Carn Bhac à la kinley – high road in, low road out
by Graeme D » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:12 pm
Munros included on this walk: Carn Bhac
Date walked: 03/01/2011
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 26 km
Ascent: 900mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
My closest previous encounter with Carn Bhac had been back in July 2009 when I had hiked in up Glen Ey late one stunning Saturday afternoon before camping just beyond the ruins of Altanour Lodge . The following day I had taken in Glas Tulaichean, Carn an Righ and Beinn Iutharn Mhor with the intention of also taking in Carn Bhac. In the end, however, I decided to give Carn Bhac a miss and simply head straight out Glen Ey back to Inverey. In response to my subsequent trip report – the first I ever submitted to this site - a few people (kinley amongst them) had commented that when I eventually returned to claim it, I should consider going in over the high ground of the Top of the Battery rather than along Glen Ey.
So, with the decision made, I quickly revisited a report by kinley which I recalled having read a few months ago, in which he described (with the assistance of stunning photography featuring snow clad hills under a predominantly blue late-winter sky) a March 2009 high level walk in to and back out from Carn Bhac, avoiding what he described as the “glen crawling” route, so often the route of choice featured in SMC guide books. He also somewhat memorably declared that he liked to “get high quickly”.
After a swift turnaround by Darren (he had been Munroing and Corbetting in Arrochar on the Sunday and was at my house in Perth for 6.30 on the Monday morning), we set off along the A93 heading for Braemar. The road was deserted (especially in comparison with last Thursday when I crawled along in a solid line of skiers and snowboarders en route to Creag Leacach and Glas Maol) and shortly after 8 o’clock we were pulling into the ice rink-cum-car park at Inverey just as it was getting properly light.
Both Darren and myself are all in favour of exploring “different” or “unusual” routes, so we were keen to do the same or similar route to that described by kinley. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for more conventional or “tourist” routes, but today was neither the time nor the place. However, as well as going in high I was also keen to revisit Altanour on the way back out and to see the ruined lodge in the snow, in contrast to my previous high summer visit.
So, at 8.20 we set off along the road to the start of the track which climbs up through the forestry towards Creag a' Chait. Towards the top edge of the plantation, the views open up south east down Glen Ey and north over the River Dee to the Cairngorms.
Although the summit transmitter mast of Morrone is barely visible through the low cloud base and our other possible target of Derry Cairngorm was, along with her Cairngorm brothers and sisters, lying under a low grey blanket of clag, there were a few patches of blue sky threatening to open up above us.
There were some reasonable shorter range views on offer, but as we progressed along the broad ridge of Carn na Moine and into the hinterland beyond, the promise of cloud free skies and better views failed to materialise.
In fact, things actually started to close in and by the time we were leaving the 818 metre summit of Carn Liath and rounding the end of the track running east down the glen of the Allt Cristie Beag things were beginning to get a bit “floaty” (shades of Beinn Udlamain again Darren! ) as it became increasingly difficult to differentiate between underfoot and overhead.
We had been careful to regularly check our position using the mapping app on Darren’s phone, and I had been frequently cross-checking using the good old fashioned map and compass trick. So far everything had stacked up so imagine our surprise when, a few minutes after leaving the 801 metre spot height and thinking we were still headed due south for Geal Charn, a quick check of the phone appeared to show us doubled back on ourselves and headed north back towards the 788 spot and Carn Liath beyond! Funny how neither of us could remember turning around! It made me recall a story I heard years ago when I was at school in Dunfermline. It was a tale about some bloke who lived in a remote cottage several miles from the nearby town of Kelty. He had apparently walked into town one winter’s evening to go to the pub for a few sherbets and on his way back home in near white-out conditions, he stopped to light a cigarette. After having done a bit of pacing around as he tried to shield his cigarette from the wind and light up in cupped hands, he set off again, only to find himself some time later back at the pub, sadly gone closing time! Whether the morale of the story is the dangers to sound navigation posed by alcohol consumption or by white out conditions remains unclear……
Anyway, we could see nothing except white – a kind of 360° surround sound white noise. Altogether very disconcerted, we decided to retrace our steps back to the small summit dome as best we could given the total lack of perspective to distance and aspect. There we threw up Darren’s bothy bag and after a brief tussle with it in the howling gale, we settled down for some lunch and an opportunity to regroup.
Now that we knew where we were, the map and compass gave us a bearing and after walking on this bearing for a few minutes, the software confirmed we were back on course. Reassured but still somewhat bemused as to exactly where and how we had gone temporarily wrong, we continued on our way towards Geal Charn. All we can think of by way of an explanation is that we somehow managed to contour around without actually realising we were on the turn!
From there on we experienced no more navigational hiccups and were soon safely at the Munro summit of Carn Bhac – my first of 2011 and one which left me tantalisingly poised two short of the 100 mark.
The option still remained to “stay high” and exit over the fascinatingly and evocatively named Top of the Battery, but the biting wind had started to take it’s toll, not least on Lucy, whose whiskers and eyebrows were now pretty much permanently iced up . To be fair, she wasn’t complaining, but we decided nevertheless to “go low” and head down on a south east bearing via the Alltan Odhar into Glen Ey and out the track past Altanour.
It was good to see my July 2009 camping spot again, now thickly plastered in a layer of snow and ice, and after a brief pit stop amongst the trees of Altanour, it was a straightforward and uneventful march back out the glen with only a few stops for photos, including a reprise of my 2009 Beinn Iutharn Mhor shot from the bridge just to the north east of Altanour.
Cheers for the top tip kinley! Enjoyed it, even if we weren’t as lucky with the weather as you and Hazel! OK, the visibility was next to zero for much of the business end of the day, and the wind was pretty stiff if not exactly blowing a "flat gale", but it was definitely the way to go. In the words of the Lost Soul Band song from 1993, "You Can't Win Them All Mum".
by Alastair S » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:17 pm
I've now got 2 to go for my 50th - thinking of Derry Cairngorm & Ben Macdui from Linn of Dee (but only if I can MTB to Derry Lodge). How about yourself - got anything in mind for your 100th?
by Graeme D » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:49 pm
Interesting plans for your 50th - Macdui was my 50th, combined with an approach from Derry Lodge over Carn a Mhaim. As for my 100th, well, like I said to Gammy Leg Walker earlier today, I do have a wee double header in the early stages of planning. Any ideas from looking at my map?
by rockhopper » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:14 pm
I've only been caught in one real white out before and know exactly what you mean about the sky merging with the ground. Maybe it should be "You thought you were sky [sea] and you thought you were snow [sand] " insteadGraeme Dewar wrote:as it became increasingly difficult to differentiate between underfoot and overhead.
Like you I had seen the same MWIS forecast and took the easier option by going out on the Sunday instead - I had the advantage of hardly drinking anything on the new year's day though because of my cold.
Suspect you're not thinking about Narnain and Ime for your 99/100 - but maybe Beinn a'Chleib and ben Lui ?
by Graeme D » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:29 pm
rockhopper wrote:Maybe it should be "You thought you were sky [sea] and you thought you were snow [sand] " instead
Excellent spot there R!
Hmm, Cleibh and Lui huh? Nope, isn't them but they do have a certain potential.... Not Narnain and Ime either - have them down for a summer camping trip combo with the two Corbetts (probably 2012 or beyond at this rate and I'm not waiting that long!)
Oh, one other thing.....
rockhopper wrote:I had the advantage of hardly drinking anything on the new year's day though because of my cold.
Likely story - I heard you were knocking back the hot toddies like they were going out of fashion!
by malky_c » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:03 pm
Graeme Dewar wrote:Hmm, Cleibh and Lui huh? Nope, isn't them but they do have a certain potential.... Not Narnain and Ime either - have them down for a summer camping trip combo with the two Corbetts (probably 2012 or beyond at this rate and I'm not waiting that long!)
Achaladair and Creachain maybe? Or are you off back to the Tarff Hotel again for some bog and heather?
That's a pretty long day for this time of year. Quite a lot of it spent up high as well... unlucky with the scenery, but sounds like a good test of navigation skills anyway
by CurlyWurly » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:36 pm
Considering Graham has done such a great report, I won't bother repeating the story but I think this photo sums everything up!
- Totally surreal experience as Graham and Lucy float in mid air
by Graeme D » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:50 pm
malky_c wrote:Achaladair and Creachain maybe? Or are you off back to the Tarff Hotel again for some bog and heather?
Nope - can't see myself being back in the vicinity of the Tarf Hotel again this year. Not Creachain and Achaladair either, although they would be suitable alternatives should the need for an alternative become necessary.
by malky_c » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:16 pm
Deary me, work is slow today
by Graeme D » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:41 pm
malky_c wrote:Ah, I remember you mentioned in another post your ambition to do CMD and Ben Nevis as your 100th, so I'll guess that.
Deary me, work is slow today
Bingo that man! That's the plan, although it looks like I have a few options on the table. I'd been deliberately holding back on the Ben for this very eventuality, ever since doing Macdui as number 50 in fact.
Too bad about the work malky - I've got that prospect to "look forward to" tomorrow.
by rockhopper » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:52 pm
With the luck you guys have even July and August might not be safe.......The first snow of winter fallsCurlyWurly wrote:So from now on all trips will be limited to the months of July and August.
by kinley » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:49 pm
White out is truly disorientating isn't it? Remember watching my GPS track bend round in circles on the Cairngorm plateau when trying to walk in a straight line
Some great story-telling and like the pale winter sun pic
by doogz » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:24 pm
Enjoy CMD for your 100 up....a clear Nevis you would never forget
Thought all your pics were b&w until you showed you camp photo from a few years ago
Rather disconcerting whiteout conditions....happened to me a few times only...very happy with that
Good luck with your hill bagging
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by kevsbald » Thu Jan 06, 2011 3:23 pm