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Carn Ban Circuit from Allandale

Carn Ban Circuit from Allandale

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:06 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a' Chaisteil (Strath Vaich), Carn Ban, Carn Chuinneag

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn Tharsuinn (Deanich), Meall a' Chaorainn (Easter Ross)

Date walked: 25/07/2015

Time taken: 18 hours

Distance: 60 km

Ascent: 2741m

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I did these Corbetts myself last November in a loop beginning with Carn Chuinneag and with a high camp and no water on Beinn a'Chaisteil. As part of Allison's "catch up" program I found myself faced with the prospect of doing them again. I had pencilled them in for the weekend of the August WH meet, doing Carn Ban and Beinn a'Chaisteil from Strath Vaich and then driving round to Glen Calvie to do Chuinneag - but this looked like too much of an ask for a social weekend and where's the fun in doing a loop that isn't a loop. So when the weather forecast seemed to be more favourable for this part of the country than most I dicided we'd go and have a bash at the circuit, only this time walk down the track through Gleann Mhor. Oh, and add some Grahams in to give it some spice :lol:

I was unable to get away from work as early as i try to wangle on a Friday, so we ended up not arriving at the car park by Glen Calvie Lodge til shortly before 10pm. Having hoped to walk for at least 6km before pitching the tent, this was a bit of a blow, and with the nights "fair drawing in" we only made about 3km to some level ground just after the bridge by Allandale Lodge. Newly cut grass (there's a clay shoot range nearby) and still air made it midge heaven, and we were glad to make the safety of the inner tent. You could hear them hitting off the tent fabric like fine rain. We slept well. Next morning the midges from the night before had been joined by their extended families and - to quote Allison's words - the air was like "midge soup". Taking down the tent was horrendous and my exposed skin was speckled with red circles as if I had some rather deadly disfiguring disease. Fortunately once we were walking we were left unmolested.

Getting ready to set off
ImageP1080975 by Al, on Flickr

beginning of the walk
P1080976 by Al, on Flickr

You can just sense the midges :lol:
ImageP1080977 by Al, on Flickr

The first section of this walk is very pretty, going down good track between the valley sides with the Beinn Dearg group becoming evident the further one walks. It was a pleasant morning, with the odd light rain shower and we made good time. I daresay some would use a bicycle for such activities, but the rhythmic pace of walking suits me far better than more speed. The track crosses the river at Deanich Lodge - there's a rough trail that continues on the north side of the river, or you could choose the better surface by the lodge and add a bit of distance as it curves round. We chose the former and had some bog to content with - a foretaste of what was ahead.

Down Gleann Mor
ImageP1080979 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1080981 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1080982 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1080986 by Al, on Flickr

Cona Mheall coming into view
ImageP1080987 by Al, on Flickr

Bridge to Deanich Lodge - Meall a'Chaorainn ahead
ImageP1080988 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1080989 by Al, on Flickr

The track and path co-incide again due south of the Carn Ban bulk. There's a track that leads up to a dam, with a stalkers' path leading up the hillside about two-thirds of the way up. The path has been poorly maintained and is swampy in parts. It brings you out on the rounded hillside at just over 500m. From here we could make out the imposing dark cliffs of Seana Braigh, swirling with mist. The clag was starting to come down, which was a disappointment as the last time i was on Carn Ban I had no views, and I was looking forward to the scenery I knew was out there. It's a bit of a boggy slog up to the summit plateau - the top is still some way off although the going is easier and drier on the flattish top of the hillside. It would make for an ideal campspot on a good summer's evening - nice flat mossy ground and views over to the jewels of Assynt. We could make out the usual suspects of Suilven, Cul Mor, Canisp etc, with Ben More, Ben Loyal and Klibreck clearly visible along the northern skyline - quite incredible to think we were so close to the top of the country. As we sat and ate lunch a band of dark black cloud gathered and swept towards us from the northwest - it had a straight edge at around 800m and it appeared so tangible that if it came our way you;d want to try and duck your head to stop it clattering you. Fortunately it passed off to the northern side of us.

Up onto Carn Ban
ImageP1080991 by Al, on Flickr

Flat top to the summit
ImageP1080994 by Al, on Flickr

Seana Braigh
ImageP1090004 by Al, on Flickr

Seana Braigh and the Assynt hills
ImageP1080997 by Al, on Flickr

Stac Pollaidh zoomed
ImageP1090003 by Al, on Flickr

Carn Ban summit
ImageP1090005 by Al, on Flickr

Back down by the same route; Allison stopped to gaze quizzically at a wooden post that had been worn? nibbled? away in its middle. Strange. Having lost our height going down to the track in Gleann Beag it was now time to gain it again by ascending Meall a'Chaorainn which lay immediately on the other side of the track. Fairly easy from this side, it's another matter on the descent towards Strath Vaich. Again, good views to the Beinn Dearg hills from the summit. I noticed a large collection of snow still lying on Dearg itself. Time now for the descent. Very steep grassy terraces with remnants of burned heather drop down for 300m to the glen floor. Hard going on the knees. Once on the track we filled up ourselves and the water bottles from the waters of the Allt na Cumhlain - crystal clear and highly delicious. Then it was back uphill again - onto Beinn a'Chaisteil via a stalkers' path that ascends fairly easily up this big bulky hill. Grass changes to boulderfields near the summit. Again - good views to the surrounding hills from here.

Horseshoe of Meall a'Chaorainn
ImageP1090009 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090010 by Al, on Flickr

Spindle shank
ImageP1090011 by Al, on Flickr

View back along Gleann Mor from Meall a'Chaorainn
ImageP1090014 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Dearg hills
ImageP1090016 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Chaorainn
ImageP1090020 by Al, on Flickr

Steeply down to Strath Vaich
ImageP1090022 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090023 by Al, on Flickr

The steep side of Meall a'Chaorainn
ImageP1090026 by Al, on Flickr

Cool clear water
ImageP1090025 by Al, on Flickr

Up again - the Grand old Duke of York has nothing on us!
ImageP1090027 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Beinn a'Chaisteil
ImageP1090028 by Al, on Flickr

Next we had an amble over the flattish back of Chaisteil along its northeastern shoulder to some flatter ground I'd scoped as being potentially suitable for camping. I wanted to get Beinn Tharsuinn out of the way tonight if possible and doubted we'd be able to high camp on it - it appeared too stony on the map - so pitching somewhere nearby and heading up unencumbered by rucksacks appealed. We walked for about an hour to the 591m spot on Creag Dhubh Bheag, noticing a large herd of deer congregating on the flat areas as we approached - obviously a deer meeting place. Hoping we wouldn't be ambushed by them returning in the night, we pitched and made our meal. A gentle breeze was welcome and there was not one midge - in stark contrast to the previous evening. The weather was still quite fine so at 8pm we set off for the couple of kilometers each way to Beinn Tharsuinn. The sun gleamed in Crom Loch as we headed up the modest slopes of this Graham - only about 170m ascent for us. Over to the east lay the vast beached whale bulk of Wyvis and our friends in the North were still visible. We were back at the tent in not much more than an hour - tired and a little footsore but pleased with the day's achievements.

Northern hills - Kilbreck et al
ImageP1090031 by Al, on Flickr

Seana Braigh
ImageP1090033 by Al, on Flickr

Route over the flattish terrain
ImageP1090035 by Al, on Flickr

Crom Loch, Beinn Tharsuinn behind
ImageP1090036 by Al, on Flickr

Sunshine on Crom Loch
ImageP1090038 by Al, on Flickr

Summit Tharsuinn
ImageP1090041 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090043 by Al, on Flickr

Foinaven, Hope, Loyal, Klibreck
ImageP1090044 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090045 by Al, on Flickr

The night was absolutely quiet. Not a rustle of wind on the tent, no birdcalls, no running water - nothing. I can't remember being anywhere this silent. Maybe as a result I slept less well than I expected. Morning was accompanied by some sunshine through the walls of the tent. I knew that it would be a boggy slog from here to Carn Chuinneag, although the distance involved was now substantially reduced and I reckoned we could be at the top of Chuinneag by noon. When originally planning the trip I had contemplated adding the outlying Graham of Carn Salachaidh, but as this involved a fairly hefty addition of kilometers I was reluctant to push for it. We descended to a bealach then up the flattish tops of Creag Ruadh, sometimes picking up a faint path, but always having to dodge in and around bog and peat hags. This, coupled with the springy heather, fair makes the going tough and sore on the legs. Onto Leaba Bhaltair and Chuinneag loomed before us, a much rockier topped hill than the others in this area. Allison was keen to head straight up the back of the hill rather than use the stalkers' path - this would allow her to tick off the western Corbett top - she's getting to be as bad as me :lol:

Peat hags to be traversed
ImageP1090050 by Al, on Flickr

Chuinneag hiding in cloud
ImageP1090052 by Al, on Flickr

Water of Glencalvie
ImageP1090054 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090056 by Al, on Flickr

The ascent was straightforward - we picked out a path through the grassier bits initially then went over boulders for the last 100m or so. From the north facing cairn the views were lovely - last time I'd been here there was an inversion in place which removed the context of the hilltops. On to the second and true summit of Chuinneag. As we neared the top we spotted another walker on his way up from the track - the first walker we'd seen all weekend (with the exception of two cyclists on the Strath Vaich track as we were ascending Chaisteil). We got to the cairn just as the mist rolled in then dropped down into the shelter of a large rock on the leeward side to have lunch as the wind was chill. From here we looked over at the distant An Teallach which had sunshine playing apon it - as we watched the hillwas transformed from sombre black to brilliant silver in a series of stages by the sunbeams - lovely :D

Cul Mor/beag, Suilven zoomed
ImageP1090058 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090059 by Al, on Flickr

Carn Salachaidh from Chuinneag W Top
ImageP1090060 by Al, on Flickr

Chuinneag main summit
ImageP1090062 by Al, on Flickr

An Teallach (centre of shot)
ImageP1090064 by Al, on Flickr

The other walker, a pleasant man in his 70s, called over to say hello then set off back to the path. We finished lunch at our ease, having decided that the pursuit of Carn Salachaidh was fit for another day as it looks a proper little mountain. We made for the stalkers path ourselves but didn't manage to catch up the other walker - clearly a fit specimin. Very pleasant walking alongside the Water of Glencalvie - green and warm in the sunshine. We did meet up with Robbie, the older man at the car park and chatted for a while about adventures - he had many stories of years on the hills and it was great to pass some time with an enthusiastic kindred spirit. He said that he'd found his age creeping up on him and doubted if he'd ever finish the Corbetts now - although had met a woman of 86 on the Cairngorm plateau who had told him her only compromise to increasing age was that she no longer carried a tent into the hills, just a bivvy bag these days! I hope I have something of that spirit when I become old :clap:

ImageP1090068 by Al, on Flickr

Glen Calvie Lodge
ImageP1090070 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090071 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1090072 by Al, on Flickr

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Re: Carn Ban Circuit from Allandale

Postby Collaciotach » Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:44 pm

S'math a rinn sibh ... well done and by Christ yer awfy keen :clap: :clap:
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Re: Carn Ban Circuit from Allandale

Postby rockhopper » Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:56 pm

That did look an interesting route and a big weekend - well done again for getting the best out of it - cheers :)
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Re: Carn Ban Circuit from Allandale

Postby ancancha » Mon Jul 27, 2015 11:21 pm

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