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Capercaillie, dotterel, ptarmigan & kangaroo on Tulaichean
by dogplodder » Fri May 16, 2014 11:11 pm
Route description: Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ, Spittal of Glenshee
Munros included on this walk: Carn an Righ, Glas Tulaichean
Date walked: 14/05/2014
Distance: 27 km5 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We left Inverness shortly after 6.00 am and drove down the A9 which was busier with lorries (some doing only 40mph) than we had bargained for, turned off at Pitlochry to Kirkmichael, then on to the B950 which links with the A93 to Braemar. It was somewhere on this road a large black grouse type bird about the size of a turkey crossed the road in front of us. I saw the red above its eyes and my first thought was capercaillie? But I knew we'd be unlikely to see a capercaillie out of woods so maybe it was a black grouse? After studying photos of both I think it looked more like a capercaillie but those who know their birds better than I do will correct me if that just isn't possible.
We drove up the long drive to Dalmunzie Castle Hotel and went in to reception to give our £2.50 parking fee to a very nice man slightly reminiscent of Archie on Balamory except he wasn't wearing a kilt and pink jumper. He said he'd been up Glas Tulaichean, couldn't see his hand in front of him, got lost and took 12 hours to get back! We assured him we didn't intend to get lost and if we took anything approaching 12 hours it would just be because we're slow walkers and like to take lots of breaks.
Dalmunzie Castle Hotel
We set off along the track towards Glenlochsie Farm and almost immediately a farm vehicle drew up beside us and asked where we were going. Satisfied we knew what we were doing he drove off then stopped and reversed to tell us not to walk through the field of cows - not that there was any danger but their curiosity would make them come over to give us a close inspection. Instead we should stay on the track and walk through the farm steading. And just as he predicted the cows did show a keen interest in us through the fence as we passed - perhaps not much else to entertain them at this time in the morning!
We followed the track to the ford which was too deep to cross and instead of turning back to zig zag up to the line of the old railway track we continued along a rough path on the right side of the river before heading up directly towards the bridge we could see a bit further along the hillside.
Glen Lochsie with old railway track above
This railway line was built to transport stone for building an extension to Castle Dalmunzie in 1921 and was used by deer stalkers up until the 1970s. It offers a useful (if muddy in places) alternative to the vehicle track on the other side which involves two fords and can be difficult to cross on foot when the water level is high.
Glenlochsie Lodge from old railway track
There's a footbridge just behind the lodge and from there a path leads on to the vehicle track which continues to within a short distance of the summit of Glas Tulaichean, making this one of the most accessible Munros I've climbed.
A former shooting lodge it's now a ruin
Glen Lochsie from ridge of Breac-reidh
It was a glorious morning and the views improved with every step. Since we'd had an early start we stopped for a second breakfast and enjoyed the views of Beinn a' Ghlo and further off to the hills around Ben Lawers in the south west.
Moira and Beinn a' Ghlo
It was a nostalgic walk for me. The last time I was here was March 1998 - along with Crawford, Mike, Paul, Peng, Roy, Victor, Eileen, Joyce, Karen and Sheila when we had cake to celebrate Crawford's birthday and the wind blew the candles out! I remember the cloud was down and we had no views from the top and then on the way down it parted and we got a sudden revelation of Beinn a' Ghlo which was just lovely.
Happy days and fond memories of all these folk.
So back to the present and we continued to the high point of the track and saw a cairn and faint path off to the right but kept going until we saw the fence posts, as per WH instructions, the obedient souls that we are. Not many steps up this path you come to a cairn which clearly isn't the top so not sure what that's about. Between the cairn and the trig point we came across a flock of dotterel running around like clockwork toys and allowing us to get quite close before at the same instant flying off. How do they do that - some trigger point known only to them?
Seeing the large concrete trig point Moira had the bright idea to sit her camera on the edge of it, setting it to take a photo of the two of us, which it did. This was the first time she'd set her camera to do this.
The two of us at Glas Tulaichean summit (Moira's camera)
A fraction of a second after taking that photo a gust of wind knocked the camera off its perch and it fell to the rock below smashing the front cover of the lense into tiny pieces. It did continue to take photos but the automatic focus was damaged. Moira has had some great results from that camera so we were both pretty deflated and Moira was kicking herself for not seeing the possibility of that happening.
View from summit over Beinn Iutharn Mhor to the Lairig Ghru (zoomed)
View east over Ghlas Choire to Cairnwell hills
We followed the ridge north east towards Loch an Eun
Loch an Eun zoomed
It was a stunning high level walk on firm grass with blue skies, sun, snow, ptarmigan and 360 degree views. There were cornices still hanging on the rim of Ghlas Choire and we walked round some snow patches rather than risk going too near the edge.
Glas Tulaichean north east ridge
Carn an Righ - second target of the day
But the camera incident had dampened our spirits and as we dropped down towards the bealach and the stalker's path leading to Carn an Righ I slipped on grass sodden from snow melt, did a spectacular fall and ended up pretty sodden myself and tweaking my knee in the process. It was about then I became aware we'd lost the sunshine we'd had all morning and the light was altogether more gloomy. As we crossed the burn, reached the muddy path and looked for a spot to sit and have some food (and Ibuprofen for the knee) I started to wonder if we were wise to go on.
It wasn't that I doubted we could do it, but knowing how long the return route is along Gleann Taitneach I wondered how long it would take us to get back to Dalmunzie. I voiced my concerns to Moira fully expecting her to say yes it was a long way and we didn't know how long it would take to include Carn an Righ so perhaps it would be wise to turn back. I didn't want her to go on for my sake and I honestly didn't mind but she was keen to keep going and suggested we at least go on to the foot of Carn an Righ, which we did, and once we started climbing we just kept going!
Devil's Point and Lairig Ghru from bealach at foot of Carn an Righ
Lower slopes of Carn an Righ (hill of the king)
There is a stony path at first which peters out as you make your way up over grass and scree to the rocky summit.
Glas Tulaichean from slopes of Carn an Righ - can you see the kangaroo on skis?
Me at summit cairn of Carn an Righ (taken with Moira's phone)
Moira at cairn
We came off Carn an Righ pretty quickly, on the descent meeting the only person we met all day who said he'd come straight down Glas Tulaichean through the snow (a fast descent courtesy of the kangaroo!) and were soon back at our lunch spot and on our way to Loch nan Eun. To give us a break from the intermittently very muddy stalker's path we dropped down to walk on the turf beside the stream and became aware of a network of underground streams which must have been the watershed because suddenly I noticed the stream was now running east instead of west. There continued to be a path of sorts, soggy in places, sometimes disappearing then picking up again, which eventually led to a point where we could see Loch an Eun.
Looking back along bealach between Glas Tulaichean and Mam nan Carn
Loch an Eun
As others have said it's a delightful spot but the gathering clouds made me not want to hang around too long and we made our way round and over part of a large snow field which extended right down to the water's edge, then climbing up to where you suddenly see the whole of Gleann Taitneach opened up before you. Quite a wow moment which in the dull light the photos don't do justice to.
It was a long way back to the car!
The descent is quite steep but there's a path all the way and it was here I saw a mountain hare sitting watching us with interest. We'd seen deer earlier but up on the slopes of Carn a' Chlarsaich there was a massive herd of deer grazing, their red coats clearly visible even in the gloom, as by this time it had started to rain.
The path followed the left side of the burn with its many little waterfalls and in places it reminded us of the steep path that goes down Coire Raibert on the way to Loch Avon.
Last photo I took before rain was too heavy and I packed camera away
After what seemed like a long time the path led to a bulldozed track and we were able to pick up speed for the last few miles back to Dalmunzie. I was happily motoring along but Moira's feet were hurting and she seemed to lose her mojo, slowing right down. I had made a prediction about the time we'd reach Dalmunzie and was keen to see if I could do it. But I didn't want to lose sight of Moira and kept stopping until I could see her coming - by this point very slowly and painfully.
It's a beautiful glen but I was relieved when I spotted the bridge as I was concerned we would miss it and didn't think wading the river was going to be too attractive a proposition at this stage in the proceedings! From the bridge there's a path along the west side of the river which reaches a gate all tied up with knotted string. I couldn't see how to open it so climbed it and then stood there waiting for Moira so I could tell her she'd have to climb it and then felt daft as she lifted it (at the end not tied with string) over a rock, opened it and walked straight through.
My next not so bright moment was spotting a large house up the hill and wondering if that was Dalmunzie Castle Hotel so started climbing up towards it until Moira called to me that was a modern house and no way was it the hotel. Think by now the old brain cells weren't working too well.
Then we saw the white gate opposite the place where walkers are directed through a field (except we didn't go that way because of over-interested cows) and once through that it was a short walk along the road to the hotel. We went in to use the facilities and the nice Archie man told us we'd done brilliantly and Moira very quickly recovered her mojo and drove us home extremely smoothly - a journey taking nearly two and a half hours and during which I struggled to keep my eyes open.
All in all a fantastic day bringing back many fond memories of this wonderful part of Scotland!
by Huff_n_Puff » Sat May 17, 2014 2:42 pm
by Silverhill » Sat May 17, 2014 5:45 pm
by dogplodder » Sat May 17, 2014 7:55 pm
Huff_n_Puff wrote:Lovely report and great photos - shame about Moira's camera though. You picked a good day for these two, its great to see old stamping grounds again (We also took the MWIS hint and headed for the Cairngorms on Wednesday - but to Glen Feshie - TR still to come!)
The fated camera is now in the hands of someone who says he can fix it - which is a great relief as felt somewhat implicated in its untimely demise!
by Backpacker » Sat May 17, 2014 7:57 pm
by gizmogirl » Sat May 17, 2014 10:00 pm
by Beaner001 » Sun May 18, 2014 4:31 pm
by dogplodder » Sun May 18, 2014 8:45 pm
Silverhill wrote:Well done both of you, that is a long walk! I’m glad the weather was good for most of the day. I hope your knee has recovered. I’ve always fancied including Beinn Iutharn Mhor with these two, but think I will reconsider now. That would be a lot of mileage. Perhaps I should make it an overnighter, with a wild camp at Loch nan Eun! It looks so lovely.
Knee's fine thanks. I don't think you'd have any problem including BIM in a day hike. The loch's a fine overnight spot but then you'd be carrying more stuff....
by dogplodder » Sun May 18, 2014 8:51 pm
Backpacker wrote:So that's what the views are like from up there. I was up there today and didn't see a thing
Saw nothing the last time I was up... but there was so many of us had a good time whatever!
by dogplodder » Mon May 19, 2014 7:44 pm
Beaner001 wrote:Nice one dog plodder, this report will come in handy as I've still to try these two
It's a good one for the dogs too as didn't see any sheep all day - cows, dotterel, ptarmigan, hare, deer and kangaroo we did see, but definitely no sheep!
I am reliably informed by my bird expert friend it is highly unlikely to have been a capercaillie that crossed the road that morning (which are rare and rarely seen out of woods) but more likely to have been a male black grouse.