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The rite of Gaick passage

The rite of Gaick passage


Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:27 am

Route description: Gaick Corbetts: An Dun and Meall Creag an Loch

Corbetts included on this walk: An Dun, Maol Creag an Loch (A' Chaoirnich)

Date walked: 19/06/2017

Time taken: 10.5 hours

Distance: 32.5 km

Ascent: 1095m

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This story will be about two Corbetts not very well known to the public: An Dun and Maol Creag an Loch (aka A' Chaoirnich). This duo is awkwardly situated many miles away from the nearest road, but thankfully a track/path known as Gaick Pass goes right between them. They are very often approached by bike from the south - and this was my original plan, but for reasons only known to himself, my husband decided we'd walk it :roll: Maybe he wanted to test his knee after it had annoyed him badly during our previous trip, I didn't ask. For me it was, as Germans say, ganz egal. I didn't mind walking the distance as long as weather was decent :D

Track_AN DUN 19-06-17.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


The starting point is near Dalnacardoch Lodge, usually one can park either in a layby or somewhere around the Trinafour junction, but today we were surprised by extensive roadworks. The Trinafour junction was closed for traffic, so we had to drive down the A9 past Dalnamein Lodge, where we found a turn-off to the old road. It is a cycle route now, but due to the roadworks at the junction, it was temporarily open for car traffic so we could drive back up closer to our starting point. We found a good parking spot by a ruined cottage, about a mile away from the start of the right of way.
M2U04756(1).jpg

We didn't want to walk through the roadworks area (not sure the workers would be happy!), so we crossed the A9 first and then walked along the verge to the start of the track. About half way, I almost stepped on some large creature, hiding in the grass. It slowly slithered away and I had a good look at it - a big, fat adder. I haven't seen one for ages!
We were glad to leave the noisy A9 behind and turn to the Gaick Pass track. After a short stroll through the forest (surprisingly, no midges!) we walked out onto the open hillside. Weather was unsettled at the moment, showers passing by:
2017-06-19 an dun 002.JPG

The track is excellent (for both walking and cycling) and after a short shower, conditions improved so we could walk at a decent pace, leaving behind the dangerous-looking cloud:
2017-06-19 an dun 011.JPG

Soon we reached the empty building in Badnambiast, had a short lurk around, before continuing on the track:
2017-06-19 an dun 013.JPG

An Dun was now visible on the horizon, a steep, shapely mountain, towering over the glen:
2017-06-19 an dun 020.JPG

This is supposed to be a bridge, but it has turned into a ford:
2017-06-19 an dun 028.JPG

Weather was definitely improving, but we knew there was a small front coming at about midday, which might bring low cloud and possibly more showers. We wanted to be on the first summit before the clag arrived, to see some views :D I was in high gear!
2017-06-19 an dun 031.JPG

The abandoned lodge:
2017-06-19 an dun 033.JPG

Because An Dun looks much steeper than its neighbour, we decided to tackle it first. For as long as possible, we kept to the walk-through path, as ground around looked boggy.
2017-06-19 an dun 044.JPG

Edendon Water and Am Meadar from the path below An Dun:
Image2017-06-19 an dun 051 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Hmmm... Which would be the best way to tackle this?
2017-06-19 an dun 059.JPG

Panoramic view of both Corbetts with Loch an Duin in the middle:
2017-06-19 an dun 061.JPG

I spied a faint path in the heather and followed it up. Surprise, surprise: the path becomes more obvious on steeper slopes and it can be followed almost to the summit! And who said some Corbetts are so unpopular that they have no paths???
2017-06-19 an dun 065.JPG

It was a steep, annoying climb, but the views behind us - spectacular, especially down the glen we just walked:
2017-06-19 an dun 069.JPG

We kept a good pace and in less than an hour we reached the summit plateau. The upper reaches of An Dun are surprisingly green and grassy. We noticed cloud charging towards us from the west, but at the moment, we could still enjoy the breathtaking view down to Loch an Duin and the vertical slopes of A' Chaoirnich:
Image2017-06-19 an dun 083 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
There are two cairns on the opposite ends of the summit plateau, the true summit being the northern one, but we stopped for a short refueling break by the first one:
2017-06-19 an dun 089.JPG

The mist-bearing front reached us when we were walking along the summit ridge to the second cairn and for the time being, views were restricted, but we hoped that it would improve later on (it did!).
An Dun true summit: Corbett no. 125.
Image2017-06-19 an dun 093 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The plateau was alive with golden plovers. Annoyingly, they were running around so fast that taking a good photo proved near impossible :?
2017-06-19 an dun 085.JPG

At the moment, the cloud was touching the summit of A' Chaoirnich:
2017-06-19 an dun 098.JPG

Looking up the Gaick Pass:
2017-06-19 an dun 115.JPG

We examined the descent route carefully, The northern end of An Dun is just as steep everywhere, but with slopes overgrown with grass, it is possible to carefully drop back down to the glen. But first - another pano:
2017-06-19 an dun 121.JPG

On the way down:
Image2017-06-19 an dun 122 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Kevin was falling behind a little, I knew he didn't want to put too much pressure on his knee. Mine were both all right at the moment and I was glad that the descent from the second Corbett looked much less steep. Not sure my kneecaps would appreciate two sharp descents in one day!
Back in the glen, we considered climbing straight up the heathery slope of A' Chaoirnich, but it looked more like a vertical wall so we decided to walk along the track for a short distance, perhaps around the corner the angle would be less acute?
Weather improving over Gaick Pass:
2017-06-19 an dun 128.JPG

The descent route from An Dun. Doesn't look too bad from below :lol:
2017-06-19 an dun 129.JPG

Creag an Dubh-chadha and Loch Bhrodain:
2017-06-19 an dun 139.JPG

I found a better line of attack! About a mile up the track, the slopes seemed marginally less steep plus they were grassy rather than heathery:
2017-06-19 an dun 142.JPG

Up we go! Despite it being "the weakest spot" in the line of defense, the ascent is still steep and boggy in places:
2017-06-19 an dun 147.JPG

...but the views north to the actual pass are second to none:
2017-06-19 an dun 150.JPG

Definitely not the easiest Corbetts in my career but well worth the effort!
Image2017-06-19 an dun 153 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
It's 300m of plodding up the steep side of A' Chaoirnich, then the angle eases off and the final walk to the summit is a pleasant stroll over grass and moss. We stopped to take the last look at the superb view up the pass:
2017-06-19 an dun 164.JPG

The summit cairn is tiny and in winter conditions (or in thick mist) it would be hard to find! Corbett No. 126 (48 for Lucy):
Image2017-06-19 an dun 169 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The summit is a good viewpoint to more distant hills...
2017-06-19 an dun 174.JPG

...but much better views are from a larger cairn, situated about 600m due south, on the edge of the plateau. Here, we took a longer break: weather was good again, less windy and sun was out at last :D
2017-06-19 an dun 189.JPG

Schiehallion to the south:
2017-06-19 an dun 182.JPG

View west:
2017-06-19 an dun 183.JPG

East to Benn Dearg. Now I know why it's called "Red Mountain":
2017-06-19 an dun 186.JPG

The final descent is much easier, compare to the knee-jerking experience down from An Dun. Keeping close to the edge of the cliffs, we found a reasonable path. And the views down to the narrow glen between the two Corbetts are mind boggling!
2017-06-19 an dun 197.JPG

2017-06-19 an dun 198.JPG

Loch an Duin and Am Meadar:
2017-06-19 an dun 190.JPG

Instead of traversing above the line of forest (WH route), we cut down straight to the main path. We found a sheep path going down at an angle, then descended the last 50m down steep, but manageable slope, covered in thick heather. Finally, having jumped over some peat hags and water canals, we found the Gaick Pass path again :D
Looking along Loch An Duin from the sheep path:
2017-06-19 an dun 200.JPG

An Dun doesn't look so drastically steep from this angle!
2017-06-19 an dun 201.JPG

One more pano:
Image2017-06-19 an dun 208 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The slope we descended:
2017-06-19 an dun 219.JPG

Kevin said he had to adjust his boots, so we took another break on the rocks by the river, relishing the warm, sunny afternoon. So far this year, it was mostly fighting rain, wind and cloud, so it was great to experience proper summer weather for a change!
One last look at the steep Corbetts:
2017-06-19 an dun 225.JPG

It's a long, long way back to the A9...
2017-06-19 an dun 229.JPG

Sunny Schiehallion on the way home:
2017-06-19 an dun 237.JPG

It is a long day indeed (if walking) and bikes would be very helpful, but as we proved, it's a doable distance and can be enjoyed on foot as well! The temporary parking issues will be solved as soon as the roadworks on Trinafour junctions are finished. Despite the long walk-in, I can recommend this duo to any hillwalker: I think these two are the most interesting mountains in the whole area, with their steep slopes and the unique Loch an Duin wedged between them. Two Corbetts with plenty of character!
..................
Having performed the rite of Gaick passage, we returned home tired, but in excellent moods and the next day, ready for more adventures, we headed for the Formidable Fisherfields to climb Beinn Tharsuinn. Report to follow.
Last edited by BlackPanther on Tue Dec 03, 2019 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3533
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Re: The rite of Gaick passage

Postby Mal Grey » Wed Jul 12, 2017 12:18 pm

Good stuff, BP. That's a looooong walk in, think I prefer the bike idea!!

I normally say how pleased I am to see another report from you of hills I don't know about, but a certain Jaxter beat you to it this time! :lol:
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Mal Grey
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Re: The rite of Gaick passage

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:36 pm

Mal Grey wrote:I normally say how pleased I am to see another report from you of hills I don't know about, but a certain Jaxter beat you to it this time! :lol:


Don't worry, I have more TR's about obscure hills still to come :lol: :lol:

These two have been very popular among Walkhighlanders recently - good pair for a long summer day.
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3533
Munros:260   Corbetts:165
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Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

Re: The rite of Gaick passage

Postby Driftwood » Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:51 pm

Your order of walking these, especially which direction to climb A' Chaoirnich, looks a lot more sensible than my choice to head down those steep, heathery slopes. They're not actually vertical, but they absolutely felt that way when descending! The one saving grace was that heather roots are tough stuff and don't want to give up their grip, even when a boot and most of my weight comes stamping down on top of them.

I'm almost around to writing up my visit to these (across from Drumochter). But I met a group of three who went up and down A' Chaoirnich from the south. I forgot to check whether they'd done the same with An Dun (they walked that beforehand). They (and I) used that same path to get up to the southern ridge of A' Chaoirnich (your route down to the glen), so it seems a popular choice.

There was a cloud ceiling, which turned into cloud walls, for a lot of my walk, so it's good to see more of the views in your photos, thanks.
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Re: The rite of Gaick passage

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:21 am

Driftwood wrote:Your order of walking these, especially which direction to climb A' Chaoirnich, looks a lot more sensible than my choice to head down those steep, heathery slopes. They're not actually vertical, but they absolutely felt that way when descending! The one saving grace was that heather roots are tough stuff and don't want to give up their grip, even when a boot and most of my weight comes stamping down on top of them.

I'm almost around to writing up my visit to these (across from Drumochter). But I met a group of three who went up and down A' Chaoirnich from the south. I forgot to check whether they'd done the same with An Dun (they walked that beforehand). They (and I) used that same path to get up to the southern ridge of A' Chaoirnich (your route down to the glen), so it seems a popular choice.

There was a cloud ceiling, which turned into cloud walls, for a lot of my walk, so it's good to see more of the views in your photos, thanks.


Always a shame when weather spoils the day. I had a few frustrating moments on the hills myself, especially if the clag burned off after I left the summit :lol: :lol:

I agree these slopes on descent feel like vertical, imagine going down with aching knee (poor Kevin :( ), definitely boarding on suicidal when the grass is wet and slippery. Heather is more grippy as you said, but in case of An Dun, there is no easy way off this mountain, it's just as steep everywhere :lol:

We had the idea of our descent route from A' Chaoirnich when we started the ascent of An Dun and studied the ridge of the other Corbett as we climbed. We thought that the original WH line (following the fence) could be boggy so dropping down to the glen earlier looked like a sensible option. I'm not surprised we were not the only ones to came to that conclusion.

I'm still up to my neck in TR's too, added one more last weekend with a funny twist, but it's going to get worse, as we're heading for the hills again next week, hopefully to finish the Fisherfields, if weather allows.
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BlackPanther
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Posts: 3533
Munros:260   Corbetts:165
Grahams:114   
Sub 2000:49   
Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

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