Sunday, 9 August 2015

Mount Battock

The weather was forecast to be uniformly depressing last weekend, but there was the promise of a rain free window (at least in the earlier part of the day) around the Angus glens. We've done Mount Keen recently - and frequently - so we settled on a rare Corbett foray and headed north east, with a view to wandering up Mount Battock.

Well now.

First things first; the forecast was uncannily accurate. The ascent was accompanied by proper blue sky and sunshine, while the rain was coming doon like stair rods on the way back to the car. All as predicted. Everyone who ventures outdoors in Scotland knows that all four seasons can make their presence felt in a matter of hours, so it wasn't the weather that made the walk memorable. Nor was it the fact that we (well, Andy!) got a decent wildlife spotting tally. What'll stick in the mind is the feeling that although we didn't meet another soul all day, we were walking through a commercial enterprise rather than open countryside. The grouse "season" is about to start of course, so maybe there's a certain atmosphere to places like this in August, but (at risk of sounding deranged) there was a somewhat gloomy aura enveloping proceedings. Should a hillwalk in jolly summer sunshine increase yer tension levels? There's certainly something non-reassuring about plodding along newly bulldozed tracks, watching earth moving machinery on the skyline and counting the number of spent shotgun cartridges littering the place.

It wasn't very welcoming, is what I'm saying. Even if the roads were better maintained than the ones we use every day in Lanarkshire. They haven't been installed in Glen Esk for the benefit of pedestrians, that's for sure. As an aside, how much protection do grouse shooters need? Those stone-built butts are formidable structures. I suspect that even if three or four really angry game birds ganged up together, a chap armed with a shotgun would be safe enough cowering in his wee emplacement.

In all events, the dogs enjoyed themselves. A lot. Make of that what you will, and then have a look at the petition. ;)

As Andy said afterwards, we had some interesting views but...it's not a hill you'd rush back to. We still have photos, though!




Bonnie purple heather


Bonnie purple heather, with added yellow digger

There's roads everywhere!

Oh, and traps. They're everywhere too.

Gun emplacements

Higher quality than the summit shelter, and no mistake. ;)

It's an odd...patchwork, eh?




It was almost a relief to get back onto something approaching a hill path.

Interesting fact - those fences used to be electrified. No, me neither.

Happily, now they're powered down, and the gate's just padlocked shut. Progress.



Still - barriers or not, we bravely made it to the summit. Plus, if you're interested, there's just enough play in that gate that you can lift it up at the other end and let a labrador-sized dug squeeze underneath.







In fairness, it was nice at the top. We saw sun-drenched Aberdeenshire, which isn't a phrase you hear every day. I still think there was a bit of tension in the air though. Unless it was my imagination, even the dugs looked wary of the descent. ;)




Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A' Ghlas-bheinn

I spent a good hour or so last night, preparing a top quality post with hilarious references to Gilbert & Sullivan songs intended to give a flavour of just how wet this hillwalk was last Saturday, and explaining at great length why I hadn't followed through the original plan to go camping. Amongst other highlights, there were clever references to incipient alcoholism amongst middle aged outdoorsy types and heartfelt observations on the unreliability of weather forecasting and the fallout therefrom.

Regrettably, when fine tuning the oeuvre for publication, I pressed the wrong ****ing button and lost it all, so youse are getting some photographs instead.

This hill is adjacent to Beinn Fhada. I mentioned that one a few days back.

In passing, even if I hadn't grassed myself up last time around, and wanted to pretend that I'd done both hills on the same day, Molly's intervening haircut would have rather given the game away. The point being, our story commences from the junction where, on the Fhada walk, you hang a right, away from the main path...





For A' Ghlas-bheinn, the route lies straight ahead, and it's an impressive path that cuts across the hillside, proceeding into a steep sided gorge which eventually leads up to the Bealach na Sgairne.






The fact you can see the notch on the skyline that marks the bealach itself does pull you on a wee bit. Molly still decided to pause and sniff the air just below the cairn that marks the high point though...



...but you soon get there anyway.



It's a bit more substantial than the "sidepath" cairn so it's safe to assume that dog-guide or not you won't wander past the thing and fail to see the start of the hill path on the left that begins to take you upwards. Quite steeply. It skirts some impressively craggy stuff and gives reasonably (if wet and slightly eroded) going, escalating you until the ridge/undulating plateau/endless collection of false summits hoves into view.




As far as I can see, without exception, every report you read about this hill contains lamentations about this false summit scenario. It's hard to disagree; and at least I was favoured with breaks in the weather meaning that I had a vague idea of the lie of the land. I suspect it could be a pretty frustrating day if you had impenetrable clag accompanying your stumbling progress over endless bouldery anti-climaxes. As it were.

On the plus side however, as a gesture of good faith to the vexed hillwalker, the local authority has apparently seen fit to instal one of those fancy infinity pools halfway along the ridge. It certainly serves to break the damp monotony.



Molly approved...



And actually, once you're past that point the views begin to open up properly and there's only about five or six false summits left. Result!






The fact is that you have a properly enjoyable walk from this point on, inclement conditions or not. And as it happened, the constant earlier drizzle, which had admittedly latterly given way to a proper downpour, eased off. I could see where I was in relation to the assumed summit, and it was largely fitting in with my hoped-for timescale. As a huge bonus, there wasn't another soul anywhere on the hill, so I didn't need to pretend to be remotely sociable. I could eat my pieces, take photies of the Big Dug, and enjoy the...isolation.










And actually - on mature reflection - I won't ruin the mood by detailing the torrentially hammering relentless deluge that characterised the walk back down. ;)


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A game of two halves





Last November saw me and Andy head for Victoria Bridge with a view to engaging with a portion of the Black Mount. As far as I know the term/description also encompasses Meall a' Bhuiridh and Creise, which had definitely been a 2014 hillwalking highlight, so it seemed worthwhile to familiarise ourselves with the other end of the collection.

I'd been up Stob Ghabhar and Stob a' Choire Odhair before, as it happens, back in November 2006, and the trip sticks in my memory for two main reasons.

Firstly, the weather was utterly appalling. Torrential rain, and formidable winds. Not quite "knock you on yer erse" speed winds, but the genuine bitingly cold, unpleasantly rain-driving affair that makes walking up Scottish Munros less a hobby than an odd compulsion.

The other thing that was occupying my mind was the wee stretch between the two summits that's called the Aonach Eagach. Now, obviously it's not that Aonach Eagach, but even although all the guidebooks stress that it's really nothing to worry about, one or two of them used the dread terms "narrow" and "exposed". That's enough to get me fixating from the outset, and given that you don't reach the section concerned until you're about two &  half hours from the car it occurred to me it would be a fairly miserable trek back if I felt the need to turn tail. Oddly enough, the rubbish weather actually ended up kind of confirming my resolve when I reached the first summit - it was so bleak and wet that you could hardly see any steep drops even if they were right next to you, and the impressive wind speed was making you hang onto every available bit of rock anyway, so I figured I'd be as well doing it when I was used to moving slowly and carefully.

In truth, it's fine, even for someone with my degree of reluctance to engage with things it's technically possible to fall off. Wide enough, no sheer edges and it's a very short stretch anyway.

To return to the point of the post, what happened in November 2014 was that we decided at the summit of Stob a' Chore Odhair that we'd had quite enough walking for one day so just wandered down from the bealach between the two hills, affirming our intention to return some other day to complete what had been a rather enjoyable walk up good paths in good weather.

The flaw in the plan ultimately proved to be that we waited until the whole area was utterly saturated, following the traditional Scottish July downpours, and had a bit of a hideous bogtrot on the descent from Stob Ghabhar last Saturday.  The reason why we didn't do both hills this time around was an odd combination of lack of awareness of the surroundings; Jorja taking a while to decide to jump across a fast flowing burn resulting in the separation of the two-legged members of the party; me having to rake about in the rucksack to double check the map before shouting on Andy that we'd missed a path; and his new found hill speed meaning he was too far ahead to hear me. Or his tactical deafness meaning that he elected not to hear me, thus avoiding a repeat ascent of Odhair. ;)

Whatever the reasons, the journey up was significantly drier than the return. I admit we kind of went off piste on the descent, but it was something of a strength and morale-sapping hour or so altogether. You certainly get the full gamut of Munro underfoot conditions on Stob Ghabhar - landrover tracks, dampish paths, good hill tracks, steep bouldery sections, loose scree interludes and knee deep sludge-like purgatory.

So, basically, it's all better than being in the hoose.

The photos here are a selection from both days out. If you ignore the slight change in the weather and ground conditions, they'll give you a wee idea of what the whole walk involves. We'd no dugs with us the first time, so even the casual and disinterested observer will eventually notice once the second lot of pictures has kicked in.

The Abhainn Shira, and the view beyond


Clashgour Hut. Hang a right just after this.

The path up was slightly - I emphasise slightly -  less boggy the first time




The stalker's path up the ridge to Stob a' Choire Odhair 

The view towards Stob Ghabhar


Rannoch Moor

Heading down to the bealach

Looking back to Odhair

And again. From the bealach. With added dug.

Onwards and upwards


Corein Lochan


One of the many Aonach Eagachs...



Some views, recently

Looking back down the ridge

Stob Ghabhar, from the end of the ridge

And just to prove we made it...


As an afterthought, I've once again given up competing with the WBD when it comes to new Munros in the last year.

As a final afterthought, on the walkout last November, not only was it rather drier on the feet, but the descent was enlivened by the sight of some hardy souls who had jumped off a Munro a few minutes earlier...






And here was me worried about walking along a ridge.