Last Monday was the third time I've been to Invervar for a walk on the hills that lie on the Chesthill Estate. Both previous visits were eight years ago. On the first adventure, I met a couple of other solo walkers just below the summit of Carn Gorm, and the weather conditions - proper vicious whiteout stuff - led us to consult and reach a common decision that it was foolhardy to go any further, and we all turned tail and repaired to the car park as a group. By that time the sun was splitting the trees and the howling wind had completely disappeared, so it was a slightly sheepish bunch that jumped into their respective cars and drove off.
A few weeks later I went back, in unremarkable "showery with tolerably sunny spells" kind of stuff and managed the round of four Munros - four in one go for the first time ever - so I was rather pleased with myself.
Sadly, and thankfully unusually, it was also a wee bit of a relief to get the hills out the way. The estate has (apologies - this link seems to go straight to a download from the Mountaineering Council, and I don't know how to make it optional!) a reputation, gained over a long number of years, for being decidedly hillwalker-resistant, and you can't help - well certainly I couldn't help - letting the tales of access-related woe unsettle you a bit when you're leaving your car for seven hours or more in the middle of someone's land that really doesn't want you to be there.
Plus, I didn't want some unhinged gamekeeper to shoot me.
In all events, although there were some distinctly unwelcoming (and rather misleading) signs around the start of the walk, I neither got confronted nor assassinated, so that was all well and good. Fast forward to the present day, and the thought occurred that warm welcome or not, (a) the round of four would get the Wee Black Dug closer to the imminent 100 Munro landmark without a long distance expedition being necessary; (b) the forecast for the South eastern hills was distinctly better than for anywhere else, and (c) Andy hadn't done them either. ;)
It was a good Easter Monday day out. And I feel it always adds to a jaunt up a hill if there's an element of irony involved. That link to the MCoS survey is only one of many stories on the internet about access issues. Here's another one. My favourite quote from that article is the Chesthill Estate website saying: "The estate is subject to ever increasing access which is affecting our wildlife operations and business. We would ask you to cooperate to mitigate these adverse environmental impacts."
Yeah. Here's what the start of the walk looks like now...
Those pesky environmentally-unfriendly walking boots, eh?
Regardless, and in the interests of balance, we had a jolly good walk. The signs at the start do tend to prod you in the direction of an anti-clockwise round - a prodding we were content enough to go along with, because there were huge yellow diggers rolling up and down the Big New Road - but other than causing our otherwise finely-honed navigational skills to malfunction slightly when (having brought the route description for the clockwise trip) we thought we were at the top of number three a full hill too early, matters largely went according to plan. Our recent good fortune with the weather remains intact.
A couple of other points that we established. Firstly, if you're having that conversation in the car park about whether you should actually take the ice axe that you bothered putting into the car up the hill with you, because it really doesn't look like there's much snow left up there...just do it. Secondly, keep a proper ongoing tally of your dog's Munros, and then you'll realise that she's actually reached the ton on Meall Garbh, and you've omitted to bring champagne or party poppers or anything! ;)
A few pictures...
|"Gaining height rapidly" on Creag Mhor|
|Jorja decides to let Andy go first, in case it's deep|
|Ben Lawers across the road|
|That could go any minute, eh?|
|Happy Hundredth, WBD|
|The onward route...|
|Last pull to Carn Gorm|
|Four - count 'em, four.|
And then it was just the descent. Remember that ice axe conversation?