It’s that time of the year – holiday time to use or lose. I’d booked a cottage on the Glen Tanar Estate back in mid-Jan, and fretted at the time that I might not be able to get there for any adverse weather that might happen. HA, I needn’t have worried about that! I could, in fact, have done with packing a pair of shorts! The mild weather was weirdly and a bit disturbingly un-February-esque.
At first glance, the cottage was a disappointment. It smelled of dog, and I’d requested the single beds to be put together, but they weren’t. The shower cubicle was tiny, tiny (meet yourself coming and going), with very low water pressure. But the dog smell faded after the first day, and the estate’s response to a leaky shower was quick and efficient. I warmed to the place a bit, but am probably unlikely to put it on my “places worthy of repeat visits” list.
I’m struggling to write this post; although I had a really nice time that included five days of terrific walking and company, I’m just not feeling very inspired. So it’s more or less “just the facts, ma’am.”
Highlights: Managing a hill – first one in nearly two months! Feeling as though I could reach out and touch the tors atop Ben Avon from the (true) summit of Creag an Dail Bheag. Walking in the shadow of Lochnagar all the way to Conachcraig. Sitting in the heather (after I’d fallen face first into it) in the sunshine, marvelling at the warm weather, on the descent from Brown Cow Hill.
Sat 23 Feb
Corbett: Mount Battock
4 hrs / 15km / 728m
More tracks than hill, this one! I followed various wrong ones (tracks, that is), and had to head cross-country a couple of times to pick up the correct ones, which were always visible as huge and ugly scars across the moorland. You know it’s bad when heather bashing comes as a relief from track walking!
looking back toward the start point
rather cluttered summit
toward a hazy Clachnaben (if you look closely, you can see a new track that seems to go all the way across)
I looked at (and walked on) this for most of the route
It was a nice dry day, but hazy, and meant to be quite blowy at height; in reality, it was much less so than forecast – no complaints about that!
I was back at the car in exactly four hours. And….that’s me, with all the Angus Corbetts tidied up!
I still had a couple of hours to kill before I could check into the cottage, so I stopped off at the Clattering Brig café, just off the B974 between Fettercairn and Bridge of Dye. Although I’ve been by here a couple of times for one reason or another, it’s still an area that’s largely unfamiliar. I remembered this café, though, and was quite surprised to not only find it open, but heaving. Following an order of chips and a milkshake, another half hour or so of driving found me heading up the final km over a very rough, rutted, and stony drive to the cottage.
Sun 24 Feb
Corbetts: Culardoch, Creag an Dail Bheag
7 hrs / 23.7km / 995m
Evie and I set off from Keiloch about 9:15, and marched the long track to the Bealach Dearg, enjoying great views across to Beinn a’Bhuird and catching up after not walking together since last October.
stunning day at the off!
The “denser area of pines” referred to in the walk description has been cleared, and that section is currently a bit of a mud pit.
I *think* this is Glen Feardar, if I'm reading the map correctly (aw shaddup)
not much snow. follow the track.
Lochnagar in the distance
toward Glen Shee, etc., methinks
The Land Rover parked at the top point of the track, near the vegetation growth experience clutter, was incongruous and more or less marked the point at which we left the track to climb up to Culardoch, our first target. After basking in the heat on the way up, we found the wind to be quite icy at the summit, so we didn’t stick around. We stopped to have some food near the bealach.
It was a long ascent up Creag an Dail Bheag, but we took it slow and steady. Once we’d reached what used to be the summit (Carn Liath), we carried on the extra distance to the next cairn, and then even beyond another couple hundred meters to the actual summit at the edge of the plateau. Ben Avon seemed so close!
just reach out and touch it!
We returned to the top of Carn Liath, and descended along the wall on its south ridge.
A bit of hilarious bashing through waist-deep heather carried us back to the track, and from there, it was just the long walk back to the car. We managed to get a bowl of soup and a scone from a café in Ballater that was just about to close, but that deigned to sell us something as long as they didn’t have to cook it.
Mon 25 Feb
7 hrs / 23km / 712m
We set off from the Balmoral car park (no charge, and plenty of space – both perhaps down to the time of year?) around 8:45, and spent a fair bit of time during the long march doon the track pondering what we’d say to Prince Charles should we run into him. First problem, what’s the correct address – Sire? Your Royal Highness? Pretend we don’t know who he is? I was inclined to simply offer my perhaps annoying and chirpy American patter, whilst David’s plan was to get him talking about butterflies as soon as possible. We never had the opportunity to put our plans to the test.
Courting danger (according to a recent walk report), we took the detour to Gelder Shiel. There were a couple of guys there, packing their stuff to head out.
does One recognise this location?
We blindly continued following the track, but realized after a few hundred meters that we’d been supposed to make our way back to the original track directly from the bothy. We aimed across the heather to a non-existent “FB” across Gelder Burn; apparently, it was the one that’s been washed away. The water level was low, so the ford posed no problem.
walking in the shadow of mighty Lochnagar
many photos of the mighty Lochnagar were taken
We left the track to head up through the heather to the top of Caisteal na Caillich (the WH desc in reverse), and from there, made our way across to Conachcraig.
go stand on those rocks over there...
After posing on and playing amongst the tors, we headed down the very well made path back to the track, then made the long tramp back to the cars.
Tues 26 Feb
Corbett: Brown Cow Hill
6.25 hrs / 18 km / 630 m
The WH desc for this hill calls it “unspectacular, but a chance to experience solitude” – damned with faint praise, that! If you think about it, many of the hills that have a bad rap become a self-fulfilling prophesy – save those hills for a bad weather day, or as a throwaway, and they’re likely to perpetuate the myth, n’est-ce pah?
We poked around the perimeter of the closed Corgarff Castle before making our way over to the track that we’d follow up to the bealach between BCH and Carn Oighreag.
There were peat hags aplenty, but most of them were fairly dry. But there were still all of those big steps up to make, and because I’d left my poles behind today, David had to give me a hand up once or twice.
is this the summit? It might be the summit. It's not the summit. Then where IS the summit?
We weren’t sure exactly where the official high point was, so we wandered around the summit area, and had a(nother) bite to eat before heading off to Cairn Sawvie, then to Meikle Geal Charn—the most impressive summit (cairn) of the entire route. We stopped to sit in the sun for a while just after we’d passed Little Geal Charn. It was hazy again today, perhaps from all the muirburn, so we couldn’t see Lochnagar and Mount Keen very well, but Ben Avon dominated (again), whilst Bynack More, Cairn Gorm, and Beinn Mheadhoin poked their heads out from behind.
Ben Avon + Creag an Dail Bheag on the left (where I'd been with Evie two days previous)
Bynack More, Cairn Gorm, Beinn Mheadhoin
snow angel (is too an angel! )
It looked a long way down to the track that would eventually carry us back to where we’d parked. It was a long way. At one point, I went over on my ankle, and the ground was pitched just steeply enough that I fell on my face in the heather. I wasn’t hurt, and laid there laughing helplessly before sitting up to brush various detritus off my clothing and out of my hair. As long as I was already down, David joined me, and we sat once again to enjoy the warmth and sunshine.
The rest of the descent was without incident, and we returned to the car about 4pm, I think. After some dithering, we decided to drive to Ballater in search of food. Twasn’t to be; by the time we got there, we were deep into the food no-man’s land (4-6pm; cafes/tea shops closed, pubs not yet serving), so David went to the Co-op to buy some food to take back the hostel, while I scored a Chinese takeaway to, errrmm, takeaway back to the cottage.
Wed 27 Feb
3.25 hrs / 8.6km / 648m
Nearly from the beginning of the trip, my plan had been to do a quickie – Ben Gulabin – on the way home. But yet another warm and sunny day was forecast, so I opted for an early start to take on the slightly longer Morven. I packed up the car and tidied the cottage; it was only a short drive to the start point, so I was on my way up the hill by 7:45.
early morning Aberdeenshire; looking down on Balhennie
hello, little guy...
..and you, too, showing off for the ladies!
I somehow missed the path after crossing the fence and found myself heading up the way I’d decided to come down. I didn’t want to do the route in reverse, so I bashed across the heather ‘til I found where I was meant to be. I knew there were several false summits, so once I’d finished the steepest bit of the initial ascent, I still had a way to go. It took almost two hours to reach the top, where I sat for a bit, enjoying the views and having a snack.
that's no' the summit
that's no' the summit
THAT's the summit
hazy Mount Keen
zoom to Cairngorms
The descent was straightforward and enjoyable, and I was back at the car in 3¼ hours, at 11am; still early enough to get home by early afternoon.
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