Great walk but horrible drive home from Beinn Iutharn Mhor

Route: Beinn Iutharn Mhor and Carn Bhac, Inverey

Munros: Beinn Iutharn Mhor

Date walked: 23/06/2018

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 30km

Our original plan was to head west but forecast was better east so I suggested a return to Glen Ey for my last unclimbed Munro east of the A9 (apart from the two in the middle of nowhere), Beinn Iutharn Mhor. My companions for the day were grandson Jonny who is happy to do anything and Ian who was keen to pick off Carn a' Gheoidh over towards Cairnwell. It would be fair to say Glen Ey would not be the usual approach for Carn a' Gheoidh but Ian is not averse to long distances or unusual approaches, so it was a deal. I decided not to bring Callie out of deference to ground nesting birds.

The early morning drive via Cock Bridge was beautiful, with the ever changing views of the Cairngorm range, Ben Avon's tors and an abundance of rabbits on the road to keep us entertained. We had an unfulfilled toilet stop at Braemar (toilets not open) and parked at Inverey. The plan was to start the walk all together then at the right pyschological moment Ian would change gear and speed off ahead in search of CaG while we continued at a normal person's speed towards BIM.

I told my grandson about the community Ey burn split and this being the last place in the east to speak Gaelic. Then we talked about the outlawed colonel, saw the sign for his bed but managed to resist going down to have a look. Well we did have a long way to go.

At some point before the next bridge Ian felt the urge to speed up and was soon a dot on the track ahead. On tracks where bikes are commonly used this man does not need a bike!

Spot Ian on the track ahead

River Ey

Looking back at what we'd aleady done and still raring to go

Target hill now in view

We weren't bothered by insects as the wind was strong enough to deter even the clegs, which have been such a menace this summer.

Water surface whipped up in breeze

It was good to be back, walking the same track as three years earlier to climb Carn Bhac with Moira, and I was surprised by how familiar it felt, even down to the rocks left by glaciation as we approached the lodge. That time we had seen a white tailed eagle between the lodge and Carn Bhac but this time nothing more than lapwings and oyster catchers on the level stretches by the river.

Erratics approaching Altanour Lodge

There had been changes to the lodge since I was last there. Now it was fenced off, albeit with a stile which Jonny climbed to have a closer look.

Remains of former shooting lodge

It had been a while since we left home so we stopped here for a second breakfast, before starting the next stage of the journey - new ground for me, heading for BIM.

Beinn Iutharn Mhor (on right) is Gaelic for "the big hill mountain"

For part of the way we followed the burn

WH said there was a zig zag path, which we looked for as we approached the north east shoulder, but couldn't agree as to whether it was to the right of the craggy bit or to the left. So in the interests of research Jonny took the left and I took the right side. It was steep both sides and neither of us found any path, meeting up again on the ridge.

Steep ascent

Rehydration point while looking across to Carn Bhac

Looking back to Altanour Lodge

Then followed the most enjoyable part of the route, along the ridge to the summit. We met a man with two small terriers on leads who said this was his third attempt on reaching the summit and this time he was determined to make it. We walked together for a bit but then he got talking to someone else, after which we never saw him again, which was strange as we went straight to the summit before retracing our steps along the ridge to where we left him and he was nowhere to be seen.

Heading along ridge to summit

Beinn Iutharn Mhor summit (1045m)

When we reached the summit I asked Jonny if he understood why folk do this and he said "Oh yes, I totally get it and I love it" which was so good to hear from a 15 year old.


Notch on skyline is the Lairig Ghru

Ridge looking northeast from summit

The guy with the terriers had said (before he vanished) that there was a zig zag path off the ridge but it was a bit round the corner from where I'd gone up. So my idea was to make for that on the way down. But that didn't quite go to plan. My excuse is that Jonny was telling me a very long joke which had me so absorbed I wasn't fully concentrating on the fact we started our descent down the side of the ridge too soon. At first it was fine. Easy walking on grassy slopes of a comfortable gradient. But then the slope steepened to not so comfortable and at the point we should probably have climbed back up. Jonny said later he was glad I didn't make us do that but our descent was briefly very steep and after my shoulder and ribs injury on Binnein Mor I wasn't keen to do any more damage! It wasn't the most elegant descent but we got to less steep ground from where we made for the burn that I knew would take us back to the lodge where we had arranged to meet Ian.

Our descent route from ridge

Allt an Stuic Ghiubhais

Interesting rocks

To allow for all eventualities I had suggested 4.00 as an approximate time to meet at the lodge. As it worked out we reached the lodge at exactly 4.00 but Ian had reached it at 3.00 before walking back a bit to meet us.

Reunited with Ian

Back at the lodge

Knowing we had another 5 miles walking on a hard surface I suggested we stop at the bridge and dip our feet in the water. It's worth the hassle of taking off boots and socks for the bliss of steeping swollen feet in cold water and I find makes them more comfortable for the rest of the journey.

Cooling hot feet

Banana for energy

Still 5 miles to get back to the car

The return along the glen went fine, although Jonny was noticeably less chatty than he'd been and I figured he was tired. But then he had walked close to 20 miles and I'd never walked that distance at his age! He perked up when I said we'd stop for fish suppers at the Hungry Highlander - which we did, although had to wait about 20 minutes as it was so busy.

It was while we were waiting I felt my eyes jabbing and when I checked in the car mirror they were badly bloodshot. It must have been the pollen. I'm mainly allergic to grass pollen and Glen Ey and its surrounding hills are covered with grass. It had been warm and sunny - optimum conditions for a high pollen count and despite daily antihistamine I was having the worst allergic reaction I've ever had in the way it affected my eyes.

I put eye drops in which gave momentary relief but had to stop twice more on the journey home to reapply. My eyes felt like hot needles jabbing and tears were streaming down my face, but as the only driver all I could was keep driving. The strong sun was low in the north west and even with the sun shield down and sun glasses on there were times I had to hold my hand up to see the road ahead. To add to this misery I kept seeing squashed rabbits on the road and the image I still see in my head is of the weasel hit by a car coming the other way, looping about in its death throes.

Eventually we reached the A9 but even then the sun was a problem. I was very relieved to complete that journey and get my passengers safely home! Apart from that it had been a fabulous day.

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