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]

Saturday 9 September 2023

Gairbeinn (896m; NN460985), Geal Charn and Corrieyairack Hill

Thursday 7 September
Start Point: Small parking area at road end by Melgarve (which is some 5km beyond the road end as shown on current OS maps, but only around 1.3km beyond the road end shown on my 2011 map)
Distance and ascent: 16.1km, 854m
Weather: Glorious!

Another excellent weather forecast and my final opportunity for a hill on this trip. I opted for Gairbeinn, from Melgarve, to be tackled as a circuit with (yet another) Geal Charn and Corrieyairack Hill. Corrieyairack Hill is shown on the map as being the same height as Gairbeinn, and they used to be listed as a twin Corbetts, but more modern surveying has shown Gairbeinn to be the higher of the two.

For the second time this week, MWIS got the wind forecast wrong. There was a breeze today but not enough to be really noticeable.

Early mist at low level again

My main objective (Gairbeinn) viewed from the Corrieyairack track.

If there’s any sort of a trodden line up the hill from this side, I didn’t find it. The going up to the 600m contour was rough; the going from there to around 850m was rough and steep. The rough, plus the steep, plus the temperature meant I took longer to get to the top than I’d expected, and by the time I got there it was clear that I’d not taken enough water with me. Even so, I opted to continue on to do the full circuit, choosing to enjoy the conditions up high (and get thirsty), even if it would leave me rushing later to fit in the rest of my task list for the day.

Summit selfie

It doesn’t come across on the photo, but the sun was setting off the colours of the hillsides nicely.

Crossing peat hags in the dip to my next objective wasn’t too bad after a dry week; I’ll wager they would have been soupy a week prior.

Not much need for navigation on such a fine day, particularly with two lines of (largely) parallel fence posts marking the way

After ascending on the right hand side of the shot, I’m going to end up at the top of the zigzags, to the right of the pylons, on the left side.

I’d seen a couple of large herds of deer, but didn’t expect to see sheep on the top of Corrieyairack Hill.

Looking up the Corrieyairack track (not the direction I’m going). I’d just joined it and had to race to take this snap before an ATV came past me.

Looking down in my direction of travel

At the top of the zigzags I came across a gaggle of mountain bikers, sweating profusely, sitting at the sides of the track. They’re cycling LEJOG (and certainly not via the easiest route!), one week per year, and were nearly at the end of this year’s final day, with their destination being Fort Augustus.

Looking back up the zigzags. If this snap was a better resolution, you’d be able to zoom in and see the cyclists.

A short while after that photo, I found a peaked cap sitting on the edge of a burn. It’s been a long while since we last found a hat out in the wilds, and even though this one was a bit muddy and had maybe been there a while, I picked it up (as litter, if nothing else; I also came back from this trip with a pair of glasses for the same reason). Later in the day I threw it in the machine with my laundry and it came out good enough to go into our hat collection.

The rest of the trot down the track was entirely straightforward, but by the bottom I was starting to feel like I had climbed into an oven. Once the car’s thermometer settled on the drive back to Newtonmore, it read 27 degrees. No wonder the 1 litre of water I’d taken with me had been inadequate! I consumed another litre between getting back to the car and leaving the glen.


Erica-the-Campervan patiently waiting for me, all on her lonesome

Sgor Gaoith (1118m) Repeat

Tuesday 5 September
Start point: Allt Rhuadh car park, Glen Feshie (approx NH853012)
Distance and ascent: 15.4km, 930m
Weather: Sunny, soon warm, barely any wind on the ascent, and none on the summit.

An intentional repeat this time. Just a couple of weeks previously, on 17 August, I was robbed of the reputedly fantastic views from the top by low cloud, and also omitted to do the lollipop route. I said that I would happily revisit it.

When I saw Tuesday's forecast, I clearly had to go up a hill, and preferably a big one. However, I also had a lack of time, needing to be back in Newtonmore by 11am. Having already been up this one so recently, I knew how long it would take me and that I could fit it in.

I don't recall having ever seen a MWIS forecast as good as this before.
Stepping out the front door at 0640, there was low-level mist visible just up the road, but I knew from the forecast that it would be confined to the glens
4 degrees said the car as I set out. As soon as I entered the mist it dropped to 3 and that’s where it still was when I parked in Glen Feshie.
That’s better! My version of this photo on 17 August had the tops in cloud
The mist really was confined to the lowest spots of the glens
The motorway of a path that I paralleled on my way up last time
The view from the summit is stunning, with the hillside suddenly dropping away to Loch Eanaich below, but the sun wasn’t in the most convenient place for me to capture it (my photographic equipment and skills didn’t help either). I’ve bent it out of shape here in a panoramic shot
Summit selfie, complete with photo-bombing fly. There wasn’t a breath of wind.
Looking north along the ridge gives an idea as to how steeply the ground drops away…
…and looking back to the summit shows that those with vertigo will probably not be keen to stand on the highest point.

I dithered for just a few moments on the summit. Given my lack of time, I’d thought I was going to be forced into another out-and-back, but I’d set out 15 minutes earlier than planned and had been 15 minutes faster ascending than previously, which gave me 30 minutes in hand, so I decided to go for the lollipop. On reflection, I reckon the out-and-back might just have more merit. The lie of the land going over Meall Buidhe and Geal-charn means you don’t get the best of the views, and the ground is so rocky for much of the way that there’s more staring at the ground than the surroundings. Last time I ran back down the way I’d come; this time I picked my way carefully and more slowly. The final bit of the descent was the slowest going, through deep heather and long grass that concealed the holes.

Just a sample of the stony terrain.

Heading down, before it got steep

Even with the slow-going, I got back to the car park comfortably inside my deadline, whereupon I retrieved my missing bun from under the next-but-one car (I’d realised soon after setting off that one of my two buns was missing, but went on without it, not having time to go back. When it wasn’t in the car on my return, I had a little hunt around and found that it must have dropped out of my pocket within three paces of me setting off.). With clouds of midges in the now-busy car park*, I curtailed my stretching efforts and freed up my parking space for someone else. 

(*There was one van in the car park when I arrived, that I would guess had been slept in (misted-up windows), but I didn’t see the occupant. Thanks to my early start, I didn’t see anyone out on the hill until the final 1km back to the car, when I passed three couples and a singleton.)

Cluny Castle to Newtonmore

Sunday 3 September

16.1km, 230m ascent

Mini-post, just for my records.

Mick dropped me off on the A86, just east of Cluny Castle so that I could do a linear route up to Glen Banchor, then along the Glen to Newtonmore (adding on a bit of the Wild Cat Trail at the end, just to make up the distance).

It was lovey!

Heading up from Cluny Castle to Strath an Eilich

Lumps and bumps and lots of them(Looking SW-ish from Strath an Eilich)

Dalnashallac (estate bothy) just before the track meets the River Calder

A narrow trodden line ran along Glen Banchor, but not following the line of the old RoW shown on the map

The fords (x3) were all benign on this day. The only place I got wet feet was in a bog, maybe 200m long, at 7km through the route.

Ummm, maybe I won’t go that way! (This is part of the old route of the wildcat trail that I’ve followed before; I suspect it was rerouted because of the fallen trees)