14TH DECEMBER 2015 Corrennie Moor
This was our last walk in 2015 and, poor Catherine, the second running which had to be changed. Up until our November walk, we didn't seem to have fared badly with alterations to the programme, but last month the forecast was very uninviting for Tap o' Noth and we had a good walk over Hill of Fare before the rain set in well and truly. This month it wasn't rain but the snow which came last night which decided Catherine to change the walk to Corrennie Moor. This venue was chosen partly because it was just off a main road, and partly because the ensuing Christmas meal was at Alford Bistro and we didn't want to let them down.
The last time the Club was in this area, funnily enough, the weather was also inclement and the car park for the forest walks was really like a skating rink. This time it wasn't so icy but there was still a fair amount of snow underfoot. So we ploughed our way along the track towards Corrennie Moor. We met a number of dog walkers, obviously a popular location for this pursuit, but Leo ignored his fellow canines and continued to enjoy the snow.
After a false turn which took us to a field of cars, we soon reached the point where the steep path goes left off the track and up to the Moor. Here we stopped for our only break as we pondered the path above us. Eventually the party decided to split with half ascending the path and the rest enjoying a leisurely walk back the way we came to the cars, shortly followed by the "climbers" who had enjoyed building a snowman and finding a slightly easier way down.
Bill and Della had a good sighting of a red kite on the drive to the car park and a robin appeared to wish us a merry Christmas when we arrived back at the cars. The trees looked lovely with their coating of snow but the weather was very misty and there were no views from the highest point reached.
6TH DECEMBER 2015 Lion's Face
A slightly depleted band of walkers left Braemar at about 9.45. The temperature here was forecast to be -2 degrees but it certainly didn't seem to be that cold to us so we were soon feeling a trifle warm. On our way out of the village, June spotted a red squirrel but that was the only notable creature we saw. We headed for the forest round Creag Choinnich, where we passed the decorated Christmas tree for which, despite the Secretary's exhortations, we had no extra baubles but we nevertheless stopped to admire it. We turned left off this track and stopped again to take in the view from the Cromlins of a flooded Dee valley. Indeed the route of our walk was a great deal wetter and muddier than we had experienced on the recce.
We continued to the Lion's Face, the youngest member of our group pointing out the lion which some of us had never seen before and we took our first and only break at the highest point on the track where we enjoyed a view of Cullardoch and the tors of Ben Avon covered with snow; some of us were even fortunate enough to enjoy the luxury of a bench. After our refreshment, we continued along the Queen's Drive to the beallach where we turned right and took the steep path up to the summit of Creag Choinnich. By this time, a shower was obliterating Ben Avon, but we still enjoyed looking down on Braemar and out across the valley to the surrounding snowy hills.
From the summit, we took the broad path down to the crossroads we had reached on our way up, but this time we turned in the opposite direction back along the valley and up a short steep slope to the Queen's Drive again. The small burns running under the track were noticeably full of water as we made our way to the Glenshee road which we crossed. The track then continues around the golf course and over the bridge crossing a very turbulent Clunie Water, to the golf course road back into Braemar and the Invercauld Arms where we enjoyed an excellent meal.
We were most fortunate with the weather, just literally a spot or two of rain and a flake or two of snow and lots of sunshine. I'm just glad we weren't any higher, where the winds sounded fierce and the temperature was forecast to be a staggering -20! Our thanks to June for leading the merry band who all agreed that this had been an excellent choice of Sunday Christmas walk.
23RD NOVEMBER 2015 Hill of Fare
Many and varied as Catherine's gifts undoubtedly are, she obviously didn't do sufficient obeisance to the Weather God, because, after not a bad weekend at all, the forecast for today was pretty grim. It was therefore agreed that, instead of the planned walk up Tap o' Noth, we would make use of that old war horse the Hill of Fare which has so many paths and tracks that one is spoilt for choice.
We therefore met up on the road to south of Echt and east of the Hill of Fare "massif", going straight into the woods and turning due north and parallel to the road at first so we skirted the higher ground. Well, so far no rain! From this track we turn off to the left, climbing gradually along the Landerberry Burn, until we reached open moorland. We then followed the track which runs along the edge of the wood, stopping when we reached a junction, for a bite to eat because there was rain in the air by that time.
We followed a track slightly upwards before descending past the old ruin into the forest. Here we were expecting a very rutted forest track but to our surprise, it was much improved and therefore we sped along here, eventually turning up a path which took us to the track to Meikle Tap (359m) our hill of the day. We didn't dawdle on the summit; by this time it was raining purposefully, so we slithered down the awful path into the forest and back along the track through the woods to the car.
Although we didn't go very far and we did get quite wet, we felt that we had had a good varied walk and climbed a hill. Thanks to the drivers and to Catherine for returning us to familiar territory where it's always good to walk. There are likely to be no pictures from this walk because of the inclement weather conditions.
1ST NOVEMBER 2015 Carn Leac Saighdeir
Has a November day ever been better for a walk in the hills? Probably, but it truly could not have been much better weather for the 17 walkers that set off at 10am from Corgarff Castle on Sunday - not a cloud in the sky, a bit breezy in the car park, a portent of the wind that we would find on the hill tops, and the clearest, sharpest views you could imagine. And this walk is all about the views, as it is gentle hillwalking (hill strolling?) along well defined tracks with spectacular scenery looking down Donside and across the Grampians to the Cairngorms.
As usual, the first step is generally the most tricky but we quickly found the right track just off the A939 heading just about due south and up towards Carn Mor - we did not climb the hill, but passed it on our lefton our way to Carn Meadhonach. A quick stop here for a snack whilst looking down Donside then onwards and upwards to the highest point of our walk, Carn Leac Seighdeir, where we had splendid 360 degree views of the whole of the world (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you will get my drift). The mountain spotters were quick to find Lochnagar, Morven and Ben Avon, all looking magnificent in the autumn sunshine. It was here that we paid our respects to our old friend and former Club Secretary Barry Hood. His wife Janet had asked for some of his ashes to be scattered in the hills he loved so much, and the wind certainly helped Barry's last visit to the mountains to be wild and furious! A great friend and colleague, he was remembered with great fondness and missed by all.
From there it was downhill all the way, but the great scenery still had more to add as we hit the Old Military Road and crossed two 'Wade' bridges - now I use inverted commas so that someone can advise us exactly who built them for General Wade as he drove his roads through Scotland. We had our final stop on one of the bridges, basking in the sunshine and absorbing the magnificent autumn colours on the trees and mountains. We were back at the car park by 3.15pm, perfectly timed as the sun was just starting to drop - by the time we had finished a well earned cuppa and fine piece at Goodbrands we were roamin' in the gloamin' to find our way home. A great, easy, walk on a delightful day.
19TH OCTOBER 2015 Hill of Glansie
The first challenge was to find Glen Lethnot - a secret Angus glen hidden behind the Caterthuns with their iron Age forts, but we managed it, thanks to a certain web-based maps site...and leaving the cars at the oddly expansive parking at the end of the public road, we set off past the farm of Waterhead. The track took us very steeply up Hill of Berran and then began its traverse of the bowl of hills that feed the Burn of Glansie.
Quite soon we were interested to see muirburn being set off in strips on the hillside, the smoke rising in the still air. After the usual coffee stop in a newly equipped bothy (clean tables! clean benches!) we soared over the highest hill of the round, Ruragh at 736, on newly laid track which kindly obviated any need for careful navigating through rough heather and bog, and, of course, sped us on our way to Glansie very nicely.
Here, some of us tackled the electric fence to pat its trig point, then we reunited to leave the hard track and take to gentle ruts. We realised the muirburn was taking place in every direction, the smoke rising and now being blown by the wind to form fledging clouds that gradually obscured the sky - I'm sure James could tell us what type they belonged to! We admired birds of prey across the moor, deciding possibly hen harriers, from their flight pattern, but too far away to pick out features. And we were pleased to see evidence of mountain hares in many places en route - so not all exterminated by any means.
Over Birse Shades and Mount Sned (wonderful Angus names) to finally descend the old slanting way down to Waterhead and the end of a gentle but very satisfactory day out.
4TH OCTOBER 2015 Carn na Drochaide
As ever, weather was uppermost in our minds. All the previous week, the question was "will that High which blessed us with its presence over the Blair Atholl weekend 2 weeks ago remain until Sunday after this long Indian summer?" And the answer was a resounding "yes" in the end, although we watched the clouds gradually come over and knew MWIS had warned that the wind speed would pick up on Sunday night.
13 of us met in the layby before the Quoich Bridge and set off over the bridge, enjoying the gentle stroll along the valley road to Allanmore under a clear blue sky. After an initial comfort break at Braemar where it was quite chilly (there had been a frost this morning), the sun beat down on us and we were already shedding clothes before we turned left off the path and began the climb up to Creag a' Chleirich (650m), taking our first break just before the summit. From here we enjoyed a good view, but this paled into insignificance by the time we took our second break on the summit of Carn na Drochaide (818m). We seemed to lose an irritating amount of height between the 2 but were amply rewarded after our second climb of the day, as we made our way over the ridge to our lunch on the Corbett summit.
Here we were treated to a truly spectacular view from Beinn a' Bhuird and its solitary tor and huge corrie beside its tor-strewn neighbour Ben Avon, Beinn Bhreac, Beinn a' Chaorainn, through equally tor-strewn Beinn Mheadhoin to Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui, Braeriach, Cairntoul, Beinn Bhrotain across to the outliers, An Sgarsoch and Carn an Fhidhleir with many more mountains the other side of the Dee and, in the distance, Ben a' Ghlo peeping over them, not to mention Lochnagar to the south east. With a view like this, we had to have our second stop, although it was a little colder here.
Our descent took us on over the subsidiary lump of Carn na Criche (737m) but after this the path was clearer as we headed for the track and the valley of the Quoich. We left the track eventually to enjoy the view from the footbridge of the Punch Bowl at Linn of Quoich (so similar in rock formation to its neighbour the Linn of Dee) and from there the path through sunlight-dappled woods took us quickly back to the main Quoich bridge and the cars. The only wildlife of note were 4 deer on the hillside of Carn na Drochaide and a large bird of prey in the Dee valley. One unusual sighting of a wildflower was a ragwort plant nearly at the top of the hill, very high up for this flower.
28TH SEPTEMBER 2015 Clachan Yell
Culter Hillwalking Club's September Monday walk was delayed a week due to the very successful long weekend in Blair Atholl. Eleven members and Leo the dog made it to Dinnet for the start of a 26km walk into Glen Tanar by way of Clachan Yell. After the disappointment, for those that took the effort, of the 3 a.m. "red eclipse of a supermoon" the group set off in windless sunny weather with a bit of an autumnal morning nip in the air. After crossing to the south side of the River Dee we entered the western extremities of the Birse oak woods. The path westward was in fact the very old route of the main road south of the Dee, but long forgotten and overgrown with mature trees and seasonal bracken. Forging our way through the first few hundred metres of this undergrowth we must have disturbed a wasp nest, and four walkers, plus Leo became victims to the stings of these angry pests. Within five minutes, inflammation of the stings and Leo's uncharacteristic lack of interest in walking, and panting for breath, forced a quick return to the cars and a dash to the chemist and vet in Aboyne.
A depleted group of eight went on with the route oscillating between heath, bog and birch forest, the boundary zone between the verdant sheep pastures of agricultural Deeside, and the open moorland and hills, still with a hint of heathery purple. The sky was a hazy blue, and the air was breathless, not a hint of wind. A landrover track was located at Greystone Farm and this immediately led into the open with the hint of a breeze to minimise the risk of midges, so a welcome nourishment break was called. The track gained altitude slowly up to the brief levels of Black Moss, and then up further to the watershed from where we then dropped down to Etnach in Glen Tanar. We left the heather on the hills behind us temporarily and did some short-cut reed bashing though very wet ground before finally crossing the Tanar and reaching the main track up the glen.
This was another good point for more refreshments followed by a quick 1km jaunt up to "Rumbling Brig". Here we left the ease of the track to forge cross country following the line uphill of a former deer fence, recently removed by Join Muir Trust volunteers working with the Glen Tanar rangers. The semblance of a path was found making the uphill a little easier, before it ended abruptly on a different landrover track on the southern flanks of a small hill called Red Craig. Here we crossed another watershed into the catchment of the Water of Gairney. Descent soon turned to ascent as we branched off track to head for our goal of the day, the summit of Clachan Yell, not a Munro, not a Corbett, and thus no well-worn "baggers" track, instead a gradual climb though the browning sedges and reeds of this wet wilderness.
The summit of Clachan Yell (626m) - just over 2000 feet in old money - was reached, a strategic point to admire the views and take in more food and drink. Surprisingly at this altitude the wind was fresh, in both speed and temperature, but the summit tors offered adequate shelter whilst giving views to distant hills, Bennachie, Ben MacDui and the closer, familiar Lochnagar.
Descent was heather bashing with the result that we disturbed a number of grouse, until we reached the same track that we had left earlier, which then entered old scots pine forest and a return to windless conditions. But thankfully the midges were not out and we enjoyed the continuous downhill to the river and the main track down the glen to Glen Tanar House. From the back of the estate's Home Farm, well walked by the club on numerous occasions we forged a new route northward marked as a path on the map, taking us through pasture and forest. Back in the Dee valley we stopped briefly to read one of William Cunliffe Brooks' inscribed stones, promoting the value of drinking fresh water rather than alcohol. It read Drink, Think, Thank, but so overgrown was the water supply that we were unable to take his advice. Instead we did admire the neighbouring impressive granite stoneworks of the twin farms and barns of Newton and Netherton that Cunliffe Brooks must have had built, as we walked down, signposted by another engraved granite stone, the "Wicebe Way". (the logic of this acronym of William Cunliffe Brookes is lost on the writer).
A short distance further and we were back crossing over the Dee at Dinnet and admiring the early evening light up and down the valley before reaching the parked cars. By then we had received by text reassuring news of the recovery of walkers and Leo from their encounter with the wasps, 26km back on the walk,.
18TH-20TH SEPTEMBER 2015 Blair Atholl
This was our final weekend away in 2015 and I'm relieved to report that it didn't follow the disappointing weather pattern of the previous 2 weekends but was almost perfect. The aim of the weekend for those who wished it was to polish off a few Munros in the Blair Atholl area and this was successfully accomplished.
On the Friday, those who were able to do so met at the Old Bridge of Tilt car park and, roadworks notwithstanding, finally left at 10.30, making their way through sunlight-dappled woods on the west side of the glen, past the hydro station on the Tilt, past fields of sheep disturbed by buggies shattering the peace of the countryside, to come out on to open land. The Jubilee Shooting area was thankfully quiet that morning, otherwise you might not be reading this report. After the forest, the way continued to dip up and down, sometimes next to the river (near to Gilbert's Bridge for example) and sometimes looking down on it. The only fly in the ointment (wait for this joke, it's excruciating) was the clouds of midges which disturbed our stop near a small bridge, causing this stop to be curtailed before we made our way down to Marble Lodge.
At Clachghlas, 4 members of the party took the track out of the glen while 2 others continued past Forest Lodge to take the stalkers path up to Carn a' Chlamain. Having stopped at the "elbow" where the track turns to follow the ridge upwards, the 4 continued on the track almost to the summit, branching off at the large cairn off track to the top where they enjoyed the broad sweeping views. Of particular note here must be the views of the Ben a' Ghlo mountains on the other side of the Tilt (our goal for the next day) and the mass of many high Cairngorms. The other 2 reached the top not long after. Their downward route was on the track now, and then they walked along the east side of the Tilt. The 4 reversed their upward journey, apart from a steep path down towards Balaneasie to cut off a corner. This was a long walk, usually done by cycling, but much enjoyed nevertheless. 2 late arrivals of the group, enjoyed a 12 mile walk up Glen Tilt as far as the elbow.
Saturday dawned with the same glorious weather so a group of 9 of us left the cars where the road ends north east of Loch Moraig and followed the track until 7 of them peeled off to head for Carn Liath. Of these 7, 2 climbed Carn Liath and Braighe Coire Chruinn-bhalgain (affectionately known to the group as BCCB), and the other 5 continued to complete Ben a' Ghlo with Carn nan Gabhar. What of the remaining 2? Both had already done CL and BCCB, so only needed CNG to complete the 3 and they continued along the track, up the muddy glen to the bealach and from there to the final summit where they later met the 5. Everyone took the same way down from the col, amazingly meeting together back at the cars at the same time. Another perfect day, mission accomplished under generally sunny skies with excellent views, although the wind on top was a little chilly.
Sadly Sunday wasn't quite as good but we weren't really grumbling. After our efforts of the previous days, we didn't fancy a huge walk (like Beinn Dearg which was a possible option) so we plumped for Schiehallion which was new to 3 of the group. The day was overcast and the summit ridge drifted in and out of cloud but the top was reached from the tourist route (in need of a little manicuring in places please John Muir!). There were even more people here than the previous day (we saw very few on the Friday) and many had dogs with them, a cause of some surprise considering the nature of the terrain before the summit. Despite this, ptarmigan were spotted on two occasions and a raven soared high above us. But no other wild life of note.
6TH SEPTEMBER 2015 Finalty Hill
We assembled bright and early this month - the 7.30am start not universally popular, but the blue sky was great compensation. The quiet roads made for a swift drive, and the walk started as planned at 9.30am from Auchavan at the head of Glen Isla. After a stream of expensive 4x4s roared past us, the glen was left utterly peaceful, the skies still a beautiful blue above, and the valley sides smooth and green. A straightforward track took us to Tulchan Lodge, which exhibited many signs of investment - we guessed a small hydroelectric scheme was being built above the Lodge, and they had certainly invested in lots of shiny new signs to direct walkers away from the buildings.
An older track took us up Spying Hillock, with views ever increasing west towards Creag Leacach and east towards the remote and empty Caenlochan and Canness Glens. Finally the ascent came to an end as we reached a modern track that ran NE to the flat summit of Finalty Hill. After a stop for some lunch, we continued on towards Dun Hillock, and turned right to cross the high moorland on a track in part extremely new and pink. This led us to the Munro Mayar, usually climbed from Glen Doll, but irresistibly close at hand here - so up went the entire party for the sheer satisfaction of even better views! Now we could see the Fife Lomond hills, the Ben Lawers group, Vorlich & Stuc a' Croin, Beinn a Ghlo (where we go in 2 weeks time), Schiehallion of course - and then the Cairngorms and the Lochnagar hills, and off up to Bennachie and as far east as Mount Battock. Amazing - especially if you were there the other month when we were almost blown off the top of the same hill...
However, we had to say goodbye to the wide horizons, and continued on above the corries forming the far ends of Glen Prosen, over Bawhelps and finally, as hot as we've been this year, walking out past the house at Dalhally and back to the cars for a refreshing drink at the Glenisla hotel. A superb day out - decent weather at long last.
24TH AUGUST 2015 Burnt Hill
Why do I always start with the weather? Well, weather is crucial to a decision on whether (woops, sorry about that) to go walking, how far to go and where to go. Today, we were supposed to be going over Wolf Craig but the weather seemed really and truly dreich on Deeside, with very low mist and rain, sometimes heavy, forecast for the whole of the day, so Catherine made the choice of Burnt Hill instead (last climbed by the Club in April, 2012), a shorter and slightly lower walk. In the end, the mist lifted, we had views of Mount Keen and Lochnagar for example and never really got wet. We also had a super view of our intended hill in the sunshine. So was the decision a sensible one? Actually, it was. When we arrived in Glen Esk, we found the rivers very high indeed, full of peat, and we all thought that the river crossing on our intended walk would probably have proved impossible.
We left the cars in the car park at the end of Glen Esk with mist swathing the surrounding hills and the river roaring angrily to our left. Continuing on our journey along the side of Loch Lee, we stopped at the end for our first break because it was a relatively midge-free zone with a bit of wind, there had been a touch of blue sky above us and the mist was rising. This was the cue for the rain to come, but fortunately its visit was brief, and we crossed the foaming river at the top of Loch Lee to toil up by the side of the burn hurtling down the Shank of Inchgrundle (couldn't resist including that wonderful name) before turning off to make our way up to the summit of Burnt Hill (663m). Our second break was taken just below the summit where, again, there was some breeze to deter the little terrors and after which, we had a good view of a snipe.
The walk along the ridge was most enjoyable with some good views and from the trig point at its end, we continued down the track to Gleneffock farm. A fox was seen on our descent as were 2 large horses and guinea fowl at the farm, along with a very prettily marked hen. Sadly, there was not a hare to be seen, unlike last time when they were very much in evidence. Turning left, we walked along the metalled road parallel to the river before crossing over the bridge, the last stage of our journey being on the road to the car park. But this wasn't quite the end of the story, as half of us went along to the rickety bridge and safely crossed there and back, despite the raging torrent below us.
2ND AUGUST 2015 Glen Esk to Glen Clova
August 2nd was the date of Culter Hillwalking Club's Sunday walk and a bus was a definite necessity for the planned Glen Esk to Glen Clova A to B challenge. A short walk was also planned in Glen Clova/Doll but with only two members interested, they decided to join the longer walk group. Thus it was twelve members and two guests who set off in glorious sunshine on the easy walk from the end-of-road car park at Glen Esk, quickly passing the 16th century remains of Invermark Castle, the gable ends and graveyard of Kirkton and then walking along Loch Lee. The hills were dotted with the bright purple, fully flowering bell heather (Erica cinerea), taking on a more extensive purple haze from the carpets of budding common ling heather (colluna vulgaris). Across the loch the sun illuminated the couple of buildings behind which rises the ridge interestingly named the Shank of Inchgrundle. It is from the buildings of Inchgrundle that the marked right of way rises (but not up the Shanks) and which we would later be joining to descend into Glen Clova.
But our route continued gently beyond the loch up the Waters of Lee to its junction with the Waters of Unich. Here, a sloping slab of granite warmed by the morning sun, was a good spot for a refreshment break and a relaxing view back down the loch. The falls of Unich beckoned with a good volume of water shining brightly in contrast to the rampart of glacially gouged crags that defended the summit of Hunt Hill on our right. We followed the well walked, but sometimes steep path up the glen and it was here, at noon, that the first spots of rain fell from the patchy but dark clouds that had been rolling over the hills from the south. But by the time we reached the falls of Damff the sun had returned, though to the north, Mount Keen's summit was capped by the base of some low stratocumulus. At the falls, we used the footbridge to cross the burn, which according to the map is named the Burn of Slidderies at its upper reaches, and we headed off-path to meet up with one of its tributaries. Crossing this around 1.15pm there was a majority vote for lunch as the sun was still with us. We knew that the weather forecast for the afternoon was not favourable.
After lunch, we followed the tributary on a gentle incline with comfortable grass or short heather underfoot, and then took more of a beeline for the ridge to our south atop of which we joined on to the official right of way path, marked by frequent but small and often overgrown piles of stones (sometimes only one or two stones). A right of way it might be, but it appears to be infrequently walked these days. On the ridge we were exposed to the correctly forecast increasing south-easterly winds, thickening cloud, and definite rain, not a few drops this time - annoying wet rain. In the descending gloom, visibility was becoming decidedly dodgy and no-one found enthusiasm for branching out to the featureless flat top of Muckle Cairn (which on the reconnaissance had afforded fine views of Lochnagar). We followed a recently constructed electrified deer fence as a known and good navigational marker, arriving at the decision-making point of whether to take a slight detour up to the Corbett of the Goet/Ben Tirran, or cut our dampening losses and make the direct route off the top to the dryness of the Glen Clova Hotel. No-one was really interested in bagging Corbetts so we took the Hotel route, keeping to the right of way, still fortuitously marked by the frequent but often overgrown piles of stones (if two stones constitute a "pile"). We had to pay attention to keeping our fourteen walkers within visual range at all times and succeeded in all arriving together at Green Hill (870m), significant only for a large cairn at the very junction for our Hotel-ward path. A compass-taken bearing south put us on the rather faded route that would take us down the eastern flanks of Loch Brandy, and as it developed into a more worn path, it skirted around the outflow of the Loch. Here at 650 metres we came out of the base of the cloud, which hung 20 metres over the surface of the water - atmospheric for sure.
It was a straight run (not literally) 2km down to the Clova Hotel. At these lower levels the rain had stopped (or was evaporating before it reached our heads) and we could at last gain a view of the green, verdant pastures of Glen Clova as we headed downstream. A change out of boots and into the always welcoming Glen Clova Hotel for a quick refreshment. Consensus was of 21km walked amongst typical Angus Glens scenery and typical Angus Glens weather with The Goet/Ben Tirran remaining a target for another Culter Hillwalking day.
17TH-19TH JULY 2015 Weekend at Tyndrum
This is the third year running we have attempted to climb Ben Lui, according to some sources the most beautiful mountain in Scotland. Twice we've stayed at Brander Lodge on the pass of Brander west of Loch Awe and the weather hasn't been suitable. This year, having mopped up the 4 Loch Awe Munros over the past 2 years, we opted to stay at Tyndrum, which is just as handy for our chosen peak but sadly, the weather was yet again against us.
We thought that this July weekend couldn't possibly be a repeat of our weekend away in Skye in May when high winds forced us off the hills but it was. The forecast was terrible for Friday when we had hoped to walk but didn't and Saturday wasn't much better, so we took ourselves off to Inverary Castle in the morning and, when the weather cleared in the afternoon, did a lovely walk from Tyndrum to Glen Cononish and back down to the West Highland Way. The glen gave us a super view of our chosen objective, Ben Lui, sporting a touch of snow and mist. Next year perhaps?
On Sunday morning, the weather looked terrible again but the wind had eased so we took heart from the forecast and 5 of us drove down the long and beautiful glen in which lie Loch Voil and Loch Doine to the car park at the end of the metalled road. We quickly left the car park because of the swarming midges and made our way west to the little settlement of Inverlochlarig (tempting sales of venison here) from where we crossed over the burn and started up a track heading into the glen of the same name. However, our chosen route was up the southerly ridge of Beinn Tulaichean so we branched off towards this ridge.
Although some members of the party had already climbed this mountain from the other side (Crianlarich), Walk Highlands recommends this route. Having toiled up the steep gradient of the more or less pathless ridge, we rather questioned this recommendation. It is basically a long and unremitting slog but when the small rocky summit plateau is reached, it's worth the effort. By the time this was achieved, the group had split into 2, 3 members continuing to Cruach Ardrain and 2 adopting a more leisurely pace.
Poor Beinn Tulaichean gets a bad press in Walk Highlands which terms it "A minor summit on the south ridge of Cruach Ardrain" which seems a bit unfair as it's a nice little summit with views of Ben Lomond, and its nearer neighbours, Beinn a' Chroin, Stob Binnein and Ben More. And there is a drop of exactly 100 metres to the col between Beinn Tulaichean and Cruach Ardrain with a climb back up to the latter of exactly 200 metres.
Both groups (separately) dropped down to the 846 col spot height, the leading 3 ascending Cruach Ardrain before following the other 2. The vestigial track from the col was hard to follow in places and steep, and Ralph Storer and 3 men we met who had come up that way were not complimentary about it but we decided it was probably better than the long very steep ridge we had used to ascend and it made a good circular walk. Before too long, we were back on the easy track which took us down Inverlochlarig Glen past Rob Roy's waterfall (this is Rob Roy country; his grave is farther down the main glen) and finally back to the cars. The weather had been diverse; it was hot and humid with a little rain as we climbed up the ridge and then a surprisingly cold wind blew on us at the top. By the time we were heading down, the sun had come out and it was a very pleasant walk along the track overlooked by the brooding heights of our 2 hills of the day on the west and Ben More and Stob Binnein on the east.
Jackie and Andy set out from a point on the A85 just east of Crianlarich to climb Sgiath Chuil and possibly also Meall Glas. The early morning rain soon stopped as they ascended a rather boggy path beside a burn to a dam. From there they ascended off-path to the summit of Sgiath Chuil, where there are views of surrounding Munros in all directions. The highest tops such as Ben More were in cloud but most were clear. Realising that they would have to drop around 300m to the col, and then re-ascend this to reach Meall Glas, they decided instead to have a leisurely lunch on the summit. They then initially descended by the same route, but just after they dam headed west to pick up the route normally taken from Meall Glas which follows another burn.
13TH JULY 2015 Lochnagar
A select group of members gathered in the Loch Muick midge-ridden car park, encouraged not by the weather as it was at the time, but by the various forecasts. As it turned out the forecasts were correct, at least in part. It rained in the morning, which is what one forecast said, and it rained in the afternoon, which another forecast had said. We're not sure why the dry weather, which they had also forecast, never came our way. The only consolation was that the road was very wet in one place between Ballater and Aboyne as we drove through a very heavy shower, so someone at least was worse off than we were.
It was rather a muggy atmosphere as we climbed up to the cairn on the tourist route of Lochnagar (Munro no. 21) which indicates where the path turns off the track. We were too hot in what we were wearing, so we divested ourselves of our top layer. Whereupon the rain came on again, and so we reversed this process. We stopped at the cairn and met a man whom we continued to meet on our way to the top at various points.
At the col, the men went to look at the loch (meeting that man again) and the women continued up the wonderfully constructed path over the boulders. We all met again towards the top of this section and carried on to the summit where we had lunch. All day the cloud was moving in our vicinity, although we could see the summit ridge from the col, but the only time we were in thicker mist was when we left the summit cairn.
Catherine likes to make our walks up Lochnagar interesting and varied, so her plan was to continue across the plateau to Carn a Coire Bhoidheach (incidentally spelt incorrectly on WIkipeadia) and this we did. The last time the Club climbed this unbelievably unexciting Munro (No. 35) was when Jackie and Andy took us up from Keiloch and included Carn Taggart in the walk. Which makes me wonder if this mountain is ever climbed on its own?
There was much discussion as we left the cairn about the trackless direction we should now follow. The 2 spot heights for which we were heading were out of the cloud at the time, so we made our way towards them over rather mushy ground, taking in a couple of minor burn crossings on our way. The best point of interest here was the 2 herds of deer, one on each spot height, obviously upset that intruders had dared to approach their hallowed ground.
When we reached the col between the spot heights, the vista opened up of a long glen with a burn in it and we started off down here. The terrain had, until this point, been relatively easy but as we made our way down the glen, one member of the party swore they would never again follow Catherine on a pathless route. This glen descends to the little Loch Buidhe above the Dubh Loch path, but we veered off to the right away from the glen to descend the spur on the other side of the burn, and reached the main path.
On this path we met a contractor who was in the process of mending a really bad section and he was informed that James was the surveyor of the path. It was interesting to see the results of the path surveying labour.
We continued down past the waterfall, on to Loch Muick and back along the track, Catherine's least favourite way along the loch but probably the fastest to the cars. On the way, we saw a sandpiper on the loch. Sadly, we were back too late for a cup of tea.
5TH JULY 2015 Longer Walk - Glas Maol and Creag Leacach
This turned out to be a perfect day for walking after the heatwave and then the thunderstorms of the previous week. It wasn't too hot, there was very little wind and yet good views from the summits.
We left the car park at the top of Glenshee and toiled up the stony track, past the unsightly ski equipment to Meall Odhar (this is not pronounced Meal Odd Ha, but, we believe Meal Oar, so just think of rowing), where there is a respite from both the track and the ski tows and, momentarily, from the punishing gradient. After enjoying this, we then headed onwards and upwards along the rather well zig-zagged path to the plateau-like summit of Glas Maol (1068m) where we enjoyed the view, the shelter and our first proper stop. We had taken an acceptable time to ascend the mountain and celebrated one member's first Munro. Many more to come I'm sure.
There is now a gentle grassy descent to the ridge which joins Glas Maol to its little brother Creag Leacach (987m), a ridge which gradually becomes stonier and more narrow towards the summit and before we tackled the really stony section, we took another break in the shelter of the breeze (it couldn't honestly be called a wind). On the summit, we met a lady from Aberdeen on her own, not a common sight on the hills, and we all stopped to admire the view. Although it was quite overcast and occasionally Glas Maol attracted cloud cover, generally this cover was high and we could see a large number of Munros, including those in the Ben Lawers group.
We continued along the ridge dropping away from Creag Leacach and had yet another stop (one member of the party commented on the fact that we had never had so many stops on a Culter walk before) before plunging down the very steep slope to the burn below (one member just nipping up Meall Gorm (759m) for the sheer fun of it). Having crossed the burn, the majority of the party headed for the easily visible path over Leacann Dubh which runs along the ridge parallel to the Glenshee road, admiring on the way the excellent heated bothy, and joined the original path to descend to the car park.
Points of interest about this walk are that there is now a path down to the burn from the 943 spot height, 2 members commenting that this was not visible before. At present, this is quite useful but the steepness of the ground suggests that erosion will most likely occur and cause the path to be less easy to negotiate. There is also now a high path above the burn taking walkers to the Leacann Dubh path, which was also not apparent from above previously. (When last walked, the path along the burn was not good and this may explain the appearance of a higher path). And lastly, the bridge over the main burn taking the path back up to the Devil's Elbow (a route used by 2 members of the party) is now completely rotted away, although it was easy to cross the burn on some handily placed stepping stones.
5TH JULY 2015 Shorter Walk - Tarland Circular
Brenda, Liz and Rosie started off from Tarland Square at about 10.00am. It was very warm and sunny with some high cloud. We went to the entrance of Drummy Wood and started off following the Corrachree Circular Route. This follows a track beside woods and fields to Knockargety Hill and the ascent of the hill is through mixed woodland with views of Mount Keen, Lochnagar etc to the left. We stopped for a break on the top and to admire the view. I had aerial photographs which show clearly the elliptical shape of the hill, and faintly a large oval ditch/rampart around the upper part of the hill. This was an unfinished fort and is thought to date to the iron age, similar to those at Bennachie and Tap O' Noth. It was difficult to see evidence of the fort on the ground, especially as lush vegetation has grown up in the summer. We went to the easterly tip of the hill and found the cairn there, thought to be a long cairn from the Stone Age. This was about 4 metres round. We found a path leading back to the return part of the Circular Route and the Drummy Wood entrance.
This time we followed a shorter circular route to Tomnaverie Stone Circle on its low hill, which went through woods at first then crossed open agricultural land. Just before the circle we came across a herd of cows and calves and had to cross a barbed wire fence to avoid them. We still had to pass quite close but fortunately the cows didn't get too interested! The circle itself has a recumbent stone, and it is one of several good examples of these circles in North East Scotland. There were 360 degrees views of the surrounding hills - Morven, Pressendye, Craiglich, south Deeside Hills, Lochnagar. When looking from the centre of the circle, Lochnagar is framed by the recumbent stone and its flankers. The marked route took us back to Tarland Square. We visited the Commercial Hotel beer garden and had very welcome tea, coffee and scones! It had stayed warm and dry all day, the vegetation was very lush, sometimes the long grass was still wet from the day before. We saw brown and red butterflies and there were sometimes flies which annoyed us. Also many wild flowers eg celandines, speedwell, foxgloves.
22ND JUNE 2015 Driesh and Mayar
The day started with a somewhat discouraging MWIS forecast: constant showers in the morning, clouded Munro tops and 30 mph winds. As it turned out the forecast wasn't quite accurate: no rain (hooray!), yes, clouded Munro tops, but a wind that felt more like sixty mph, although James would argue that I exaggerate.
The walk through the woods up to Corrie Fee from the car park at the Glendoll visitor centre was most pleasant with fresh leaves on the trees and bright green ferns and little indication of the gale to hit us later. On reaching the tree line Corrie Fee presents a most magnificent spectacle, filling your field of view with the seemingly vertical corrie wall and its picturesque waterfall and then the Fee Burn going on to meander its way through a scattering of drumlins on the floor of the corrie. A lesson in glacial geology. We should have seen what was in store for us from the observation that much of the water in waterfall was being blown upwards and sideways.
From the top of the well managed path through the corrie, we walked up the slope to the top of Mayar without too much effort: the wind behind us. On turning to head for Driesh, the wind wreaked its vengeance on us for our neglecting to thank it for helping us up the hill. It was so strong that some of us simply could not move forward without leaning in to it at a most comical angle. Others considered sliding down on their rear ends to avoid being blown over. A couple of lighter weight personal items were torn from packs and were last seen heading towards Montrose at great speed. Having staggered down the slope towards Driesh acting like a bevy of inebriated late night party-goers struggling to get to the bus stop from the door of the last pub, we decided that Driesh was a Munro too far and we headed for the Kilbo Path which took us down the delightfully named Shank of Drumfollow, back to the car park and thence to the Clova Hotel.
Believe it or not I think most of us actually enjoyed the day.
9 hardy souls set out from Deeside for this walk, 1 visitor and 8 members. But the two senior members decided that the spray from the waterfall and the description of weather conditions on the plateau from a couple descending from Mayar boded ill and that, in this case, discretion was the better part of valour. So although we walked with the group some way up towards the waterfall, we finally turned back and had a very pleasant lunch at the entrance to the spectacular Corrie Fee. We then took the green route down the way we had ascended, taking time to read the information posts and turning off on to the blue route which heads up the glen parallel to Jock's Road on the other side of the burn. We crossed over said burn on the substantial bridge at the head of the forest and turned down Jock's Road.
There were times along the track up the glen when the wind had been fierce again and we were glad of the shelter as we entered the forest, where we had another break since we had expected to be back well before the other 7. Imagine our amazement on reaching the car park therefore when we saw that the others had beaten us to it, having not climbed both the Munros. But the timing was impeccable and they had only just arrived so all was accidentally very well planned.
7TH JUNE 2015 - Longer walk Jock's Road
2nd Sunday walks report for June, Jocks Road
Culter Hillwalking Club's June longer Sunday walk was the infamous Jocks Road from Auchallater to Glen Clova, 22 km on foot, four times that distance by the shortest road route, so a Club bus was a must. The longer walkers, thirteen in number, had a pretty early start, but the luxury of a bus allowed the two short walkers to have a lie in. (and very welcome it was too!)
On arrival at Auchallater the weather looked much as forecast, April showers - yep, just two weeks before the June solstice - and a bit windy, but from our "derrieres", so not uncomfortable. A brisk walk and Auchallater Lodge was soon reached and, with a blue patch of sky overhead, the first break was taken at the end of the loch looking forward to the Munro that is Tolmount, a potential diversion later in the day.
The walkers now revitalised, the route was along the northern shores of the loch, remembered as a boggy mess by some longer-experienced walkers, but now, for more than four years, properly and sympathetically constructed with many comfortably spaced stepping stones across the squishy bits. At the upper end of the glen Jocks road climbs steeply up to the higher plateau at around 880m, a stiff slog, and with a much less distinct path; our group became spread out along the way, regrouping as planned on the more level ground up top. Temperatures had dropped by more than 2 degrees and the wind was less hindering, bringing in occasional but very brief showers of rain.
Another refuelling stop amongst the shelter of some big rocks allowed plans to be made for a group of six "Baggers" to tackle the Munros of Tolmount 958m and Tom Buidhe a mere one metre lower. The groups separated with the "Jocks" (male and female) following the true Road over the featureless plateau and the Baggers heading south to the more significant Tolmount, its physical significance resulting in a blustery summit swept by a brief shower which spoiled the sometimes stunning views from the cliff tops down Glen Callater. A quick elevation-retaining curved sweep across the top took us to the somewhat uninspiring rounded bump of Tom Buidhe, where only the 360o vistas set some adrenaline rushing briefly. Our group of Jocks was visible as matchsticks advancing along the ridge of Crow Craigies so it was an easy navigational process to take a bee-line towards them down the soft northern flanks of Tom Buidhe, ending up crossing the headwaters of the White Water burn, living up to its name with the embankments still well highlighted by long ribbons of persistent snow drifts.
Eventually, reunited, the combined thirteen took another brief break, passing the memorial stone of those that formerly perished along the way, the shelter built possibly to help in avoiding a repeat disaster. We then plunged down through interesting glacier-carved geology to the lowlands and planted forestry of Glen Doll. Time was taken to look across at Driesh and Mayar, slightly lower Munros than those bagged today, but subjects of CHC's next walk on Monday June 22nd - consider it Midsummer day.
Over a quick drink at the Glen Clova Hotel, we met the two short walkers and were able to relate observations of large remaining patches of snow on northern facing slopes, a hint of spring at upper levels with the first tormentil, broom and celandine in established bloom, lousewort and milkwort just showing coloured buds, and a very close encounter with a grouse brooding over five eggs. Evolution had ensured the mountain hares were wearing their full summer greyness and the red deer were well up the slopes keeping an eye on us intruders.
7TH JUNE 2015 - Shorter Walk Glen Prosen
A small number of us left the church at Glen Prosen at 1pm and made our way up the steepest section of the day, almost to the end of the trees, where we stopped for our lunch, in the shelter of said trees from the wind. We then continued along the Minister's Path until we reached the grouse butts which stride up Knachly Hill. One of us followed the easy track past these grouse butts, finally reaching the top of Knachly Hill (picture to prove it) where the views over Glen Clova were extensive, and then we returned by another route to the Minister's Path before turning away from this to enjoy the wind-free path through the woods down to Glen Clova. We crossed over the bridge, looking anxiously up the glen to the rain coming in, but we didn't get very wet in the end. It was a most enjoyable walk, good weather and views and an excellent place to finish at the Glen Clova Hotel!
25TH MAY 2015 Boddam-Cruden Bay
May Coastal walk, May 2015, Boddam-Cruden Bay
The weather conditions were good: windy, sunny spells with showers. The showers were short. The terrain was coastal so mostly flat although there were some inclinations to be had either on steps or muddy grassy surface.
Starting the walk at Boddam we saw an abundance of flowers: Red Campion, thrift (pink), wild hyacinths, wild pansies and primroses. Especially Red Campion and thrift were present throughout the walk, whole carpets of it!! Catherine pointed out Birdsfoot Trefoil, also known as eggs and bacon, happy little yellow plant loved by butterflies and bees (ref Google) and Roseroot, a rare plant yellow with bluish leaves.
Near Meikle Donnan, a little island, we saw what Catherine thought a "Shell midden", lots of quarries which sometimes left pools of water. It was quarried for red granite, and some of the group thought Peterhead prisoners worked in these quarries.
Our progress was slow as there was so much to see. We were lucky with the birdlife as well, Kittiwakes, Shags, guillemots, razorbills. We had a lunch stop in the Longhaven Nature reserve with a view of a couple of nesting fulmars and a good view of bathing and sunbathing seals, we must have seen at least 40 seals in different places!! We saw grey ones - males can grow up to 2.3 metres - and common seals; their colouring varies from dark brown to pale grey white. Brenda spotted a puffin sitting on his/her own in a rock crevice!!! Finally we arrived at Slaines castle near Cruden Bay. To finish this report a bit of interesting history from wiki encyclopaedia:
Clan Hay was a powerful family in the area having possessed the land of Slains since the 14th century. The clan chief was made Earl of Eroll and built the OLD Slaines castle. This was destroyed and NEW Slains casle was built on the present site. Over the centuries, the castle got rebuilt/remodelled several times and the gardens were laid out in 1805. In 1895 the author Bram Stoker visited the area, the castle may have given him inspiration for the novel "Dracula". In 1925 the roof was removed to avoid taxes. The building has deteriorated since. In 2004, Slaines partnership got permission from Aberdeenshire Council to convert it into 35 holiday apartments. The plans were put on hold in 2009 due to economic downturn.
At the end of the walk cars got picked up and we enjoyed a cup of tea at Cruden Bay hotel. Then we had to make our way home trying to avoid the rush hour traffic which the John and John team managed very well!
15TH-16TH MAY 2015 Skye
Weekend in Skye, May 2015
The weather on the west coast is notoriously unreliable, so when we not only booked our hotel way back in November, but also 2 professional guides, we knew that our plans were likely to be disrupted by the elements and this was to prove to be the case. The forecast during the week before was truly awful but we set off from Aberdeen on the Thursday to enjoy a journey in full sunshine, with cloud free-skies and wonderful views of snow-etched mountains on the way.
In a talk by Geoff Monks of MWIS a few years ago, he claimed that mountain walkers could put up with many things - snow, hail, rain, even sun - but when it came to wind, that was a different matter. And the winds during the weekend were the cause of our change of plans. The guided group had planned to do Munros on the ridge, including the infamous In Pin and the non-professionally guided group planned to do 2 separate Munros, one a day.
In the end the guided group climbed up to the In Pin, in fact they even hugged the In Pin in the mist, but sadly the winds were too strong, so they walked along the ridge to bag Sgurr na Banachdaich, after which, according to comments made afterwards, they had a rather hairy descent down scree and in ferocious wind.
The non-professionally guided group also decided that the wind was too strong and gusty for them to go up high so they drove over to Glen Brittle and took the path up to the Fairy Pools. Here the water level seemed rather low but the group were all impressed by them, the colour of the water, the sub-aqua arch, the waterfalls and some of the rock which looked as if it contained iron. After a stop, (although the requisite progress hadn't been made due to the tourist-like activity of admiring the pools), the group continued up into Coire na Crieche and to the left hand side of Sgurr an Fheadain (whose Waterpipe Gulley had been commented on previously) before turning along a path which took them below the steep sides of the Cuillin Ridge, coming out at a large cairn on the Sligachan/Glen Brittle track. Here the group divided, 3 going back to the car park and the rest turning right and following the burn down to the Sligachan Hotel. Yes, they did get wet and yes, it was windy, but the start of the walk was dry and the wind was at an acceptable level so they all felt it could have been a lot worse and it was anyway an enjoyable walk.
So Saturday dawned, and the forecast didn't seem quite as dreadful as it had done earlier. However, the guides were not happy about the wind speed on the ridge, so they took their group to sample the delights of the Fairy Pools before engaging in a spot of scrambling up the afore-mentioned Sgurr an Fheadain. Looking at the web about this diminutive (689m), conical shaped spur of the main Cuillin ridge, it certainly is an exciting scramble and a climb which is commonly used instead of the main ridge on very windy days. In fact, our party met 2 climbers who had gone up to the main ridge that morning and found the wind so bad, they had immediately descended, so the choice of Sgurr an Fheadain would seem to have been an excellent one and one much appreciated by the group. The non-professionally guided group headed up north, past the Old Man of Storr, to tackle the Quiraing. Now although the summit at the end of the Trotternish Ridge is commonly known as the Quiraing, the Quiraing is actually an area below the ridge itself, the name of the summit being Meall na Suiramach, a Marilyn at 543m. The whole of the Trotternish Ridge escarpment was formed by a great series of landslips; the Quiraing is the only part of the slip still moving and the road at its base, near Flodigarry, requires repairs each year.
The cars were parked north of Digg on the A855 and the party set off past the 2 lochs, Langaig and Hasco, climbing steadily up towards the threatening black cliffs. Having reached the path which runs below the cliffs, they turned right and, after crossing a wall, found minimal shelter from the wind to stop in the valley beneath the cliffs. From there, they climbed up to the area above the cliffs, turned left and followed the path up to a large cairn from which they turned right to the trig point on the rather undistinguished summit. They now descended, gradually at first but then much more steeply, eventually meeting the previous path below the cliffs but farther south.
Another sheltered spot afforded a welcome respite from the wind for the second stop which was brought to a close by a short shower of rain (hail had fallen on the plateau at the top). They headed north again on a good path, passing rock formations with the interesting names of the Needle and the Prison before 2 of them turned off to see the Table (they reported later how impressive it was) while the rest eventually joined the route up and descended to the cars. I must add here that I find the OS map rather difficult to decipher on this mountain, so please bear with me!
3RD MAY 2015 Glen Tanar north west
Sunday May walk, Glen Tanar north west
It is always a nuisance, and also a disappointment, to have to change walks, but after much discussion between Geoff (the long walk leader), Graham (the short walk leader), James (the coach organiser) and me on Friday and yesterday, we all reluctantly agreed that, seeing the forecast, it would be foolish to follow the plan for today and head off to Corgaff. It appeared that, wherever we went, we would get wall to wall rain all day, the winds might well be high, there was a possibility of snow and a white out higher up and the wind chill factor brought the temperature plummeting to a staggering -18 degrees! This all seemed a bit much so, instead of Strathdon as anticipated, we opted for that old favourite, Glen Tanar. , Now we've used Glen Tanar recently as an alternative to the projected walk (In fact, I can't remember ever seeing Glen Tanar in the dry!) but this time we chose the north west side of the valley. The bus dropped us off by the Visitor Centre (handy toilets here) and we set off uphill at a leisurely pace, passing above Home Farm on the big track. From here, we turned off through the forest along a wiggly track (Della's technical term for it). The group, consisting of 12 members and 2 guests, had been told in the car park that the route was all on track and no mud was involved. Sadly, this wasn't to be the case but we bravely ploughed our way through it and continued following tracks towards the west, stopping in a dry (?) spot for a break. We had another break before the track turned north and, as we thought, headed for open moorland.
Alan Crichton had advised us only last month to rely on geographical points on OS maps rather than man made ones and here we found his advice of benefit. It would appear from the map that open ground is reached, then a small wood, and then more open ground before the descent through the woods again but this isn't what we found. Instead, the first open ground was non-existent, being a different type of woodland immediately followed by high pine trees (Slai na Gour) and then the promised second area of open ground.
The descent through the woods was very pleasant, although in places difficult to negotiate because of many fallen trees. We emerged from the woods briefly at the architechturally interesting Little Tulloch, only to return to the woods through a deer fence over which we climbed by aid of an enormous stile, and eventually picked up the old South Deeside road which took us to the Dinnet Bridge and our refreshments at the Loch Kinord Hotel.
This route was chosen for a number of reasons. For a day with continuous rain, it was ideal, being not too long. It was low down, which seemed sensible considering the forecast and it also enabled us to do an A to B because it wasn't possible to cancel the coach at such short notice. Much of it was under trees, thus affording a degree of shelter. And perhaps most importantly to all those hardy souls who braved the elements, it had a welcoming hotel at the end of it which had been prepared for our arrival and provided us with drinks and scones. The thought of this kept us going as we gradually became more and more soggy.
20TH APRIL 2015 Cabrach & Creag an Sgor (634m)
Walks report, Monday 20th April 2015
10 members and 1 visitor left the church at Cabrach Village and made their way past Cabrach House following a track which led south from the village. The weather wasn't at all bad when we left, although the wind was a little chilly then, but it actually improved during the course of the day to give blue skies with fluffy white clouds (sorry James this sounds more poetic!). Catherine very kindly provided us with maps so we could see where we were going (well, most of the time) and these were very useful.
We crossed over a handy and sturdy bridge after Powneed and continued down the valley to Bracklach. Now Catherine had warned us that we might need to cross some fords, and here we came to the first one. No problem, crossed with ease. Before the next ford, we had our first break and then crossed with ease again. Eventually, the track gave out, but not before we had seen some frogspawn in the stream, no all of it particularly healthy, and we made our way through heather to the summit of Dun Mount (602m). There was a wide panorama of views, the principal one throughout the day being the Buck (721m), but we could also see some of the eastern Cairngorms, Ben Avon looking huge, Cullardoch, Lochnagar, Mount Keen, Clachnaben, Kerloch, Bennachie, Morven, hills in the far north and Tap o' Noth closer to us.
We continued along the boundary line towards the west from Dun Mount. Catherine waved her magic wand and hey presto!, a gate appeared in the fence. From there we headed for our highest point of the day Creag an Sgor (634m) where we had our second stop, admiring the views, soaking up the sunshine and out of the wind. It was a steep descent from here initially to a track and then we followed various tracks, some large and some very overgrown, eventually turning northward and through another magically-appearing gate, past Longrigging Hill and along a very gently descending path, towards Cabrach. One interesting part of the path was made up of a long series of wooden planks over a particularly boggy section probably put there for stalkers and another interesting point was the number of abandoned houses on our route. Apart from the frogspawn, we saw many hares of various colours, a large herd of deer, lapwing and one skylark ecstatically serenading us with a glorious song high above.
11TH APRIL 2015 Practising mountaincraft day
On Saturday April 11th, a group of us joined Alan Crichton in Bennachie car park to spend a day on the hill practising mountaincraft. We went through the forest on the main path up Mither Tap and discovered that the map didn't show exactly what we found on the ground. Continuing up, we had a stop after approximately 1 hour and discussed what liquid and food we had with us. Shortly after, we veered from the path and engaged in a bit of scrambling over the rocks and heather, together with helping one another up more difficult terrain than the main path. Joining the path briefly, we then made our way up to the summit via an interesting rocky route which necessitated hand to rock.
After a break for lunch, we made our way to the plateau and here practised grid references, pacing and compass bearings, firstly on path and then through the heather. Dropping down to the well, we made our way back to the main path, stopping briefly to puzzle out what we would do with a casualty and 10 other inexperienced walkers to get everyone off the hill safely.
Altogether we felt it was an excellent day, with some interesting walking and revision of how to deal with a mountain walk, helping others and walking at a speed suitable for everyone for example. We would now like to capitalize on this and arrange a day to continue practising the skills learnt today.
5TH APRIL 2015 Hill of Cat
Well I said in the Poster that this walk is a 'beaut', but I had no idea just how good it could be! To think that just a month before I had been blown off the hills trying to recce the walk in driving snow and freezing conditions; on Easter Sunday the weather was better than most summer days with the temperature on the way home 19C and no wind to speak of at all. But of course these unexpected weather conditions had their downside as well...
Twelve hardy souls assembled at the Forest of Birse car park at 09.15, including one new walker Connor (who does have a second name but I am sorry to say I have forgotten it) and a guest of mine Stuart Bowler. Now the weather at this time was cool, 2C when I set off from home at about 6C as we set off walking. So everyone was clad for early spring, no-one for mid summer. The Fungle Road, whilst a pretty gentle ascent, soon gets you hot and sweaty, and as the sun got higher the layers of clothes started to peel off and the layers of suntan lotion started to go on - for the follically challenged this proved essential, I just wish I had used more as my napper is as red as a postbox today.
With several pauses for water, snacks, lotion, stripping, and easter eggs (yes, someone thought to bring them along for us to share!) we headed up the Fungle tracked by a few white hares and lots of black grouse. The views down the valley behind us were simply gorgeous, we took them in at the various stops. At the Firmounth Road and after hitting the somewhat undistinguished summit at Tempie we split into two groups, with Andy Roberts leading the bulk of the party to the top of Hill of Cat, a more select group (me and Brenda) headed directly to Gannoch. The views were now 360 degree, and with not a cloud in the sky the eager remote hill spotters could indulge themselves; the only notable one my Peak Scanner app pointed out was Mount Keen, which actually looked very different from the direction we were facing. With the groups rejoined on Gannoch, we spotted a large raptor in the distance - the jury (Andy and Patricia) remained out over whether it was an eagle or a buzzard, I plump for eagle as that sounds more romantic. The route home was an amble down towards Birse Castle, again with views across to Bennachie to die for. We hit the car park by 15.30, with 4 of us visiting the Finzean Farm Shop for Easter treats - the other 8 missed out is all I will say!
A great day, great walk, great fun - let's hope the rest of the summer is like this!
16TH MARCH 2015 Mona Gowan
The walk on Monday 16th March was planned as a circuit taking in Craig of Bunzeach, Mullochdhue and Mona Gowan (749m) in the hills to the south of Strathdon.
Our group of 9 met up around 10am at a parking area off the minor road running along the south side of the River Don at GR NJ348108. The weather was cool and overcast but dry as we set off east along the minor road, turning south up a tarmac access road to the croft at Belnagauld. Here we followed a track around the perimeter of the croft, passing an interesting collection of decaying cars before heading east uphill on a good track running next to the forest plantation. Apart from a heavy rain shower, the weather stayed reasonable clear at the lower level and we started to get good views over the hills to the west. We spotted a pair of deer jumping the fence ahead of us then took a quick break at a sheltered spot next to an artificial pond, just north of Craig of Bunzeach.
The weather started to close in as we headed across Craig of Bunzeach and we followed the track west and then south along the edge of the forest plantation on fairly level terrain. It is worth noting that the OS map shows a power line crossing east - west through the shallow col at NJ360089 but this no longer exists. We continued south then crossed the fence into the forest and continued over felled tree debris to a new and substantial forest road. Our route then followed a minor track south and uphill across open heather moorland with some tree regeneration. After a short break, the weather deteriorated with low cloud and light snow. We continued uphill and then arrived at a level area of earlier peat workings near Mullachdubh at NJ355062 around 1pm. The group decided to abandon the off track route up Mona Gowan due to the poor weather and returned back down the same track, then left fork heading west into woodland.
The track in the woodland offered welcome shelter but was overgrown and strewn with numerous fallen trees, making a fascinating if somewhat tortuous route! We reached the new forest road again then took a side route to the edge of the forest. The weather had now cleared and we had fine views across the farmland in the valley of the Water of Carve. We headed down to the main track then north past the farm buildings around Birkford where we were greeted by the caged farm dogs and an interesting collection of abandoned vehicles and machinery, including the remains of a small aircraft! We eventually joined the minor road and returned to the cars around 3:15pm having covered a total distance of some 13km.
1ST MARCH 2015 Carn Ferg
Walks report March 1st 2015, Carn Ferg
The barometer on Saturday night fell to as low as I've seen it and indeed, it was a wild and woolly night. Under these circumstances, and considering the fact that the forecast for Sunday was for very strong winds and freezing conditions, it was decided that the rather exposed summit of Morven might not be the best place to be that day, so Glen Tanar was chosen instead. When we left the Visitor Centre there, the wind was quite strong, but the sky was wonderfully blue, and this blue sky stayed with us all day, despite the speed at which the fluffy white clouds were racing towards us from the west. (Unfortunately, James, our resident meteorologist, was not on hand to identify them for me).
We steadily gained height on the Firmounth Road, stopping after an hour for a break before turning east to ascend past the Hill of Duchery (554m) where we were treated to great views of Lochnagar, Mount Keen and Mount Battock, all with some snow. We then descended to join the other drove road, the Fungle, where we had another stop looking down over the Gwaves. Carnferg was our next destination. 2 of the group continued on the Fungle, while the rest ascended to the large monument on the summit of Carnferg (525m). Their trip to this small hill was sufficient to confirm the decision that Morven would have been an unsuitable mountain, since the more lowly summit of Carnferg was very windy indeed. How much more windy would the more lofty (871m) and isolated Morven have been, and how much colder?
This group then descended off track to join their two companions on the Fungle where the path becomes a track, making their way through open woodland and across a burn to the Guard, where half the party continued down the Fungle and the rest headed back to the cars at Glen Tanar car park.
I think we all agreed that the correct decision had been made, that we had been much more fortunate with the weather than anticipated, and that it had been a most enjoyable day, although at the same time it was a bit disappointing not to have been up Morven. That will be saved for another Sunday walk next year. And, just to show you I haven't forgotten, this walk was one devoid of wild life and people, apart from us!
16TH FEBRUARY 2015 Geallaig outlier (601m)
Monday Walk Report February 2015
Catherine excelled herself on this walk, offering initially 2 routes over Geallaig Hill, but ultimately deciding on the route which started from Crathie car park in case the Gairnshiel Lodge presented a snowy car parking challenge. Not only that, but she provided the assembled company with a map of the route, following on from committee discussions and the AGM when it was decided that the way forward for the club was to encourage more people to co-ordinate walks. As it turned out, this proved very useful indeed.
We set off west along the main road, turning on to the Old Military Road shortly. Considering how small this road is, it seemed to carry a surprising amount of traffic. We left this road after "The Bush" and headed through the forest on a track, emerging on to extensive moorland with wonderful views of a very snowy Lochnagar massif. There was a lot of snow in the ruts, the depth of which Chris plumbed at one point, and care needed to be taken with the icy bits.
After a long walk along this track, we turned off and sheltered from the wind at the Blairglas settlement for our first break. From there, we went off track toward Rineten, taking in The Aisle on the way, an impressive building which is a burial site of the Clan Macdonald. Our route so far seemed very distant from current human habitation; nevertheless, we found 2 f posts providing us with information about our surroundings.
From Rineten, we made our way to Braemaloin, crossed the old military road and then toiled up the long track which takes you up on to the ridge of Geallaig Hill. As we ascended the forecast clouds caught up with us and it snowed for some time, although the snow melted as soon as it touched the ground. The track we were on descended from a point a little below the summit, but half the group (including the most senior member) diverted to take in the shelter (full of snow) and trig point on the very top.
Thus we made our way down in 2 groups, latterly off path, to the Craeg a'Chlamhain mast, where we met up and continued down the track to the road and back to the cars. We saw a number of white mountain hares on our way, the most notable being 2 which bounded on to our track before the first break and, minds on other things, came haring towards us at full tilt, finally realising that we were blocking their path, and veering back off on to the moorland to pursue the activity that all hares enjoy in the spring, in full view of the company.
1ST FEBRUARY 2015 Strathfinella
Sunday walk report February 2015
Culter Hillwalking Club's February 1st Sunday walk was threatened by wintry winds, snow showers and adverse road conditions but nine hardy club members set out to Auchenblae, the start/finish point for a circuit of Strathfinella Hill. After admiring some of the unique architecture of this former flax growing mill town on the banks of the energy providing Luther Burn the route took us out westward through open farm land swept by a fresh northeast wind biting with ice crystal snow showers of arctic origin. A track at East Couliie farm turned us north into the forest which instantly gave shelter from the chill, though wintry flurries fell to our feet from time to time but the sun shone brightly and a morning break was taken sat on the powdery white stuff soaking up some rays. As altitude was gained along the forest tracks, occasional gaps through the planted trees allowed outstanding views across the verdant, snow-free lower levels of the Howe of Mearns. Opportunity was taken in such inspiring surrounds to hone some map reading and navigational skills.
Another sunny break for lunch prepared us for a further exposed chilling section of the route which also happened to be the steepest gradient of the day. With bodies hot on the inside, chilled at the extremities, there was still comfort in stopping to admire new vistas to the snowed-in Cairn O Mount Road at Clattering Brig, along the horizon ridge stretching from the Cairn southwest through Hound Hill, the intriguingly named Hill of Remora, then beyond Glen Esk to the Wirren Ridge, about 18km away and traversed last summer.
The track edged back into the forest again but the wind had still managed to blow through creating a gallery of transverse snow drifts and a barrier of encrusted trees. The legs gained a good workout stepping over or through the drifts before we went in search of the well hidden Strathfinella 414m trigpoint. Very much redundant, the trigpoint had long been overgrown by the planted trees, maximum viewing distance from the point was no more than 15 feet, and there was barely room for our group of nine to assemble. After recognition of this formerly strategic location we headed onward encountering some more widespread drifted snow before heading off onto a true footpath (doubling as a mountain bike trail). The path had a couple of inches of snow, and the neighbouring trees, under the weight of an even greater covering, where bent over almost engulfing our way forward. No distant views, but our immediate environment was Alpine like, and one to be absorbed as we made our way through.
And then, a firebreak opened up the view, back to the snow-free agricultural lands around Auchenblae. As we descended, the snow cover became less, the path took us over the ice encrusted brown soil of last year's tattie field before a stretch of tarmac led us back to our parked cars, 17km walked from the morning departure. A quick change of footwear at the cars before we all dived into the Old Post Office Café, where they had intentionally stocked up for us with absolutely fresh, crumbly scones and a warming tea or coffee.
26TH JANUARY 2015 Fourman Hill and Tillymorgan Hill
Monday walk, January 2015, Fourman Hill and Tillymorgan Hill
As the Banchory contingent passed Tap o' Noth, a black cloud reared its ugly head in front of us and soon obvious flakes of snow were spattering the windscreen. We all wondered why we had driven all the way to Huntly to be bombarded by the winter elements. But when we finally reached our meeting place, the curiously named Bognie Hotel, the sun had come out and we began our walk in a much more optimistic mood.
We climbed up from the cross roads to a farm and an old church and graveyard along a metalled road. This brought us eventually to a sight of our objective and the end of the road, after which we followed a track through the woods, eventually coming out to moorland and the trig point on the top of Fourman Hill (344m). Marilyn 1 safely achieved, but we didn't hang about here as the wind was not blowing hard but was definitely too chilly to sit and have our first stop, so we descended on a small path next to a fence which brought us out on to a track where we turned left.
Here we had a stop, not in the sun but in the lee of the wind, and with a wonderful view of the snaking River Deveron below us and, in the distance, Knock Hill, which we had climbed in January 2013 in a snow storm. Fortified by an after eight, happily provided to all of us by a member of the party, we continued along the track which brought us back to the metalled road and our way down.
Now for Marilyn No. 2. We drove back along the A97, past Morgan McVeigh's and turned left along the A920, where we parked near to the first cross roads. We climbed north, first along a road again and then along a track which led to some woods. Here we enjoyed our second stop in the sunshine, complete with a lovely view of Bennachie. The track continued until we reached a turn to the right. Here the map seemed to diverge from what we saw before us. There was much discussion therefore as to which was we should go. June, who was leading us (and had made a good job of the route up Fourman Hill) decided in the end to turn right. This track led us to a path which wound steeply up through the woods until we came out on open ground.
The "summit plateau" of the Hill of Tillymorgan shows evidence of substantial slate quarrying over a wide area so we were careful where we stepped. When we reached the trig point, there was yet another panoramic view, this time down to Insch, across to our previous hill and Knock Hill yet again, with Ben Rinnes and the Buck in the distance and of course, Bennachie. Having been up Foudland Hill the other side of the main road, I had always wanted to climb the Hill of Tillymorgan and wasn't disappointed. For a lowly Marilyn, (381m), it packs a good punch in terms of a pleasant walk and good views.
From the top, we proceeded in a approximately northerly direction along the edge of the wood and latterly on an obvious path, coming out on an extremely icy road (there was a lot of ice still lying on our route and we were all thankful for the later date of this walk; had it been the previous Monday, both roads and paths would have been a great deal more treacherous) which led down to another road, in its turn taking us back to the road we began on. I can't remember doing 2 quite separate hills before with the club, but these 2 were well chosen by Catherine and definitely worth driving that distance to enjoy. (and the Hill of Tillymorgan is conveniently close to sample the delights of Morgan McVeighs afterwards!)
4TH JANUARY 2015 Muir of Dinnet and Loch Kinord
Sunday walk report January 2015
Where were you ladies? For the first time I can remember since I started walking with the Club in 2007, there were more men than ladies on this walk. 14 people walked with us, 9 men, 5 ladies (including a visitor) and Leo the dog whose behaviour was impeccable!
This was a similar day weatherwise to the last Sunday walk in December 2014, cold but sunny all day with little wind. (However, yesterday, it was icy and at times quite treacherous underfoot on a path where the moisture had frozen to give black ice.) We set off in this sunshine from Cambus o' May and made our way east along the old railway line. Happy conversation helped this rather long section to seem shorter, with members catching up on their holiday season remembrances.
We were following a route from a book which took us north from the Dinnet x roads, through a small gate and to a path which goes north of Clorack Loch where we made our first stop in the woods in the sun, (the path suggested in the book has disappeared, with a fence now crossing it). We then headed for Loch Kinord itself, looking beautiful in the sunshine, where we read the information posts about the crannog and the Celtic Cross. Enjoying the walk through the woods and learning about the peculiar traits of hoof fungus which is ubiquitous in this area, we reached the Burn o' Vat car park, picnic site and toilets where we had our second break.
We were due to go to see the Vat and then climb up above it and along the hillside to the track but one member had other ideas, and suggested we go through the Vat and follow the burn up to the track. The other walkers were happy to do this so we had a good scramble up the waterfall and along a sometimes slightly challenging path beside the burn. Burn o' Vat is a fascinating place and the path in the glen behind also possesses its aura of magic, a narrow wooded glen with steep cliffs and relatively recent rockfalls at times. When we reached the track, we turned left and followed this back to the car park, taking the longest route through the woods. We were back in plenty of time to go to sample the delights of the Loch Kinord hotel who provided us with gigantic scones.
This walk has been on the walks programme a number of times in the past and comments about the walk were very favourable from a number of people; firstly, of course, the weather was good, the walk was varied with the easy bit at the start and the more exciting section by Burn o' Vat later on, the length was acceptable for just after Christmas and the shortness of the days, the venue well chosen because it was easy to reach had the weather been inclement, and the views breath-taking.
We'll try to replicate this in walks to come in 2015!