It was not a Monday or a Bank Holiday, so we figured it would be quieter in the hills yesterday. Slight miscalculation perhaps. Even the slightly dodgy weather didn’t stop everyman and his dog heading for the hills today! But this one was for David’s list, not mine. He needs to document twenty ‘quality’ walks for a personal project he’s working on, so I’m tagging along because I can!
Off we set, south towards the Cairngorms and then slightly west to the car park near Auchlean. At 10.20 am we set off at a good pace along a short stretch of road and then headed up the path towards Carn Ban Mor.
When we last came this way, it took nearly three hours to get to the 3370 ft point. This time, the regular walking, food diary and less alcohol has obviously paid off as we were a good hour quicker. We’d started in fair weather, although the cloud base was quite low and we’d hoped this would clear before we reached the top. At roughly 2320 ft, it began to get breezy. Very breezy. David estimated 40-50 mph gusts, but I just know it was trying to blow me over! The next 1000 ft were hard work, staying upright was decidedly tricky as we were buffeted about and I began to dread the rest of the walk, thinking we must be mad and possibly even putting ourselves in danger. But then, so was everyman and his dog!
We played hare and tortoise with a group of four chaps, one of whom was really struggling and we worried that he was left behind his group alone. They stopped and waited from time to time, but then he didn’t get a rest as he caught up and they moved on again. It struck me as perhaps not good practice. As we entered the cloud base (still being buffeted) they realised they were beginning to lose sight of him more quickly, but the track eventually levelled off and we hoped they’d be able to stay together better as they struck north-ish and we struck south-ish. We’d been passed by two couples, the second with a dog and the first couple obviously hadn’t gone beyond Carn Ban Mor as they soon loomed out of the murk ahead on their way back down.
As we continued the wind dropped significantly although we were still in the clouds and our walk across Moine Mhor felt vast, remote and barren. Soon, a figure appeared in the cloud ahead and a lone walker with huge pack passed with a cheery wave on his way in the opposite direction. We were quite confident even in the poor visibility, but regularly stopped to check with map and compass, cross-referenced with the Geko. A huge cairn marked a Landover track which we took and followed to a small ford. Here, we met another chap, map in hand, who asked if the path to Carn Ban Mor was easy to spot. He knew exactly where he was and just wanted reassurance which was understandable in the conditions. After the ford, we stopped for lunch, I was quite peckish by now and tucked into peanut butter sandwiches and hot chocolate,
On we went, soon to meet a group of eight or nine men with the two at the front probably leaders from Glenmore as they wore matching jackets and they were all well equipped. Soon after, we met the couple with the dog on their way back, we couldn’t be far now.
At a significant junction, we found a couple of gentlemen consulting their map and GPS. They were in there late 60s, early 70s and we struck up conversation as we were all headed for the same high point. Off we went together into the gloom. A short while later, a cairn marked the vague path to the cairn of my second Munro, Mullach Clach a Bhlair. Yey!
We took photographs of each and then we had a gear faff while the gentlemen (I didn’t get their names ‘cos I’m a numpty, but one was originally from Leicestershire but has lived in Fife for several decades now) struck off using GPS to make their way back to the track off path. We stuck with the path (although David tried to take the wrong one, I wouldn’t let him!) and soon returned to the main track and made our way down off the hill. It’s a good path down, not rocky or rutted, but quite a gradient all the way and this gave mine and David’s knees some gip, which is an unusual complaint for either of us. The gentlemen, however, didn’t seem to be having the same problem. We had seen them just ahead of us on the path, but they were soon way ahead as we had a photograph stop and we were never in any danger of catching them up!
I was so relieved to get to level ground, I was in quite some pain and had to resort to paracetamol as we needed to get back home at a reasonable time. To add insult to injury, we soon came to a ford at Allt Garbhlach, which I had been expecting, but hadn’t twigged it would be quite so substantial! David waited whilst I paced the bank, trying to find somewhere I was happy to cross, but admitted defeat and he helped me across, despite my whinging and tears. (I have this planned on my Challenge route. I’m going to have to do some serious thinking…).
On we went towards Achleum and then the farm at Auchlean. Another ford! But it was David who misjudged it and got wet feet. The path is slightly rerouted from what we had been expecting, but we were soon on the road back to the car park. Once on level ground, my pain had lessened greatly and I was so pleased my feet weren’t remotely sore. It was the first time I’d worn my Foothills socks on a longer, more rugged walk with no zinc oxide tape and the socks were marvellous!
3046 ft ascent
3054 ft descent
2.5 mph average
5 hrs 49 mins moving
1 hr 43 mins stopped
Actually, I felt quite a sense of achievement after this walk, the practice using a map and compass work and ford crossing (hate this, must practice more!) was good and I got the high that others claim to have after running. I've never had that after running, it tends to be more of a relief that it's over, which I don't think counts.
PS. I did notice the above discrepancy, but it amused me.
PS. I did notice the above discrepancy, but it amused me.