David found himself on a weeks adventure training at Grantown on Spey this week, so rather than return south with ‘The Boys’ on Friday morning, I drove down to collect him en route to another big hill, this time Carn Dearg, 945m on the edge of the Monadhliath.
The weather was promising at the start of the day, but as we made our way to Newtonmore it became more cloudy. It was still warm however, so I didn’t need to don a jacket until we reached the cairn and it only rained towards the end of the walk. We were a little later setting off than I would have liked, due to my own lack of planning, but we soon found ourselves parked in the same place as we had last year when we tackled the children’s first Munro, A Chailleach.
There were midgies as we faffed by the car, so whilst we were faffing, Smidge was applied. This seemed quite effective, there were still midgies, but not so much nibbling.
Off we set.
This time we left the car park and crossed the bridge over the Allt a Chaorainn, then before the bridge at Glenballoch, we took the path heading north westish, following the Allt Fionndrigh. This is not a bad path and we made good progress until we stopped for lunch after crossing the river by an unmarked bridge. One of those interesting types.
There is a large rock, just off centre on the above photograph, where we perched for lunch. We watched an eagle soaring above Creag na h-lolare opposite.
I knew once we set off again that the path would soon disappear, which it did, and we then had to navigate some ‘rough ground’ along Gleann Ballach to the foot of Carn Ban. It involved a bit of bog trotting. Quite a bit, but if we hadn’t had such a prolonged dry spell at the beginning of spring, I think it would have been worse. (Or maybe, having the crossed the bogs that I did in May, it didn’t seem so bad!) We squelched our way along for a while before we started the climb towards Carn Dearg. Somewhere in the middle of this bogginess, I found a lizard. We also started to see quite a few frogs.
There doesn’t appear to have been a photograph of me taken at the cairn, it was chilly and breezy when we got there, so we only paused briefly for me to don my Paramo and then we were off again, descending the southern side of Carn Dearg in search of a path. As we paused, I was a merlin chasing a small bird. Wow! David missed it.
We headed for Loch Dubh, en route to which there was a lot of discussion as to the best way. Some bits were steeper than I’d expected, even though I’d acknowledged the closeness of the contours.
We bashed on and found one or two vague paths that took us to the head of the loch, but the hut or bothy marked on my map did not appear. Not in itself a concern, but I’d hoped it would help us locate the path we were looking for. No path materialised. This meant we struggled on for what seemed like an eternity, following the Allt an Lochain Duibh along Gleann Lochain. It was hard going, we occasionally found a vague path that would then peter out and this continued well into Glen Banchor and along the River Calder. It started to rain as we made our way along the river, but I tried to think of it as trying out my Paramo! (I liked that I didn’t feel as hot wearing it as I had on the Challenge in my Dynamo and Quattro, but I accepted at the time, I was over-wrapped!)
Eventually, after I’d started to stumble and fall a couple of times, we got to something like a reasonable track before we found ourselves crossing the bridge at Glenballoch house and heading back towards the car park.
I had enjoyed the first part of our walk and even the climb to the summit. Getting to the head of Loch Dubh was ok, but after stumbling along the rough ground for a while, my patience was wearing thin. However, even I noticed some remarkable advances in my attitude to walking. Just a few years ago, I found going ‘off piste’ quite disturbing. Being an Englishwoman, it felt decidedly wrong to stray from a path and I would be worried we were doing something wrong or unacceptable. Yesterday it didn’t even occur to me, I didn’t feel remotely misplaced or disturbed by it. My approach to fording is vastly improved. I might still prefer to find my own route across rather than following David, which is quite normal for anyone, but I will then cross with much more confidence and with barely a second thought. Much less time wasting!
Roughly 18.6 km 767 m 3 kmph
(About 12 km across rough ground and bog)
(Very roughly, still not good with metric, but I’m trying!)