Monday, October 29, 2007


I have decided to start up a specific music blog and blog all such related items there rather than here. Hopefully, it won't just be me but will be a community including some music appreciating luminaries that I fortunate enough to know. It all starts here.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Laggan and the Monadh Liath: A' Chailleach (251), Carn Sgulain (271) and Carn Dearg (225)

Walk date: 22/10/07
My Munro #'s: 136, 137 and 138

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
A kaalyach - red hill - 930m
Kaarn skoolin - the old woman - 920m
Kaarn jerrack - hill of the basket or of the old man - 945m

Duration - 09:15 - 16:55
Distance - 24.5 km
Total ascent - 838m
Weather - Still, but overcast in morning. Cloud came in on Carn Sgulain and stayed almost to Carn Dearg with strong cold wind and some rain. Came fine during descent.
Team - with Steve W.
Other hikers: none

A long route round, but a nice short-cut at the end:

Well, my book had certainly got this weekend's two walks the wrong way round! Yesterday's was supposed to take at least 8 hours and today's as low as 6, but the only way this latter could happen is with a pair of trainers and a lot most fitness than me and my compadré Steve W had, especially given the liberal wine and whisky at the big meal on the Saturday night! That being the case, we only set off today a little after 9am; no pre-dawn hiking today.

No matter though, the carpark was much nearer to Newtonmore and good progress was soon being made up a good wide track. A small cairn marks a subtle departure from this track leading to a crossing of Allt a' Chaorainn. It's here that the bog for which these hills are well known first becomes evident. It did impede our progress today, even given how dry it had been lately. Definitely one to avoid if it's been wet.

After the crossing, the path can become indistinct, but keep on a heading through the shielings and then past the "bothy" which in reality is a rusty shed with a table in it and not a welcoming place to spend the night! All this takes you to the main plateau and then a brief further climb of 150m or so to the summit cairn of A' Chailleach is all that's required. We heard many a randy deer on this section, but fortunately weren't challenged!

Autumn just seems to suit Munros:

A quick geology lesson from Steve, some folding rock:

Fixer-upper? That impressive bothy:

The summit of A' Chailleach:

A good corrie is found on A' Chailleach's eastern edge:

After A' Chailleach, a good path starts off north toward Carn Sgulain but soon runs out. We then dipped north-west to more gentle slopes and made a free-style route over some wide bog and onto the broad rocky back of the Munro. Interestingly we headed for the second cairn and lunched there as it appeared the uppermost, but my map places the first cairn as the higher! It's academic as we had a good stomp over both.

The 'second cairn' of Carn Sgulain:

It was whilst sat on Carn Sgulain that the thickening clouds finally dropped down and with then came some cold wind and light but stinging rain. In very low visibility then we pressed on along the path that religiously follows the fence-line marked on the map. The walking was mostly good and fast but included in each dip was a wide and challenging bog (and remember this was the dry version!). At one point a gallant attempt by myself lead me to having one leg stuck up to the knee, it taking me three attempts to pull clear!

There had been a rough plan to meet our friend Dennis on the one-time Munro Carn Ballach, however after waiting 15 minutes to no avail (and with very good visibility at that point), we pressed onward to Carn Dearg, by far the best hill of the day. Dennis, it later turned out, had turned back expecting no views due to the enclosing weather).

Carn Dearg was a welcomed relief after the day's walking thus far. Not only was the weather improving, but Carn Dearg is no gentle mound. Instead sharp characterful crags curve high over Gleann Ballach giving wonderful views and a satisfying summit to take in. This would be the only one of these three hills I would be up for repeating.

Carn Dearg from Carn Ballach:

Just simply superb views over Gleann Balloch:

The only issue regarding Carn Dearg is getting off it. The lower slopes and Gleann Lochain having no distinct route as such, although I feel we did very well on this day and would recommend our track (in red in the map).

Instead of dropping off the western side of Carn Macoul as my book suggested, Steve suggested we head east as it was certainly shorter, and then to our surprise we found a path heading off to the east in the bottom of the rut at Carn Macould's base. This soon runs out, but we headed for a square patch of grass on the opposite side of Allt Ballach, treading over Ruigh Gleann Ballach. This allowed us to cross the river easily where it was still young.

Then, instead of heading to the farmstead and following the river further, we followed what was initially a very hard to follow path which flanked the base of Glac nan Gamhna. The path firmed-up however, and indeed kept strong after a fence where the map marks it as stopping. This quickly takes you to the abandoned Glenballoch farmstead where a good bridge takes you over Allt Fionndrigh and onto an even better path that hands you the carpark on a silver-platter! A good healthy stomp that makes the end of this long day just that little bit better.

Gleann Ballach once the work had been done:

L-R, Steve, Carn Macoul and Carn Dearg:

Those randy deer making a run for it:

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Laggan and the Monadh Liath: Carn Liath (127), Stob Poite Coire Ardair (76) and Creag Meagaidh (30)

Walk date: 21/10/07
My Munro #'s: 133, 134 and 135

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Kaarn Leea - grey hill - 1006m
Stop potya kor aardar - peak of the pot of the high corrie - 1054m
Crayk meggie - bogland rock - 1128/1130m

Duration - 08:15 - 14:05
Distance - 19.8 km
Total ascent - 1143m
Weather - Beautiful morning; still with broken cloud. Cloud down for a while on tops and with moderate blustery wind, but followed by sunny and still afternoon.
Team - solo
Other hikers: 3 or more from (really) afar

A pretty easy route, but I'd try a different descent:

This was a very satisfying day out and was the first part of an intensive hiking weekend. As Sonia and her club were off to Newtonmore for a First Aid weekend, I thought I could go along and just head out to the hills. As a result of such a nearby stay then, it came to be that I could set off hiking pre-sunrise; I turned the GPS on and it was still in its night-mode!

The path starting out from the Aberarder carpark is well sign-posted to get you clear of the farm area. Soon you are rising into the glen alongside Allt Coire Ardair. However, if you are going for Carn Liath first as was I, watch out for a very subtle path branching off just before the trees start to litter the side of the main route. It's a little boggy at first but becomes better as it climbs (and keep rising as there are further branches that seem to head along if not down). The increase in rocks towards the summit of Carn Liath means the path becomes indistinct, but there's no real worry here and the top is soon reached (~1 and a half hours out for me).

The morning sky was just amazing:

Not a photoshop effect! Decent light I guess:

First sight of the head of the glen and 'the window':

Loch Laggan sitting pretty:

Carn Liath's flat top and its welcomed cairn:

After an amazing climb in stunning autumnal colours and wonderful still morning air, it was only fair that the cloud came in and the wind got up. In this state then I quickly moved on along the broad ridge encircling the fantastic glen below. Only an unexpected drop and rise at Min Choire broke up the quick progress to Stob Poite Coire Ardair, which is merely the crest of this gentle northern-side ridge.

That drop and rise at Min Coire, head right:

Grand and easy walking to Stob Poite Coire Ardair:

The shallow crest of Stob Poite Coire Ardair:

I had read that the drop and rise of the window at the end of the glen which separated Stob Poite Coire Ardair and Creag Meagaidh was quite severe but it's not really. The height lost isn't severe and there are rewarding views of Carn Dearg and Lochan Uaine to the west. Just get on with it!

Once back on the top, a western turn is necessary to reach Creag Meagaidh and its prominent cairn. It's a good 1km away so expect 15mins or so if visibility is limited. My recommended descent is then to return to the window and take the good path down the glen. I took the alternative of completing the circling of the glen along the ridge and descending over broad grass and heather slopes. The views along this route were great, but the going was a lot slower than I'd imagined as the work underfoot was quite tiring. No matter, eventually I found a wooden post marking a Landrover track and then a bridge back over Allt Coire Ardair and right along to the farm. A superb walk.

The window from its head, not all that:

Carn Dearg from the back of Creag Meagaidh:

The summit of Creag Meagaidh had been visited recently!

Heading to Sron a' Ghoire:

An Cearcallach and Coire nan Laogh:

An Cearcallach looking good:

Lochan a' Choire a long way down:

And the panoramic version:

The abominable hiker strikes again:

Finally dropping some height towards Laggan:

Allt Coire Ardair suiting autumn:

That 'Monarch of the Glen' castle on Laggan:

And its gate-house isn't bad either:

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Drumochter Hills: Meall Chuaich (214)

Walk date: 06/10/07
My Munro #'s: 132

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Myowl chooeech - hill of the quaich - 951m

Duration - 13:30-18:30
Distance - 15.5km
Weather - Muggy. Cloud at 750m on ascent, down to 500m on descent. Cold wind on top. Light to moderate rain on return along flat.
Team - with Sonia
Other hikers: 5

A simple route; head east, then some west...

This was the first Munro for quite a while, so it was nice to get into it again with a simple one. Especially seeing as this was the day after my birthday dinner out (at the recommended Creel Inn)! Indeed, we only set off from Aberdeen at 10:00, and even had a brunch of coffee and cake at the very reasonable and tasty Boogie-Woogie in Keith. Really, it was more a day-out that happened to include a Munro.

All these diversions meant we only set off from our little exposed layby on the A9 at 13:30, but progress was quickly made alone a private road heading for a Scottish Hydro Electric dam and then Loch Cuaich. Past a bothy the path rises gently but firmly north-east up heather-clad slopes first taking on Stac Meall Chuaich before heading due east for the summit. The soft start of the path and its progression to rock reminded me a little of Schiehallion, except that this path was quite boggy in places which was something Schiehallion's constructed path avoided.

Sonia leads the way towards (R) lonely Meall Chuaich:

A' Mharconaich and Creag Liath to the south:

And from the dam area:

Now that's a pipeline, plus A' Mharconaich:

Our target coming into focus, Meall Chuaich:

Sonia keeping an eye on the route as we start to rise:

A great landscape, complete with Sonia:

As soon as we take my picture, the weather turns...

Unlike Schiehallion, however, the rock returns to grass again as it flattens out on top. So much so that within cloud like today it wasn't straightforward to find the cairn. It lies on what was once a fence so if you see some metal posts stay on that line (one way or the other!).

Upon return, I just tried to take us along our previous steps by following them exactly on the GPS. Unfortunately, this did allow us to veer very slight off-route. Once I noticed this I corrected us but failed to tell Sonia, and so noticing that we were no longer heading our normal heading Sonia challenged me, to which I had a firm manly strop. Ach well, we got over it. Thank goodness there were no other hikers around to stop and ask!

Pea-soup anyone? Wonderful views on top:

Thank goodness for a cairn, the unpointy summit:

Is that it? Sonia inspects the cairn:

At least our deviation from route took in nice plantlife:

Our descent stayed in cloud right down to 500m, and leaving it only lead to a good burst of rain. However, once on the flat again we soon stomped over the remaining 4km. With our drive home including a stop at The Highlander Inn, Craigellachie for dinner and a taste of the wonderful juniper-influced Mackmyra Swedish whisky, this was a grand day out.

Interesting struts on the aqueduct:

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