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A Gamble on Three Northern Corbetts

A Gamble on Three Northern Corbetts


Postby weaselmaster » Sun Dec 29, 2019 9:54 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn a' Chaisteil (Strath Vaich), Carn Ban, Carn Chuinneag

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Cnoc Corr Guinie, Struie

Date walked: 29/12/2019

Distance: 60.4 km

Ascent: 2460m

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Sometimes you have to take a chance. Allison had 5 Corbetts remaining - the easy and accessible Stob Coire Creagach at Butterbridge, the somewhat remote Beinn Bhreac in Perthshire and the three awkward hills around Strath Vaich/Glan Allandale. Awkward, that is in terms of their inclusion at this time of year with snow covering the long, pathless high level terrain between Carn Chuinneag and Beinn a'Chaisteil and over the back of Carn Ban - "the white hill" after all. I had pretty much shelved ideas of getting them climbed until the spring came, with longer hours of daylight and a melting of the snow, but that was before our visit to The Lecht last week, where we saw with our own eyes the disappearance of the white stuff. Suddenly it became a possibility to do these hills, but we'd need to be quick - and this of course falling in the week between Xmas and New Year when other things go on.

I'd initially envisioned that we'd do Carn Ban and Beinn a'Chaisteil from Strath Vaich, utilizing the track which covers most of that distance; this still came in at 44km or so for both summits - then driving round to Glencalvie and doing Carn Chuinneag on the Sunday - a walk of 18km, again mostly on track. This would mean a long drive home in the dark and a very late night for someone who had work in the morning. I decided we'd take a gamble on doing the whole round, from Glencalvie, which I'd managed to trim down to 47km if we didn't do any Grahams or Simms :roll: and which we could hopefully complete over two days. There would have to be no significant snow on the plateaux, or at any rate none of the soft stuff that saps energy.


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The forecast for the weekend was dire - no snow, admittedly, but heavy rain, poor visibility and high winds. Not very comforting. Another gamble was which tent to use - it would be difficult to take the Nammatj, which would cope with bad weather, due to its relative weight and bulk compared to the Niak...which would rule out any high camps in bad weather. We'd therefore need to cover 25km on day one, to get off Beinn a'Chaisteil before dark (a challenging, steep heathery descent by headtorch).

Allison was up in Dundee for Xmas, and we'd arranged to meet in Perth on Boxing Day. Fortunately she was able to get away earlier than we'd imagined, so we met at Tiso's just after 2pm. Roads were reasonably quiet - but to rub our noses in it the weather was lovely, with a beautiful pink sunset. We arrived at the car park at Glencalvie Lodge around 5pm, Temperature was around freezing, the ground icy hard in places. It seemed prudent to get a few kilometres in tonight, camping somewhere down Glen Calvie: - I remembered there being numerous places alongside the river. A bite to eat, loaded up we set off into a dark night - a new moon gave no light to our journey. After passing through the Lodge we set off on the track beside the river. I kicked a black, head-shaped object which I initially took to be an orc head (as you do) but which turned out to be a frozen neep for the deer. There were many of these - some whole, some crushed, some nibbled - along the track. The dark was full of noises - eerie chorus of pheasants, an owl's screech and that high pitched alarm call that deer emit when startled (presumably we'd interrupted dinner of neeps). Lots of green eyes gazed balefully at us from the hillside.

We passed ideal camp spot after ideal camp spot. Trying to get the balance of traveling far enough but not wanting to run out of suitable places to camp, we pitched down beside the river about 4.5km into the route. Not a sound all night except the burbling of the water.

ImageDSC02588 by Al, on Flickr


We didn't rise early - something I rather regretted, but it's difficult getting out of bed when its still dark and raining. We dressed for the rain that was forecast and set off for Carn Chuinneag. A nice track up the hillside - some slippy ice in places still, the odd section of hard packed snow. We left the path at the bealach with the western top and headed for the summit cairn. Views were fairly good although Beinn a'Chaisteil lay under a pall of cloud, many miles away to the west. No sign of the Assynt hills, which one can see on a clear day from here.

ImageDSC02589 by Al, on Flickr

The gamble on "no snow" seemed to have paid off
ImageDSC02590 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02593 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02594 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn a'Chaisteil off in the distance, under the cloud
ImageDSC02596 by Al, on Flickr

We returned to the path and began our walk over the plateau, which rarely drops below 600m. Peat hags were navigated, the wind got up and around lunch time the rain started and did not stop. We were making reasonable time - in our quest to be down in Strath Vaich by nightfall - by the time we began the long, gradual ascent to the summit of Beinn a'Chaisteil, reaching the summit at 4.30pm. The wind had increased further, blasting up the strath from the south - this made the descent harder and a few slips were had. But we made the track in the last of the light.

Summit Beinn a'Chaisteil
ImageDSC02597 by Al, on Flickr


Now the question was - where will we get pitched for the night? There was no possibility of pitching the wee tent in this wind - we'd have to walk round behind the steep Graham of Meall a'Chaorainn and hope there would be both shelter and flat ground somewhere there. Tired, we battled on, looking for a suitable place - any flat spot was under water, everywhere else was heathery and uneven. I knew we could find a flat spot in Gleann Beag, but we'd have no protection from the wind there...finally we found an adequate spot on the hillside, just off the track and got our tent up, finding some heavy rocks to tether the guylines. The wind wasn't actually too bad overnight, the rain intermittent.

Morning - our pitch
ImageDSC02601 by Al, on Flickr

We got up again around 8am, knowing that today's walk should be easier - we had more on track. There was the option of climbing up to Carn Ban then returning to the track up Gleann Mor, or of summiting the hill and taking the high route over the hillside - 4km shorter. We set off into drizzle, views out west to the Beinn Dearg hills. One of my fears was that the track up to Carn Ban from the river would be choked with snow - I needn't have worried as there was barely a sign of snow about. We reached the top of Carn Ban with the best views I've had in three visits. All the Assynt hills were laid out on the horizon - before them, the plunging cliffs of Seana Bhraigh. There's a flat-topped Simm to the west of Carn Ban, Creagan a'Chait -now this is somewhere I'd love to return and do a summit camp in good weather - can you imagine the view as the sun set behind those Assynt hills? One for the wishlist there.

Heading for Carn Ban
ImageDSC02604 by Al, on Flickr

Towards the Beinn Dearg Hills
ImageDSC02606 by Al, on Flickr

The steep Graham, Meall a'Chaorainn, in backdrop
ImageDSC02607 by Al, on Flickr

No snow in Carn Ban plateau
ImageDSC02609 by Al, on Flickr

A future high camp?
ImageDSC02610 by Al, on Flickr

Being blown away on Carn Ban
ImageDSC02611 by Al, on Flickr

Seana Bhraigh cliffs on left, Assynt hills in distance
ImageDSC02612 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02613 by Al, on Flickr
Today we weren't doing Simms, as I've said, so we gathered ourselves against the wind, which was now extremely strong, and set off to the east. I'd plotted a route that contoured Bodach Beag and aimed for Lochan nan Leac, but we ended up climbing Bodach Beag - old habits die hard :wink: . We were battered and beaten by the wind for the next few kilometres as we went over An Socach then along the boggy ATV track that leads into the new forestry plantation in Coire Allt na Fearna. With heavy tread, we continued along the remaining miles back to the car, reaching the car park at 5pm. We'd done it - the gamble had paid off :D

Carn Ban from Bodach Beag
ImageDSC02616 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02618 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02624 by Al, on Flickr


There isn't anywhere to camp at the car park, so we headed along the road to a wee place we've used before. As we were setting up, a terribly posh elderly gentleman approached with his dog. He was very pleasant, lived, I think, in Amat Lodge, and asked if there was anything we needed (I didn't think it polite to request a hot shower, delicious dinner and bed for the night :wink: ) and told us we were mad for climbing these hills at this time of year. I could only agree with him. We crawled into the tent (the larger one, now we didn't need to carry it on our backs) and sat down to a feast of noodles. The wind was still very strong and continued to blow in powerful gusts all night. In the morning, the vestibule of the tent had become a repository for oak leaves.

One of the things I've been doing over the winter evenings, is planning routes, or copying them, for the remaining Marilyns / Subs or whatever you want to call them - I've reached section 17 now. This means that we will have a feasible route for any sub we happen to be near to, when out and about. Allison is of course delighted by this, sharing, as she does, my love of Subs :lol: So she was cock-a-hoop when I told her there were numerous subs we could do on the road back home. We had settled for Mount Eagle over in Cromarty and set off along the B9176. I saw the name "Struie" as we drove along, seemed to remember that being on my list and dug the GPS out - sure enough Struie was a mere 1.9km up and back and was right beside where I'd pulled off the road. Result! Although it was under 200m ascent from the car, it did look to be typical Marilyn terrain - lots of clumpy heather - until Allison found a fine path that led all the way to the summit. What luck :D Views over the Cromarty Firth, and, to the North, Loch Shin.

Struie, from the road
ImageDSC02625 by Al, on Flickr

A path!
ImageDSC02628 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02630 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02631 by Al, on Flickr


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But we weren't done yet - another shortish route up Cnoc Corr Guinie from Crannich was located on my device. Mostly forest track until the last section which follows the boundary fence through small trees and scrub. There is a large cairn, in line with the fence, but the true (unmarked, currently) summit is a couple of hundred metres to the west. There isn't much sense of this being a hill - just a forested hillside, but hey - it's another Sub ticked off the list and was quite a pleasant walk. Back to the car at mid-day, just as the rain began to put paid to any more sneaky wee Subs on the way down the road. Back home by tea time, now all we have to do is keep fingers crossed the snow doesn't return until after she's nabbed Beinn Bhreac :)


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Don't go this way!
ImageDSC02632 by Al, on Flickr

Section after the forest track ends
ImageDSC02634 by Al, on Flickr

Exciting summit, huh?
ImageDSC02636 by Al, on Flickr

ImageDSC02638 by Al, on Flickr
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weaselmaster
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 1888
Munros:214   Corbetts:44
Grahams:76   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:331   Hewitts:31
Wainwrights:15   Islands:28
Joined: Aug 22, 2012
Location: Greenock

Re: A Gamble on Three Northern Corbetts

Postby Sgurr » Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:57 pm

We met the guy who was doing the Cicerone guide book to the Corbetts around here. He didn't exactly endear himself to the locals we heard later, by walking into a shooting party and claiming he was on a tight deadline for his book. We were under-impressed by the amount of research he seemed to have done in advance, but he still seems to have got a reasonable book out of it..... if you don't want discussions of alternative routes.
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Sgurr
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Re: A Gamble on Three Northern Corbetts

Postby PeteR » Tue Dec 31, 2019 4:38 pm

You dodged a bullet not ticking off Mount Eagle on this trip Al :lol:

You need extra thick, gorse resilitant clothing for that one (or a flame thrower). Toughest hill with negligible ascent I think I've ever done. Her's what you both have to look forward to.

ImageIMG_20190915_175702 by Pete Riedel, on Flickr

Your main route did look a bit bonkers to me :shock: I've been checking out the hillsin this area on and off for a while now, but they'll definitely be done in three seprate outings when I eventually get round to them.
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PeteR
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Re: A Gamble on Three Northern Corbetts

Postby weaselmaster » Tue Dec 31, 2019 8:04 pm

PeteR wrote:You dodged a bullet not ticking off Mount Eagle on this trip Al :lol:

You need extra thick, gorse resilitant clothing for that one (or a flame thrower). Toughest hill with negligible ascent I think I've ever done. Her's what you both have to look forward to.

Your main route did look a bit bonkers to me :shock: I've been checking out the hills in this area on and off for a while now, but they'll definitely be done in three seprate outings when I eventually get round to them.


Hi Pete - yes, I've looked at a couple of reports for Mount Eagle and am relishing the challenge :lol:

My route for the three Corbetts was a sweetie though - this was the one I had originally drawn up


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User avatar
weaselmaster
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 1888
Munros:214   Corbetts:44
Grahams:76   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:331   Hewitts:31
Wainwrights:15   Islands:28
Joined: Aug 22, 2012
Location: Greenock

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