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Five Munros, countless animals, and one unexpected find

Five Munros, countless animals, and one unexpected find

Postby zatapathique » Sun Jul 30, 2017 6:52 pm

Route description: Glas Maol Munros circuit, Cairnwell Pass

Munros included on this walk: Cairn of Claise, Creag Leacach, Glas Maol, Tolmount, Tom Buidhe

Date walked: 24/05/2017

Time taken: 9.5 hours

Distance: 28.3 km

Ascent: 1350m

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After yesterday's day of mental ups and downs, today should be the day of physical ups and downs. 5 Munros were on the menu: Cairn of Claise, Tolmount (again...), Tom Buidhe, Glas Maol, and Creag Leacach.
As the day before, I parked the car at the small parking area 2 km North of the Glenshee Ski Centre to benefit from the high altitude start.
It was out of the question to climb Carn an Tuirc a third time - I've had enough of this mountain - so I chose to go via the ridge between Sròn na Gaoithe and Glas Maol, and turn left at the bealach between Glas Maol and Cairn of Claise.
This was quite some additional distance, but I was tempted by the path shown in the OS map.
In retrospect, I'd better have gone directly up Cairn of Claise via the ridge between Cùl Riabhach and Garbh-coire. Seen from above later on, this looked no more difficult than the way I went instead.

The day started with the usual red grouse taking off in fright in the distance. I tried to take photographs, following the birds in their flight with the zoom, but they were too far away and the shutter speed had to be too long. This is one of the better results:
Red grouse in full flight

At first, there was no path going up the ridge - or, as usual, I did not find it. After having passed Sròn na Gaoithe, avoiding the summit to save some breath and forces for the long day ahead, I joined a clearly visible path.
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Carn an Tuirc to the left, Glas Maol to the right, Cairn of Claise hidden to the left of the middle

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Looking back along the ridge towards Glenshee

It was easy going, and progress was fast all the way up to the bealach and further on along the edge of Garbh-choire. After a total of two hours, I reached the summit of Cairn of Claise.
View from Cairn of Claise towards Glas Maol

I did not stay longer than necessary for my secret summit ritual (fully operational again thanks to Braemar's shops) and a banana. The next stage was "crossing the desolation", as I called it for myself because of its arid, yellow and empty appearance at this time of year.
It was of course not desolate at all, but abounded with mountain hares, ptarmigan, and red grouse.
Mountain hare

Another mountain hare. For both the camouflage could be improved. ;-)

Red grouse - for once not flying, but running away

I went on to visit Tolmount for the second time in two days and finally completed the summit ritual.
With half an eye, I was looking at the ground all the time to possible spot the object I had lost the day before, but of course I did not find anything.
In the distance, Lochnagar was well visible, and I decided to go there the following day.
Lochnagar seen from Tolmount

View towards the Cairngorms

I was joined on the summit by Bertrand the Belgian (name and nationality changed), whom I had already seen approaching the summit. He surprised me by speaking excellent German (having a German mother), and we had a nice chat before I left for Tom Buidhe. From Tolmount to Tom Buidhe must be one of the shortest possible Munro ascents. In just a bit over 20 minutes, I had already reached the summit. Bertrand, going at a slower pace, caught up with me soon afterwards and we continued our chat. He comes to Scotland twice a year and has done Lochnagar about 20 times.
For today, our ways parted, as he went back to the same parking where I had my car via Cairn of Claise and Carn an Tuirc, whereas I went directly for Glas Maol.
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View of the plateau

Bertrand coming down from Tom Buidhe

My plan was to descend from Tom Buidhe to the bealach at elev. 880, than up the flank of Cairn of Claise, then turn left at elev. 950. I intended to stay at this altitude all the way around Cairn of Claise to eventually join the path between Cairn of Claise and Glas Maol. I had tried a similar thing last year behind Ben Lui and failed, I ended up more than 100 m higher than intended.
This time I let my feet do the thinking and felt my way across the slope. The GPS confirmed that this was a good idea - it worked:
Walking level

Having joined the path, reaching the summit of Glas Maol was a stroll in the park. Up to now, the weather had been splendid, but now the clouds began to descend and the wind started increasing in strength. I started to feel chilly and had to put on my coat. When I was ready to leave the summit, an elderly couple was just about to arrive, so I waited to greet them. They had been taking photographs of red grouse down near the road and had started their ascent later than expected.
It was 4:30, so no problem for them to get back down in time before the evening.

I went on towards Creag Leacach along a beautiful ridge:
The ridge towards Creag Leacach

Creag Leacach

My stay at the summit was short, hiding from the wind behind a dry stone wall. Looking back, the clouds had come down even more, now covering Glas Maol where I had been standing an hour earlier. It was still very chilly, so I left the summit without much lingering, even though the views towards Glenshee were fabulous:
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View towards the Glenshee road

Glas Maol already in the clouds

Only ten minutes further on, I stopped again - I had spotted a SEAT key on the ground. Now what? How to behave in such a case? I thought of my own lost object the day before - would I have preferred that a possible finder takes the object with them or that they would put it somewhere nearby, clearly visible?
I sat down to think, then tried to call my B&B host, himself an active hillwalker, what to do. I also wanted to ask him for the phone number of Glenshee ski centre, so I could ask if anyone had reported a missing key.
Unfortunately, there was nobody home at the B&B, he had been out walking the dog as I learned later that day.
IMGP3165 DSC_2873.JPG
The key that did not reveal its secret

There was a phone number of the car dealer on the key, which I tried to call in vain. It would probably have been of no avail anyway.
More thinking. Except Bertrand and the elder couple, I had seen nobody all day, and they had both come up a different route, so I could rule them out. Nobody could be seen all the way I could see. Down at the parking south of the pass, there were some cars. I tried to see with my zoom if there were any SEATs, but could not see clearly enough.

In the end, I decided to take the key with me and give it to my B&B host. He would know the right thing to do with it.
All the way down to the road, I went through all possible scenarios what to do when I found the SEAT, but not the driver. Would it be wrong to open the car to find a phone number or something else helping to identify the owner? Probably.

The "hero scenario" was more appealing to muse about than the "car intruder" scenario - I tried several versions of dialogue along the lines of:
- Desperate SEAT owner: "Excuse me, on your way down the hills, you wouldn't happen to have found a car key?"
- Z.: "Oh dear, do you have any idea how extremely unlikely this is? But - today's your lucky day!"
"Oh, I always have some spare keys somewhere, let's see if they fit."
(secretly pressing the open button on the key inside the pocket) "Look behind you, your car just opened by itself!"

It got warmer with every step I went down, and soon I had to take off coat and pullover. The view was fantastic, and the last of today's mountain hares posed for the camera.
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Just beautiful

Hare contemplating the scenery

The Glenshee road

Eye wide open

There was no SEAT at the parking when I arrived, only one car left belonging to a young couple sitting on a bench out of view of the road. I had the feeling to somehow spoiling their romantic evening, walking by smelly as a goat, looking quite dishevelled, all sweaty, and puffing like Thomas the Tank Engine on my way up from the Allt a' Choire Sheiridh to road level.

Now all that remained was to walk 4 km along the road back to the car. Walking on the roadside verge was ok, but I left it to walk a section of the old Devil's Elbow road. The going was quite rough there, so I soon regretted the choice, given my tired feet. I passed by a collection of square concrete blocks, the sense of which I couldn't figure our. Concretehenge? A site of worship for snowcats?

At Glenshee ski centre, all shops were already closed, so I could not enquire about the car key. No SEAT to be seen far and wide either.
The way down the pass back to the car was without event, except spotting a deer.
Trying to walk away inconspicuously

At "my" car park, also no sign of a SEAT, so all hopes of being the hero of the day were gone. The key would later end up in Braemar tourist info, with a note on Braemar's facebook site. Until I left five days later, nobody had claimed it.

Altitude profile created with GPS-Track-Analyse.NET

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Last edited by zatapathique on Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:34 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Five Munros, countless animals, and one unexpected find

Postby Sgurr » Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:52 pm

With luck your key owner would have been half of a couple, both of which half always carries THEIR car key, like us. Or maybe all SEAT keys fit all SEATS and s/he met a couple with two. Husband's friend came up here to go on a dormobile holiday with husband, leaving me with his wife's Renault (1970s) . I went to a meeting in the town centre, leaped into the car, and started driving home, to find a strange dog in the back which started barking. I had a good look at the interior and didn't recognise anything. Took back the car and found the car I should have taken parked a few spaces down.
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Re: Five Munros, countless animals, and one unexpected find

Postby zatapathique » Mon Jul 31, 2017 5:19 pm

Possible. Or maybe they called friends to pick them up. My B&B host thought that they might have come up from Glen Isla. In this case I could not have spotted them or their car.
Oh well, we'll never know.
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