walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Stinging spray and claggy grey mountains

Stinging spray and claggy grey mountains


Postby Driftwood » Thu Sep 10, 2015 10:14 pm

Route description: Carn Dearg, Carn Sgulain and A'Chailleach

Munros included on this walk: A' Chailleach (Monadhliath), Carn Dearg (Monadhliath), Carn Sgulain

Date walked: 03/09/2015

Time taken: 6.42 hours

Distance: 26.5 km

Ascent: 1080m

Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Following one successful early morning walk above Kingussie, I decided to try another. The forecast was not great - MWIS suggested cloud, showers and cold, with northerly winds around 40mph giving a chill equivalent to temperatures around -5 centigrade. I could also expect plenty of ground water following rain and showers on the preceeding days. But this looked like my last chance of time on the hills for many months, so I somehow got up before 5:30 for the second day in a row.

A bit of faffing, then a short drive out of Newtonmore, brought me to the road end and parking area in Glen Banchor. I was not surprised to find that I had the pick of spaces, so chose the one nearest to the hills. Or, at least, their misty outline. I opted to wear gaiters from the start - though the truly sensible option may have been back in the car, down the road and into a warm bed again.

Mad, masochistic or otherwise, I was underway by 6:40. I don't have many photos from the walk, though (a pleasant surprise), my camera coped with no more ill-effects than wind-blasted raindrops on the lens whenever I aimed it in a northerly direction. There was enough light to walk by (letting me keep the head-torch wrapped, rather than testing its resistance to wind-driven mizzle), but almost everything was grey (sometimes tinged with green or boggy browns) for the first couple of hours.
DSCF9497.jpg
Early, dull and damp Glen Banchor


I took the suggested WH approach, turning northwest from Glen Banchor along a vehicle track that soon grew wet underfoot. I put on waterproof over-trousers soon into this stage, which stayed on for the next 6+ hours. My preferred legwear copes fairly well with a brief shower or chill breeze (those help to fend off over-heating), but it was obvious that I'd need all of the weather-resistance and wind-proofing available to cope with the conditions. I swapped between pairs of gloves at several stages (keeping some lightweight liner-gloves on underneath); the most effective were some winter-weight waterproof mittens.

There was sufficient light and visibility to see that traversing Creag Liath would have been a decent ascent route in better conditions. I'd usually have leapt at the chance to add another tick to a round, but was more concerned with wondering whether Carn Dearg was reachable, or if I should turn back before things grew worse. Fortunately, the rain eased to a steady (though heavy and rain-driven) drizzle and I had some shelter from the wind while heading between Creag Liath and Meall na Ceardaich.
DSCF9500.jpg
Track beside Allt Fionndrigh


After the wooden foot-bridge and a path uphill, the ground became much wetter. I could find and follow a faint and boggy vehicle track, but that didn't help much with the soaking slog along Gleann Ballach. The mist and cloud above hinted at steep crag on the higher slopes opposite, encouraging me to postpone crossing the Allt Ballach until that was a small burn. Some flatter - and predictably soaking - ground led to a grassy ramp leading helpfully southeast. I did notice several snow-patches, one of them very large, sheltered by the steep craggy slopes of Carn Ban to my right.

The gradual ramp led me up into the clag, with just a few pauses to confirm my position and bearing, plus take a few bites of flapjack. I didn't feel hungry (having breakfasted not long before - and yesterday's dinner was probably being put to use), while drizzle trickling down my face left little risk of dehydration.

The wind became stronger as I turned south and east towards the summit of Carn Dearg, probably just due to moving onto less sheltered ground. But it did encourage me to keep a step or two back from the plunging eastern crags in case a gust or wet rock underfoot should send me plummeting into the clag. I reached the dramatically-positioned cairn about 2 hours 40 from starting out; my time spent struggling through the weather was at least balanced by "saving" photo-breaks and a reluctance to stand around.

I did go ahead with my intention of visiting the southern 923 metre Top. This is a short additional distance - good weather might even suit an approach from that direction - and minimal extra height. The clouds thinned out enough to give me a minute or two of misty brightness (and sustain optimistic hopes of improving weather that lasted me for several hours), hinting that this might be a scenic little ridge, if there was only some scenery to be seen.
DSCF9502.jpg
Carn Dearg south Top


When the clouds turned back to grey, I followed the path north for a few hundred metres, then left it to contour the western side of Carn Dearg, hoping to economise on ascent and maybe even get a little shelter. The (need I even mention wet?) bealach with Carn Ban dipped into a shallow trench, giving just enough respite from the wind and high-powered mizzle. I ate and washed down a few oatcakes with peanut butter and some more flapjack and made the best of a brief respite from the weather's worst.
DSCF9503.jpg
A claggy Carn Ban


Having got that far, it was an easy decision to face further punishment and continue with the route. I knew to look for (and soon found) the line of rusting iron fence-posts across Carn Ban. That was my hand-rail for the next four miles or more. I almost needed an actual hand-rail, such was the force of the wind, but made do with walking-poles and some bracing into the gusts. It was strong enough to need care to prevent my left-hand pole being blown into my leg and turned the light drizzly rain into a stinging ordeal.
Much of this stage involves walking north or northeast (the fence turns to follow the boundary and, usually, high ground), so I often resorted to walking with one eye closed. I'd not brought sunglasses along, but will consider investing in some clear (or at most lightly-tinted) goggles/glasses before I defy this sort of weather again.

There was some visibility along the tops, maybe 100 metres in clear sight and another few hundred of misty outlines beyond that. This was enough to tell when there was a cairn, lump or outcropping close to the fence line, but not sufficient to be certain which was highest, or whether I could take short-cuts. So I ended up following the fence most of the way, with occasional diversions to visit the main Tops. After a mile or so of good walking, the ground becomes boggier and the bealachs are expanses of soaking peat. At least this was still dry enough to bear my weight (with a lot of care and maybe a bit of luck).
Impressive quantities of wildlife along this stretch put my few hours' experience of the weather into perspective. There were dozens of Ptarmigan (including one flock of 15 birds), numerous hares and deer (a herd of over 20 hinds), apart from smaller birds that I couldn't identify even under clear conditions.

I needed to leave the fence-line (though remained in sight) to safely cross one boggy trench, then the ground became slightly drier over a gentle ascent. Some map-checking confirmed that a hazy outline through the clag on my right-hand side was A'Chailleach and so Carn Sgulain was not far ahead. That did require crossing an absolute swamp, but the weather was relenting slightly. There was less sting and bite to the wind as I picked up a path to reach an unimpressive cairn on grassy ground with the occasional scattered rock.
A larger cairn loomed further on (just about visible within 200 metres), so I paid that a visit, which was enough to confirm the small heap of rocks as the higher spot. The morning was nearly done, so I retraced my steps for a few minutes before angling south over gentle but predictably-boggy slopes. This brought more shelter from the wind-powered mizzle (as well as the psychological benefits of having the weather pushing me on, rather than fighting into or across it).

I could see that the ground drops relatively steeply to the channel of Allt Cuil na Callich, with more height to gain on the opposite side. Torn between taking a long diversion westwards or an uphill slog, I compromised with a descending contour into the trench. This was another time to be glad that my boots (and poles) still have enough grip to cope with steepish and very-wet grass slopes. The burn was a quick and easy crossing, followed by a short 40 metres or so of ascent until the slope eased to a rounded shoulder.
DSCF9504.jpg
Allt Cuil na Callich


Back to the path, which led through cloud to an imposing cairn / wind-shelter. The arms of the shelter face eastwards, so were less use for the current wind direction, but I had plenty of space to shelter behind the massive cairn. This was a good point for another snack, drink and to make a call confirming when I should be back in Newtonmore. With the cloud still down and weather blustery (though milder), it seemed best to head down for lunch.
DSCF9506.jpg
A' Chailleach summit cairn


I followed the path for a while to descend, heading west and slightly south at first then turning southeast. The cloud lifted to admit some sunshine from the south, while the wind soon dropped to a pleasant breeze. Only the path didn't improve, getting wetter to the extent that it felt like a trampled bog with ambitions to become a stream. I eventually lost patience and made my own way down, meaning that I never found either the bothy or the bridge(s) across Allt a'Chaorainn.
DSCF9509.jpg
Wet path (and lens) descending A' Chailleach


Instead, my route crossed plenty of wet ground, but also picked up stretches of path on the east side of the glen. Most of these looked like the tracks of sheep or deer, though there was the occasional boot-print too. I resisted any temptation to cross the burn (by now broad and flowing strongly), though I could see a vehicle track on the further side.
There were some patches of bracken and other vegetation to slog through, but I still had my over-trousers, gaiters and jacket on and so felt confident that any hardy ticks should just slip off. I aimed to the west of a prominent knoll (Sidhean Mor Dail a'Chaorainn), passing through a venerable gate that brought me to an old vehicle track.

I left this track to go through a gap in some fencing around an area of newish woodland just before the bridge over Allt a' Chaorainn. This was where I met the only people on that walk (though they looked to have been out along the glen with their dog, rather than the hill). There was one further car, apart from theirs as mine, parked at the road end, so it's possible that someone else had approached A' Chailleach, especially if they took the usual route rather than mine.
DSCF9516.jpg
Sidhean Mor Dail a' Chaorainn


The weather stayed fine (at least down around Newtonmore) for the rest of the afternoon, though there seemed to be clouds on the tops for most of the time. I was mainly glad to have gotten around the walk and back safely despite the conditions. It hadn't been the most scenic and certainly not the most pleasant of walks, but it was definitely a memorable way to reach my 100th Munro.


our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

User avatar
Driftwood
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 298
Munros:200   Corbetts:39
Grahams:15   Donalds:19
Sub 2000:19   
Joined: Jun 9, 2011

Re: Stinging spray and claggy grey mountains

Postby basscadet » Fri Sep 11, 2015 8:48 am

Oh I did my 100th on these too :)
In similar conditions, except I was in winter, so frozen drizzle :lol:
User avatar
basscadet
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2779
Munros:84   Corbetts:52
Grahams:18   Donalds:8
Sub 2000:33   Hewitts:13
Wainwrights:17   Islands:21
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Stinging spray and claggy grey mountains

Postby Driftwood » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:52 pm

basscadet wrote:Oh I did my 100th on these too :)
In similar conditions, except I was in winter, so frozen drizzle :lol:


That makes me wonder whether these hills object to being picked for someone's 100th. Or, more likely, they're just accessible and easy enough going to be walked in poorer weather.

But, thanks for pointing out at least one way I had it easy! :roll:
User avatar
Driftwood
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 298
Munros:200   Corbetts:39
Grahams:15   Donalds:19
Sub 2000:19   
Joined: Jun 9, 2011

Re: Stinging spray and claggy grey mountains

Postby basscadet » Fri Sep 11, 2015 2:26 pm

It was just coincidence for me.. Sainsbury's were giving away vouchers for £15 train tickets anywhere in Scotland, so I spent that month doing the Drumochter hills, and it just so happened I was approaching 100 :D

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=19268
User avatar
basscadet
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2779
Munros:84   Corbetts:52
Grahams:18   Donalds:8
Sub 2000:33   Hewitts:13
Wainwrights:17   Islands:21
Joined: Dec 1, 2011
Location: Edinburgh

Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).



Walkhighlands community forum is now advert free

We need help to keep the site online.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by setting up a monthly donation by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: BARRYLID73, battie72, CerianBaldwin, gd2wrigh, Happy Knapsacker, Iainmacaulay, Malkie and 41 guests