Sunday, May 04, 2008

Laggan and the Monadh Liath: Geal charn (260)

Walk date: 04/05/08
My Munro #'s: 143

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Gyal kaarn - white hill - 926m

Duration - 11:00 - 15:00
Distance - 12.8 km
Total ascent - 868m
Weather - Cloudy but warm. A southern wind meant that even with the buffeting we experienced at altitude this was a warm day's hike. Some light rain came and went a couple of times and the summit was in cloud, but for long stretches of the descent we had some beautiful light on the hills.
Team - with Sonia.
Other hikers: about 10.

After seeing many a good weekend pass by without any hiking content, it was great to get some extra work I'd been doing finished and free up my free time again for some hill action. The target was a simple single hill with 'only' 2.5 hours driving each way, which would see me have visited all of the Munros in the Laggan and Monadh Liath region.

After passing Laggan, the road gets thinner and thinner until eventually you have to open and close a gate at Garva Bridge to allow your progress to the best 'car park'. From there a farm lane is followed over another bridge with a raging torrent under it and the left fork taken at the trees. Here though it is tempting to carry on along the nice farm track but a look at the map reveals this veers off route quickly, and the path such as it is wetly follows the river up until the Allt Coire nan Dearcag tributory is met.

Rather than meet it and follow it up, we cut off the corner and then took one of the many opportunities to cross over later on. However, higher up we found a path that follows the south western back of Geal charn and it could be that this also exists lower down and offers good progress. In any case, the ascent offers no real challenges and is easily achieved whether you're following the path or free-styling it. The only trouble with the hill is the distance to the summit once the incline levels off; it is much further than you would imagine if, like for us, the cloud drops down. In such conditions careful navigation is required especially as the actual summit is barely higher than the surrounding terrain. Thankfully, the cairn is huge and you definitely know when you've reached it!

Our return differed slightly in that we followed the path down the south western back as far as the rocky outcrops visible on the map and then, in order to avoid the wet lower ground, kept to a steady contour until the forest under Meall an Domhnaich. This was a very pleasant descent but a word of warning should accompany it as we later discovered a tick on Sonia and I reckon it was picked up while crossing the rough heather here. See the new tick links for important information with respect to removing them and looking out for symptoms of the serious conditions you can develop as a result. Ticks are most common April-October but can occur outside these dates so please be careful.

Despite the biting, it was a great day out. It felt so great to be on the hills again. Our day wasn't over however, as we had a date with the Cadenhead's Whisky Shop tasting event as part of the Speyside Festival in Dufftown on the return. Turning up exactly on time, the kindly Sonia had to sit through 30 whisky obsessives including me being taken expertly through five tastings from the Cadenhead's independent bottling range. These were Allt-A-Bhainne (Speyside, 14yrs, 56.2%, £43, my score 8/10), Imperial (Speyside, 29yrs, 54.7%, £106.5, my score 7/10), Auchentoshan (Lowland, 17yrs, 59.2%, £47.7, my score 6/10), Ben Nevis (Highland, 16yrs, 46%, £37.3, my score 5/10) and Ardbeg (Islay, 14yrs, 46%, £36.3, my score 11/10). It was fantastic and I have a feeling that this won't be my last festival attendance!

The rest of the Laggan range keeping its snow:

Making a start, target in the centre:

Great views back down the valley:

A lot of heather to cross as we start to climb:

Great views to the north-west:

Sonia and I pull away from the pack:

The cloud coming in:

Lunch over, let's get to the whisky!

That south-western back complete with path!

Coire Gorm (NW) looking wild:

Looking back up Geal charn:

That wild tick-land:


Is this my demographic? Will this be my gut in 10 years?

Yes, it's definitely whisky!

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