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Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 8:05 pm
by LeithySuburbs
[nb. the "15 hours" refers to actual time spent walking, not sleeping obviously ;)]

The Plan:
Day 1: Walk in to Tarf Hotel over Beinn Mheadonach
Day 2: climb "them 2" - Carn Ealar and An Sgarsoch
Day 3: walk out via Falls of Tarf and Glen Tilt

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The Reality:
Day 1, Thurday 19 August:
It had been years since I'd done a bothy trip and I'd always wanted to visit this remote one combined with the ticking-off of Carn Ealar and An Sgarsoch. The forecast for Friday wasn't great so, to ensure I got to the summit of at least one hill, I decided to head in over Beinn Mheadhonach.

After leaving the Glen Tilt road at Gilberts Bridge I followed the charming path on the western side of the glen before turning left to take the off-shoot to Gleann Mhairc and BM.

River Tilt

Just at the turn-off there is a signed viewpoint looking up the glen.

Glen Tilt

Gleann Mhairc was looking wonderful in the warm sunshine with the heather in bloom and I had lunch by the storybook bridge feeling pretty good about life.

Beinn Mheadhonach

Glen Mhairc bridge

The climb up the long southern ridge of BM is mostly pathless but at an easy gradient and, despite the full pack, I reached the summit without incident. There were great views of all the Atholl Munros and of the Cairngorms to the North. I could also see my route ahead further up Glen Mhairc to Loch Mhairc which looked, erm, damp and boggy.

Beinn a' Ghlo

I descended to the floor of the glen to allow me to cross the Feith an Lochain without taking my shoes off. The next 2.5km were hard work as I picked my way through sphagnum and peat hags. Not far short of Loch Mhairc I decided that I'd had enough and headed over the NW end of Braigh Sron Ghorm - the small extra ascent was well worth it to be on firmer ground and it was also a decent short cut. There was a lovely light back to BM.

Beinn Mheadhonach

I descended to the Tarf Water hoping to see the bothy with smoke puffing out the chimney... ha ha. 3 damp and tiring kms later the Tarf Hotel came into view, sadly lacking the aforementioned chimney smoke. I was not completely alone of course as there were many deer in this remote glen.

Tarf Water near bothy

It had taken almost 7 hours to get here. I soon realized that I was the only resident that night and made up my bed and cooked dinner. There was a gorgeous evening light over An Sgarsoch and I slept pretty well in my sleeping bag - a good 10 hours. I was well impressed with the bothy - clean, watertight (well, 99%) and roomy.

An Sgarsoch and bothy

Day 1 had gone pretty much to plan, although the walk from the Corbett summit to the bothy was tough.

Day 2, Friday 20 August:
I woke about 8:30am and glanced out the window. As forecasted, the cloud was down but it was dry and surprisingly warm. So, having warmed up and breakfasted, I set off to tackle CE and AS. My first task was to cross the Tarf Water which involved slightly damp feet but no real dramas. I followed the river upstream for about 1.5km before striking up the heathery, boggy hillside. After about 2 hours of taking bearings and negotiating peat hags I had just passed the top of Leachdann Feith Seasgachain.

Misty Tarf Water

Now the rain came. And the wind. It was grim and, after a quick glance at the map revealed another 3km just to the summit of Carn Ealar, I decided to call it a day for these two and head back to the bothy. But panic!... I had promised to text my better half each day and would have no reception at the bothy. I had to hope that I would get a bar or two back at the top of LFS. Fortunately I did for about 30 seconds and managed to send the text, phew. More bog and heather hopping got me back to the bothy a little damp and disheartened.

I made lunch and set about drying out my stuff. Outside it was really bad now - driving wind and heavy rain. No way was I going anywhere in that! I had also noticed a slight "drip... drip... drip" coming from the ceiling. A look at the map and some rough calculations told me I needed 6 hours for the 25km walk out. It was now 1pm and I had some time to think and decisions to make.

Option 1. if the weather did not improve by 3:30pm, I would stay at the bothy another night as planned. This would be very boring and there was no guarantee the weather would be better tomorrow, but would allow me all day to do the walk.
Option 2. if the weather did improve by 3:30pm, I would go for it and walk the 25km back to the car. This would be tough on top of 8 damp kms in the morning and I would have to skip seeing the Falls of Tarf. However, the weather might be bad tomorrow and it was nearly all downhill. Also - as I would not be able to do the Munros tomorrow and walk out - I would not be missing much in terms of the "plan".

Therefore, I fully packed so as to be ready for either eventuality. At 3pm, just as I was losing hope, the wind dropped and the sun came out. Once again this wild place was a paradise and my mind was made up - option 2 it was.

Obstacles came quickly. The Feith Uaine Mhor had risen about 18 inches and was now a fast moving torrent. The plank bridge across it was submerged under 3 inches of fast flowing water. I ventured a bare foot onto it but backed off - no way did I want to fall off that. Next I wandered a few hundred yards upstream but the situation was no better so I returned to the bothy. There was nothing for it - I would have to get my feet wet. I found a reasonably safe crossing point just where it joined the Tarf Water so threw my shoes across for motivation! The water was still above my knees but I was over and could properly begin my walk out.

40 minutes along damp riverside brought me to the building at NN956797 which was actually a small stable for 2 lovely white ponies. This was a real cheer. As was the track leading from here to Glen Tilt. Terra firma, thank God. I was making good time and started to relax, even taking time for a few photos.

Beinn Iutharn Mhor and Carn an Righ

I was soon at the Glen Tilt track and the final leg. But what a long leg! Fortunately, the fabulous scenery and sunshine helped keep my mind off my increasingly painful feet. This is one beautiful glen.

Upper Glen Tilt

River Tilt waterfall and angler near Forest Lodge

However, just past Forest Lodge after 3 hours walking, I had to stop for a rest and let my feet breathe.

From here it was just a mental battle. My feet hurt but the rest of my body was still functioning well so I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The track went on and on and on without even a passing estate vehicle to try to thumb a lift from. I got back to the car at 8pm, just over 5 hours after leaving the bothy.

This was a great couple of days only slightly soured by the poor weather on Friday morning which meant I couldn't climb the 2 Munros. An Sgarsoch and Carn Ealar will be there another day and the wildness and beauty of this place will stay with me a long time :D . However, this is rough and remote country and I was glad to be in such good physical condition, otherwise I may still be shivering in the bothy :lol:.

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 8:24 pm
by Graeme D
High drama there Leithy! You're not the first to spend a night at the Tarf Hotel with plans to tackle these two remote Munros the next day but to have to pull out in the cold light of day :( . Same happened on our bothy meet up there last November. Main problem then was not being able to get across the Tarf Water safely. I still have plans to knock them off sometime with an overnight at the bothy included before or after, possibly next summer, if you fancy joining me! 8)

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:15 pm
by LeithySuburbs
It's funny that you should comment on this as I was thinking of your Loch Lyon report when all the waters rose (time to spend some time away from this forum methinks :lol: ). At least it got better for me :) . Count me in for another attempt.

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 11:35 pm
by malky_c
Interesting. Am planning a visit to Beinn Mheadhonach and Beinn Breac from this direction at some point. You have confirmed my worst fears about the terrain in the general area of Loch Mhairc!

I was in the office on Friday, but even I couldn't help notice the wind getting up, almost out of nowhere! Seems like you had a fair amount of water as well. Always adds to the entertainment :shock:

I was lucky enough with these Munros. I stayed in the Tarff Hotel to do them in 2003 but the weather held out (bothy was a pain in the arse to find in the dark though!)

Anyway, good report. I like the fact that this site appears to be getting busier, but there's just so much new stuff to read that I can't get through it all!

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 1:12 am
by LeithySuburbs
malky_c wrote:I like the fact that this site appears to be getting busier, but there's just so much new stuff to read that I can't get through it all!

I know what you mean. So many reports every day that it is hard to read even half of them. When I started posting (about 18 months ago), there were probably only 20 trip reporters at most.

As for the terrain around Loch Mhairc: it is tough. Look at the 2nd Beinn Mheadhonach pic for an idea of the extent of the peat hags. Even grassy areas were soaking wet. Having said that, I've been home 24 hours and can't stop thinking about the place - so wonderfully remote :) .

If I was going to do both Corbetts I would go...
Day1 (short): Blair Atholl to Allt Sheicheachan bothy
Day2: Beinn Bhreac to Tarf bothy
Day3: Beinn Mheadhonach and back to Blair Atholl.
Or wild camp after Beinn Bhreac to save several km walking by Tarf Water (but that means carrying a tent ;) ).

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:19 am
by mountain coward
Great reading that - brought back memories of our trip last year...

A few things though... I would never promise to text someone when I knew I was going to a remote area where there would likely be no signal - that could lead to a callout or at least a lot of worry. Better to just tell people you're going to be out of contact for a couple of days. Secondly, never throw your shoes across a river - tie them round your neck! Supposing you hadn't managed to get across? :o

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:11 am
by kinley
Interesting Trip Report 8)

Got a yen to visit Upper Glen Tilt and the Falls of Tarf sometime so very pertinent reading :D

Bit of a mixed weather bag in the Back o Burke! :D

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:53 am
by kevsbald
Bad luck Leithy but a wee Corbett and a good recce of the area means you know what needs to be done for attempt 2 - count me in for the 2nd leg, like Graeme, I have a hankering to get back and do another bothy meet in the Tarf.

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:01 pm
by Gable Gable End
i have been holding off on this route for ages, i hear it is do-able on the bike and is highly regarded by the mountain biking fraternity i.e. through the glen

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 9:16 pm
by malky_c
Gable Gable End wrote:i have been holding off on this route for ages, i hear it is do-able on the bike and is highly regarded by the mountain biking fraternity i.e. through the glen

Certainly easy enough to get up to the Bedford Memorial bridge on bike. Path narrows down a bit after that, but I think it would make a great through route on bike to Linn of Dee. I'm guessing by your comments that this is already done quite frequently.

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:26 pm
by Gable Gable End
on the money Malky C. I would find it difficult to get time to arrange around the route as I'd def like to spend the night in Glen Tilt i.e. getting me, my pack and my bike to braemar and then getting me, my emptier pack and my bike from Blair Atholl back to Fordoun

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Tue Aug 24, 2010 11:02 am
by monty
Hi LS,
Nice report. That's some distance to go for one munro :lol: Are you trying to outdo Graeme in the "cut off by rivers in spate" stakes :lol: On a serious note that was a bit of bad weather there. I am in the Cluanie Inn and it has just rained non stop since Sunday night and the water is cascading down the glens. Its amasing how quickly the burns fill up and overflow into huge torrents.

I am heading into the Tarf Hotel soon so might be able to join some of you guys for a dram or two. :D

Re: Tarf Hotel trip (a.k.a. one tough Corbett)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:16 pm
by Alan S
A brilliant well written report there LS with some cracking pics 8)