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Caradhras identity revealed - it's Creag Pitridh!
by zatapathique » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:56 am
Route description: Beinn a'Chlachair, Geal Charn and Creag Pitridh
Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chlachair, Creag Pitridh, Geal Charn
Date walked: 15/06/2019
Time taken: 7.5 hours
Distance: 28.1 km
Ascent: 1380mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The difficulties of this walk already started with finding the parking area. I drove along the A86 from the west, trying to find the "lay-by just east of the track heading over the bridge to Luiblea". The problem was that the entire roadside was lined with trees, and I couldn't see the reservoir nor the river nor Loch Laggan, let alone a bridge... I knew I had gone too far when I reached the Creag Meagaidh parking, so I turned around, drove too far back, turned around again...
Finally I got it right and was able to set out across the bridge and along the broad track.
Three cyclists, two men and a woman, who had arrived at the parking a short while after me and had started offloading their bikes when I left, soon passed me. Shortly after the fork in the path near a plantation, I passed an elderly gentleman who was setting out to meet a group of hikers whom he then would take with him back to the parking - and whom I never saw, I hope they didn't miss each other.
Lochan na h-Earba was a very tempting place to pause and rest, but given the unstable weather conditions (again showers and strong wind predicted), I pressed on. In the distance, I saw the three cyclists stowing away their bikes and starting to climb the path leading up to Bealach Lamhain.
I followed suit and slowly caught up with them, but left the path to the right to cross the Allt Coire Pitridh before I was able to join them. They continued straight on. I made my way up the northern slopes of Beinn a' Chlachair as well as I could and rapidly gained altitude. Two young guys already came down from the mountain a bit to the left of me. The higher I came, the rockier the ground was, in places a bit awkward to negotiate, and I hit my knee against a sharp rock when - surprise - it moved forward as I bent it. For the first time in 68 Munros, the first-aid-kit I always carried was of some use, providing me with a band aid to stop the (little) bleeding. The stain on the hiking trousers looked much worse than the bleeding actually was.
By now, the wind had become stronger, and it was cold, so I put on my anorak. When I reached the rocky lump visible from below, of course I had to climb it. It is actually much less prominent than it looks from below...
When I arrived at the summit, it was quite chilly, and clouds were above the summit. Before sitting down to have something to eat, I saw the three cyclists approach the summit. When they finally arrived, they were as surprised as me that I had beaten them to the summit. They were not certain what to do next - one of them had already been on Creag Pitridh, the others on Geal Charn. They were thinking of splitting up - or going back because the weather did not really look promising. I said goodbye and left them the almost cosy spot behind the summit cairn.
I moved on across the summit plateau, but did not follow the route description. Instead, I left the plateau to the south-east and joined the path marked in the map, first leading down the plateau, then up to the Bealach Leamhain from the east. It meant losing a bit of altitude, but it was a nice path to walk on. It rained from time to time, and unfortunately I didn't take any photos (which puzzles me when writing these lines - I thought I had at least taken one of the nice rocks near the Bealach).
When I had joined the described route again, I counted 4 false summits before reaching the real Geal Charn summit. The distance was not as far as I had feared from the description, but still far. And the mountain resisted. It threw rain at me, lots of rain, and wind.
I had become quite wet when I arrived at the summit. There was shelter behind the big summit cairn, and when the rain stopped for a moment, I was able to come out from behind the cairn and watch the wind whipping the clouds across the summit - a spectacular sight to behold.
After a while, two hikers came up, but they were not the cyclists. It was father and son, both their eyes fixed on their GPS, comparing bearings and positions, wondering why it differed, trying to find an explanation by different calibration, looking out for the next waypoint and heading directly towards it, not matter what ground to cross... I sure hope they were able to take in at least some of the scenery and the mountain experience. I always carry a GPS, but I'm a rather old-style map and compass navigator. I have been forced to use the GPS twice only so far, in the thick fog. It is reassuring to carry it, but I still navigate on sight...
When I left the summit, visibility had come back again, and I could see the two until they disappeared behind the summit of Creag Pitridh. The ascent was not a problem, but the wind became as strong as never before that day, and a heavy shower came down.
The rock below the little summit cairn provided surprisingly much shelter, and there was a bit of sunshine through the rain.
Then came the worst part of the day - the descent from Creag Pitridh. I went too far to the left as compared to the route description. It was very wet underfoot, a shower was pouring down, there was much wind. I didn't know if I became wetter from above or from below. The rough ground was boggy, with many little streams and pools to cross. The bloodstains on my trouser leg were completely gone, all cleaned.
When I finally, finally arrived at the path and the little cairn I had already passed on my way up, I had a very Tolkienesque moment. I felt like the Fellowship of the Ring after their vain attempt to climb Caradhras: "And indeed with that last stroke the malice of the mountain seemed to be expended, as if Caradhras was satisfied that the invaders had been beaten off and would not dare to return." [J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings illustrated by Alan Lee, Harper Collins, 1991, p. 311].
The very moment my feet touched the path, the rain stopped, the clouds broke, there was no more wind, but blue sky and sunshine.
The way back was pleasant to walk. I spent some time at the beach of Lochan na h-Earba taking pictures among the midges. When my gear and I were nearly dry, maybe a kilometre before reaching the parking, it started raining again, but I didn't care. Unlike Caradhras, the mountain had not defeated me. I had bagged my three Munros.
Panorama: Lochan na h-Earba. Click to see large.
Addendum: At the car, the rain had stopped again, and a couple from Dunfermline arrived on bikes. They had been on Beinn Eibhinn - 40 km by bike plus 6h of walking. Wow!
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