Page 1 of 1

A final fling in the eastern Gorms - Day 1 (The warm-up)

PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:54 pm
by Graeme D
It was the last weekend of the summer holidays before going back to school for another year :( and I was desperate to sign off with a final flourish. Kevsbald had suggested the idea of another Friday-Saturday overnighter with wild camp, this time heading in on the Friday evening over the Corbetts of Carn Liath and Culardoch before tackling the giant Munros of Ben Avon and Beinn a'Bhuirdh on the Saturday. CurlyWurly was also in the mix and needless to say, I thought the whole thing was a rip-roaring idea, even if I had climbed the two Corbetts last autumn. In saying that, I didn't get any visibility at all from the top of Culardoch that day, so I reckoned a wee return trip would not go amiss :D . As I thought about it a bit more, however, and consulted the map (both real - OS sheet 36, and virtual - this site), I began to formulate a cunning plan of Baldrickesque proportions 8) . Not being encumbered by tedious and inconvenient work commitments this particularly fine Friday the 13th, I would head up a bit earlier than planned and walk in across the mysteriously named Corbett of Brown Cow Hill from a start point at Cock Bridge, meeting with the other two guys at a prearranged wild campsite. But wait - even more cunning was in the offing! I would first do a whirlwind dash up the nearby Corbett of Carn Ealasaid, also from Cock Bridge, before heading in over BCH to meet the guys.

So, a little later than planned, I pulled in beside the Allargue Arms Hotel at Cock Bridge (having made an emergency stop at the shop in Braemar for milk - left the other one in the fridge at home - my little luxury when wild camping - black coffee = not good start to the day :shock: ).

The rather unappealing rear of the Allargue Arms Hotel

So, yes, off along the track at 1.45pm precisely towards the (so the SMC Corbett book says) abandoned house at Loinherry. It didn't look too abandoned to me, with the building on the right of the track looking like it might have been converted into some sort of holiday let or maybe even some kind of studio, and the one on the left with a Ford Focus parked up outside and smoke belching from the chimney.

Loinherry with Cairn Vaich behind

Shortly after this, a grassy track makes a diagonal ascent up the slopes of Cairn Vaich to intersect with the track which is shown on the OS map taking a convoluted way up the hillside. I continue across the track on a direct bearing towards the summit of Cairn Vaich and Carn Ealasaid beyond, soon passing an area littered with loose shattered scree and a line of cairns running up the crest, and featuring a little wind-shelter and a carefully crafted, perfectly square hole in the ground with scree-lined walls.

Back down to Loinherry with Corgarff Castle in the distance

Looking north east over the line of little cairns

West along the valley of the River Don

I soon reconnect with the track and when it once again swings away off my direct bearing to the summit, I again resort to heather whacking. However, I soon find myself becoming bogged down in an area not too dissimilar to the Everglades, only without the trees, alligators and Floridian weather, and hastily reroute back across towards the relative safety of the track. :?

Lucy Everglading

South east down the track to a distant Mount Keen

At a point around about 233114, as the track descends and gently curves left and then right before climbing to the summit cairn of Carn Ealasaid, a big, low bank of swirling cloud and drizzle comes in from the east across the Lecht and sweeps over me. I'm temporarily in a sea of grey, and although there's a fine drizzle coming down and a stiffish breeze whipping up, it is not cold and I do not feel the need to cover my bare arms or put long trousers on. Almost as soon as it has arrived, the clag blows over and by the time I arrive at the totally unremarkable summit cairn set about two feet back from the track, some visibility has returned.

Lucy narrowly beats the cairn in a height contest

Summit cairn by the track - Morven just visible in the clouds in the distance

There's not much to this summit at all, and it really doesn't inspire me to sit down and have my lunch of couscous with mixed roasted veg and a bottle of Czech beer, so I head back down towards the little wind shelter by the line of cairns (sticking resolutely to the track this time) and have it there, before returning back past Loinherry (where the occupant is now out on the roof repairing tiles by the looks of things) to the car.

Heading back down towards a sunny Cairn Vaich

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

I jump into the car and drive a couple of hundred yards or so south back down the road across the bridge over the River Don and park by the gate just beyond the Cock Bridge farm, where I abandon the little daypack and get myself strapped onto the big overnight pack. I sincerely hope one of the guys is going to give me a lift back here tomorrow from Keiloch, otherwise it'll be a hell of a trek back. I'm guessing I'd be back at the car sometime early on Tuesday! :lol:

The gate is firmly padlocked - that's several times this summer I've come across padlocked or ludicrously well tied-up gates and it's really beginning to p**s me off something awful! More to do with the principle of the thing than the fact I have to once again manually hoist Lucy up and over. Once into the field, a grassy track leads west above the stream. I think the SMC Corbett book suggests that it links up with the track which runs south west past the forestry plantation and up the the broad bealach behind Carn Oighreag, but in reality it doesn't and a little bit of bushwhacking is required to gain the track.

Cairn Vaich and Carn Ealasaid beyond Corgarff Castle

From here it's an initially gradual ascent, which steepens once beyond the forestry to emerge onto the truly bleak, boggy and featureless bealach. On a grim day this bealach must be a truly unforgiving place.

Climbing beyond the forestry towards the bealach

Carn Ealasaid in the distance across the bleak bealach

From here I follow the line of grouse butts and contour around the slope on a more or less due south bearing before climbing up over rough heather and peat hags to the col between the 748 metre spot height to the east and the 823 metre top to the west which the OS names as Brown Cow Hill, although the high point of the Corbett is about a kilometre beyond this to the west.

Typical Lucy

For some inexplicable reason, I turn left at the col - I reckon I must just have switched off and been walking on auto-pilot. I had the map stowed away in my breast pocket and hadn't looked at it for a while, commiting the general lie of the land and my route to memory. It was only when I reached the little cairn and looked beyond to see, well, not very much actually, that I woke up and realised I'd gone awry. I turned 180 degrees and voila! Brown Cow Hill. In all it's glory. No harm done. Only a "detour" of a couple of hundred metres. :oops:

The wind had really got up in the last half hour or so, so before setting off again, I try to take what shelter I can from the small cairn to change out of my shorts and into my long trousers, being careful to hold onto both to prevent them being whisked off into the wilds of the Scottish mountains and leaving me standing in my drawers. :lol:

I head due west, climbing steadily to the 829 metre Corbett summit, by which time the mist has rolled in and robbed me of any views, although to be honest, I think the flatness of the large summit plateau would probably have done for the views in any case. The other thing about Brown Cow Hill is that there are (rather disappointingly) no brown cows on it, or indeed any cows of any other hue for that matter. As Kev said in his report, I had done my homework before setting out, and had clicked on the little podcast button on the BHC page, expecting some expert detailed explanation about the origins of the mysterious name. Alas, what a disappointment - only Paul saying "Brown Cow Hill" and not a hint of an explanation (or even a Gaelic twang) :lol: . Anyone able to shed any light on the mystery???

East summit (823 metres)

Corbett cairn - is that a brown cow? Nope, just a brown dog!

From here it's a case of continuing west along the flat plateau to Cairn Sawvie, where the mist lifts sufficiently to allow glimpses down to Loch Builg and along the River Gairn towards our meeting point and campsite. I had really fancied the notion of heading down off Cairn Sawvie to the northern end of the loch and walking along the eastern shore before heading along the Gairn, but time has marched on, and with the later than planned start, I'm keen to get to the campsite and get settled in before the guys arrive. So I take a bearing for the southern end of Loch Builg, which ends up taking me over some hellish terrain and a number of minor reascents and descents before emerging onto a long ridge of burnt off bracken by the grouping of little lochans immediately south of the loch.

Descending to the lochans with Carn Liath along the valley of the River Gairn

Southern end of Loch Builg and some of the lochans, with cloud clinging to Meall an t-Seangain

View across the lochans and south west along the River Gairn towards the campsite

The 2 or 3 kilometres from here along to the campsite feels more like 7 or 8km, enlivened only by an altercation between Lucy and an otter. Needless to say, when the otter turned and bared a full set of razor sharp looking teeth, Lucy yelped and came running back to me with tail firmly between legs. :shock: :lol:

First bridge at 190021

I was at the campsite just beyond the second bridge on the north side of the river at 178008 at 8.15pm with things already looking distinctly murky and no sign of Kev and Darren. I quickly stuck the tent up, carefully constructed a stone fridge in the stream and chucked a few cans in, and got Lucy's dinner on. I briefly thought about walking on up the track towards the Carn Liath-Culardoch bealach to meet the guys.....then I though sod that idea for a laugh :lol: . Instead I brewed up and stuck my head torch on, setting it to aircraft signalling mode in an attempt to guide the guys in as they came over the crest of the hill. Kev was carrying the barbecue and the burgers, although I had the sausages and the rolls. By about 9.15 I was seriously considering chucking a couple of sausages into a pan when suddenly a couple of lights pierced the gloom up on the track. Some quick headtorch signals were reciprocated and about 10 minutes later the guys arrived to be greeted by a delirious Lucy and a cold can of lager from the fridge. As Kev said in his report, there is definitely something quite spiritual and primaeval about meeting up with fellow humans in the middle of nowhere in the encroaching darkness and enjoying a couple of beers and meat cooked over red hot coals with a fine drizzle being picked up in the beams of the headtorches. :D

As an increasingly heavy drizzle set in for the night, the guys quickly threw their tents up while I fired up the barbecue and Kev got his alternative stag night into full swing, helped along by a little Highland Park as always 8) . By 11.15 the lights were out and we were all tucked up in our tents looking forward to Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird tomorrow. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I remember the days when a stag night meant a weekend in Amsterdam or Blackpool or wherever, dressed up in superhero outfits, followed by a week of severe on-off memory loss, violent shaking and a general reluctance to venture far from bed or the bathroom :lol: . You could say things are just not what they used to be.....or you could just say "this is the life!"

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

Re: A final fling in the eastern Gorms - Day 1 (The warm-up)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:21 am
by malky_c
Graeme Dewar wrote:Kev was carrying the barbecue and the burgers, although I had the sausages and the rolls.

"I thought you were bringing the sausages?"
"No I said I was bringing the barbeque."
"No you didn't! Aaagh!"

At least you avoided that sort of nonsense anyway :lol: :lol:

Not the most exciting hills these, but I like the spot you ended up camping. Still a good read though. At least Brown Cow Hill has a feeling of remoteness.