The Carn Glusaid 3 Made Into a 7

5 06 2011

Sat 14 May 2011

On our first day at Glen Shiel, after we’d spent an extremely comfortable night at the Cluanie Inn, we decided to do what I call the ‘Carn Glusaid Three’. If it had been a stunning day, we’d have gone for the South Glen Shiel ridge… if it hadn’t been windy and blizzardy, we were also considering getting one of my bête-noires, Mullach Fraoch-Choire out of the way, but I really didn’t fancy those pinnacles on wet rock and in high winds. I knew there were no problems whatsoever on the Glusaid three however.

I always say a good set of hills is defined by the fact that you can still enjoy the walk even in awful weather – these are such hills…

We parked the car in a little layby we’d seen the night before as we drove up. It was near a little tarmacked track which would take us up to the old military road. During the three miles or so drive from the Cluanie, it was raining quite hard so we waited in the car until it stopped and then dived out to kit up – we put full waterproofs on from the start.

After about a hundred yards, we reached the tarmac track after briefly stopping on the bridge over the river to marvel at the amount of white water thundering under the road. The tarmac track soon reached an old fence where the military road was due to start. All we could see was a bit of a narrow, stony path – probably a couple of feet wide. Turned out, that was all that’s left of the military road – I’m sure it was great in its day. As usual, most of the water coming off the hill had decided it too would use the military road so we paddled along it.

After probably half a mile or so, we found an insignificant junction and the start of a sketchy path heading up the hill. I’d been expecting a marker cairn or something as I believe it’s a stalker’s path but there was nothing. The path did start to zig-zag immediately though – a sure sign of a stalker’s path. It was a very wet splodge in its early stages and, after cresting a slight rocky rise, disappeared into a bog. We couldn’t see it emerging the other side up the next section of hill so just headed on upwards. Soon after though, I saw another path coming in from our right. I looked back down the hill and could see it had come up from another layby the other side of a largish knoll – we’d also seen a track heading up there the night before but, as there was a comms mast, we assumed it just led to that.

From that point, we were on a superb track all the way up the mountain. As we reached the base of the actual peak, the hillside became very steep but the path zig-zagged widely and took a very easy route up. In fact, the route was so easy, we were high on the shoulder of the hill without me really noticing we’d done any climbing at all – not often you can say that on a Munro ascent!


Carn Glusaid Approach

As we reached the shoulder, the wind hit us. Not only was it freezing cold but Richard reckoned his (pretty new) waterproof trousers were letting all the rain in! I’d borrowed them during the winter and not got wet once so said it must just be him. Nonetheless, it wasn’t much further before he stated his intention of turning back thankyou. It was exactly the second I was expecting him to turn back as the summit had just hove into view and it was pretty far away across a grassy plateau. I think he’d been expecting it any minute… I said he could make it to the summit but he said his leg muscles were getting cold in the wet and would stop working soon. To be honest, I didn’t really argue much at all as, knowing I was going ‘top collecting’, he wasn’t really in for a fun day as he doesn’t collect tops so would be waiting around quite a bit and it wasn’t really the weather for that.

Once I was on my own, I upped my pace to nearly double what we’d been doing and sped off towards the summit across the easy grass. I was there in not many minutes and the sun came out briefly, showing me the way ahead. The first thing I noticed was that Sgurr nan Conbhairean was now covered in snow! I hoped it wouldn’t cause me any problems…


Glusaid to Conbhairean

The path descended easily on rocky ground down the back of Glusaid to a col where there was then an easy grassy rise. However, the track was clearly going to miss the top of Creag a’ Chaorainn out – I always think it’s really lazy of people to Munro-bag to the extent that they miss out a top which is passed by within easy reach! I altered course off the track and went up to the cairn on the corner of the escarpment – it was a fine viewpoint, especially down a glen heading off to the east just north of the peaks.

I then followed the flat, grassy ridge to rejoin the ‘lazy’ track and there was a very shallow descent to the next col before Conbhairean. By now I was going like a bomb and, to cheer myself through the blizzards and cold wind, I was singing Adam Ant songs – I just sang the two songs all day – the first half of the walk was ‘Ant Music’ and then I switched to ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ – both excellent marching music and extremely cheering. I was also grinning like a maniac – no wonder I don’t meet many folks in the hills! I think it helped that, although it kept snowing, sleeting and hailing across my path, you could always see the view and the summits mostly stayed out.


Sgurr nan Conbhairean southern approach


Looking back over ‘top’ to distant Carn Glusaid


East Ridge of Sail Chaorainn from Conbhairean

The trip up the southern ridge of Conbhairean was over almost before it began… the snow caused no problems at all, providing you stayed away from the edge, which I did. There was a nice shelter on the top but the wind was really cutting at that point and I decided just to bash on as I knew I had a long way to go. It had just gone quite misty and I was hoping my descent to the north was okay – I squinted into the mist and it cleared slightly, giving me a view down the northern shoulder – looked fine. I picked my way fairly slowly down snowy but flat rocks until I reached a bend in the shoulder where it became grassier and snowless. I met a couple of women coming up and noticed they were well away from the edge – coming back later I found out why!


Looking back up Sgurr nan Conbhairean


and ahead to Sail Chaorainn

I thought it wasn’t far down to the col but suddenly a steeper bit came into view and I realised it was quite a bit more height loss than I’d originally thought – oh well… The climb back out of the col towards Sail Chaorainn was very easy indeed. I was looking at the ridge out to the east and wondering if that was one of the tops I had to collect but, on consulting the map when I reached the summit, saw it wasn’t. It looked a nice ridge though. The path I was on had taken me too far to the east and swung back again to reach the summit. I could now see the northern top of Sail Chaorainn, Carn na Coire Mheadhoin – it was extremely near but there looked to be a potentially tricky bit to reach it.


Sail Chaorainn north top, Carn na Coire Mheadhoin

I ploughed on, still not stopping for a break and descended a short, steep section to a reasonably narrow nick with a very steep gully down the left-hand (west) side. This was followed by a slightly clambery and rocky steep re-ascent to the top but there were no problems and I was there within minutes again. I’d been looking at a distant ridge ahead which curved round to the east and presumed that was my final top. Not only did it now look very far away, but it also had a very big height loss. I peered at the map but couldn’t see anything else which could have been the top. Hmmm… was it what I call a ‘top too far’?

Luckily, just then, a guy appeared at the summit cairn and he’d obviously come from over that way somewhere. I went to interview him… I asked whether he’d come up from Glen Affric or whether he’d gone to do the top (Tigh na Mor Seilge) – I was expecting him to have come from Affric really as not many other people seem keen enough to ‘top-collect’ nowadays. He said he’d just come from the top but was essentially doing the same route as me. I asked him how long it had taken and said I thought it looked a bit far. He said he’d only been 15 minutes each way. I looked again at my distant ‘top’ – there was no way I could get there in quarter of an hour. I pointed to it and queried whether that was the top. He said it wasn’t and pointed out where the top would be, only you couldn’t see it for the low cloud. It popped into view for a minute and I thought it didn’t look bad at all so thanked him and set off, checking my watch as I went.


Tigh na Mor Seilge (middle, sunlit ridge) from Carn na Coire Mheadhoin

As I descended the back of Carn na Coire Mheadhoin though, I couldn’t find the path he’d mentioned, the ground was very rocky and it was a long descent. I was thinking it would be a real drag coming back up again and also wondering what it would be like finding my way in thick mist as this end of the range seemed to want to stay in the clouds. I’d seen good weather over the Affric hills however and guessed it would eventually come my way as the wind was north-westerly. By now, I was getting pelted in the face by hail and buffeted by the wind. I hoped the good weather would hurry up. It eventually reached me as I got to the end of the uncairned ridge. I didn’t wait around as it didn’t look like the good weather was going to last for long but managed to get a couple of photos back along the route in the brief sunshine. On the re-ascent of Carn na Coire Mheadhoin I found the track – it was easier to see coming back from the grassier top to the rocky ground.


Looking back to Carn na Coire Mheadhoin from furthest top


Looking back along route from Tigh na Mor Seilge

By the time I reached Sail Chaorainn again, I’d started to run out of energy somewhat so decided I’d best stop for my first break of the day. I’d done more than half the walk anyway so could now allow myself to have five minutes. I had a quick coffee and half my Milky Bar but then the squally weather came again so I hurriedly set off back for the longish pull back up to Sgurr nan Conbhairean. I found a more direct track from Sail Chaorainn this time.

As I reached about the half-way point of the re-ascent of Conbhairean, the wind suddenly increased dramatically in force. I was really struggling to stay on my feet. This was around the place where I’d met the girls coming up and keeping well away from the edge – I gathered it was just hitting this section of the ridge particularly hard. There were two guys ploughing quickly down towards me – one altered his course to my right to avoid me and the other went left – bad mistake! He was suddenly hurtling out of control towards the drop. He went quite a way but luckily stopped before he plunged over the edge.

When I reached the bend in the shoulder I found the expected traverse track heading across the west of the summit cone for the route to the final top of Drochaid an Tuill Easaich which strangely seems to be one of the few tops people do actually visit. The track headed very easily across to where there was a small marker cairn and I then headed down another track towards the col. The col was again fairly narrow, steep and a bit rocky in places but there were no problems. I’d been a bit worried about the wind but the bad drop was on the right-hand side and the wind would have blown me down the other side. I was very cautious however all the way along the narrowish ridge to the summit. Again, I didn’t hang about at the summit, but plunged straight off down the easy southern slope.

I gather most people follow this ridge all the way back to the road and just turn south-east down easier slopes above the road when the going gets too steep but I decided I just wanted to get back to the lower ground now. On the way out, I’d seen a steep but very short slope down east to Gorm Lochan in the corrie. I peered over the edge – it was very steep but there were a couple of narrow tracks contouring down into the corrie. I was about to take one of them when I saw a much easier option. Just before a ridge there was a tight, grassy corner which I decided, as it was quite gully-like, would feel much safer to me than a steep, open slope – it looked slightly less steep too so that was the way I took. The descent was fine and within a minute or so I was strolling beside the lochan. As it was reasonably sheltered there I decided to have another break by the loch.

After seeing the raging burn exiting the corrie, I decided to stay high to do all the necessary burn crossings – that strategy worked well and I only met burns narrow enough to jump over. The walk out of the corrie was very wet as expected and my boots were soaked by the time I got back. Luckily the Cluanie has a decent drying room. I was surprised on reaching the car to see I’d only been 6 hours in total. I was also amused to see that the tree next to the car had been turned into a washing line and had all Richard’s wet gear hanging on it to dry – it looked like a gypsy campsite!

We drove back to the Cluanie and went to put our wet boots in the drying room. On exiting I was surprised to hear someone say ‘Hi Carol’ behind me. I looked round and found someone who knew me from the last meet I attended of my ex-forum standing there. He said there were also three others staying at the hotel who I also knew from the meet. We had a pleasant evening in the bar catching up! Well, there was nowt worth watching on the TV anyway! 😉


Best thing on the box!

Stats: 11.5 miles, 4818 feet of ascent, 6 hours

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4 responses

6 06 2011
David (magicdin)

the things you learn
question and answer tonight on eggheads
in USA a television is sometimes known as a “Boob Tube”

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6 06 2011
mountaincoward

The things you learn indeed… bet you never knew there was such a thing as a remote-controlled brassiere before! LOL

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6 06 2011
Janet

That’s the rudest thing I’ve ever seen on TV LOL

Like

6 06 2011
mountaincoward

Maybe, but it was a great place to hang it to air! 😉

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