Sunday, August 23, 2009

Loch Ericht to Loch Laggan: Beinn a' Chlachair (56), Geal Charn (81) and Creag Pitridh (264)

Walk date: 09/08/09
My Munro #'s: 188, 189 and 190

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Byn a' claachar - stonemason's hill - 1087m
Gyal chaarn - white hill - 1049m
Craig peetrie - Petrie's hill - 924m

Duration - 11:00 - 16:45
Distance - 26.1km
Total ascent - 1346m
Weather - warm and windy with rain at end of day
Team - solo
Other hikers: 3

This hike was actually prompted by a friend wanting something to do while his girlfriend hosted a 'Pampered Chef' party, but after I planned it, he baulked at the 3 hour drive each way, 26km, 3 Munro description and so I ended up going alone! That at least allowed for louder music and an easier time of putting the bike, singular, into the car!

This hike was my first foray into this remote group of hills and I didn't know what to expect. Although this northern trio was more accessible than the rest it was still going to be a long day, hence my putting the bike in. My route book however hadn't suggested it so I was worried that the track would be no good, but it turned out to be excellent, with a lighter incline than the Beinn Dearg day so it served to cover distance well going uphill as well as down.

After at least 4km I reached the end of the bikable stretch at the head of Lochan na h-Earba, hid the bike in a grassy ditch and set about climbing. The going was good along the footpath but the book had suggested leaving it and heading to Beinn a' Chlachair up along the eastern flank of its impressive northern corrie. I duly did this but the going was slow and hot, there was no path and the going was pretty steep. I spent quite a while on this incline cursing the fact that I've been too busy recently to keep up the running.

Once up on the back of this huge hill the way was easier but the rocky nature of the crest meant that it still wasn't simple. Although the views south into the Alder group proper were spectacular, I didn't stay too long on the summit as I knew the day was going to be long and besides, the walking down along the crest would be restful in itself.

My book suggested dropping down to the northside rather than go south on the actual path and then have to fully round the hill to move onward to Geal Charn. I obeyed and it likely was a lot quicker but the freestyle route down diagonally across the contours was pretty tiring. I kept looking for evidence that someone else had taken this option but the only sign I found was a thin trail once I was already down, and I couldn't really tell how long it went on for.

Geal Charn was up next and so I left the path which seemed to just be heading for Lochan na h-Earba and made a direct line for the rocky crop of a summit. The going here was much easier than Beinn a' Chlachair, but when I came to descend I took the line between this and Creag Pitridh and immediately came across a path which went all the way down to the path I'd abandoned, ach well!

After the first two hills, Creag Pitridh being the 264th out of 284 Munros by height came so quick that it took me by surprise. I took in some last striking views of Beinn a' Chlachair and the deeper Alder hills and started my descent, ending again in a triumphant blast on my bike back to the car, the only downside being that a brief spell of rain at this stage turned the car park into a total midge-swarm, and I just couldn't get out of their way quick enough. Otherwise, everything was spot on!

South from the track toward seriously remote hills:

Beinn a' Chlachair and its northern corrie:

Lochan na h-Earba looking good in the morning sun:

Looking northwest as the path starts to climb:

Geal charn from the side of Beinn a' Chlachair:

And likewise over to Creag Pitridh:

Looking across the corrie to Beinn a' Chlachair's summit:

North-west from the summit:

South to the deeper Alder group:

Looking back to Beinn a' Chlachair from Geal Charn:

The pointy summit of Geal chairn:

From Creag Pitridh down to Lochan na h'Earba:

Here comes some serious rain:

The rain on from Beinn a' Chlachair as I got to the bike:

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