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From Golden Autumnal Afternoons to White Wintry Blasts
by weaselmaster » Mon Oct 21, 2019 2:29 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn na Lap, Cairn Gorm
Corbetts included on this walk: Creag Mhor, Geal Charn (Arkaig), Leum Uilleim, Meall na h-Eilde
Grahams included on this walk: Glas Bheinn (Loch Arkaig)
Date walked: 20/10/2019
Distance: 63.6 km
Ascent: 3928m5 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).
It was also two weeks without any hills - a short "walk in nature" was allowed, maybe for 30 minutes, but rest was otherwise the order of the day. I don't think I've gone for as long without going up hills in the last seven years. I lost around 4kg in weight, felt very calm and grounded and was more than eager to get back out into the wilds this weekend. I can confess to a slight anxiety about whether my stamina would be up for the usual length of time out on the hillsides...
As the weeks have passed, the choice of hills has become ever more constrained. For this weekend, I selected Geal Charn and Meall na h-Eilde at Loch Arkaig; a stop at a proper campsite (shock!) to allow Leum Uilleum then a wee trip to Aviemore to nab Creag Mhor, the furthest away of the Corbetts I have remaining. It was good to be setting off again on a Thursday evening - we drove up to Drochaid Chia-Eig and pitched the tent there in the car park - a bit stoney but serviceable. Some rain overnight, not too cold and a beautiful sunny morning to get up for.
Last time we'd visited these hills in monsoon-like conditions so it was pleasing to have sunshine and views in store. There's a cluster of 4 Simms around Meall na h-Eilde but for expediency's sake decided to leave them for another time. We did, naturally, include the Graham of Glas Bheinn - well it would be a minor crime not to...
We wandered along the track, passing some cows with one infant who reluctantly let us by, then started up the shoulder of Glas Bheinn. All the foliage wore its autumnal colours - the trees turning oranges and reds, the grasses sufused with a golden glow from the low morning sun. It was so nice to be back out on the hills again, the air seemed cleaner, the sounds of insect and bird purer. I was feeling replete with energy, unlike Allison who felt her limbs had been encased in lead. Serene views of Loch Arkaig unfolded behind us as we loped up the hillside; Bidean a'Chabhair sitting peaky and proud at the far end of the loch. Ben Tee and the Loch Lochy Munros were caressed by a puff of white cloud to our right.
PA180134 by Al, on Flickr
PA180136 by Al, on Flickr
Loch Lochy hills
PA180137 by Al, on Flickr
Summit Glas Bheinn
PA180138 by Al, on Flickr
The cairn reached, we continued along the crest of Glas Bheinn before heading steeply down to Gleann Tarsuinn, crossing the small stream and begining our climb up Meall na h-Eilde - the hill of the hind. Apart from the occasional muted roar, deer of either gender seemed scarce today - maybe they've all been culled. Four hundred metres back up - we rested at the summit and devoured our lunch. One of the recommendations from Ayurveda is to make lunch your main meal - in other words eat more! We augmented our usual pakora sandwiches with some tasty soup and had extra in the way of biscuits
Meall na h-Eilde
PA180139 by Al, on Flickr
PA180141 by Al, on Flickr
Re-fuelled, we continued over Meall Coire nan Saobhaidh - a deleted Corbett in its own right - and dropped down to the bealach with Geal Charn - just slightly over the minimum necessary re-ascent to the summit. Although the sunshine was now muted by gauze-like clouds, it was still a lovely afternoon to be out. I briefly contemplated heading over to the two western Simms, but decided that we'd had a good day, don't push it. So we ambled down the southeast shoulder of Geal Charn to the track and made our way back to the car. The cows had gone elsewhere, we passed not a soul.
Meall Coire nan Saobhaidh
PA180142 by Al, on Flickr
PA180143 by Al, on Flickr
PA180144 by Al, on Flickr
PA180145 by Al, on Flickr
PA180147 by Al, on Flickr
A short drive to one of our favoured campsites, Bunroy at Roybridge. No other campers; the rain started shortly after we got pitched and continued intermittently for much of the night. We had to be up for the 08:04 train in the morning to get us down to Corrour. After a creamy breakfast of porridge with apple and plum we packed up our stuff and walked to the train station, where right on time, the wee train appeared. Some other walkers got on at Tulloch and turned out to be going up Luem Uilleum too, although in the reverse direction from ourselves.
Off the train, off the platform and onto the squidgy ATV track and up The Saddle towards Beinn a'Bhric. We'd got off the evening train last time and camped high up on the Saddle, and on a very windy evening too. Despite the sunshine today, the wind was strong and chill - it didn't do to hang about. Of course we had a train to catch on the way back, so we didn't want to hang about either - neither of us likes the added complication of having a train or ferry to catch when out on the hill.
PA190148 by Al, on Flickr
Ben na Lap
PA190149 by Al, on Flickr
Despite the press of time, I headed up for Beinn a'Bhric - a Simm we'd visited before. Allison humphed. Onwards to the summit of Leum Uilleum, then the second - and more important Simm, the 849m south top, which we hadn't visited before. This is around 1km each way and took us the best part of 40 minutes, there and back, which was a bit longer than I'd imagined. I was quite keen to nip up Ben na Lap if time permitted, and I knew we'd now be closer to the wire than I wanted. Anyway, we returned towards the summit of Leum Uilleum and started down Sron an Lagain Ghaibh, meeting the other walkers on their way up. Marshy ground to get back to the station.
PA190151 by Al, on Flickr
Good views west from Beinn a'Bhric
PA190153 by Al, on Flickr
PA190155 by Al, on Flickr
PA190156 by Al, on Flickr
PA190157 by Al, on Flickr
It was now midday and we decided to have lunch. The train departed at 15:24. By the time we'd had lunch it was after 12:20 - I recalled WH giving a 3-5 hour time for Ben na Lap. We decided to go for it, knowing we'd have to be prompt getting up. The first section is track, which made things easy, then the long wet climb up the ATV ruts to reach the shoulder, where thankfully firmer and more stony ground was reached. A wee tramp along the top, Loch Ossian sitting prettily below. At the cairn were a party of three guys - one, Stuart from Inverurie, having his Compleation, whisky in real glasses. We gave our congratulations, were delighted to hear he planned to finish off his remaining 20-odd Munro Tops, then we turned and headed back down. We were doing fine for time and indeed arrived back at the station with some 25 minutes to spare. The other walkers had ventured into the Corrour Lodge for tea and were surprised to hear we'd done "another hill" in that time.
Today's time challenge...
PA190158 by Al, on Flickr
PA190160 by Al, on Flickr
PA190162 by Al, on Flickr
PA190164 by Al, on Flickr
PA190165 by Al, on Flickr
PA190167 by Al, on Flickr
Back at the campsite, a nice hot shower, then the rain started up again mid-way through our tea. Another early night. We checked the forecast for Sunday - rain early on, but dry between 9 and 4, winds 15-18mph it said (for Cairn Gorm Base Station). Oh well, that's alright, thought I. I had deliberately scheduled Creag Mhor for this weekend to avoid the possibility of snowy weather as the year wends towards its end as my last memory of that hill is of an awful walk over Bynack More and Creag Mhor from Glenmore Lodge when I was ill and cold eat nothing, traipsing back through thigh-high snow in Strath Nethy for what seemed like an eternity. Hell, we weren't even going to do the same route because of that - I'd decided it would be considerably shorter if we nipped over Cairn Gorm to reach Glen Avon.
Driving up to Aviemore, there was little sign of the rain abating, and when we reached the Ski Centre there was slush in the rain. After the beautiful weather of Friday, it appeared rather grim. We donned our waterproofs and reluctantly exited the car and began making our way up Windy Ridge. At around 800m the snow was lying and became thicker as we climbed. A north wind brought ferocious cold (well, ferocious for October) and my gloves were soaked through rather too quickly for comfort. We got up to Ptarmigan Station, snow and poor visibility making the finding of the wee path down Ciste Mhearad hard to locate. We came across it at one point only to lose ourselves again and discover we had a boulderfield to traverse. We were slightly lower than we should have been on my map route and the boulders - huge, gigantic things, slippy with wet snow and containing all manner of deep holes and crevasses - were not the easiest obstacle to cross. After some genteel cursing we did get by them and found our path again. We also met a couple who'd come up from Bynack More and were surprised to see anyone else out on a day like this.
Base Station - "do we have to get out of the car?"
PA200168 by Al, on Flickr
Yes, it's snow
PA200170 by Al, on Flickr
We descended to The Saddle then along the shores of Loch Avon, stopping in the relative shelter behind a small rise to eat our lunch (pakora sandwich and dal & rice today - yippee - the hot food going some way to ameliorate the chill in my fingers). Onwards along a very wet and squishy path to the Fords of Avon Refuge, where we turned north. We could see our hill right ahead of us - despite being one of the higher Corbetts at 895m it was completely insignificant amongst its taller playfellows. And only 200m of ascent from the valley floor
The unimpressive Creag Mhor
PA200172 by Al, on Flickr
Fords of Avon Refuge
PA200173 by Al, on Flickr
PA200175 by Al, on Flickr
PA200176 by Al, on Flickr
An easy enough ascent - the heather becoming shorter as we climbed to the bouldery summit with tiny granite cairn. We followed a similar route back - the snow/rain occasionally stopping for a few minutes to allow a shaft of sunshine through. We were able to pick up the path from The Saddle more easily in this direction - it helped that the footprints of the couple we'd met earlier were preserved in the snow. Aftter a time it became clear that they were heading for the summit of Cairn Gorm rather than towards the Ptarmigan Station - we considered what to do and it seemed easier just to keep following the footprints, which by now were becoming vestigial remnants in the ever-present wind and snow. So the summit of Cairn Gorm was visited once again - I thought at least it's another Marilyn for the year's numbers, but it is one of the Munros that doesn't even achieve Marilyn status (4.2 metes short) . It was real winter up there - ice frozen on the spars of the transmitter mast and along the ropes of the handrails on the way down. Neither of us had been expecting conditions such as these today (although to be fair, there was no snow at "Corbett Height" and it's not all that usual to make your way to the Corbett of your choice by having to climb over a 1245m hill on the way
PA200177 by Al, on Flickr
PA200178 by Al, on Flickr
PA200180 by Al, on Flickr
Winter is here!
PA200181 by Al, on Flickr
An unusual graphic for a Corbett (middle hump)
PA200182 by Al, on Flickr
Descent was uneventful - one advantage of Cairn Gorm in poor visibility is that it is quite hard to lose your way down the track which has cairns every 5 metres then handrail, before the paving and ski-barricades assist you to the bottom. I was quite happy with the weekend's events, glad that my fitness/stamina were fully restored (indeed, considerably better than in the weeks before my break).
by Alteknacker » Mon Oct 21, 2019 9:46 pm
I can see how you managed to get back to Corrour in time - max speed 19.2 kph And no doubt that diet of oil and meditation...
by Owen b » Mon Oct 21, 2019 10:39 pm
by Silverhill » Mon Oct 21, 2019 11:48 pm