Not so remote after all

Munros: Carn Dearg (Loch Pattack), Geal-charn (Alder)

Date walked: 30/06/2018

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 34.3km

Ascent: 1132m

The hills around Loch Pattack are known as some of the more remote Munros, ones that require an overnighting trip, possibly a cycle-in or a multi-day traverse. But we believed we could "bite them off" in chunks as long as we had good weather in summer time. Last year in spring, we approached Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn from Moy via the Lubvan track and we liked this route so much that we began seriously thinking of re-visiting the area to climb the other two M's on the ridge, Carn Dearg and Geal-Charn. The walk is long, it has to be said. Nearly 35km and over 1100m of ascent so it should not be underestimated. But it can be walked in a single day as we proved. I don't recommend doing this in wet weather though, as the upper reaches of An Lairg are extremely wet, boggy and peat hag ridden. We were lucky that it's been so dry this summer.
Another thing we didn't know about, there is a brand new stalkers path, well made for walking and probably for using quads, so it can be easily cycled. Last year, when we visited Beag and Eibhinn, the good track ended at Lubvan ruins, now the path is cyclable all the way to the river crossing at 444766. Had we known that, we'd have brought bikes. Anyway, on the good surface, walking is quick and easy. After crossing Allt Cam, the path disappears altogether and the rest of the ascent is pathless, but not drastically steep. After traversing the two Munros, we dropped to upper An Lairg and after nearly two hours of trudging through peat hags, we returned to the river crossing. With the use of bikes, this would be an interesting way of climbing all four Munros on the ridge, but because we had already done Eibhinn and Beag, we could concentrate on the two more remote hills. And they were fantastic!

Track_GEAL CHARN MOY 30-07-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We started from the layby on the A86 near Luiblea (used normally by walkers heading for Beinn a'Chlachair & friends). There were a few other walkers getting ready, but none of them had a crazy walk like ours in mind! Funny, from the starting point, you can't even see our target summits :lol:
Abhain Guilbinn and Eibhinn-Beag ridge on the horizon:
Binnein Shuas, a craggy Graham, well worth climbing on a shorter day :D
We took the track towards Lochan na h-Earba, but soon turned right onto another track, leading to the ruins of Lubvan:
By the time we reached the ruin, clegs were already out and biting. Thankfully we had a bottle of our good old friend deet with us, but despite spraying repellent everywhere, the nasty b**ers were still buzzing around, looking for places on our bodies where deet didn't reach. They were biting through clothing and their bites felt very unpleasant. I hate midges but at least their bites don't bleed!
On the bright side, we discovered the new stalkers track, which was so much better than the previous boggy path :D
The new track/wide path goes almost all the way to the river crossing at the turn of Allt Cam. Just before descending to the river, it shrinks to a narrow path:
We stopped by the river for a short snack break and to refill our bottles. It was incredibly hot and we had already drunk half of our water supply. At least we had a fresh source for a refill, I can't imagine how we would manage without it. We were swallowing water like a pair of mad elephants just to sweat it out five minutes later. And of course, the sweat attracted even more clegs :lol: :lol:
Kevin refilling his bottle:
After replenishing our liquid supplies, we crossed the river...
...and aimed for the eastern shoulder of Geal-Charn:
En route, we crossed three streams, slowing down the slopes in shallow gorges. They provided us with more fresh water. I was so glad that we picked a route with live streams. I can't even imagine how people could cope on long dry traverses, like CMD arete or Sgurr na Ciche ridge, in such temperatures. I don't know how hot it was but it felt like oven :?
One of the gorges:
Panoramic view of the southern side of Beinn a'Chlachair:
The slopes we climbed (the left hand side of Coire na Coichille as you face the summit) were easy enough, mostly grass and moss. I must admit, I expected much tougher terrain so I was pleasantly surprised.
Looking back at our ascent route:
Once on the ridge, we walked the final 200m to the summit cairn, where Lucy was of course first to pose for photos! Her 76th Munro :D
The views from Geal-Charn are not as dramatic as I expected, the most interesting features being the edge of Coire na Coichille leading to Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhinn:
Panoramic snap:
Distant mountains of Glen Coe and Etive:
The wide flat plateau-like ridge "cuts" the view towards Ben Alder from the summit cairn of Geal-Charn, but be patient. Much better vistas of the notorious Munro will come later :D
From our first Munro we followed the wide ridge in north-eastern direction, to pick a path descending Aisre Ghobhainn, a fantastic, narrow arete-like shoulder, connecting Geal-Charn to Carn Dearg. The second Munro didn't look very appealing from this perspective, but I was not in the mood to surrender!
Kevin was lagging behind, spending far too much time photographing the northern cliffs of Geal-Charn, but I can't really blame him. It's not a place we are likely to visit again :wink: and on a good day it would be a sin not to take pictures:
In the corrie at the foot of the northern cliffs (Coire Cheap), sits Loch Coire Cheap, a lovely blue splat in the ocean of green and grey... It may be a small loch but it does not sell itself cheap :wink:
Carn Dearg (left) and Ben Alder (far right), Loch Ericht on the horizon:
As we approached the steeper descent down Aisre Ghobhainn, the full extent of views in the eastern direction was revealed, including the secretive Loch an Sgoir and the Lancet Ridge (the steep cliff to the right):
The path zig-zags down the steep slopes, it's a bit eroded in places but makes for relatively easy going. In wet weather it could be slippery and dangerous, but on a dry day like we had, we kept stopping every 5 min for more photos, as well as loud ahhhs and ohhhs :D
Walking down the "arete":
The ridge to Carn Dearg is wide and requires less than 200m of reascent, so pure pleasure for ridge walkers :D
Looking back to the "arete" of Aisre Ghobhainn and Loch Coire Cheap:
It didn't take us long to traverse to Carn Dearg (there is an obvious path along the ridge). The fresh wind woke up and kept clegs at bay, at least for the time being, so we enjoyed a rare moment: a good summer day on a remote Scottish mountain!
Looking back to Gea-Charn and its fantastic eastern corries from near the summit of Carn Dearg:
The summit cairn is situated at the opposite (eastern) end of the long ridge:
Our future descent route into An Lairig:
At last! Summit of my 234th Munro (77th for Lucy). It felt like a big achievement, maybe because it's not a typical route for this duo. I know most folks prefer the Loch Pattack approach and an overnighting trip to Culra Bothy, but we wanted to do something original. Not that we were the first baggers to walk this way, but it was still a nice thought that we managed something different :D
Kevin on the summit, waving his sunhat as clegs were out again, making our llife a misery :?
Speaking of Culra Bothy, we noticed there were walkers camping by the river. I hoped for their sake that they had plenty of repellent. Clegs seemed to be the worst in the glens, especially close to water sources. Higher on the ridge they were less frequent but still annoying.
Kevin didn't wait for long, he grabbed his camera and went on to record the views :D
Summit panoramas:


Wish we could have spent more time on the summit, enjoying the silence and solitude, but we still had a very long walk back to Moy... 15km roughly :roll:
We dropped down the northern slopes of Carn Dearg, aiming for Dubh Lochan. There is a path marked on 1-25k map but we doubted it really existed. The slopes were mostly grassy, a few scattered boulders. The sun was still merciless and we happily refilled our bottles from Allt Coire Cheap.
The south face of Beinn a'Chlachair from half way down:
Having reached the bottom of the glen, we were surprised to find out that the path does indeed exist! It is actually a faint ATV track. In wet weather it would be a boggy nightmare, but on a dry day it really made walking so much easier.
We took a final rest break by Dubh Lochan, watching the vertical cliffs of Garbh Bhruthach. Last time, we saw an eagle circling the cliffs here, but no luck today.
Dubh Lochan:
Past the loch, the path peters out and the bottom of the glen becomes very peat haggy. In wet conditions this stage would be sheer hell to cross, so I think this whole route is best left for dry times, when it can be enjoyed rather than suffered through :lol:
We crossed Allt Cam earlier on as the terrain was a bit easier on the other side. Once near the stepping stones, we picked the stalkers path again. We still had 9km to go, but we were all smiles :D :D
Looking back at the peat hags, the cliffs of Meall Nathrach and Geal-Charn (left):
The final walk back to the car park was sadly spoiled by another attack of clegs. We returned to the car bitten and bleeding, but still very glad that we used the day to the full!

So we started on a high. This route is an excellent way to approach the Alder outliers from the north and now, with the new path, half the distance can be cycled. We took 11 hours walking it, but on such a nice day we didn't hurry. Now we only have Ben Alder and Beinn Bheoil left to bag in this whole area, most likely we will leave this duo for next year. Maybe a good idea for our final M's? Time will tell.

My next story will take us up some very obscure Grahams - so obscure that they couldn't be more obscure even if they wanted to :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Comments: 9

Everybody was kung-fu fighting

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Beinn a'Bha'ach Ard
Date walked: 24/06/2018
Distance: 17.5km
Ascent: 940m
Views: 151

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Attachment(s) Grahams: Druim Fada (Loch Hourn)
Date walked: 10/06/2018
Distance: 13.7km
Ascent: 868m
Comments: 2
Views: 290

Loch Arkaig wanders part 3: down to the waterline

Attachment(s) Munros: Sgurr Mor (Loch Quoich)
Corbetts: Sgurr an Fhuarain
Date walked: 08/06/2018
Distance: 23km
Ascent: 1419m
Comments: 3
Views: 236

I want to ride my bike

Attachment(s) Grahams: Beinn na Muice
Date walked: 07/06/2018
Distance: 48.2km
Ascent: 1032m
Comments: 2
Views: 295

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Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Heasgarnich, Creag Mhor (Glen Lochay)
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Distance: 27.3km
Ascent: 1408m
Comments: 3
Views: 354

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Attachment(s) Corbetts: Fraoch Bheinn, Sgurr Mhurlagain
Date walked: 05/06/2018
Distance: 16.5km
Ascent: 1228m
Views: 160

Loch Arkaig wanders part 1: Manic Monday

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoigh
Date walked: 04/06/2018
Distance: 14.5km
Ascent: 898m
Comments: 1
Views: 256

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Attachment(s) Corbetts: Beinn Tharsuinn, Sgurr na Feartaig
Date walked: 03/06/2018
Distance: 22.5km
Ascent: 1263m
Comments: 4
Views: 453

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Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Mhanach
Date walked: 28/05/2018
Distance: 25km
Ascent: 898m
Comments: 1
Views: 386


User avatar
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire
Interests: Hillwalking, cycling, jogging, mushroom picking and many other outdoor activities, meowing on mountain summits included :P
Activity: Mountain Walker
Mountain: Beinn Eighe
Place: Isle of Skye
Gear: well... my husband ;)))
Camera: FujiFilm Finepix HS10
Ideal day out: Anything - from beach strolls to scrambling up icy slopes. Just bring it on!
Ambition: Tick off all Munros...

Munros: 242
Corbetts: 147
Grahams: 106
Sub 2000: 35
Long Distance routes: Dava Way    Moray Coastal Trail   

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Last visited: Jul 20, 2018
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