The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 15 May 2015

Ord Ban, Carn Ealasaid, Geallaig Hill and Meall Alvie

1) Ord Ban

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It was third time lucky on this tiny pimple that sits beside Loch an Eilein. On the last visit I abandoned before even setting foot on the hill, due to very strong winds (and the fact that reaching the top of this hill requires a walk through ancient woodland, with the attendant danger of falling limbs). On the visit before I think it was snow (or more precisely ‘I’m not sure I can be bothered in this snow’) that caused it to be dropped from a circuit of the loch.

Today it was very straightforward. Once I’d heaved myself over the excuse-for-a-stile over the deer fence, a trodden line (mainly following the line of a very-long-abandoned trackway) took me all the way to the top. It’s surprising that it’s only a thin (and at times relatively feint) trodden line, considering how popular Loch an Eilein is, and how good a viewpoint this little hill provides. I’ll bet that given a sign from the car park and a couple of way-markers, it’d be heaving with people on a fine summer’s day.

As it went, I was up and back in 40 minutes, returning to the car park just before 8am, and saw not a single person (although there was a car in the car park when I arrived and a different one when I left).

(1.2 miles, 550’)

2) Carn Ealasaid

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According to the Cicerone guide to the Corbetts, there is nothing to recommend the route that I took up this hill, which was from The Lecht Ski Centre. I would beg to differ. I’ve certainly had far duller walks up hills (take yesterday’s for example).

Up a track past the infrastructure of ski lifts and slopes I went to reach Beinn a’ Chruinnich where a big flock of gulls escorted me, whirling around overhead, for a good ten minutes. From there I was off-piste, with excellent views, making my way down to the col and through peat hags before picking up a path which led to my objective.

The cairngorms looked fine under skies which were beginning to brighten (I’d been promised clear skies again today, but they took quite a while to materialise where I was), and I thought of Mick, who was on his way up Ben MacDui.

The gulls escorted me again on the way back, yet somehow I completed my outing without getting ‘splatted’.

(4.3 miles, 1100’)

3) Geallaig Hill

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Both this hill and the one above were late additions to my plan, both getting added a few minutes before bed-time last night, when I was looking at the map thinking I hadn’t got enough hills to keep me entertained today. The unknown about this one was whether there would be anywhere to park, so when I happened across a pull-in a few hundred yards before the track I wanted to take, I took advantage. Lunch was had there, then I wandered off down the road to my track, whereupon I found a much bigger and more off-road parking area, so back I went to move Colin.

Faffing complete, off I set for a walk that didn’t look interesting on the map, due to the number of tracks in this area, including the one which would take me the whole way to the summit. The difference between this outing and yesterday’s, however, was that today’s track wasn’t lorry-loads of aggregate dumped and rollered, creating a track which stands out as a scar on the landscape. This was an old one, where two rough, rocky lines make their way through heather. It was far more pleasant to walk; moreover, there was barely a cloud left in the sky now, and the views up the River Gairn were particularly enticing, along with Lochnagar in the other direction.

Oddly, the trig point on this summit is fully enclosed within a substantial stone shelter, but it’s easy enough to clamber over.

My favourite hill of the day, was this one.

(4.2 miles, 1200’)

4) Meall Alvie

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The car park by the foot print is Pay & Display. I opted to park for free in a road-side pull-in.

Three easy hills had set my expectations for this little one to be the height of simplicity, even though it sits completely covered in forest. Alas, the presence of a walkers’ car park at its foot, and various way-marked walks nearby, doesn’t seem to cause many people visit the top of this pimple. I can see why, really. It’s a bit of a bash through heather at times, and there’s not great reward when you get to the top, with the trees robbing it of views. On the plus side, the forest isn’t a commercial plantation, so at least forest-bashing wasn’t an issue.

Approaching the top (gasping for a drink, which I’d realised, about a third of the way up, was still in Colin) I paused for a moment to check my note to find if there was any feature marking the highest point. “Small cairn by a tree” was the answer I got, which seemed of scant help given that I was surrounded by trees. For once my instinct was right and I found it almost immediately. Then I legged it back down with my mind on a nice drink of squash. By now it wasn’t just a clear-skied day, but a warm one too.

(3.9 miles, 900’)

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