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Not so remote after all
by BlackPanther » Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:08 pm
Munros included on this walk: Carn Dearg (Loch Pattack), Geal-charn (Alder)
Date walked: 30/06/2018
Time taken: 11 hours
Distance: 34.3 km
Ascent: 1132m5 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).
Another thing we didn't know about, there is a brand new stalkers path, well made for walking and probably for using quads, so it can be easily cycled. Last year, when we visited Beag and Eibhinn, the good track ended at Lubvan ruins, now the path is cyclable all the way to the river crossing at 444766. Had we known that, we'd have brought bikes. Anyway, on the good surface, walking is quick and easy. After crossing Allt Cam, the path disappears altogether and the rest of the ascent is pathless, but not drastically steep. After traversing the two Munros, we dropped to upper An Lairg and after nearly two hours of trudging through peat hags, we returned to the river crossing. With the use of bikes, this would be an interesting way of climbing all four Munros on the ridge, but because we had already done Eibhinn and Beag, we could concentrate on the two more remote hills. And they were fantastic!
We started from the layby on the A86 near Luiblea (used normally by walkers heading for Beinn a'Chlachair & friends). There were a few other walkers getting ready, but none of them had a crazy walk like ours in mind! Funny, from the starting point, you can't even see our target summits
Abhain Guilbinn and Eibhinn-Beag ridge on the horizon:
Binnein Shuas, a craggy Graham, well worth climbing on a shorter day
We took the track towards Lochan na h-Earba, but soon turned right onto another track, leading to the ruins of Lubvan:
By the time we reached the ruin, clegs were already out and biting. Thankfully we had a bottle of our good old friend deet with us, but despite spraying repellent everywhere, the nasty b**ers were still buzzing around, looking for places on our bodies where deet didn't reach. They were biting through clothing and their bites felt very unpleasant. I hate midges but at least their bites don't bleed!
On the bright side, we discovered the new stalkers track, which was so much better than the previous boggy path
The new track/wide path goes almost all the way to the river crossing at the turn of Allt Cam. Just before descending to the river, it shrinks to a narrow path:
We stopped by the river for a short snack break and to refill our bottles. It was incredibly hot and we had already drunk half of our water supply. At least we had a fresh source for a refill, I can't imagine how we would manage without it. We were swallowing water like a pair of mad elephants just to sweat it out five minutes later. And of course, the sweat attracted even more clegs
Kevin refilling his bottle:
After replenishing our liquid supplies, we crossed the river...
...and aimed for the eastern shoulder of Geal-Charn:
En route, we crossed three streams, slowing down the slopes in shallow gorges. They provided us with more fresh water. I was so glad that we picked a route with live streams. I can't even imagine how people could cope on long dry traverses, like CMD arete or Sgurr na Ciche ridge, in such temperatures. I don't know how hot it was but it felt like oven
One of the gorges:
Panoramic view of the southern side of Beinn a'Chlachair:
The slopes we climbed (the left hand side of Coire na Coichille as you face the summit) were easy enough, mostly grass and moss. I must admit, I expected much tougher terrain so I was pleasantly surprised.
Looking back at our ascent route:
Once on the ridge, we walked the final 200m to the summit cairn, where Lucy was of course first to pose for photos! Her 76th Munro
The views from Geal-Charn are not as dramatic as I expected, the most interesting features being the edge of Coire na Coichille leading to Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn:
Distant mountains of Glen Coe and Etive:
The wide flat plateau-like ridge "cuts" the view towards Ben Alder from the summit cairn of Geal-Charn, but be patient. Much better vistas of the notorious Munro will come later
From our first Munro we followed the wide ridge in north-eastern direction, to pick a path descending Aisre Ghobhainn, a fantastic, narrow arete-like shoulder, connecting Geal-Charn to Carn Dearg. The second Munro didn't look very appealing from this perspective, but I was not in the mood to surrender!
Kevin was lagging behind, spending far too much time photographing the northern cliffs of Geal-Charn, but I can't really blame him. It's not a place we are likely to visit again and on a good day it would be a sin not to take pictures:
In the corrie at the foot of the northern cliffs (Coire Cheap), sits Loch Coire Cheap, a lovely blue splat in the ocean of green and grey... It may be a small loch but it does not sell itself cheap
Carn Dearg (left) and Ben Alder (far right), Loch Ericht on the horizon:
As we approached the steeper descent down Aisre Ghobhainn, the full extent of views in the eastern direction was revealed, including the secretive Loch an Sgoir and the Lancet Ridge (the steep cliff to the right):
The path zig-zags down the steep slopes, it's a bit eroded in places but makes for relatively easy going. In wet weather it could be slippery and dangerous, but on a dry day like we had, we kept stopping every 5 min for more photos, as well as loud ahhhs and ohhhs
Walking down the "arete":
The ridge to Carn Dearg is wide and requires less than 200m of reascent, so pure pleasure for ridge walkers
Looking back to the "arete" of Aisre Ghobhainn and Loch Coire Cheap:
It didn't take us long to traverse to Carn Dearg (there is an obvious path along the ridge). The fresh wind woke up and kept clegs at bay, at least for the time being, so we enjoyed a rare moment: a good summer day on a remote Scottish mountain!
Looking back to Gea-Charn and its fantastic eastern corries from near the summit of Carn Dearg:
The summit cairn is situated at the opposite (eastern) end of the long ridge:
Our future descent route into An Lairig:
At last! Summit of my 234th Munro (77th for Lucy). It felt like a big achievement, maybe because it's not a typical route for this duo. I know most folks prefer the Loch Pattack approach and an overnighting trip to Culra Bothy, but we wanted to do something original. Not that we were the first baggers to walk this way, but it was still a nice thought that we managed something different
Kevin on the summit, waving his sunhat as clegs were out again, making our life a misery
Speaking of Culra Bothy, we noticed there were walkers camping by the river. I hoped for their sake that they had plenty of repellent. Clegs seemed to be the worst in the glens, especially close to water sources. Higher on the ridge they were less frequent but still annoying.
Kevin didn't wait for long, he grabbed his camera and went on to record the views
Wish we could have spent more time on the summit, enjoying the silence and solitude, but we still had a very long walk back to Moy... 15km roughly
We dropped down the northern slopes of Carn Dearg, aiming for Dubh Lochan. There is a path marked on 1-25k map but we doubted it really existed. The slopes were mostly grassy, a few scattered boulders. The sun was still merciless and we happily refilled our bottles from Allt Coire Cheap.
The south face of Beinn a'Chlachair from half way down:
Having reached the bottom of the glen, we were surprised to find out that the path does indeed exist! It is actually a faint ATV track. In wet weather it would be a boggy nightmare, but on a dry day it really made walking so much easier.
We took a final rest break by Dubh Lochan, watching the vertical cliffs of Garbh Bhruthach. Last time, we saw an eagle circling the cliffs here, but no luck today.
Past the loch, the path peters out and the bottom of the glen becomes very peat haggy. In wet conditions this stage would be sheer hell to cross, so I think this whole route is best left for dry times, when it can be enjoyed rather than suffered through
We crossed Allt Cam earlier on as the terrain was a bit easier on the other side. Once near the stepping stones, we picked the stalkers path again. We still had 9km to go, but we were all smiles
Looking back at the peat hags, the cliffs of Meall Nathrach and Geal-Charn (left):
2018-06-30 geal charn moy 242 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The final walk back to the car park was sadly spoiled by another attack of clegs. We returned to the car bitten and bleeding, but still very glad that we used the day to the full!
So we started on a high. This route is an excellent way to approach the Alder outliers from the north and now, with the new path, half the distance can be cycled. We took 11 hours walking it, but on such a nice day we didn't hurry. Now we only have Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil left to bag in this whole area, most likely we will leave this duo for next year. Maybe a good idea for our final M's? Time will tell.
My next story will take us up some very obscure Grahams - so obscure that they couldn't be more obscure even if they wanted to
by rockhopper » Fri Jul 20, 2018 8:30 am
by BlackPanther » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:26 am
rockhopper wrote:That's an interesting way to approach these hills - a bit different to the norm. Still a fair way to go at the start but probably nicer than the route from the north along Loch Ericht. Think I'd probably cycle but, as you say, if you have the time to spend then why not take the time - cheers
Thanks I'd recommend taking the bike. We would have done that had we known about the new improved path. You could do all 4 Munros on the ridge then. Another option would be to approach Carn Dearg via the high col between Beinn a'Chlachair and the other Geal Charn, but that adds 250m each way to the ascent, so I guess our version is easier.
Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil are more tricky, basically the Pattack approach is the only reasonable one, so we will take bikes for this trip
by malky_c » Fri Jul 20, 2018 10:34 am
by Sgurr » Fri Jul 20, 2018 11:17 am
by PeteR » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:16 pm
by Yorjick » Fri Jul 20, 2018 12:47 pm
by Mal Grey » Fri Jul 20, 2018 8:34 pm
Excellent looking bit of wild country to explore. Looks like you had a great day.
Funny how most folk seem to do these from the east. I've not been there yet, but had looked at the maps, and assumed I would do them from the north, with an overnight camp somewhere near the river crossing. Just looks more interesting than the long way in from Ericht! Misses the option of Lancet Edge though I guess.
by prog99 » Fri Jul 20, 2018 8:56 pm
BlackPanther wrote:rockhopper wrote:Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil are more tricky, basically the Pattack approach is the only reasonable one, so we will take bikes for this trip
First time I did these I came in from Loch Ossian YHA. Also did the ridge to the north from there too.
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by BlackPanther » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:21 pm
Funny how most walkers assume that the route given by the Munro book is the only possible one We just thought this approach would be more interesting. I agree that doing all four Munros on the ridge this way in a single day is bordering nuts
Weather has been fantastic recently and another high pressure front is coming next week. We have used all hols, but still will bag hills on weekends, off to do Beinn Chabhair tomorrow!