walkhighlands

Creag Leacach / Glas Maol circuit with uninvited hangers on

Route: Monega Hill and Glas Maol round from Glen Isla

Munros: Creag Leacach, Glas Maol
Corbetts: Monamenach

Date walked: 23/07/2021

Distance: 21km

On a grey January morning in 1998, 15 of us congregated by a bridge in Glen Isla with the purpose of climbing Glas Maol. It was Gerard's idea and he insisted this was the way to approach Glas Maol, rather than the more direct route from Cairnwell. Gerard was a forester in Angus and Perthshire and knew the area well so we trusted him completely.

What I remember about that day was a level track along the River Isla, which then turned into a climb, no navigational difficulties and the lads using their rucksacks as sledges on the snowy slopes once we reached the top.

I climbed all the Glenshee Munros before moving north in 2001 and had no urge to climb them again while there were others I'd not yet climbed. But my pal Moira hadn't done Glenshee and I knew she would like to. When I came across WH's Glas Maol, Creag Leacach circuit including Monamenach, it put the idea into my head of a walk that would give Moira two new Munros and both of us a new Corbett. So the plan was hatched and put on the back burner until a suitable time, which came one day when the forecast was best (MWIS said 90% cloud free summits) in the south east.

We left Inverness at 6.40 and headed south, stopping in Pitlochry to use the public toilets. This took longer than it should as we couldn't immediately find said public toilets and when we did and parked in nearby car park we found they were closed. We then walked to the railway station to find a notice saying nearest public toilets were to be found in Mackays Hotel on Atholl Road. So off we trotted there. All of that delayed us about 20 minutes and by the time we had negotiated single track roads and reached Auchavan in Glen Isla it was 9.30.

I wasn't too dismayed by the mist in the glen as MWIS had said low lying mist would burn off through the morning and from higher up we may get a cloud inversion. We parked on the grass by the river and walked back to turn right along the track signed for Tulchan Lodge.

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After a second cattle grid we took a grassy track to the left that started the climb up the hillside towards Monamenach. We had decided to reverse the WH route because we didn't like the thought of what was described as a brutal climb for tired legs at the end of the round when doing it anti clockwise. I think this was the right decision for us but it made navigation more tricky, trying to follow the WH route description in reverse, particularly as it also turned out to be in poor visibility.

View down to Auchavan
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There wasn't a breath of wind and the midges were relentless. I stopped to reapply Smidge but it didn't make much difference. The worst thing to do was stand still, you just had to keep moving and if anyone had seen me they'd have wondered as I went into windmill action with poles (to create a slight breeze), which only made any difference as long as I kept whirring! There was no view but the track was good and climbing was steady.

Can see nowt but grass n heather
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Just before reaching the bealach between Monamenach and Creagan Caise (not that we could see either) we took a right fork NNW on to a faint hill track that led up to the Corbett summit.

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If it hadn't been for the clag, the humidity and the midges, this would probably be the easiest Corbett I've climbed. The top is said to have great views but we couldn't see a thing and the summit is flat and featureless so there was a lack of the usual top-of-the-hill sense of achievement. On top of that the midges and humidity had made the climb unpleasant and I don't think my pal was much enjoying her first foray into this side of the Glenshee hills!

Monamenach summit cairn
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We had a quick bite to eat but didn't hang about as a plague of flies joined forces with a plague of midges to drive us away. What is it with insects in this neck of the woods? :-x

From Monamenach we knew we had to head NW to Glack of Glengairney, a route involving (at some point) an old fence line. This was initially confusing as there were two fence lines starting from the top of Monamenach and we dithered about which one. We started down one then had second thoughts and crossed to the other. I should have got the compass out but it's so long since we've had to navigate with map and compass I forgot that's what you're meant to do!

Fortunately Moira was on the ball with her GPS in which she'd plotted the route. After 5 minutes walking down the second fence line she could see it was the wrong direction and the first one had been right all along. So we cut back across, and off we went again into the clag - sometimes following a faint path in the lumpy clumpy heather and sometimes not. It wasn't the most satisfying of walks with no decent path and seeing nothing but featureless heathery moor all round and it kind of says something that I got so excited to see a random gate appear, until I realised that doing the route clockwise that was meant to be after Glack of Glengairney and not before it. :roll:

When we did reach Glack of Glengairney it was nothing but an untidy hollow of black peat and slats of wood. Not sure what I was expecting, but it was a bit more than this.

Glack of Glengairney
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After the excitement of Glack of Glengairney we had Black Hill to negotiate, preferably by skirting it to the south. But we were on a rough track which was better than no track and the rough track took us up Black Hill. By staying near the fence the peat hags weren't too bad and the ones we couldn't avoid were dry. After that there was another rise to cross which looked much the same as the last one. But still no views. I was starting to weary of this trudge over featureless moorland opaqueness when something ethereal appeared straight ahead, a shape that went up like a wall ahead of us. In my befuddled mind I thought that was steeper than I thought we'd be going up but, if it was, would be more interesting than this same old not seeing anything plodding. :?

First sighting of Creag Leacach
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Strange curtain of mist
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Misty Glen Brighty
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It was via Glen Brighty I climbed Creag Leacach in November 1999, with a group of Chinese nationals who were concerned about the blood on the track from shot deer hinds whose legs had been severed to make transportation easier. I suspect they thought we Scots a blood thirsty lot to do this for sport, but were too polite to say it. :silent:

With the aid of her GPS Moira kept us in the right direction to connect with the path up the ridge for Creag Leacach. Again I got disproportionately excited about the first cairn we reached and put it down to sensory deprivation in all this opaqueness.

First cairn
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Life became a whole lot easier with a wall as companion. It put me in mind of when I was 11 and a classmate having to act the part of "Wall" in A Midsummer Night's Dream. And after that, when you're 11, it's hard to take Shakespeare all that seriously ever again. :shifty:

Accompanied by wall all the way
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So MWIS had got it wrong. The mist in the glen had not burned off and we didn't get a cloud inversion.

This was on a day and in an area for which MWIS said 90% cloud free Munro summits
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But wait a minute....
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You have to walk through the clag to experience the wonder of blue sky and sun breaking through. Sounds like a parable of life. Fleeting glimpses of sharpness and colour before the smothering return of fuzziness and grey. When I reached the second cairn it didn't look like my vague memory of the Creag Leacach summit but, for all I could see of our surroundings, it could have been. I hunkered down to wait for Moira to arrive but when she appeared she called "I can't be bothered going over there" so I realised this wasn't it after all. Duh again. :crazy:

Second cairn
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When I briefly saw the A93 apparently so close down there I felt like shouting out to Gerard it might not have been so bad to climb these hills by the direct short route, specially on a day when you couldn't see anything! 8)

Break in cloud to give glimpse of A93
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From the second cairn there was still more climbing to be done.

The way ahead
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Brief view north
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I couldn't get too excited when we reached the third cairn. I'd not previously climbed this hill from this direction so didn't know how many false summit cairns there might be strewn along this ridge.

Creag Leacach summit in 1999, when visibility didn't appear to be any better
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Third cairn
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Thankfully it was Creag Leacach's summit (987m)
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A couple who came up from the other direction reached the top a few minutes after us. Being British we had a friendly moan about the cloud level not being what was forecast and the girl said that was probably their fault as they'd prayed it would be like this. I think after the very warm days earlier in the week she meant they'd hoped there'd be some cloud about. Can't believe anyone would pray for clag n murk. :?

The ridge we came up
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The way ahead towards Glas Maol
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They were a very nice couple, heading back to their car parked at the Cairnwell. The guy mentioned the loose gravel on the path going down from the summit and right enough poor Moira had a slip and ended up with a badly grazed arm and bruising from a hard crack to her leg. After a similar slip on Bidean nam Bian, I don't like loose gravel either so we crossed to the other side of the wall where there was more grass to walk on.

Looking back at stony Creag Leacach
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At the bealach between Creag Leacach and Glas Maol we passed a tiny shelter, which could be useful in stormy weather.

Stone shelter with bench inside
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Creag Leacach from Glas Maol
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The ascent of Glas Maol from the bealach was very gentle and it didn't feel like the summit with its large shelter was as high as 1068 metres.

View east from Glas Maol
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Glas Maol summit
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Last stood here in 1998
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I felt slightly euphoric to be here again and with no good reason felt that was us home and dry, when in fact we still had a long way to go to get back to Auchavan in Glen Isla. The euphoria may also have been down to having sunshine and clear views for the first time all day.

Start of the descent towards Little Glas Maol
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Great to have a view at last
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Following the track
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My memory of the previous time on Glas Maol was of following a track and descending a slightly different way to the way we went up. This may be the reason I confidently strode out on a track which wasn't following the line Moira had plotted in her GPS. So we turned back and cut across to the correct track, which took us down gradually then more steeply into Glen Isla, which looked as if the mist had never cleared all day.

Heading south
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Zoomed to Mount Blair
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Descending into the murk of Glen Isla again
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We didn't take the short cut over the burn in the gully but stayed on the grassy track down to the river. In the murky light the walk out felt like a forced march which we just wanted to get over with. A pity as it would be a lovely river walk on the right day. We hoped there would be a path from the track to the parking area without having to go round by the houses, and indeed there was, just after a clump of trees. I'm grateful to Moira for doing the long drive home, safely dodging an idiot driver going too fast round a bend on the single track road between the A93 and Kirkmichael. :-x

The next afternoon Moira found three very tiny implanted ticks in places they had no business going, which were duly removed. So I had a closer look and found two similarly tiny black specks implanted in my leg, also duly removed intact. Apart from an itchy red lump like a bad midge bite on one of mine there were no repercussions. I know from when Peter got Lyme disease from a tick bite that a red bull's eye mark is a sign you need antibiotics, but neither of us got a bull's eye mark. I'm assuming with nymph ticks (which from their size I think these were) there's less risk of infection as it's quite likely if they're newly hatched you will have been their first meal. Horrible creatures but it could have been worse. :thumbdown:

So between being plagued by midges and flies and having bloodsucking ticks as unwanted passengers, I don't think either of us will be rushing back to the Glenshee hills any time soon. It's strange that out of many hundreds of walks in the hills, this is the first time either of us has been zapped by ticks and they got both of us on the same day. Walking through long grass near the top of Monamenach is the place I suspect, so if you plan to go there it might be worth wearing gaiters or tucking trousers into socks. :o

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2021

Trips: 11
Distance: 163.3 km
Munros: 4
Corbetts: 4
Grahams: 1
Sub2000s: 2

2020

Trips: 30
Distance: 434.75 km
Munros: 6
Corbetts: 5
Grahams: 2
Sub2000s: 1

2019

Trips: 24
Distance: 374.45 km
Munros: 10
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1
Sub2000s: 2

2018

Trips: 32
Distance: 457.5 km
Munros: 9
Corbetts: 1
Sub2000s: 2

2017

Trips: 26
Distance: 257.25 km
Munros: 6
Corbetts: 10
Grahams: 4
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 2
Wainwrights 2

2016

Trips: 41
Distance: 350 km
Ascent: 2974m
Munros: 12
Corbetts: 11
Grahams: 3
Sub2000s: 6

2015

Trips: 34
Distance: 255.5 km
Munros: 6
Corbetts: 14
Grahams: 2

2014

Trips: 24
Distance: 171.75 km
Munros: 15
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 1
Sub2000s: 3
Wainwrights 2

2013

Trips: 17
Distance: 24 km
Munros: 11
Corbetts: 3

2012

Trips: 21
Distance: 194 km
Ascent: 4594m
Munros: 13
Corbetts: 4
Grahams: 1

2011

Trips: 16
Distance: 182 km
Ascent: 1385m
Munros: 22
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1

2010

Trips: 11
Distance: 114.5 km
Ascent: 1025m
Munros: 19

2009

Trips: 8
Distance: 89 km
Munros: 12

2008

Trips: 7
Munros: 11

2007

Trips: 2
Munros: 3

2006

Trips: 2
Distance: 18 km
Munros: 4

2005

Trips: 2
Distance: 17 km
Munros: 2

2004

Trips: 1
Munros: 4

2003

Trips: 1
Munros: 1


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