Descending to Tom Dubh

6 06 2014

Tue 13 May 2014

As I said in my last post, I’m now Munro Top-bagging – this is the only one you descend to!

After a truly awful night at Glenmore Youth Hostel, where there were at least two parties of schoolchildren staying, I got up in the morning totally exhausted – not a good start to the day. The kiddies had crashed around upstairs all evening, driving me and the other guy in the ‘Quiet Room’ mad – we were both trying to read peacefully. They continued to hare around until after midnight when they finally shut up. When they started again in the morning, I looked at my watch and was horrified to see it was 0615! 😦

Click on photos for full size/resolution
I drove off down the lovely Glen Feshie in bright sunshine to park at the road-end carpark near Achlean Farm. At this point, all I could think about was crashing out in the car for an hour but dragged myself out. From there I set off for half a mile towards the farm, still in sunshine, to where a track turns off left towards the forest just before the farm. I was quite glad of the shade when I entered the forest it was that warm.

The path climbs very gently through the forest and when I exited the trees I noticed the sun had gone. Not only that but a dark cloud was coming my way, dangling dark tendrils – I knew what that meant…

It started to rain gently but I continued walking and ignored it – I don’t really like ascending with waterproofs on as I get hot and sticky – I’d rather get wet. However, I soon had to stop as the rain turned to hail – and what hail it was. I hurried into my waterproofs and continued uphill – each stone which hit me literally hurt – even through my waterproofs! It’s probably the only time I’ve wished for an umbrella on the hill!

Storm over Glen Feshie

Luckily, after about five minutes, the hail stopped. It never really got sunny again though. Not to worry, the cloudbase was staying well above the 4000 feet mark so at least I didn’t have my usual walking in the clag.

The excellent path is pretty well graded but, due to lack of sleep, I made really heavy weather of it and when it steepened near the col, I more or less ground to a standstill. I was going faster than the couple I’d overtaken during the hailshower though.

As I reached the plateau and the path flattened out, another hailstorm came along. This wasn’t as painful but it was bitterly cold up there and pretty soon I had to add my buff and winter gloves to my waterproofs.

Braeriach from the Moine Mhor
Braeriach in sun

I strode off across the plateau, now going better as I was heading slightly downhill. My hill, being lower than everything surrounding it, was out of sight but luckily my path joined a vehicle track which heads straight for one corner of it so, even in a mist, it would be easy to find. The little top is completely surrounded by giants – there is the 4000 foot-plus range of Cairn Toul, Angels Peak and Braeriach on one side, on the other there is the Sgor Gaoith range which are at the higher end of the 3000 footers.

Backs of Angels Peak & Carn Toul
Backs of Cairn Toul & Angels Peak

Braeriach from Moine Mhor Plateau
Braeriach from the Moine Mhor Plateau

Sgor Gaoith Peeping Over
Sgor Gaoith
Sgor Gaoith over Glacial Loch!
…and with a bit of a glacial lake

For quite a while I had my eye on what I thought was my peak only to find that I was actually looking at Leth-Chreag – a deleted top of the Munro of Monadh Mor. Due to my state of tiredness, I was quite glad when I realised that the peak I was looking at was far too big and that mine was the gentle swelling in front of it!

Monadh Mor Over Tom Dhubh
My peak comes into view at last – it’s the gentle brown swelling below the far peak and above the nearer tongue…

Where the vehicle track ended I had a snowed-up burn to cross. I could head left quite a way to the end of the snow banks and cross there but thought I’d chance the snow crossing the burn and hope it held. At that height up there on the plateau, it was still hard-frozen enough to bear my weight and I crunched happily across.

Looking down the burn past Tom Dubh and the intermediate tongue – Leth-Chreag is the dark peak at the back

There is an intermediate and excessively wet nose to cross and I found a track heading towards my peak. When I crossed the next small burn to Tom Dubh, all paths seemed to end and I just headed for the middle of the peak. The hillside was running with water which I sploshed through all the way up to the summit area. Now this hill has a few cairns dotted about but none of them mark the summit apparently so it’s just a case of milling around heading for whichever bit looks highest from where you are. Surprisingly, there was another chap doing exactly the same!

To say he was in such close proximity, the chap was either studiously ignoring me or totally oblivious in his hunt for the summit. Either way, he pretty much ignored me and, on the way back as I descended to the snowy burn, I found he was stood openly having a pee like no-one was around. I walked past him and said ‘hi’ but he didn’t really say much – not the best situation to be caught in I suppose. He obviously didn’t trust the burn as he headed off upstream for a non-snowy crossing while I stomped back across in my own footprints. There were no other footprints crossing the snow so I’m pretty sure this is a very unfrequented top.

To my chagrin, he soon left me behind on the re-ascent of the track back up to the plateau – I was pretty unhappy about that as he looked much older than me. I really don’t seem to be getting fit very quickly this year unfortunately. I stopped for a break in the hope that a bigger distance between us would stop me hopelessly trying to keep up.

Coire Garbhlach Cornicing
Heading back across the Moine Mhor

As I reached the top of the plateau on the shoulder of Carn Ban Mor, I really wanted to go up and re-visit Sgor Gaoith as it is a superb hill and has spectacular views down the cliffs into Glen Einich. Although I had another rest for five minutes or so, I really couldn’t summon the energy for the extra climb and reluctantly descended my outward track. The weather was closing in again and quite nasty anyway so perhaps just as well. The couple I’d passed on the way up the track were just descending from Gaoith to join me…

Meall Dubhag
Meall Dubhag from the descent

I was amused near the bottom of the track to be met by three mountain bikers wheeling their bikes up the steep and long track – I’d found it hard enough walking up it in the morning! On googling Carn Ban Mor on my return, however, I notice that this route is ‘a legendary ride’ on the mountain bike websites.

As I reached the forest again, the sun came back out and it was again pretty warm. That made it a pleasant walk back to the car – good job really as my groin strain started to make itself felt walking back along the road.

Back at the car I treated myself to a picnic and sat soaking up the sun for an hour or so before heading off to find somewhere to stay for the night. One thing was for sure… it wouldn’t be a Youth Hostel!!

Stats: 3128 feet of ascent, 13 miles, 6 hours 15 minutes




14 responses

10 06 2014

I can’t believe how brazen the guy going to the toilet was! You should have said, “I thought it looked like there were more showers on the way”. 🙂


15 06 2014

LOL! I’m not sure he’d noticed me really – I probably gave him a real shock as I suddenly strolled past him.


9 06 2014

Good to see some children still enjoying the outdoor life. Well… it is a “Youth” Hostel Carol :o) I can vouch for your fitness levels going uphill as my main thought going up Ben Lui was… I wonder when she’ll stop for a tea break…but there wasn’t one between car and summit.


15 06 2014

The way my fitness is going, if I stopped for a tea-break on the way up, I’d never get there! 😉


8 06 2014

Amazing! Someone has actually mentioned a Deleted Munro Top in a report and it’s one I’ve missed out. I was on a swipe of Tops to the north and short of time, hence its exclusion. There’s one SW of Braeriach I can combine it with to make it a longer day. It might not have the dramatic pointy peaks of the west but I love wondering about on the plateau.


15 06 2014

I love anywhere in the Cairngorms really but am especially fond of the Moine Mhor. I’m back doing stuff in the West now and really missing my eastern hills…


7 06 2014

Even as a teacher, I know how annoying kids can be away on school trips! I have to say I’m pretty strict and I would stay in a hostel where my class where staying, but not necessarily where anyone else’s class where staying! 😀


15 06 2014

I think there were just too many of them to control. One group was smallish and American (I think) – they seemed fairly well-controlled. The other group (or groups?) was absolutely huge and I just don’t think they had enough staff to control them. Having said that, I think many of the teachers nip off to Glenmore Lodge bar and leave the kids to run riot. They should have made them go to bed and be quiet between 11 and 7 as according to the hostel rules (or at least it was). I really need my sleep nowadays on a trip or I’m absolutely useless…


6 06 2014

Hi Carol. There can’t be many mountains in the world that you actually go downhill to climb. I like the sound of that. You could start a new bagging craze and we could call them Carols. They’d fit in perfactly with Marilyns and Donalds.
There are some ignorant people in this world but that chap you passed takes the biscuit. Still, it takes all sorts,I suppose.
Cheers, Alen


7 06 2014

I just wonder if that chap was in a total world of his own and really didn’t see me – I should have worn my bright red coat! 😉


6 06 2014

Hostels ain’t wot they used to be.


7 06 2014

They most certainly aren’t unfortunately. Just been discussing that all night in the pub with my parents and Richard as we’re all old-style hostellers from way back.


6 06 2014

I still need to set foot in the Cairngorms but I always seem to head west, the closest I’ve been unfortunately is the A9! I did stop for fuel once in Aviemore but I was only allowed £20 as the petrol station hadn’t had a delivery – thankfully I was only topping up rather than running on empty.

Shame about the the ignorant walker who couldn’t even be bothered to raise his hand or give you an acknowledging nod, I prefer the hills to myself & usually set out early but I’m still a (reasonably) friendly chap! You’ve also just reminded me why I avoid Youth Hostels & Bothies 😉


7 06 2014

I’ve never had anything but sensible, fairly quiet and friendly folks in bothies so far – but I suppose most of the ones I’ve done were far enough from a road and not that popular with the boozers. I’m going to always ask in future at hostels whether they have a school party in before I book!


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