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The Glas Maol 4 - Sunshine and lots of the white stuff

The Glas Maol 4 - Sunshine and lots of the white stuff

Postby GillC » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:09 pm

Route description: Glas Maol Munros circuit, Cairnwell Pass

Munros included on this walk: Cairn of Claise, Càrn an Tuirc, Creag Leacach, Glas Maol

Date walked: 23/11/2013

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 15.5 km

Ascent: 923m

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With a recent big dump of snow in the area, the Cairngorms were looking splendid, if a tad inaccessible (A93 shut between Spittal and Braemar for the best part of 2 days!!)

I arranged to meet Sue (RumTruffle) at the end point of the Glas Maol 4 at 7:30am on Saturday, so was up and away from home around 4:45 am, arriving at the snowbound car park 7:10am. No way my car was going to cope with the snow in there and I ended up parked a bit further up the hill, where the path comes off Glas Maol itself. Eerie listening to the birds calling and deer bellowing under a clear sky and bright moon.

1 Early morning moonlight.JPG
Early morning moonlight

Booted up and a quick chat when Sue arrived, leaving my car ‘close’ to the end of the walk, we drove up to the start point. 8:02am and ready for the off. Slightly further up the road from the WH route.

The forecast had high pressure hanging around for a while so was looking like a great day ahead. We had previously discussed including Tolmount and Tom Buidhe in the circuit but snow was definitely going to slow our progress so happy to just aim for the 4. This also gave us time for Sue to impart some of her nav knowledge on a complete novice. The path round to Tuirc was easily found from our different starting point and we soon found the wee stone bridge referred to in the WH route but on moving further round, we simply followed footprints up the side of the burn, deer, hare etc, but nothing of the human variety at this point.

2 Over to Cairnwell from foothills of Tuirc.JPG
Over to Cairnwell from foothills of Tuirc

The hill was clear ahead and we opted to just go straight up the front, steeper, but more direct. We saw plenty of hares in a mix of coats, dark to white, darting around the hillsides. Plenty of grouse too.

Sue had the unenviable task of breaking a trail here, some deep snow in pockets but the views were fantastic, so any excuse to stop and have a look around. The summit cairn (1019mtrs) is pretty much as you breach the crest of the hill, on the West of the broad flat top.

3 Sliding off the rocks  lol.JPG
Sliding off the rocks lol

Couple of pics and got the map / compasses out for some educational navigation. I have been carrying my dads old compass around for years, with no idea how to use it. It must be as old as I am but thankfully, worked just fine. Comparing our bearings etc, we marched off across the plateau.

Curving round and South above Cul Riabhach before a slight incline up to Cairn of Claise at 1064mtrs, I could see how claggy conditions would make this difficult on such a broad expanse of featureless ground,,but we had good views and it was reassuring to be able to confirm our bearings etc. We had seen someone following up the rear since the top of Tuirc and we had a brief chat at the top of Claise, shared our map to let him assess his time/distance as he was going on over to Tolmount/Tombuidhe and then heading off from Claise again.

Leaving Claise, we could see Glas Maol, under cloud ! WHO ORDERED THAT??? Still, it seemed to be moving under the relatively light NW wind. Keeping above the crags of Garbh-choire on our right, we discussed snow types, patterns, assessing avalanche risk etc. All very helpful and some turning my preconceived ideas on their heads regarding wind direction etc.

Coming off Claise, you lose a little over 100mtrs in height before starting up the rounded sides of Glas Maol. Here, we met up with the a chirpy wee bloke in a Tom Weir style bobble hat who looked like he was out for an afternoon stroll lol He commented on a “busy hill” and told us we were the 7th people he had met. We could see the top of the ski lift on Maol from here so, pleasantries swapped,,off we went. We could have followed a bearing but we could see the track arching round to the right, much easier in these conditions. The cloud had lifted from the summit as we regained the height and across another broad top to the cairn at 1068mtrs.

We had seen horizontal tracks across the clean snow slope, very narrow so must have been edging, and now on top, we could see more across the flat ground,,but didn’t actually see anyone on skis! On the way up, we passed a man with a dog who didn’t acknowledge us, then two guys who happily waved poles in our direction. 2 more at the top and a quick chat before they headed off, leaving us to make use of their handy seating area in the snow on the cairn lol

4 Glas Maol summit.JPG
Glas Maol summit

5 Wee Selfy.JPG
Wee Selfy

Few pics and a bite to eat and off we went. The wind was picking up a bit now and looking over to the ridge down , then up (looked very steep from here) to Creag Leacach, I must admit to having a bit of an ‘OMG moment’. I didn’t remember any of the reports I'd read mention this steep a climb at this point. Thankfully Sue allayed my fears and advised it was only the foreshortening view we had (Phew!)

6 Arctic landscape.JPG
Arctic landscape

Taking our bearing at the top, we slightly mistimed the ground cover and on coming down to the cairn at Bathach Beag, we realised we were 75 – 100 yards further west, no biggy on a clear day. Down to the large cairn then turned South towards the narrow ribbon of land between rockier East and West faces of Cul Riabhach. The wind was very gusty here now, lots of rocks to clamber over, bit slippy in places. We were then at the start of what had earlier looked extremely steep, still on the up but nothing like what I had thought.

7 Sun getting low.JPG
Sun getting low

On reaching the top of Leacach (987 mtrs) the wind was VERY strong but again, we kept the views all round and the horizon to the West now showed the pink hews of the coming sunset. 14:30 by this time, with a little under 2hrs of daylight left.

8 Leacach back to Glas Maol.JPG
Leacach back to Glas Maol

Going back to our slight issue with the car being at the top of a big hill on the A93,,, we called in backup. Tomsie was climbing a Corbett in the area (Creag nan Gabhar) so, called and arranged a pick up at the bottom car park. Apologies to him for my miscalculation on our descent time :? took twice as long as we thought as after leaving the south peak, the ground cover was fiddly, rocky, icy and it took longer to get down to the bealach under Meall Gorm before heading down to the burn and our climb out.

9 Coming off the South peak of Leacach.JPG
Coming off the South peak of Leacach

10 South peak of Leacach.JPG
South peak of Leacach

11 Lovely skies.JPG
Lovely skies
12 Looking back at Maol.JPG
Looking back at Maol

13 Sunsets coming, end of another great day out..JPG
Sunsets coming, end of another great day out.

Reaching Allt Coire a Bhathaich, we actually decided against following a trodden path round the side of the hill opposite, instead, waded the burn (twice) then scrambled up directly under the carpark. Who needs a path when you're that close to a warm car?

Fantastic day, about 7.5hrs, pretty good time considering the wading in deep snow at some points.
Drop off at my car, thanks to the guys for waiting to make sure I got out of the icy car park, drop of at Sues, then car convoy to Braemar for a well deserved pint (or 3)

Thanks to Sue for her chat, nav training and snow guide, and to Tomsie for our lift up a long slow road that would have been hellish to walk. Another cracking day on the hills and 4 more Munros for the bag.

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Last edited by GillC on Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Glas Maol 4 - Sunshine and lots of the white stuff

Postby dooterbang » Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:19 pm

I remember the days I used to get up that early for a winters walk!

Well done. Looked a fab day.
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Re: The Glas Maol 4 - Sunshine and lots of the white stuff

Postby colingray8 » Tue Nov 26, 2013 9:21 am

I was up here last Sunday and did Creag Leacach and Glas Moal from the low carpark. Very little snow, only wee bits hiding behind some of the stane dykes. A few days later I hear about the road being closed by snow. The difference a week makes. :shock:

Good report and some nice photo's. I enjoyed that. :clap:


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Re: The Glas Maol 4 - Sunshine and lots of the white stuff

Postby pollyh33 » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:58 am

Excellent report and photos Gill :clap: :clap:

The hills look gorgeous all white and crisp. You're quite right to leave the other two for a later date because they are a wee bit further away than you think!

Me and Jock McJock did these on a roasting summer day and I can assure you that walk back along the road (no knight in shining armour for us!!!) is hellish :shock: :shock:
Only made worse by some eejit (yes you Mark) having a flat battery because he had left his lights on :roll: :roll:

Cue me having to jump in front of the first passing car to beg a jump start :( :(

PS looking forward to meeting up with you tomorrow night. :D :D
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Re: The Glas Maol 4 - Sunshine and lots of the white stuff

Postby Tomsie » Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:44 pm

Glad to be of service :wink:
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Re: The Glas Maol 4 - Sunshine and lots of the white stuff

Postby scottishkennyg » Tue Nov 26, 2013 8:12 pm

Well done. Nice to see these hills with winter coats. And well done Tomsie.
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