlain and I got good view across to A' Chailleach and Carn Dearg, saw a nice sunset from A' Chailleach. Quite an easy descent from there with views of the Cairngorms. Crossed the river on some stepping stones then followed the path back to the car park, where I'd left my bike.

Carn Dearg

ridge to Carn Dearg summit

looking towards Carn Dearg from Carn Sgùlain

Sun setting over Carn Dearg, from A' Chailleach

Alpenglow on the Cairngorms, on the descent from A' Chailleach