Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Another Sunday Walk

Last week’s wintry weather caught out a team of AMC Sunday Walkers who arrived in Inverey to find their plans for a bike-assisted bagging trip thwarted by tracks covered in refrozen snow and ice. Bruce, John & Ann instead opted for a walk up the only reachable Munro, Carn Bhac. 
Starting out
The going on the track was predictably slippery but the rest didn’t look too bad, with only a healthy dusting of snow visible. This early confidence was misplaced, as the hillside we ascended was covered in deep deep heather, hiding quite a bit of snow. A bit of a flouter followed, and it felt like a very long time before we reached the thin heather and firmer going of the higher slopes.
A rare bit of easier going on the first ascent

View north into the Cairngorms

After a welcome elevenses we trekked around the ridge from Top of the Battery to Carn Bhac, where we glimpsed in the distance the only other people we were to see all day.
First lunch was a bit rushed in the biting northerly wind and we were soon off west to follow the long undulating ridge that runs north before curving round back to Inverey. 
Approaching Carn Bhac
Despite being into the wind and having areas of breakable crust, this section was very pleasant as by now the sun was getting low and the light was fantastic. All day we seemed to have been under clear skies while all around was cloud. Then the sun set and it got very cold, but before long we were back at the cars after a good recovery from what looked like a doomed day out.
Breaking Crust - Yuk!

Panorama of the Cairngorms

Beinn a Bhuirid just before sunset

Monday, November 18, 2013

Morna's Morven & Mona

Last week's Sunday walk was a bit of an M-fest. Organised by Morna, the objectives were the two Deeside Marylins of Mona Gowan and Morven. We set off from the high point of the Gairnshiel-Corgarff road at over 500 m, which made the first ascent on a landy track quite easy.
Denis in action, Ben Avon behind showing how much snow had gone since the previous week
Enjoying the bright sun that was taking the edge off the sub-zero air temperature we made good progress along the ridge to a well-earned elevenses sheltered behind the huge cairn on Mona Gowan. Here Rod left us and headed back to his car, leaving the rest of us to tackle Morven. 
Mona Gowan (L) and Morven
After admiring the interesting rock features of the Slacks of Glencarvie we were soon on the final ascent of the day. Here Denis decided to pioneer a bold route around the hill and took Morna with him for company, leaving Ann, John & Judith for the summit team. 

Home of the summit logbook

The ascent duly recorded in the summit logbook, we made a rapid descent to the south where we met Morna and Denis, slightly dishevelled after a bout of juniper bashing. All that was left was the pleasant wooded descent back to Denis' van in the FC car park, and some very fine pieces in the Ballater tea shop. A real Sunday walk.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Winter day out with the Madman

Despite being out ceilidh-ing into the wee small hours, Sunday morning saw Rod, Ann John and their old friend Mad Malcs, who was visiting for the weekend, pile out of the car into a freezing wind just north of the Glenshee ski centre. The objective was helping Mad Malcs bag some of his remaining Munros.
Although we had expected a bit of snow we hadn’t expected it to be quite so wintry right down into the glens, with plenty of ice about. This had the upside that the often boggy approach to Carn an Tuirc was frozen and much less messy than normal. We took the direct route straight up the front, which was a bit of a novelty as the rest of us reckoned that we probably hadn’t walked the hill for at least 15 years, although we had skied it at least once a year for that long.
Heading up Carn an Tuirc
 We didn’t hang around long in the biting wind at the summit and trotted off south towards Cairn of Claise. Soon we were off the boulder fields and wishing that we had brought our skis as the reports of it being baseless cosmetic fluff proved incorrect. We could have easily skied most of the day in conditions that, in many winters, would be about as good as it gets.

Cairn of Claise

By the second summit the weather was clearing up nicely and the wind dropping. Stopping for first lunch in a sheltered sun-trap felt more like alpine touring than November walking in Scotland. Then we saw one of the strangest sights we’d seen in the hills for some time – a snow bike for want of a better term. It was like a mountain bike with massively oversized tyres, wide wheels and presumably very low gears. By the look of the trail it left it was going in about twice as deep as skis would and while that was an improvement on walking none of us felt envious – it looked like hard work.
Heading towards Glas Maol
The plod up Glas Maol was just that but by now the weather was stunning and we were enjoying topping up the tans. At the summit there was quite a collection of people. We had been wondering where everyone had got to on such a nice day as we had only seen

three up to then.

After second lunch it was time to split. Rod and Mad Malcs went south for the final Munro of the day, Ann & John headed back north to fetch the car and drive back to collect the others. 
Descending towards Cairnwell

Glas Maol

Glen Clunie and Beinn a Bhurid

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Proper Soaking

Last weekend Ann & John ventured south to the Lake District. The forecast was, optimistically, poor for Saturday with severe gales and heavy, at times torrential rain moving in from the west in the middle of the day. Heeding this we were on the hill by 8, the mighty Marilyn of Blake Fell above Loweswater. Apart from the odd gust it wasn’t very windy, and we even had a brief bit of sun but it wasn’t to last. The cloud thickened very rapidly, the drizzle came on and the wind-chill kicked in earlier than expected.
Towards the Grasmoor group from Blake Fell

After traversing Gavel Fell we dropped down towards Hen Comb, just as things started to get seriously wet. Hen Comb was bypassed in favour of Marilyn number two, Mellbreak. We nearly didn’t bother as by now sheets of rain were marching across the fells and the gusts were nearly knocking us over at only 250m.
Red Pike hiding in the rain

Grasmoor from Mellbreak
It was a choice of going back over the hill or wading through unusually (for the Lakes) tussocky and swampy bog. The hill won and it wasn’t too bad, the wind now being behind us. The rain even eased a bit and we got some views of Grasmoor. The steep, at times scrambly descent, demanded care but soon we were back at the car in the now intermittent sunshine, cursing our timing. 
Decending Mellbreak
Half an hour later though we got a reminder of what torrential rain rally is, making us feel like the early start was worth it after all. This was reinforced by being down in time for Keswick market to stock up on genuine Cumberland sausage. Yum!