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...and we almost turned back!!!
by BlackPanther » Wed Jun 04, 2014 1:09 pm
Route description: Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ, Spittal of Glenshee
Munros included on this walk: Carn an Righ, Glas Tulaichean
Date walked: 26/05/2014
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 30 km
Ascent: 1170m8 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).
Yes, weather was a question mark that day, but we still decided to give it a go. The east side looked the most likely to stay dry, so we picked Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ as our target. We had planned them a few weeks earlier, but due to cloud went for Driesh & Mayar instead. We were right then, got the better conditions on D & M and the cloud lifted to give us nice views.
Yet Glas & Carn kept bothering me. Why? Maybe because they are a long drive from home so I wanted to have them done and dusted as soon as possible? Or maybe it was the call of the utter east (CS Lewis' readers will know what I mean). No matter what, I was stubborn enough to drag my husband all the way from Inverness to Spittal of Glenshee on a cloudy day with heavy showers predicted. Perhaps I was longing for a different kind of adventure, after all the sunny strolls my heart was crying out for a survival test
Of course it is always nicer to walk on a perfect day, with sun shining, blue sky, and possibly on a good path all the way. Anybody expecting such a story from this TR - sorry, I have to disappoint you. This is going to be the tale of obstacles, the story of what you would NOT WANT to encounter on a hill outing. Still, I hope you'll enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed the experience (my well of optimism is bottomless - try beating me!).
We parked by the bridge in Spittal of Glenshee, where there is a grassy area for a few cars. It is possible to drive to the hotel to pay for parking, but we were scroodgy that day and decided to save small change. Walking from the bridge adds about 4km to the whole distance, but as we don't mind long distances, we didn't really care.
We crossed the bridge and headed towards Dalmunzie Hotel. Almost immediately, we encountered the first obstacle or I should say, the first problem popped up. So here we go...
OBSTACLE ONE: RAIN
It started as a drizzle and we hoped for a short time that the shower will move on. Kevin even started taking "rainy-weeping" pictures...
...but after 10 min or so, the drizzle thickened to a proper shower, proper shower became a heavy one, heavy shower turned to waterfalls of rain coming down from the sky! We ran to the nearest tree and sheltered under its branches, we pulled out our waterproofs: coats, overtrousers, hats, gloves, even rucksack raincovers. We looked like two astronauts but who cares. Luckily, our map was in a waterproof case (or so I thought ) and the day wasn't too cold, at least down in the glen.
We walked past the hotel and into Glen Lochsie, seeing next to nothing. The rain was so thick, visibility was restricted to about 100m - like walking in cloud! I expected it to stop, but the bl***dy waterfall kept going for another 20min or so No photos for this stage, for obvious reason.
OBSTACLE TWO: RIVERS IN SPATE
In the washout, we reached the spot where the track crosses Glen Lochsie Burn, only to discover that it was too much in spate to try crossing it without getting wet feet. In good weather, we would simply take boots off and wade across, but not now! So our only choice was to follow the muddy path on the eastern side of the river. As we were about half way into the glen, suddenly - PANG! - the rain stopped abruptly. Weather changed so quickly I was amazed!
In Glen Lochsie, after rain:
We stopped to strip the waterproofs. I was glad we were going to take at least a few photos, especially that this corner is lovely, with the river flowing fast and the ruins of Glenlochsie Lodge adding to create an idyllic spot
Shame this building fell into disrepair It would make a great holiday cottage.
We knew from walk descriptions on WH that the track up Glas Tulaichean goes all the way up to the summit, so we decided to get to the first top regardless of weather (at least on a track we didn't have to worry about boggy climbing, plus navigation was easy). We started the uphill trod, not too drastically steep and with nice view back to the glen behind us...
...and with rollin' rollin' hills in front of us:
Another shower came and went, but this one lasted maybe 5 min and wasn't too heavy. Soon, as we kept pushing, another problem came to surface...
OBSTACLE THREE: HUMIDITY
With so much rain and the ground warm, the air was horribly humid. We drank lots of water (luckily we took enough bottles with us) and breathed heavily. Hard work!
When we reached the level of about 850m, the angle eased and the rest of the climb to the summit was less of a sweat (you'll see why in a minute). We stopped again for a split second, because for the first time this day, we had the chance to record/photograph some views:
I wrote "some" views because cloud was still lingering about and no chance for clear panoramas, but at least we saw something
Back towards Glen Lochsie:
As we faced the final walk to the summit, here came the next issue...
OBSTACLE FOUR: CLAG
Cloud is something to be expected every time one goes hillwalking, especially if forecast is unsure. So this was not a great surprise for us, but still... No hope for summit views
Into the clag:
There is very little to tell about the rest of the climb, apart from one thing: just below the summit heavens opened again and another superheavy rain fell from the sky. We stopped and quickly dressed up again then pushed on to the trigpoint, where we met another drenched walker. He wasn't too keen on continuing to Carn an Righ and no wonder - we started having doubts as well. The rain just kept falling, on and on, as thick as porridge...
The other walker gave up and set off to descend on the track, we lingered on, walked around the summit area then followed the north ridge for a short distance. We walked out of the clag, but the rain was still so heavy we could hardly see anything at all so we decided on the spot, it was time to surrender.
No summit photo of Glas Tulaichean, obviously
At this point I was ready to accept the failure - not the first time we turned due to bad weather. But... just as we started descending, out of the cloud for good and -BANG!- the rain was gone. Again, like a miracle, it stopped in seconds. More important, we were now given a chance to see the "dancing cloud spectacle" as I like to call it.
Cloud dances around Ben Vuirich...
...cuddles Beinn a'Ghlo...
...lifts off the hills across Glen Lochsie...
..and finally reveals Car an Righ:
"Is that it?" he asked. I checked on the map. "Yes, that's Carn an Righ." " Holy cr*p, it looks so close! it's just a nip up and down! How much drop between the two?"
I checked again: "250m from where we are to the bottom of the glen, then just over 300m of ascent."
Kevin simply turned around and headed straight for the second Munro. Weather has improved very quickly, but we still risked getting caught in another heavy shower, and now it would be away from good tracks, but the hell with it. I like when Kevin is in such mood - at least if something goes wrong, I can say afterwards, it was your idea
We reached the edge of the steep descent to the glen between the two Munros. Carn an Righ looked relatively easy from where we were standing and we took an unanimous decision, we were going to do it.
But first, we had to deal with another problem...
OBSTACLE FIVE: SNOW PATCHES
Usually this is no problem at all, especially on gentler slopes. But we encountered a large patch blocking our way on the steepest part of the descent. Kevin walked a few steps and retraced back up. Too steep, to slushy, too risky. Of course we didn't have crampons (who carries them this time of the year?) so we had to walk a few hundred metres along the edge of the snow patch until we found a place where it has melted and we could descend safely on the grass. Just a nuisance, really.
Once past the snow patch, the rest of the walk down was easy, on good grassy slope. Peat hags can be avoided to the right. Here is our approximate route to the summit of Carn an Righ:
The cloud spectacle continued above Mam nan Carn:
Zoom to Beinn Iutharn Beag:
When we reached the bottom of the glen, there was still the issue of crossing the river, luckily this one is not too wide so we successfully pole-vaulted over the narrowest place
For the final ascent to Carn an Righ, we followed a tiny stream steeply to the 771m col (there is a faint path and the ground is not too bad, surprisingly). On the col, Kevin said "Well, that was painless!" and he was right - so far, so good.
From the col we followed an obvious path to the summit. Not too boggy and quite rocky higher up. Much easier than I expected...
We took another short break for hydration (yes, it was humid again!) and a few photos, here looking down the path to the col:
Glas Tulaichean and the infamous snow patch we had to circle. Our way down is to the left, where there is a gap in the snow:
Another 20 minutes and we reached the summit cairn. Yuppieeee! Munro no. 135!!! Only 6 to go to the half way point!
We were lucky to get views from the top. We just about managed to catch the tiny weather window between the two fronts. Even the sun came out for a short time! Of course, Kevin could not waste a moment like this and his camera came out again... Views from the summit of CaR are pretty extensive, shame we didn't get the full panoramas, but it was still good if you bear in mind we got drenched on the previous Munro.
Not a day though to continue to Beinn Iutharn Mhor:
Gleann Mhor, the return route, with cloud coming in...
Mam na Carn:
Spooky Ben Vuirich:
Sadly, no Beinn a'Ghlo view from here...
We sat down for well deserved cuppa and sandwich. The bright spell didn't last though and just about as we finished our lunch, wind picked up and if we were not hidden behind the cairn, we would probably fall over!
OBSTACLE SIX: WIND
So far, there was very little wind even on higher ground, but the new weather front brought strong gusts - we knew it was time to run back down!
The end of the world is coming
Together with the wind, came rain again. We wrapped ourselves in waterproofs again and started the descent on the path. My gloves were soaked through at this point and I didn't take spares (who would expect to need two pairs of gloves in May???) so my hands felt like...well... two icicles
OBSTACLE SEVEN: COLD
Sounds ridiculous, only an hour ago we were sweating in the humid air, now my hands almost fell off! Luckily, as we returned to the col, we were sheltered from the wind and as long as we kept walking, we produced enough heat to keep warm.
I suggested we returned the way we came, climbing back over Glas Tulaichean and as it showed up later, we should have done it, it would've saved us at least an hour if not more. But of course, Kevin wanted to stay on the path so I gave in and... Ha-ha next, time, my darling, LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE, she's always right
We took much longer than anticipated to return to the starting point for a few reasons, the first one...
OBSTACLE EIGHT: BOG, MUD AND PEAT HAGS
My favourite obstacle of the day - I HATE PEAT HAGS!!!!!!!!!! Imagine, after all the rain, the ground was soaked, squelchy, gloop-gloop, and the so-called path soon turned out to be a bog feast. Most time we walked on the heather alongside it!
In upper Gleann Mhor, lovely bog and nice mud
...and cute, little peat hags...
It was a nightmare trod all the way to Loch nan Eun, where the path improved, if only for a short time. You'll be surprised I'm still smiling in this picture... Well, as I said earlier, my optimism is neverending
At least, the loch gave us some lovely views, it's a fantastic spot and well worth the detour. Weather improved again as we reached the loch (not for long, though) and we caught a few sunny spells:
Five minutes of rest by the loch and we were aiming for along walk back along this lovely-looking, green glen:
It was warm again, so I ditched my soaked gloves and overcoat. Kevin was fed up with his waterproof trousers:
We took time to take photos of waterfalls flowing out of Loch nan Eun:
The bigger one:
As we started the final descend to the glen, we came across...
OBSTACLE NINE: SLIPPERY PATH
I know, I know, nothing unusual again, but it slowed us down. The first couple of km down into Gleann Taitneach are along a narrow and quite steep path. In steeper sections we had to be extremely careful, rocks and stones were slippery as hell, in places we had to descend on the grass alongside the path again! We made very slow progress, but the bitter pill was sweetened by the lovely views of more waterfalls:
Lower down, the path is wider and walking less steep - shame that weather started to go wrong again...
Eventually, the path joined a wider track, which offered easier going:
Looking back up the glen:
We picked on speed and calculated that we'd reach the car in about 90 minutes if we keep the pace. It was fine for a short distance, but then... ooops!
So we were back to obstacle number two - rivers in spate. This one could be a real problem - no chance of wading across! Too fast-flowing!
I probed with my walking pole to discover that in the ford water was about a metre high and so fast I couldn't even dream about walking across - with or without my boots on!
We were left with the choice of walking up- or down the stream to find a crossing. Up-side looked daunting:
I investigated the down-side of the stream and about 50m down from the ford I found a suitable place for pole-vaulting. We somehow managed to get across without falling into the river - and the rest of the walk back came with no further nasty surprises, apart from another heavy rain, which lasted about 30min and forced us to wrap up again Still, it took us almost two hours to hike back to Spittal of Glenshee, which brings us to the last big problem of this story...
OBSTACLE TEN: SHEER DISTANCE
Our GPS said 30km, which is not a ridiculous number, but in conditions given I'm surprised we managed it in 9 hours. We would have been much better off returning over Glas Tulaichean, regardless of the additional 300m of ascent. We could have saved ourselves the bog feast, the slippery path, the problematic river crossing and the final heavy rain. Would be less of a problem on a better day, but that's what you get if you decide on an epic hike in uncertain weather...
Still, I really enjoyed the challenge, facing different problems and emerging triumphant in the end I'd love to return to this area on a better day though, to give true justice to these two Munros. We still have Beinn Iutharn Mhor and Carn Bhac to tick off, so I'm not quite done with this corner of Scotland. Meow!
There's one more TR pending, from last Saturday, and this time no rain, no obstacles, just pure mountain porn - will post soon
by AnnieMacD » Wed Jun 04, 2014 2:54 pm
That was the day I did Ben Shieldaig (later in the day) and the weather had arrived here by then. The thing that really impressed me about the rain was the size of the raindrops - they were HUGE. At least we get to use our rain gear now and again
Great report and pictures.
by old danensian » Wed Jun 04, 2014 6:44 pm
Amidst it all, I'm glad you've shared the information about the route out as I've been wondering about these two for my next trip in that direction.
Looking forward to the next report - they always entertaining and informative.
by Fife Flyer » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:28 pm
Agree with OD about your route descriptions, always very informative
I can remember a few years ago in Glenshee, we had all four seasons in one day & that was in JUNE
by Gordie12 » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:53 pm
These are the two closest Munros that I've still to climb, not sure why - maybe reports like this
I read in an earlier report that there were cows in a field you head through near the hotel but you didn't mention this as an obstacle so assume the field is empty now....??
by BlackPanther » Thu Jun 05, 2014 1:09 pm
I always try to describe routes taken the best I can, thinking: if I was reading a report and planning the walk, what type of info would I like to find in TR? Sometimes, I guess, I put people off by describing paths as too muddy, slopes as to steep ect. Against all the odds, this is a nice circuit, just worth saving for a dry, sunny day.
I'm not usually the one who moans, I leave that to Kevin He complains for the two of us, and funny, once back in the car, he often says "It was a good day, nice, I enjoyed it!" I will never understand the male species...
Gordie, the cows were gone from the field, I didn't see a single one (it was a washout when we walked past the hotel, so maybe they run for cover ). I still think the better option is to return over Glas Tulaichean, avoiding Gleann Taitneach altogether, especially if weather is not certain.
by Huff_n_Puff » Thu Jun 05, 2014 1:59 pm