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Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down


Postby nigheandonn » Mon Sep 23, 2019 11:22 pm

Munros included on this walk: Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain, Carn Liath (Beinn a'Ghlo), Carn nan Gabhar

Date walked: 07/09/2019

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It's taken me a surprisingly long time to get round to Beinn a'Ghlo, considering it was these hills, seen from Ben Vrackie six years ago, that first made me think that there might be something in this Munro business after all.

The length of the day put me off, I think - it was always something I was going to do when I felt braver. And I almost wasn't going to do it now - I'd marked off the Saturday two weeks before as the last free one when the light would last long enough, and it had turned out to be a roasting hot day when I was still recovering from the return from the west. But now I had a good but cooler forecast, and I'd recalculated and realised I didn't mind walking down the road in the dark if necessary, and so it went back to being the perfect plan - 3 munros to take me up to 10 for the year.

Not as early a start as some - train from Haymarket just before 7, and a change at Stirling, to reach Blair Atholl just before 9. I didn't really have time for hanging about, but made a quick visit to the shop, where I couldn't make my mind up and decided that if I'd had my breakfast before 7, and wouldn't have my dinner until late, I was perfectly justified in having two lunches, and then couldn't resist slipping into the little visitor centre.

The way up the road felt far longer than I expected - I kept thinking that I should have reached the junction, long before I did, and than there was still a fair way to go, along past the string of farms on the opposite slope. Once finally up on the last stretch, the view was already stunning - Beinn a' Ghlo on one side and the Glen Tilt hills on the other.

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Beinn a' Ghlo


The car park was something more than full to overflowing, dozens of cars parked along the verge leading along to it - I knew it was a popular hill, but wasn't expecting anything like this. There were a handful of people getting ready as I went through the gate, but no one in sight on the track, apart from a couple of runners who passed me.

The track to where the path splits off also seemed longer than I had expected - I kept thinking I must have missed the path turning off, and looking around me to see if I'd passed things that I shouldn't. But eventually I came to a place with was obviously the starting point, and remembered that I was supposed to turn off at a hut, which I'd now found.

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The track in

There was obviously work going on somewhere, because the path towards the foot of the hill was lined with bags of rocks, but the path itself was muddy and punctuated with pools.

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The Carn Liath path

The path got drier as it started to climb, up past what seemed to be the remains of a wall, and since it was now after 11 I found a nice stone to sit down and eat my first lunch, in the shape of a sausage roll - breakfast already seemed a long long time ago.

Once the path began to climb properly it was better than I had expected from the descriptions, solid steps which made for quick progress, although the ground is still scarred on either side of the steps.

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Stone steps

Not far below the first cairn the steps ran out, and it would definitely have been a more difficult climb if all the path had been like it that.

The views had been opening out behind me all the way up, and now I stopped to look back properly. I could remember being horribly confused on Carn a' Chlamain, not having realised that the railway swung round at right angles at Killiecrankie, so I had a starting point this time - if the valley in the foreground contained Blair Atholl, the valley in the background could be Loch Tummel running more or less parallel, meaning the mountain at the front of the pile could easily be Schiehallion, with Ben Lawers looking distinctive at the back.

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The view south

As I came in sight of the trig point there were literally dozens of people around it, but they seemed to be gathered for a purpose, and as I came closer it turned out to be a kind of funeral service, which I skirted. That explained the overflowing carpark, and from there the hills were quiet - a handful of people about, but not the crowds that had been implied.

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Carn Liath summit

The cairn at the true summit was quieter, but I didn't linger there, either, heading down the winding ridge towards the second hill - a long gentle walk, and then quite a steep descent to the col.

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Towards Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain

The far side went for definite climbing straight away - some good views into the valleys either side, but hard work on a much stonier path than the first hill.

The top section is much gentler, skirting the great corrie - I don't know exactly what 'cruinn-balgain' means, but the bit about the slope of the corrie is a perfectly accurate description of the hill as seen from here.

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The slope of the corrie

From up here, the great S-shaped ridge comes into perspective, part of Carn Liath rather than just the road away from it.

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S-shaped ridge

The summit of the hill is slightly back from the edge, and the views are mostly down the Glen Tilt side - there was a good cairn to sit against for lunch. My second lunch was an egg mayonnaise roll, which tasted most peculiar until I realised it was actually egg and salad cream - once I knew what it was supposed to taste like, it was pretty good!

I had time to rest, because I knew now that there was no way I was going to have dinner and make the 20:18 train, which took the pressure off - if I was heading for the 21:58 train I didn't want to be down too early, and could take my time going round.

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Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain summit

It was amazing how close the hills in the wilderness seemed to have come - the main Cairngorm group were still a fringe along the sky, but An Sgarsoch and Carn an Fhidhleir looked like they'd come close enough to touch.

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Cairngorm view

One frustrating thing about these hills was that they were getting higher as I went along - the col on the way to Carn nan Gabhar is a good bit higher than the last one, but there's just as far to climb on the other side. Still, it wasn't nearly as far down distance-wise - a drop down a broad slope until a path appeared again.

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Across the join

The climb up the other side wasn't bad - a slanting path to make the climb easier, but I'd done quite a bit of climbing by then. There were a few people about still, mostly coming down, but two coming up behind me.

The top was a long series of stages - first following the path up to a large cairn which seemed just to mark the start of the ridge.

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On Carn nan Gabhar

From here the trig point came into sight in the middle of the ridge, and the path ran out and became just a sea of stones - more challenging heading on over them.

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First cairn

The trig point might have been the highest point or might not - one side looked like a natural mound, but the other seemed to be built up with a wall of stones - and I thought I better head on to the great cairn which had now come into view at the end of the ridge.

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Carn nan Gabhar trig point

Whether or not it's the highest point - it probably is, but no one seems absolutely sure - it was worth coming along this far just for the views. It's a surprisingly long way north west of the last summit, and even more perched on the edge of the Cairngorm wilderrness.

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Carn nan Gabhar summit

This was further in than I'd been in Glen Tilt, and the edge of the glen had become a very dramatic drop, with An Sgarsoch rising beyond.

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Over Glen Tilt

I wasn't finding it easy to figure out which hill was which, although they were more individual as they came closer, but it didn't really matter - it's a stunning sight, with the head of Glen Tilt leading in.

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Cairngorm hills

I seem to have spent the last year or so skirting round the edges of the Cairngorms without ever reaching them - looking over from Meall Chuaich, from the Cairnwell hills, from here - so that might be something I need to fix next year.

Coming back was easier, because I could skirt round the worst of the stones on the grass which fringed the top - and remember by the trig point to look over towards Carn an Righ and Glas Tulaichean, also surprisingly close, and the Cairnwell hills beyond - I did know that this all joined up, really, but it's not the same as seeing it.

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Carn an Righ and Glas Tulaichean

I had one last hill to reach, the Munro top of Airgiod Bheinn, just a walk away along the top of the ridge, although I could have done without even that gentle last climb.

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Airgiod Bheinn

The top turned out to be a tiny and fairly accessible pinnacle - from beneath it looked like it would be one just to touch, but from the other side I managed to stand on it briefly.

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Airgiod Bheinn summit

I didn't really know where to go from here, except to keep heading along the ridge and hope i would find a way down - I thought I'd seen the path earlier on, a steep bare zigzag which terrified me, but as long as it was a path I could presumably follow it.

There was no real path up here, though - I found myself first down a bit on the right hand side of the ridge, thinking it was the start of a way down, and then back up on the very crest of the ridge, and then further down than I realised on the left hand side, trying to escape from the stones on the crest.

With no idea where I was going or what I would have to cross, and an awkward stony slope ahead and above, and a long tongue of green below, I lost my head a bit and went for the shortest way out - straight down the strip of grass and heather and blaeberry.

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The wrong way down

And this first stretch really wasn't too bad - hard on my knees, and there was no way back, but I was at least losing height quickly, and it wasn't bad underfoot. Reaching the bottom and having to cross a band of stones was more nervewracking, but I went slanting down towards the next green patch, and although some of the stones shifted against each other it was all basically stable.

Further down it was deeper in heather and really more difficult to cross although less steep, and then I was in an endless rough slope of long grass and heather, still surprisingly steep and a surprisingly long way above the bottom of the valley - a long miserable crossing, slanting down towards the Allt na Beinne Bige, which never seemed to get much closer, and always on sloping ground.

I'd forgotten all about the deer until I startled one below me, but there wasn't anything I could do by that point - if there were more around to object, they would just have to take Sunday to calm down.

The further down I came the more I was crossing tiny invisible burns and avoiding - or not avoiding - patches of wet ground, and the more the sun was in my eyes - it was a relief when it finally went behind the slopes of Carn Liath, and also meant that I was getting closer to the end.

There were more obstacles still in my way than I realised, however - I'd been heading for a green streak on the far side of the burn, knowing that it was probably the course of a tributary, but would still be clearer than the ground around it. The burn was far more substantial than I expected, however, and I had to make my way quite a way upstream before managing to cross and skirt a heathery mound to come up by another wet green streak onto the path.

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Over Allt na Beinne Bige

But my travails weren't over yet - the path was possibly the muddiest I'd ever seen, so that in one place the best option seemed to be a bypass of a bypass which was still keen to swallow me up.

Fortunately I wasn't far from the point where it suddenly became a good made path, and from there everything was far better, although it was still a long way out, joining the track which led through the valley, and passing a junction which seemed to lead to a lonely farm, then the junction where I'd turned off in the morning.

It was light enough still, but a glorious evening light, with Ben Vrackie looking beautiful on the other side of the valley.

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Ben Vrackie

The only other excitement of the way out was meeting a very large cow on the track at about the same time as I met some people with a free-ranging dog - fortunately the cow seemed to be unfazed. By Loch Moraig the light really was failing, although beautifully, and as I headed down the road the blue and gold became a yellow and orange sunset over Beinn a' Chuallaich and Schiehallion.

The rest of the way down felt a bit like looking glass land - going as fast as I could, and letting the downhill help me, still wasn't getting me on any faster than ordinary walking would. But it might have been partly a measurement issue, because I finally reached the Atholl Arms about 10 to 9, with plenty of time to eat and catch the 21:58 train.

I was exhausted all the next day and sore down the fronts of my legs for a week, but it was worth it - a stunning day.


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Last edited by nigheandonn on Tue Sep 24, 2019 3:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby Sgurr » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:45 am

Lovely day out. We did these three in opposite directions. Husband cycled up the glen on my bike and left it by the bridge and I climbed the same route as you, and like you couldn't find a path on the way down, but omitting the Munro top made it seem easier than yours, just a lot of heather. Despite me cycling downhill and him up, he was back at the car first in the days before altitude sickness, dodgy knee and all the other things that have since slowed him down in the intervening 24 years.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:55 am

Great photos - "over Glen Tilt" (from Carn na Gabhar main cairn) has an amazing sense of space and far horizons, a wonderful view.

I've not been to Beinn a' Ghlo - my impression is that it might be more effort to come down that to go up! Maybe I will only try these on a long day when I've got the energy and just do it as a there-and-back ridge route...

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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:39 am

Sgurr: An interesting way to do it - ships who pass in the night!

HMHT - there is an easy way down, which might be the better option even from Airgiod Bheinn - retrace your steps to between BCCB and Carn nan Gabhar, and follow a good path down from there. Although you will have to cross more mud than I did, unless they've built more of the good valley path by the time you get there...
It's a longish day however you go, but worth it :)

I was doubly lucky with the weather - nice days can still be hazy round the edges, but the views that day were amazing.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Tue Sep 24, 2019 10:50 am

nigheandonn wrote:Sgurr: An interesting way to do it - ships who pass in the night!

HMHT - there is an easy way down, which might be the better option even from Airgiod Bheinn - retrace your steps to between BCCB and Carn nan Gabhar, and follow a good path down from there. Although you will have to cross more mud than I did, unless they've built more of the good valley path by the time you get there...
It's a longish day however you go, but worth it :)

I was doubly lucky with the weather - nice days can still be hazy round the edges, but the views that day were amazing.


Sounds like a good plan!

The air clarity and light that you had was great. I even wonder if the high hill you can see in your photo beyond Beinn Iutharn Mhor and Glas Tulaichean (above the gap between them) might be Lochnagar - it looks similar to what I remember seeing from Beinn Iutharn Mhor.

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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby katyhills » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:19 am

That's a really nice report and photos. The views are particularly good looking back to Carn Liath. Respect to you for using public transport too. :D
I got no views after leaving Braigh CCB, as the weather really came in, but I disturbed a nice little herd of deer. I'd also meant to come off Airgiod Bheinn, but it was chucking it down and rubbish visibility, so I went back via the bealach. There is a path, but you're virtually walking down the Allt bealach an Fhiodha. My feet have never been so wet!
@HalfManHalfTitanium - I think an 'out and back' would be a good way of doing these three, especially if the weather's been less than kind. It's fairly easy walking.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby Giant Stoneater » Tue Sep 24, 2019 2:58 pm

If your heading to Bridge of Tilt another way of going would be to do the top Airgiod Bheinn first then Carn nan Ghabhar and then follow the ridge down to Meall a'Mhuirich good going path,then head down to roughly NN964 720 to pick up the old stalkers path which leads to bridge and Glen Tilt.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby Broggy1 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:34 pm

Detailed and timely.

Hope to do these next month so this is a big help. :clap:
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby jmarkb » Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:47 pm

Nice report! I've done the round a few times, and on balance I think I prefer going anti-clockwise, provided there isn't a strong south-westerly blowing! I prefer to get the long track and path section out of the way at the start of the day. There is a small path up the nose of Airgiod Beinn, but it's easier to find in ascent than descent. I'm not aware of any evidence to doubt the OS spot heights which show the NE cairn to be 1m higher than the trig, though I don't think a detailed survey has been done either. I suspect quite a few folk don't go beyond the trig in poor visibility!

HalfManHalfTitanium wrote:I even wonder if the high hill you can see in your photo beyond Beinn Iutharn Mhor and Glas Tulaichean (above the gap between them) might be Lochnagar


Certainly is!
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:10 pm

Broggy1: Just make sure you come down on the west side of Airgiod Bheinn and not the east! But you should have a great day.

jmarkb: I was heading for the trig point as the summit just because it was the only spot height on my map, and only looked at the contour lines and doubted it when I got there. And hill-bagging.co.uk just says that the trig point is probably lower, instead of telling you exactly how many centimetres! But I'm not really setting up a counterclaim :)
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby jonny616 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:02 pm

I loved these hills when I did them, but hated the walk out. Swore if I ever do them again and would do the summits twice rather than face the endless muddy yomp. great pics. :clap:
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby prog99 » Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:52 pm

jonny616 wrote:I loved these hills when I did them, but hated the walk out. Swore if I ever do them again and would do the summits twice rather than face the endless muddy yomp. great pics. :clap:

Your better off doing the long walk in TBH. The new path up All Bealach an Fhiodha (not the one up Carn Liath) really improves things.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby katyhills » Wed Sep 25, 2019 6:02 pm

prog99 said

'Your better off doing the long walk in TBH. The new path up All Bealach an Fhiodha (not the one up Carn Liath) really improves things.'

I wondered about the path. I was on Ben Vrackie a couple of years ago, and chatting with a couple of girls who were asking what the other hills were that they could see. When I said Beinn a Ghlo, I thought it looked like there was a very new looking bit of path. That would make it seriously better :D
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby arjh » Wed Sep 25, 2019 9:37 pm

Giant Stoneater wrote:If your heading to Bridge of Tilt another way of going would be to do the top Airgiod Bheinn first then Carn nan Ghabhar and then follow the ridge down to Meall a'Mhuirich good going path,then head down to roughly NN964 720 to pick up the old stalkers path which leads to bridge and Glen Tilt.


A variation on this is to make it a 2-dayer. At Meall a'Mhuirich head north and descend from the 728m bealach eastwards to just north of Loch Loch. Easy river crossing and then camp by the lochside (lovely spot by Cumin's Cairn) and walk out the next day. I chose to go via Ben Vuirich and picked up the track south of lonely Loch Valigan to go via Shinagag and back to the Carn Liath track.
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Re: Beinn a' Ghlo and the wrong way down

Postby Sunset tripper » Thu Sep 26, 2019 1:41 am

Nice one. I haven't been up there since the new paths were built. I recall the walk out was a fair length on a muddy boggy path. Good if that has been improved as well. I remember coming off Airgiod and following the centre of the ridge down most of the way then cutting off on a bit of a zigzag path to the right. It wasn't too bad so maybe you cut off a bit early.
Still a good day out - all the best :D
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