Sunday, September 04, 2011

139. Mount Keen (235). 02/09/2011

After a morning visit to Glamis castle and having said goodbye to the Norwegians (they seemed to have enjoyed their Scotland adventure), we felt we could still manage a short walk whilst the weather was good. The only 'quick' munro in the area was Mount Keen, so we set ourselves up in a B&B in Edzell and drove up Glen Mark to the ruin of Invermark castle where the walk starts. This ruin is curious, because there is no evidence of a way in - it's just an impenetrable tower.

We started along the flat track to 'Victoria's Well', which is a slightly out-of-place stone structure in the shape of a crown where the queen was said to have once had a drink. Then we had a slightly steeper climb to the summit, but all along a path, so it wasn't too taxing. The top was clear of cloud, making it the 11th in a row! We could see the North Sea and also all the hills of our walk in Glenshee. A swift return to the car meant the round trip was only 4 hours, so there was still time for dinner and Hilde was happy about this.

Walking back down Glen Mark, with the peak just visible behind.

137-138. Carn Ealar (148), An Sgarsoch (126). 01/09/2011

The order of the day was for an easier walk on the legs, but to still reach some munros. For this we used some lateral thinking and came to the conclusion that bicycling does not count as walking and one could still have an 'easier walk on the legs' by including a little (well ok, nearly 50km) of this. So this distant pair was chosen at the far southern end of the National Park.

Without bikes this would have been a real effort, but with them, we covered the long miles to Geldie lodge in under 2 hours. That's 10km to the car park and then the 13km we would have had to walk along the landrover track. We passed the impressive Linn of Dee and 'White Bridge', where perhaps there was once a white bridge...? The one there now is brown.

Geldie lodge itself is a ruin, with an airy bothy/shelter still standing against one of the walls. Definitely only a summer bothy! From there the path was pretty good for about 3km towards Carn Ealar before the peat set in. Fortunately it wasn't too wet, but it was still a tiresome trudge for the remainder of the climb. The top felt very remote - with no signs of the footprint of man in any direction. In fact the nearest road was the one we'd just left, some 18km away. Getting between the two peaks was quite easy - there was a nice gentle descent followed by a not-too-strenuous pull up to An Sgarsoch. From both peaks we had a good view of the main Cairngorm massif to the north and were able to make out the point of Carn Toul and round of Macdui. We even reckoned on being able to see Ben Nevis far to the west.

There was a bit of trapsing across heather on the descent, but it wasn't too long before we were back on the path to geldie lodge and then rolling back along the track with the wind behind. A loop of nearly 9 hours, 3.5 of which were cycling. It really would have been long without the bikes.

Carn Ealar from An Sgarsoch.

The main body of Cairngorms to the north, including the distinctive Carn Toul.

The ruins of Geldie Lodge.

131-136. Carn an Tuirc (113), Tolmount (202) Tom Buidhe (204), Cairn of Claise (71), Glas Maol (69), Creag Leacach (159). 30/08/2011

Having successfully rendezvoused with the Norwegian contingent of Harald and Henrik, I began to think of a suitable introduction to Scottish hills. The request had been for gentler slopes, but there was a clear interest in getting to the top of several munros, so we found ourselves in Braemar. The surrounding area has scores of the blighters and the walks are of such a sort that once you've completed the long walk-in and achieved your first top, you may as well make use of the height and continue on to a few more. Nowhere in Scotland is this more efficient than in Glenshee, where for a mere 1100m of ascent one can traverse no fewer than 6 munros.

Parking the car a few km north of the ski centre, we climbed a good (if sometimes wet) path most of the way up Carn an Tuirc. This was fairly easy going and only consisted of about 500m of ascent. From the top, we had to ascertain which of the myriad lumps in the plateau was our next goal. Keeping the gash of Glen Callater to our left, it soon became obvious which was the correct peak for Tolmount and although it was a distance of 4km or something, we covered the grassy ground without much difficulty. We munched flapjacks and contemplated our view of Lochnagar (which was momentarily out of the cloud) to the north. Tom Buidhe ("Tom Booee") was little over a kilometer away and I'm amazed these two are considered seperate munros, so the next leg of the journey only took us half an hour. Perhaps early Munro measurers lacked the precision equipment to distinguish the 1m height difference between these two and so were forced to give Munro status to both.

Still in good weather and good spirits, we paraded across to Cairn of Claise, where we found a stone wall and hundreds of Giant Hill Bunnies - and I do mean hundreds, they were everywhere. We followed the stone wall all the way to Glas Maol, negotiating a squally shower along the way. This was our highpoint and it was only just out of the cloud. It was also the only of the six to be a little spoilt by ski developments, but fortunately they weren't too obvious at the top. Creag Leacach was slightly different in character and slightly removed from the others along what I would almost call a ridge. A bit rockier and pointier than the others, this was probably my favourite, but I gather it is a little less kind on older knees.

After leaving the sixth clear top, the rain began to set in for most of the descent, but it was still definitely a successful walk - about 8hrs for the 25km loop to the ski centre.

Viewing Glas Maol from Cairn of Claise.

Looking back from the southernmost peak in the chain.

129-130. Ben Eighe (Ruadh-stac Mor (120), Spidean Coire nan Clach (150)). 27/08/2011

After taking the sleeper first class (by some administrative oversight) to Inverness and hiring a Qashqai to guide us to Torridon (the Nissan variety - we weren't hiking in the Elburz), we aimed for the Ben Eighe National Nature Reserve and plumped for climbing its namesake.

As you drive through Torridon, the hills tower above you and actually getting onto the ridges can often take quite an effort. For Ben Eighe, it required us to walk all the way round the back of the hill and even this angle meant some fairly steep bits. It did take us through a great corrie though, called Coire Mhic Fhearchair - which we agreed had deserved its reputation of being one of the most beautiful corries in Scotland.

After a steep scree-amble out of the corrie, we were presented with the full extent of the ridge, which stretches well beyond the main tops. It was a short stroll to the left for the first top and then a scrambly ridge walk to the right for the second which afforded great views of the impressive Liathach.

This was followed by a slightly bone-jarring descent straight down the side and then a mile along the road to the car, which had fortunately now been abandoned by the early morning midge.

Looking back along the ridge to the mighty Liathach

Looking forward to the second munro.

The outlying first munro.

Picturesque Coire Mhic Fhearchair.