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Carn a'Chlamain - like wading through cotton wool

Carn a'Chlamain - like wading through cotton wool

Postby Delice » Mon Jan 19, 2015 11:52 am

Munros included on this walk: Càrn a' Chlamain

Date walked: 17/01/2015

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 28 km

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An 80% chance of cloud-free munros in the south eastern highlands, so where to go that ticks all the boxes – not done it, not too far and not too hard after 4 months of inactivity? I settled on Carn a’Chlamain, and luckily my friend Ben was up for it! [We’ll come back to ‘not too hard’ later!]
What is it with boys, vehicles and snow? We’d arrived at the car park for Glen Tilt just after 8 – the first car there - then wasted valuable daylight digging ourselves out of the snow before we even got togged up! I’d have parked in a space where someone else had obviously been and gone home again, but no, Ben heads straight for the virgin snow in an extravagant skidding turn and then ‘oh dear, we’re stuck’! Grrrr!
Anyway, we eventually set off just before half 8 with a clear sky, no wind, and the promise of a cracking day! Though we knew it would be long, the walk up Glen Tilt was a joy – trees, the sound and glimpses of rushing water, icicles, and birds singing. Beinn a Ghlo was looking majestic ahead of us.
The track is obviously driven on a daily basis but I don’t know if that helped as the tyre tracks were pretty icy and the central bit churned up and rough. It was nice to pass the signs of habitation dotted along the route – some holiday cottages like Marble Lodge - empty just now but well cared for, and other working homes with smoke going up the chimney and dogs barking as we passed.
As we emerged from the trees into the open valley we spotted big herds of deer on every horizon, and we got a better view of the river.
Ben has paddled the Tilt many times in his student days and enthused about its narrow gorges, rushing rapids, rock-worn pools, and wide calmer stretches. It looked pretty hairy to me, but I could imagine the adrenaline rush!
We walked up the glen as far as the small woodland at Forest Lodge. Pleased to see signs of life here too – a good 7 miles up the valley. A lovely setting to grow up but how remote! We said hello to some solid looking ponies in their winter jackets and left the track to head up the route of the stalker path that’s supposed to zig zag up the hillside. Quickly found there were no signs of it in the fresh snow, so we just headed pretty much straight up. Opposite, on the steep sides of Beinn a Ghlo, the silhouettes of trees and rocks were picked out against the snow like an etching. Beautiful.

Leaving the shadow below it wasn’t long til we climbed into sunshine. Mediterranean blue skies above and the dazzling snow – it was straight on with the sunnies. The snow twinkled at us like a carpet of diamonds – gorgeous! But all looks and no substance – a wafer thin crust and then powder - straight through and up to the crotch! If you were lucky you’d get a couple of steps on top, then Crunch! Up to the crotch for the next ten! The deer stood by a little way off watching and probably laughing at us. Their tracks were everywhere – daintily picking their way across the surface. We tried to follow them, hoping they knew something about firmer ground, and sometimes we made it, but mostly not! I was feeling my energy sapping away.
What I later found out was Ben was carrying about 35 lbs in his rucksack! Talk about women’s handbags! I’m joking, he was just well prepared.
A couple of hours later we’d made it over the lumpy horizon onto the plateau. Stunning, but it seemed to stretch on for ever. We had a bearing set for the summit but still no sign of it. There was no improvement underfoot and we’d been climbing for a couple of hours - the weather and the views were great, but I’m afraid I hit the wall! Fortunately common sense prevailed and we sat down for a fuel stop! Sitting contemplating the majestic Beinn a’Ghlo and the wonders of being here, I felt better and we headed off again. 15 minutes later, we saw the top of Carn a’Chlamain poking up in the distance like a proper mountain. Great, but it still seemed miles away, looked huge above the flat plateau and I had another wobble! The time it had taken to get this far, how hard it had been, and the long walk back were playing on my mind. But as we all know, distances can be deceptive in snow [this time in our favour] and we were up there in about 15 minutes – at a quarter to 2. The only easy bit of the whole expedition because we were at last on fairly packed snow and exposed rocks. Boy was I happy to make the top! And what a view down the valley with its wiggling burn across to the west where Ben Lawers and Schiehallion [?] were poking up through a blanket of clouds.
A quick celebratory snap and then we were off back down again - heading down the SW ridge to try and beat the sun setting.
The snow was no better here, so we waded and wallowed for another hour or so, following the footprints of mountain hares this time, but no sign of the new land rover track that’s supposed to pretty much take you to the top of the mountain!
We eventually picked up the line near the Sron, and contoured back round towards Clachglas, before following deer tracks that plunged steeply down the hillside for a quicker route back to the valley bottom.
By now it was 4 o’clock and we watched the hillside change through pink to grey and finally black as we took the long march back to the car.
It was getting colder now, and it was properly dark by the time we saw the welcoming lights of Bridge of Tilt, but we never lost sight of the white line of the track ahead in the snow – no need for torches. We got back just after 17.30 - 9 hours all round.
It turned out we’d walked nearly 18 miles. The 12 on the track took 6 hours altogether and the 6 in the snow took 5! It had taken us 3 hours to climb the 2 miles up the side of the valley and on to the summit. Crazy, but that’s what you need to expect if you walk in the Winter! ‘Not too hard’ – of course that was nonsense. What I meant was my favourite guide book said ‘Scottish winter ascents don’t come any easier’, so I knew it ought to be okay technically. It was mega hard work because of the powder. What we need is a few freeze-thaw cycles. And what it was was a good test for more to come if the weather stays fine. The long track home was always going to be a do-able in the dark, so we had that as a safety net. So in summary - pretty whacked but an amazing day. I think I burned off some of those Christmas puddings, so Carn a’Chlamain - I quite liked you!!!
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Re: Carn a'Chlamain - like wading through cotton wool

Postby Fife Flyer » Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:03 pm

Enjoyed reading that, some cracking photo's too :clap: :clap:

I can sympathise with the effort required, I too was out on the same day in the same snowy conditions, going uphill is hard enough, but when you have to lift your legs so much higher every step becomes a prisoner :lol:
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Re: Carn a'Chlamain - like wading through cotton wool

Postby Collaciotach » Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:27 pm

That's a work out !

Grand photo's :clap:
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