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Geal Charn: the white mountain

Geal Charn: the white mountain


Postby BlackPanther » Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:56 pm

Route description: Geal Chàrn, Monadhliath

Munros included on this walk: Geal Chàrn (Monadhliath)

Date walked: 09/12/2018

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 741m

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One of my early "conquests", Geal Charn has for some time been on the list "to repeat in white". During my first visit to this Munro in 2011, we ascended by the most popular route, along Feith Talagain, then up the SW shoulder straight to the summit. Most guides suggest returning the same way, but we spotted an alternative descent via Beinn Sgaith and Meall an Domhnaich, which turns this route into a proper circular. Turned out to be a nice addition to the day's portion of walking :D

For the winter version, we decided to reverse this circuit. There is another option, a route from Glen Markie which looks interesting as well, but it requires crossing Markie Burn and as it had rained a lot recently, we expected the river to be in spate, hence the choice of the Garva Bridge approach. We are saving the Glen Markie route for a dry day.

Track_GEAL CHARN 09-12-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


There is a good car park by Garva Bridge. We arrived early in the morning. Forecast was for a band of showers around 8am, but the rain was a bit slow to clear, so we sat in the car for 15 minutes, waiting for the shower to pass. It did eventually, leaving behind a wet, murky, depressing landscape...
2018-12-09 geal charn 001.JPG

...but no amount of grey sky could discourage Panther from marching up another hill!
2018-12-09 geal charn 005.JPG

Since our previous visit, a new metal bridge was built, one serving the Beauly-Deny powerline. It does look a bit out of place in this God forsaken corner of Scotland...
2018-12-09 geal charn 007.JPG

...but we walked past the bulldozed road very quickly and aimed for the wilder country. It started to rain again, thankfully it was just another 15-min shower. Kevin's idea was to follow the track into the forest on the lower slopes of Meall an Domhnaich as far as it goes. Indeed, the track goes much further than shown on 1-25k map. If you follow it carefully, it will lead you out of the forest through a dilapidated metal gate and out onto the open slopes. A faint path quickly disappeared as we marched up, but the terrain was surprisingly easy, low heather and grass. We aimed uphill for the summit area of Meall an Domhnaich (not that we cared about bagging this one, we're not Sim Collectors). To reach the true summit of this lump, best to follow the edge of the forest:
2018-12-09 geal charn 013.JPG

We took a less steep line, towards the lower of the two tops (601m). Higher up, the vegetation was covered with a thin layer of snow:
2018-12-09 geal charn 017.JPG

On the flatter area near the top of Meall an Domhnaich, Gairbeinn and Creag Mhor behind me:
2018-12-09 geal charn 019.JPG

Weather was improving, we even experienced some sunshine and spotted a few patches of blue sky, which was a good omen for the rest of the day.
Sunny Meall na h-Aisre:
2018-12-09 geal charn 020.JPG

Looking south to the true summit of Meall an Domhnaich and the northern side of Carn Liath behind:
2018-12-09 geal charn 026.JPG

In contrast, "our" Munro was still in cloud, but we expected it to clear at some point. Just hope that we'll be on the summit when it happens!
2018-12-09 geal charn 028.JPG

We descended to Am Bealach, keeping slightly to the right to avoid peat hags, then picked an ATV track, winding its way to the summit of Beinn Sgiath. From the col, visibility was still all right, we could see the Laggan hills to the south:
2018-12-09 geal charn 031.JPG

...but as we began to gain height, we were caught in snow shower and grey mist again. Not that we were desperate for a clear day. Always nice to see the views, but this was more than just visiting a viewpoint. We enjoyed the walking, the workout (not much of the latter, this slope is very gentle, easy climbing) and the silence around us. We haven't seen anybody else so far. I expected to bump into people maybe on the summit, as most folks just do the simple up-and-down, not realizing that there is a much better (DRY!) route up this Munro.
2018-12-09 geal charn 036.JPG

The last glimpse down to Meall an Domhnaich and the ridge below us:
2018-12-09 geal charn 034.JPG

Black Panther in white wonderland:
2018-12-09 geal charn 037.JPG

The snow shower passed when we neared the summit of Beinn Sgiath, and suddenly blue sky appeared again above us. Hopes held high for summit views!
2018-12-09 geal charn 038.JPG

This is the summit cairn of the lower top. In deeper snow, it would be impossible to locate :lol:
2018-12-09 geal charn 043.JPG

To the east, The Cairngorms still in cloud, not much to see at the moment:
2018-12-09 geal charn 040.JPG

Just across a shallow col, the true summit of the Munro:
2018-12-09 geal charn 041.JPG

The traverse via Uinneag Coire nan Lochain provided more opportunities for silly poses:
2018-12-09 geal charn 056.JPG

...and the hill rewarded us with a lovely, if short appearance of a rainbow...
2018-12-09 geal charn 049.JPG

...before the cloud rolled in again and spoiled the party!
2018-12-09 geal charn 059.JPG

The final walk to the summit was on another ATV track (it leads almost to the summit cairn). We were back in the whiteout at the moment but stayed optimistic:
2018-12-09 geal charn 060.JPG

The summit cairn is hard to miss. I posed with Lucy (her 97th Munro!):
2018-12-09 geal charn 069.JPG

We quickly warmed up with hot tea and had something to eat to keep us going. It was very cold on the summit, well below zero, but we decided to wait a few minutes and we were not disappointed. The views started to show!
2018-12-09 geal charn 070.JPG

It's beginning to look like...windfarms! Everywhere you go!
2018-12-09 geal charn 086.JPG

Looking south to the return route:
2018-12-09 geal charn 081.JPG

After 15 minutes maybe,we were almost frozen solid so it was time to go. We left the giant cairn behind...
2018-12-09 geal charn 087.JPG

...and headed down the well-worn path, still visible even under the snow cover:
2018-12-09 geal charn 091.JPG

Views from the descent:
2018-12-09 geal charn 093.JPG

2018-12-09 geal charn 094.JPG

2018-12-09 geal charn 100.JPG

We met three other walkers heading uphill as we descended, I guess they were just doing the simple up-and-down. I wonder how many hillgoers miss the better option simply because the Munro guides don't mention it? The only Munro book suggesting the Beinn Sgiath ridge as an alternative descent /ascent is the M guide by Cameron McNeish. I'm surprised this line of attack is not more popular, as it's much drier. We really hated the lower slopes of the traditional route, as we descended, it was all mushy tatties, yuck! I know that the alternative over the two tops adds about 120m of ascent but it's worth the extra workout. Also makes the whole route more scenic.
In comparison, even the worn path down in the glen was more like a stream:
2018-12-09 geal charn 116.JPG

As we returned to the bottom of the glen, I felt frustrated and depressed for a short time, having to deal with so much bog-hopping!
2018-12-09 geal charn 122.JPG

...but as it usually is with Black Panther, she won't stay sad for long and as soon as we reached the beaten track, she was all happy and ready to meow again!
2018-12-09 geal charn 127.JPG

An enjoyable walk, Geal Charn really stood up to our expectations. The aptly named White Hill gave us some nice white winter walking. And as this was our last opportunity to visit hills before Christmas, we could not have wished for better.
..........
The next two weekends will be busy with festive preparations. Our next trip to the mountains will hopefully be somewhere around the New Year's Day (depending on weather and how much Talisker/Zubrówka wodka we drink :lol: ). For now, may we all have Very White and Very Merry Christmas!
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu Oct 31, 2019 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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BlackPanther
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Re: Geal Charn: the white mountain

Postby kinraddie » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:54 am

That is a nice descent. Indeed, I think people are just enticed by a path on the map! When I did this it was also in snow but I went up the route you describe in Glen Markie, then up the corrie (very beautiful in snow and sadly missed by many on the trade route) to come out onto the bealach, then the S ridge down over Beinn Sgiath to hook on to the track at the bottom with the short walk back along the road. I actually can't remember crossing the River Markie but suppose I must have done at some point - it was a few years ago - so I'm guessing it was a minor crossing.
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Re: Geal Charn: the white mountain

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:03 pm

kinraddie wrote:I actually can't remember crossing the River Markie but suppose I must have done at some point - it was a few years ago - so I'm guessing it was a minor crossing.


I did some online research and found out that there is actually a footbridge over Markie Burn higher up the glen (where the path is shown crossing the river):
https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5939163
The route you describe is exactly what we would like to do the next time we visit this mountain. Lochan a'Choire and the surrounding cliffs look very interesting :D
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Re: Geal Charn: the white mountain

Postby past my sell by date » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:33 pm

We did this in around 30 years ago and the only thing I can remember is getting our rough collie Prince across the Markie burn - which drains a huge area and at the end of May was in quite " active" condition. He hated the noise of roaring streams. We found a place where there was some sort of pebble bank in the middle and I wrapped his lead two or three times around the top of one of my poles and literally dragged him thru :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: Geal Charn: the white mountain

Postby prog99 » Sat Dec 15, 2018 12:09 am

past my sell by date wrote:We did this in around 30 years ago and the only thing I can remember is getting our rough collie Prince across the Markie burn - which drains a huge area and at the end of May was in quite " active" condition. He hated the noise of roaring streams. We found a place where there was some sort of pebble bank in the middle and I wrapped his lead two or three times around the top of one of my poles and literally dragged him thru :lol: :lol: :lol:

I know the place you mean. Convinced there was a bridge there when I used that approach 10 years ago (which we found after getting our feet wet)
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Re: Geal Charn: the white mountain

Postby past my sell by date » Sat Dec 22, 2018 7:00 pm

prog99 wrote:
past my sell by date wrote:We did this in around 30 years ago and the only thing I can remember is getting our rough collie Prince across the Markie burn - which drains a huge area and at the end of May was in quite " active" condition. He hated the noise of roaring streams. We found a place where there was some sort of pebble bank in the middle and I wrapped his lead two or three times around the top of one of my poles and literally dragged him thru :lol: :lol: :lol:

I know the place you mean. Convinced there was a bridge there when I used that approach 10 years ago (which we found after getting our feet wet)

I've found a couple of photos but I'm not sure if they were before or - more likely after - crossing :lol: :lol: :lol: There certainly was never a bridge here!
Image

Image
As you can see it was quite an obstacle :lol:
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