Trudge, Drudge and Drench Above Glen Feshie

Route: Leathad an Taobhain and Càrn Dearg Mòr

Corbetts: Càrn Dearg Mòr, Leathad an Taobhain

Date walked: 10/08/2021

Time taken: 8.15 hours

Distance: 34.5km

Ascent: 1190m

There are times when it takes a while to appreciate an experience that has just been endured, when the pain of those “never-again” moments finally recede and the memory of something positive lingers.

This was never going to be an exciting excursion. With guidebook phrases describing a “vast tract of featureless hills,” and the joy of others reportedly diluted by the apparent domination of Land Rover tracks. Striding out to the supposedly remote Corbett of Leathad an Taobhain was always going to be classed as a walk-for-a-walk’s-sake. Throw in a dodgy forecast and it was inevitable that my other-half asked the predictable question “Why?” on my return. I asked it too as I tried to extricate stiffened limbs from the car.

Heading south from the carpark at Auchlean, it was difficult to sense being in a glen: the Cairngorm plateau may have loomed to the immediate east, but to the west the landscape opened towards the Spey and beyond. Ahead, the horizon was simply lost in a wall of cloud.

LaT 01.JPG
Glen Feshie - finally looking promising as the clouds begin to break

South of the cottages at Auchlean, and after getting legs soaked crossing the thick grass while finding the surprisingly ill-defined path to the bridge, the clouds began to break up. Maybe there would be a walk up there after all.

Once on the western side of the river, I couldn’t quite reconcile striding out along tarmac. It seemed incongruous with the profile Glen Feshie has for being such a haven for wildlife, nature and rewilding. At least it makes for steady progress when there are many more miles to be covered, even beyond Glenfeshie Lodge where carefully engineered gravel tracks replace dull non-absorbent tarmac. Just keep on walking and enjoy. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is what it is.

Bearing right at the Two Trees Interchange, the glen narrows as the steep sides close in towards Lochan an t Sluic
Space and views suddenly open on reaching the bealach – and the options: right or left?

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Glen Feshie's Two Trees Interchange - where the route hangs a right ...

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... and things get steeper towards the Lochan an t Sluic ...

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... but with a final view back towards Sgor Gaoith and Carn Ban Mor

Fork left and continue following a track – there are no surprises as the route is scratched on the hillside ahead

Which of the showers have my name on it, if any?

Why would you need to drive to the very top?

Even dropping to the final bealach between Meall an Uillt Chreagaich, and then climbing to the Corbett beyond, you realise that an ATV has most probably formed the path being followed

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The long and winding road - looking back to Carn Dearg Mor

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Leathad an Taobhain from the car park on Meall an Uillt Chreagaich - an uninspiring prospect

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Across to the eastern Feshie hills from Leathad an Taobhain

A pillar, with a single stone leaning against it, marks the top of Leathad an Taobhain – and it’s simply time to turn round and head back the way you came. It’s a place where you need a panoramic view to appreciate it at its best.

By now my feet were hurting. The unforgiving plod was taking its toll on both my legs and my motivation. A nagging doubt nibbled away at the sanity of my original plan to return over the second Corbett, Carn Dearg Mor. I feared it would fall into the category of endured rather then enjoyed: there’d always be another time. So, halfway back to the bealach, I stopped.

Half an hour with boots off and a lingering late lunch can do wonders. Fortified by Jelly Babies as dessert, the slope to the south west shoulder of Carn Dearg Mor was there for the taking, physically and mentally.

LaT 08.JPG
Luxuriously decorated interior design and landscaping for the grouse butts on the slopes to Carn Dearg Mor

The short climb alongside the plantation was instructive. From a distance a series of grouse butts looked like a seam stitched in the hillside and the clear track I’d seen in earlier photographs, as if chalked on the slope, no longer existed. It was only when up-close-and-personal that extensive work on the slope became evident. Every few feet a newly planted saplings sprouted: scots pine, birch and even the occasional oak. And not a deer fence in sight. “Mind where you tread,” I thought. After coping with all the flak for his deer management approach, it would be a shame for Anders Povlsen to lose this precious growth under my clumsy feet.

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Leathad an Taobhain across Tom Reamhar from Carn Dearg Mor

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Another squall and shower approaching Carn Dearg Mor - this one would finally have my name on it

The view from the top of Carn Dearg Mor must be spectacular, and worth the effort of the climb. It was just a shame I didn’t get to enjoy it. By now Glen Feshie itself was wrapped in a sheet of showers and heavy drizzle. The view west was dominated by another sheet quickly heading my way, and the gap between the two was filled with fluffy wisps at about 850m, blocking the sight of anything else.

There was to be no hanging around here either.

However, in contrast to the walking before, what followed was bliss. The descent to Carn Dearg Beag was pure delight. Gently angled, soft and cushioned, it was the most comfortable two kilometres of walking of the whole day.

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A gloriously comfortable descent down to Carn Dearg Beag - the best bit of the day

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Just before the rain hit - looking back up to Carn Dearg Mor

Sadly, dropping to the steep gravelled track leading back into Glen Feshie, brought back life’s realities – and the long-awaited arrival of the rain – and then the tarmac – and then the midges – and then the dilemma when the rain ceased: do I stop to take the waterproofs off and risk getting eaten, or just leave them on?

I decided to leave them on: I’d be getting eaten again when back at the car so there was no point in suffering twice.

And so the day ended. Sweltering in unnecessary waterproofs, pounding another two stretches of tarmac, and wondering when the advancing pangs of cramp would strike as I drove back south.

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Comments: 3

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old danensian

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