Once again the weather forecast had us scurrying east to the Cairngorms to escape low cloud, breaking my rule of avoiding driving much longer than 90 minutes for a day out. The hills around The Cairnwell pass used to be easy pickings from our old haunt in Aberdeen, but somehow we'd never even taken a look at Loch Callater. From western Scotland, no longer so easy, but combining a visit to the loch with an ascent of the Corbett Creag nan Gabhar seemed like a nice little route with no danger of running out of daylight. So one last day in the Cairngorms seemed on the cards.
The A93 north from Blairgowrie is beautifully scenic but lasts an age! Never mind, at least the weather looked like it'd be worth the journey today, blue sky in all directions as we parked at Glen Callater. Windy though - feeling about 30mph (which had been forecast for Munro level!) even in the car park. The ticket machine asks for a "contribution" of £2.50 - which means it's optional... probably. We only had pound coins and the machine didn't give change. I must have been feeling uncharacteristically generous, overpaying in order to get the ticket even though most of the other cars didn't have one. Up the track and through a gate - stalking season now over for another year.
We'd be getting a lot of fine views of Ben Avon today:
Autumnal colours now very much in evidence on the hills, with plenty of water in the burn after recent rain. There's no disputing that this is a fine glen:
430 metres above sea level and we'd hardly started an ascent yet! One of the benefits of the Cairngorms... a zig-zag track soon changed that though, quickly gaining the end of the ridge at Sron Dubh with the use of a few shortcut paths to bypass roundabout sections of track. It was less windy here than in the glen - possibly some funneling effect going on down below. Morrone complete with mast across Glen Clunie - one of our first Scottish hills.
This was surpassed, however, by a perfect view of Glen Clunie itself, leading to Braemar with Ben Avon forming the horizon.
Callater Burn (and the return route):
An insignificant descent and a gentle climb to Sron nan Gabhar, sitting just above the 720 metre mark.
A couple more landmarks visible now - the back side of Lochnagar, and Loch Callater. The loch looked quite small from here, albeit partially hidden by the side of Carn an Tuirc.
Meanwhile to the northwest, Braeriach and its mighty coires was gradually being unveiled over the top of heathery foothills:
The summit cairn lies in the middle of a flattish area (don't most eastern summits? ), easily reached by the track with only one very short wet bit. The views were superb despite a modest height by local standards. This is a great summit to pick out most of the surrounding summit groups - Ben Macdui, Ben Avon, Braeriach, Lochnagar, Morrone, The Cairnwell Munros and even Ben Rinnes all easily seen to name a few.
Loch Callater was calling out for us though - time to go.
The next part was pathless (as per the walkhighlands route) apart from a few helpful sheep tracks. Keeping just to the right of a slight rise on the southeast slopes, hopping over a couple of peat hags, a few marshy areas and short heather brought us to the wide bealach where a the track leads towards Glen Callater. After following the track north for too long, it became apparent that we'd missed the path which branches off right towards the loch. No matter - easy ground to trample on, soon reaching the path a bit lower down. The path was a bit rubbish in any case - just as easy to cross the heather. It did pass a couple of nice waterfalls though, with more views from the higher sections of path.
A few sheep made a change from the unusually numerous grouse around here (hundreds so far - no exaggeration!), before a few planks crossed the burn for the last few metres to the river bridge at Lochcallater Lodge.
If you haven't visited Loch Callater or its bothy before... you should. It's a beautiful place - what a view to wake up to in the morning! The sleeping area looks newly refurbished too - very tidy, with proper bunks. Luxury...
More great evening views on the three-mile walk out, but no space for any more photos on this report so you'll just have to make a visit yourself. Carn nan Gabhar is probably overlooked by a lot of walkers in favour of the higher hills around it, but makes a straightforward, gentle and very scenic circular walk with great variety and views - perfection! Better than a lot of the Cairnwell Munros anyway...
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