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2 Burds, 3 Days, 9 Munros and 1 burst tyre
by GillC » Wed May 11, 2016 5:28 pm
Munros included on this walk: Aonach Beag (Alder), Beinn a'Chlachair, Beinn Bheoil, Beinn Eibhinn, Ben Alder, Carn Dearg (Loch Pattack), Creag Pitridh, Geal Charn, Geal-charn (Alder)
Date walked: 11/05/20166 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).
I haven’t done a walk report in quite some time, but returning from an amazing weekend, I couldn’t let it go by without a nod. Warning you now, this is a very long nod!
The first May bank holiday weekend was looking like a washout weatherwise, so I wangled changing the holiday Monday to the following week – good decision. Lynne (Callandergirl) and I toyed with the idea of the Ben Alder duo, which then somehow morphed into the Ben Alder duo and the Aonach Beag 4 AND the Creag Pitridh 3 from the south, albeit over 3 days.
This would involve the cycle in from Dalwhinnie to Culra and a wild camp for 2 nights. Being a pair of wild camp virgins, having never camped more than 500 yards from the car, a lot of thought had to then go into what kit we had between us, who carries what etc. Both had bikes, I could borrow Johns luggage carrier (more about that later) 2 tents, including festival pop up style. Stoves, pots, food, clothes, or lack thereof. Blah blah, I’m sure most of you have been there.
Friday night, packed up and headed for Callander to stay over with Lynne and get an early start. Up and ready for the off at 6am. Plan was to meet with Gammy, Pauline and Chris Mutter at Dalwhinnie, hopefully we would be early and head off to allow us time to make camp at Culra without impacting the days walk for the rest who were all heading back out on the same day. “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley”
Yes, we got to Dalwhinnie nice and early, 7:22am but by 8, the other 3 were good to go and we were still juggling bags and bungees, so off they went with us to follow. Left shortly after, hoping to catch them up. Not to be, with luggage slipping, bungees popping, bike rack legs snapping off and going through the spokes off my bike (going uphill and not fast was a particular benefit at that point) The rack then dropped and was rubbing off the tyre so had to concoct a method of holding it up, nearly bungeed it to my rucksack lol but got there eventually.
Clearing the good track and out through the trees to the rougher track, we were finally getting somewhere. The landscape opened up and we had great views all around, a bit hazy but could see all we needed to.
I had heard something ‘plasticy’ fall at one point, had a look back but couldn’t see anything. Next corner, another cyclist coming towards us stopped, Gammy! Knee had packed in and he had decided not to continue. At this point, Lynne announced the ‘plasticy’ noise may well have been the lens of her sunglasses, now minus one. Gentleman Gammy offered his, to be returned at a later date, much appreciated by Lynne. They were to come in very handy in some fab weather and blinding white snow fields.
Willie had suggested we don’t go down to Loch Pattack as the shore line was very difficult to manage on a bike AND it had the swing bridge, so we started off initially down a track to the left over grass. Soon decided not to bother as it looked a little rough. (turns out there was a bigger, better defined track a bit further on. Anyway, decided to aim for the loch, spotted a couple of tents along the shoreline and discussed camping here instead of going on to Culra. We were making heavy weather of it as it was. Spotted the wee spit of land half way round, that’ll do nicely. Just at the point I reached it, I heard an exclamation from Lynne behind me. Her front tyre had ripped and I mean ripped, about 3-4 inches, inner tube stuck out then bang, burst. Bikes defo going no further today. Took 20 mins or so to get two tents up and decant all the non-hill gear from the bikes and packs. Lock the bikes together? no, couldn’t find the key to the lock (at least they weren’t locked together when that happened, more about that later). Reckoned if anyone was in the area, they already had their own bike so no chance of them nicking ours.
Still sitting comfortably?
At just after 10:30am, with absolutely no chance of catching Pauline and Chris, off we strode towards Culra and our first of many crossings of the swingy wobbly bridge. How the heck do people get bikes over this never mind cycle over it? You know who you are Alice Savage! Lol
We had opted not to fill our water bags before now to save on weight so we knew we were looking out for some running water, none immediately by the lochside. Wandered round, passed the bothy then checked the WH route description, dashit, we had passed (and admired) a footbridge over the river, not realising we should have crossed there. 500 yards back the way, filled up with water (I forgot the clip that closes my hydration pack so only a water bottle for me. More about THAT later too)
Finally, we were actually on our way to a hill, felt like we should be going home after all the trials we had faced already lol.
Up a good stalkers path, we found the “small cairn” (1 boulder with a pebble on the top!) marking the rougher track through the heather, towards the Long Leachas.
Reaching the Allt a'Bhealaich Bheithe, we had to negotiate the crossing. Water was not in spate but I reckon snow melt had raised the level a bit so we managed over with only the last 2 rocks or so slightly below the surface, feet remained dry however. Still a fair bit of snow on the hill and on the top of the crags but the path was good as we wound our way up. Bit scrambly nearer the top which was great,,although Lynne had a few wobbly moments.
On reaching the plateau we spent some time admiring the views before heading off towards the summit. A feature of this weekend seemed to be boulder fields.
The huge cairn at the summit must have gone some way in reducing the boulders we had to scrabble over lol
Reached the top of Alder at 3pm, met two chaps here,, Jethro and Douglas, who had met with Pauline and Chris earlier too. With chats turning to politics, jobs, hills etc we wandered down to the Bealach Breabag where they went off to the right, after I donated my remaining cheese wrap to Douglas who had already eaten his rations for the following day.
The ground below looked a bit boggy and haggy but we could see the path going up the other side,,,and someone coming down it. Quick chat with a couple on their way round in the opposite direction. Watched their progress up Alder, as we headed up to Bheoil, reaching the summit at 17:15.
The WH report suggests carrying on along the ridge for 750mtrs or so, then dropping off to the left after the screes. We could see the scree and carried on past, for considerably more than 750mtrs,,then just dropped off the left of the ridge.
We could pick out the stalkers path some way below us so just made our way down, eventually picking it up just above where we had left it earlier in the day. A great path for a quick descent. We passed the bothy again at 7pm, so 7.5hrs bothy to bothy, with the extra 45 mins from and to the lochside camp to add on too. Weather had been breezy all day, but no rain, not even a sniff of it. Legs were very tired, cycle in did most of that though. Visibility from the tops was good, hazy in the far distance but still able to pick up Nevis, Schiehallion etc so plenty better than some of the recent forecasts. Filled up the water containers for cooking, tea/coffee etc. and watched as dozens of deer hopped over the road, heading up the slopes to our left. Happy days!
Back at the camp just before 8pm, time to decant all the bags and sort out food etc. Waiting for the water to boil for our dry instant food bags, (note to self,,,turn the gas on full, its quicker) we spotted the couple off the hill, crossing the bridge, well, we thought it was them. Turned out to be Scoob and Fiona. We had seen their van at Dalwhinnie in the morning. They had just done the full round of 6 Munros and were cycling out. Had a wee chat, Scoob kindly offering to check the burst tyre for Lynne, before conceding the last rites were all it was going to get lol. Passed some time with dinner, a wee swally from the hip flask before an early night (9:30pm)
A new day dawns
….and cloud at ground level. 5am up and cloud all around but clearing by the minute. Took our time over breakfast and left camp at 6:30am, heading for the Aonach Beag ridge. As before, needed to fill our water containers on the way. As we were at the lochside, it made more sense to head up the shoulder from the East to Carn Dearg instead of round to the bothy and straight up. 2 rivers enter the loch along the track but the water wasn’t ideal for filling up, the map shows a burn here, ideal for fresh water supplies. Sorted.
Climbing up initially then banking left, we saw some deer scattered around the hill. The misty start was improving, we could see through the cloud around us to a much higher cloud base, with patches of blue,,but the lower stuff came and went with the views. A few spits of rain became a few more, but as is the way of it, by the time we put our jackets on, the rain was off.
Reached the first height marker at 827mtrs just before 8:27am and from there, it’s a simple trek across and then up a steeper section to our first summit, Carn Dearg, reached at 9:10am.
Few pics taken, second breakfast and managed to kill about 20 minutes here before heading off for the longest trek of the day between summits.
Scoob and Fi had mentioned the night before that on the way up to the second summit, there was a tricky step, snow covered and edging a nippy wee cornice. Coming over Diollaid a’ Chairn we could see it up ahead. The section below looked very steep but as we approached, this eased and there’s a wee path picking its way through the rock. Thankfully, there were still footsteps cut into the steep snow sections. The issue here was, would the slushy wet snow be strong enough to support us, no need for spikes etc though and an axe wouldn’t stop you on that either, too soft. Kicking in, I lead the way up to a small rocky island in the snow, before the second ‘stairway to heaven’. The strange feeling is, am I on solid ground or part of this cornice? Lol This doesn’t last long but you can’t see over until suddenly terra firma appears at eye level. Phew, reached the plateau and away from the cornice.
From here, there is a fine view over to Sgor Iutharn (Lancet Edge) to the left,,with footprints heading that way. We double checked that this wasn’t our route, no, straight on WSW for us. Big snow fields here speckled with several sets of footprints. Again the snow was soft and slushy, like walking on sand dunes. Made it over to the top of Geal Charn, highest munro of the day at 1132mtrs, just after 11:30am.
Very windy here but had lost most of the misty patches and cloud now high, totally cloud free hills for miles around.
Hills 2,3 and 4 are relatively close together now, after the distance between 1 and 2. We headed down to the bealach, snow on the north faces of the Coire na Coichille to our right. At some point between summits 1 and 2, I had lost my water bottle from the side pocket of my rucksack, seriously annoying and second water malfunction of the trip. Lol Had to share Lynnes supply for the rest of the day.
Just on the rise up the other side, had a wee break, small munch and spotted 3 coming over the top and down towards us. Headed off and had a brief chat. They had come up from the lodge at the head of Loch Ossian and were doing the hills in the opposite direction. After we had parted company, I realised I should have asked them to keep their eyes open for my lost water bottle as we would undoubtedly meet them on the return path. Ascending up out of the bealach, you pretty much reach the summit right away, nice and short. Weather improving by the minute and headed off Aonach Beag at 12:40pm.
Moving down, we could pick out the path up to the last summit, Eibhinn and also a section heading off down from the bealach, our exit route. Getting further down however,,the off route, seemed to have disappeared lol
Climbing Eibhinn, blue skies taking over, but still uber windy. We had a mission to be at the top for 1:30pm and with Lynne trying to make a phone call as we had found a signal, I pushed on and got to the cairn, realising, theres another one up ahead. A quick check of the map shows both tops at 1102mtrs but with the second one circled by John as the top, we confirmed this on the WH route so pushed on again, and made it at 1:31pm!!!
Lol A glorious day, 4 Munros and just the looooooooooong journey back to camp now.
Heading down to the bealach, I spied what I think is the top of the ill defined exit path. We checked below and to be honest, couldn’t see any semblance of what we thought was a path, so just picked our way down, grassy and a bit wet at times but no real shakes. Lynnes foot was playing up so a wee ibuprofen stop and carried on. The route warns to cross the Charra Bhig burn to the left side which we did easily and as per the WH route, stayed higher on the contour round Sron Ruadh, avoiding the copious peaty hags below. Progress around was easy enough on the tussocky slopes and we could see our target, the stalkers path over the Leacann na Brathan burn, on the slopes under Ben Alder. It was pretty warm by now, shell trousers are not good for warm weather, sweaty pins lol. 1hr 50 mins got us from the summit of Eibhinn down to the stream at the bottom.
Reaching the burn, I sat down to remove my fleece and grab a bite while Lynne hopped over the burn and sat opposite me eating her humous dip lol. Simple enough crossing then headed straight up the slope to join the path. We had worked out it was around 8km back to camp from here but with a good path and glorious weather, what's not to enjoy? Legs felt a lot better than yesterday.
As we crossed over the Bealach Dubh and dropped down, sun on our backs, we saw the 3 chaps from earlier, on the return leg. I remembered to ask if they had seen my water bottle, nope, no joy. Another quick chat and off we went. We could see the forested area just beyond the loch so had our target pretty much in site. One more water crossing with no issue and back down. Got to the bothy at half 5 and opted for a chillax, lie down in the sun for 15 mins before the last stretch to the tents, gorgeous evening and Lynne took full advantage of the comfy wooden bridge lol
Evening camp saw the wind dropping, calm loch, clear skies, dinner sitting outside the tent and enjoying the views, birdsong, and the ipod and burning our rubbish in a wee sand pit.
More whisky for me, Baileys (other Irish creams are available ) and hot choc for Lynne. Waited around for a spectacular sunset, which didn’t quite live up to our expectations, lovely though it was. Another early night, half 9 or so, tomorrow we had a time limit and were on a mission.
Last day of our holidays –
Having checked the route for the Creag Pitridh hills, we planned to start as early as possible as we had to then get back to the car, on a bike with no front tyre!! Up around 4am, I packed up my sleeping bag, mat and some bits and pieces before leaving the tent to reduce what we had to do later. Yesterdays cloudy start was replaced by clear skies and boundless views from first light.
Left the tents at 5:30am, again with the water bottles to fill, we marched off up the track. Stopped around 6am for some fresh mountain water, me now using Lynnes bike flask. With the sun on our backs we wound our way up the track towards Loch a’ Bhealaich Leamhain.
As the broad track dropped down to Allt Cam and diminished to single width, we realised we had to do our first river crossing of the day. I hadn’t brought the sandals I had used on the Ben Alder crossing but we managed to pick our way over without getting wet. Opting for Beinn a’ Chlachair first, we could see the track ahead of us, running up the side of the crags before turning left along under the ridge. As we moved along and up, crossing some small snow patches, the ground became rockier, before emerging on the plateau from where we could see the route to the summit. By this time, Lynne was in shorts and I had my gloves on lol Its only just over 100mtrs ascent from this point but as you have to make your way round a couple of dog legs, over boulder fields, it took longer than expected. Dropping slightly, to try to get out of the wind, we had a short breakfast break. More boulders and a push up, we crossed a short but deep snow field right to the summit.
From here, our second target of the day, Geal Charn look soooooo far away.
Didn’t hang around for long as we had just had a wee break below.
Heading back down to the plateau, we opted to drop off early, to avoid the rocky scramble described in the WH route. This meant contouring along the side of the hill, avoiding the crags, crossing some rocky snow sections on fairly steep ground. Grassy and wet and slippy in parts.
On reaching the ground at Coire Pitridh, a look back up convinced us we should just have come along the top of the plateau and dropped down the crags, looked a lot simpler.
From here, it’s a case of picking up the stalkers path we left earlier and crossing the Bealach Leamhain towards Geal Charn. With time very much on our minds, I had worked out we needed to be back on the homestretch here around 1pm so we pushed on up the track and then off to the right up alongside some lovely cool burns, great spot to fill up the bottles. Had to skirt some big snow patches to reach the summit then head over, further than expected to the tor-like cairn and shelter. Arrived at 11:25am and very nearly blown back down the hill by 11:26 lol ,,,seriously windy up here.
Pictures taken, short break in the shelter of the cairn and a good look around at our hills from the previous 2 days. Headed off, again aware time was starting to go against us.
Reaching the track, the WH route says there is a path straight up Creag Pitridh, which we couldn’t see. Made our way over towards the hill, which seems unworthy of the name Munro in comparison to the monsters of the previous days. We finally spotted the path crossing a small boggy section then heading straight up the front. It zig zags it way through the white sparkling quartzite as the wind picked up again.
Made it to the top, 12:40pm, pics taken and straight back off.
Reached the track 1pm on the dot, not bad. 9th Munro of the weekend and what a cracking bunch of hills. We then chose not to come down the North of the loch as the path seemed degraded so went the extra 200 yards across to the other side and off down the track home.
We had seen some snow crossing this track from further away and on crossing over and starting the drop down, fresh snow melt had turned the path into a torrent of clear fresh water, pouring down. Further on, a still melting snow field covered some 100 yards of the track, old footprints still visible but much melting and refreezing made it hard going, kicking in steps all the way along.
Made it over, good patch for the rest of the way down to Allt Cam and the return crossing. Our earlier crossing point didn’t look so appealing as it involved a BIG step to a rock that was already under water (coming the other way, it was a leap to the bank, so easier) Didn’t want to waste too much time so I just waded in, boots on, trousers rolled to the knees, and pretty much knee deep. Lynne followed, more on the rocks. Out the other side and started on the last leg. squelch squelch squelch.
We wanted to be back at camp by 3pm to pack etc and be back at Dalwhinnie by 6 at the latest. Unfortunately, the packing bit took longer than expected. And do you remember the key id lost for the lock? meaning our bikes lay unsecured for 3 days? Well, it was in the lock all the time!!! So packed up, we cycled and pushed the bikes back up to the main track. Lynne was running on a totally flat front tyre but did so well pedalling along with little steering and no protection from stony bumps.
We leap frogged our way along the track, pushing when it was hilly, me enjoying the flats and downhills. Once in the trees, more water filling from the fresh streams until the last of the lodge houses was in sight,,,then I saw it,,,,A TRAIN, we were nearly there!
Last push and the last bend, and there was my car, sitting all shiny and alone, and UNLOCKED. (yep, in our haste to get away on Saturday morning, I didn’t lock it ) Somehow, despite Lynnes wheel, we managed to knock 20 mins off the return journey so made up the time we lost packing. Sorted and off from Dalwhinnie at 6pm.
Now,,if you managed to stay awake and get this far in this EPIC report. Congratulations. This was an adventure for both of us, first wild camp but with good to fantastic weather, some characterful hills and 9 more blue balloons, one we will not forget in a hurry.
Thanks for listening folks.
by Munchie » Mon May 16, 2016 8:21 pm
- Posts: 33
- Joined: Jul 21, 2013
by SAVAGEALICE » Mon May 16, 2016 8:24 pm
by GillC » Mon May 16, 2016 9:25 pm
SAVAGEALICE wrote:yey ..you're back writing reports what hardy burds you are! .... ....did I really ride my bike over that bridge??! ....was just trying to look for John's report but I can't find it ....
so missy,,3 left,,whats the story?
by GillC » Mon May 16, 2016 9:27 pm
Munchie wrote:Glad yer writing again Gill. Well done to both on a very eventful few days
Cheers Mrs, as ever, thinking back to the fab times we had oot and aboot x
by quoman » Tue May 17, 2016 7:30 pm
by Andymac75 » Tue May 17, 2016 9:27 pm
Well done both of you
- Posts: 101
- Joined: Feb 23, 2016
by Tomsie » Fri May 20, 2016 10:39 pm