Carn Cloich-Mhuillin

21 04 2016

Fri 25 March 2016
No other Munro Top is better known than Carn Cloich-Mhuilinn as it is ‘the one that got away’ as Sir Hugh Munro had been keeping it till last but died before he could do it. I felt like I was going to die on it!

Bealach a' Mhearleach lochan

Click on photos for full size/resolution

I’d booked to attend our club meet at Muir Cottage in Inverey near Braemar and had driven up the night before. It had been a pretty terrible drive as we’d all been kicked off the A74 motorway near Lockerbie on the way up and everyone had done various detours – I’m pretty sure mine was the longest! I have neither a satnav nor a navigator and was trying to read the map while driving!

After an eight and a half hour journey (rather than six and a half) I arrived just as it was dropping dark and right behind my friend Dick. We both unloaded bikes, me my little fold-up from the back seat and him a proper mountain bike from the rack on the back of his car. We were heartened to find a blazing fire and a nice welcome from the other members 🙂

I thought I’d be the last to arrive but Dick’s friend had actually driven up from the south of England so was even later. He hadn’t had a much longer journey than me though and said the delay had been due to a lorry fire on the motorway. Not sure why it closed both directions – must have been a lot of black smoke!

The next day dawned cold but very sunny and looked extremely promising. The Munro Top I had to do, Carn Cloich-Mhuillin, was one I’d previously marked off as having done. It wasn’t until late last year, on mine and Richard’s visit to Braemar, that I’d gone up the handy Corbett of Morrone just above the village and, on studying Beinn Bhrotain, realised I hadn’t actually done the outlying top at all!

Braemar from Morrone Ascent
Looking down to Braemar from Ascent of Morrone

Dick came and found me as I was getting my stuff ready to set off and said he and his southern friend were going to cycle out with me to White Bridge to do walks from there. Just after nine we all set off down the road – I have to say we were all as bad as each other for having to get off quite often and faff…

The cycle to White Bridge from the cottage is around four miles and we were going very slowly and chatting (and faffing) so it was ten before we arrived at the White Bridge. From here Dick was going on down the Geldie to do the deleted Munro Top of Monadh Mor, Leth-Chreag. I thought his friend was coming with me as he said he was setting off that way so waited for him after I’d cabled my bike to the nearby fence. While I’d been cabling it up he suddenly pointed out to me that the top wire was actually electrified – luckily the lower one wasn’t so I utilised that and a fencepost for my lock.

Carn Cloich-Mhuillin & Bhrotain from hut
Hut near White Bridge where we cabled the bikes – my hill is the more pointed one on the left

It turned out his friend was setting off along my path but wasn’t actually coming with me so I sped off along the flat track alongside the Dee. I didn’t feel like I was going very well somehow…

Beinn Bhrotain from White Bridge

Just before the ridge-end of Carn Fiaclach Beag, a burn came down from a col and there was a cairn and the start of a path. How convenient… I set off up it eagerly.

I went reasonably well up the wet track and hoped it would continue up my peak but rather doubted it would. As it passed under the col between Carn Fiaclach and Carn Cloich-Mhuillin, it seemed to level off to contour around my hill so I left it and ploughed pathlessly up the short rise to the col. I was pleased to again find another track which had come along the ridge and was heading up my peak – I eagerly joined it. This one was much drier and very pleasant.

It was at this point I met a strengthening wind blasting against me. I soon found that I was still extremely weak with the nasty winter virus I’d had for the last month (the one which had started with a chest infection more than three weeks before for my ‘3 Loweswater Wainwrights’ walk).

With the wind, the odd soft snow patch and my general debilitation, I started to make heavier and heavier weather of the easy ascent. I felt very tired and weak and even started to have to stop for regular rests – not good! By the time I reached the summit rocks I was nearly on my knees but ploughed doggedly on to the cairn.

Beinn Bhrotain from Mhuillin Descent
Beinn Bhrotain from Carn cloich-Mhuillin

It was exceedingly cold at the summit so I soon headed off down the tempting-looking north-east ridge. This immediately took me out of the wind and was yielding lovely views of the snowy corrie and peaks of Beinn Bhrotain, the parent peak. I stopped briefly for a coffee in the sun – much better!

Beinn MacDuibh from Mhuillin Descent Ridge
Also great views across to Ben MacDui

I was pleased to see that my ridge ended easily in the corrie just by the exit burn.

Beinn Bhrotain Corrie

The burn however was extremely banked out by very deep snowdrifts and I had to find a more snowless area to cross. There were some lovely snowbridges and interestingly-shaped drifts but unfortunately they weren’t at very photogenic angles so I just admired but didn’t photograph many.

Carn Cloich-Mhuillin Snowed Burn
Looking back up ridge after burn crossing

Carn Cloich-Mhuillin Snowed-up Burn

I soon found a steep, muddy path heading down the left-hand side of the burn which took me very quickly back down to Glen Dee and the main path back. I found another sunny spot above the river and had another warm, sunny break for coffee and a biscuit.

Devils Point & Bhrotain End
Devils Point past the end of Beinn Bhrotain

I sat thinking back to a few years ago when Richard and I were making a long return on this path from Glen Geusachan after doing Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor. It was a 20-plus mile day with a very long return and Richard was so fed up he now calls Beinn Bhrotain ‘Ben Rotten’ (it does sound similar in Gaelic).

Beinn Bhrotain from Track Out
Ben Rotten!

He’d become so demoralised he’d slowed to a crawl in protest at the length of the walk out and I’d had to wait for him and read him the riot act to buck him up. Basically I told him that, the slower you go on a long walk out, the longer you’ll be on your feet and with a pack on your back and the more tired you’ll be so to get a move on! Really, the only way to tackle a long walk out is to route-march it – just crack on and think of something else…

Lairig Ghru(Braemar end)

As I continued back to my bike I decided to have a hunt for the famous ‘Chest of Dee’. Although it’s famous, it’s amazing how few folk I’ve spoken to who’ve walked in that area have seen it. This is because it’s completely hidden. I could hear it though and went to investigate down the banking into a little gorge.

Chest of Dee

There are interesting broken shelves which you can clamber along just above the waterfalls and the sinister undercurrents bubbling up from the dark, mysterious depths below. As I’m not a ‘water-coward’, I went for a scramble along the shelves with my camera and got some great angles. Quite an impressive place…

Chest of Dee1

Chest of Dee2

Chest of Dee from Above

I had an interesting climb back up the craggy walls to the heather above and continued back to my bike.

Return to White Bridge

I was pleased to find a lady sat there having a coffee also with her bike and joined her with another coffee to chat for a while. She’d brought her bike right through from Glen Feshie – I suspect a good part of the middle of that would be a carry as I don’t think the path is continuous.

We then both left for Linn O’ Dee – her going faster than me and not having to uncable her bike so she soon left me behind. I met a man on a mountain bike coming the other way on one of the two very stony sections. These are two long stretches of very loose and rounded river stones and I was smug to see that he actually fell off his mountain bike before I fell off my small-wheeled fold-up! It’s pretty hard to stay on along those bits and I just wheeled my bike after I’d fallen off as it was less effort. As my fold-up is more or less a ‘town bike’ I don’t think it really appreciates being ridden across that kind of thing anyway.

I soon arrived back at the smooth tarmac of the road at Linn O’ Dee and sped off for the public phone box at Inverey for my daily check-in with Richard as there wasn’t even a Vodafone signal down the glen (Vodafone covers nearly all of Scotland). I can use phone boxes without any money as I just dial my special number and the call cost just comes out of my bank account (the ‘Chargecard’ phone service – very convenient). Unfortunately, most phone boxes are being decommissioned now – a very bad idea in my opinion.

I’d started off that day with a very sore throat but had taken a throat pastille before setting off and it had improved as the day went on. Being tired after my day and sleeping in very cold air in the dorm overnight finished me off completely. I awoke in the morning feeling dreadful – my throat was very swollen up and extremely painful and I had a temperature.

I stayed until someone came back from Braemar with the weather forecast – terrible for the next two days. As I was due to go home the next day anyway, I decided to cut my losses and just set off immediately. I can honestly say I’ve never driven back from Scotland in such constant torrential rain, deep spray on the roads and such a gale. Cars were starting to break down at the side of the motorway and I just kept telling my poor ancient Sunny to keep thinking of his garage back home. He plodded on faithfully and we eventually reached home both sighing with relief I’m sure!

Stats: 17.5 miles, 2026 feet of ascent, 6.5 hours

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19 responses

18 05 2016
Tammi Kale

I travel vicariously at every opportunity and your hiking posts are an amazing journey…..Thank you!

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19 05 2016
mountaincoward

Thanks Tammi – just reading some of yours!
Carol.

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5 05 2016
surfnslide

I assumed I’d done that top but I’m not too sure now! Nice photos of a lovely quiet corner of the Cairngorms

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5 05 2016
mountaincoward

I think there are a couple of bumps before the main summit of Bhrotain and I thought one of those was the ‘top’ but, on seeing it from afar (Morrone), saw that I really hadn’t!

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1 05 2016
McEff

That’s a fantastic area, Carol, and your pictures have really captured its beauty and remoteness. I’ve only walked in those mountains during the summer months. Some of them look really bleak in the snow, which sort of adds to the majesty of the place.
Cheers, Alen
PS “Faffing” is such a good word.

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2 05 2016
mountaincoward

I think it’s the best area of Scotland to do in snow – I don’t generally do the spikier stuff in the west in winter conditions – a bit above my standard really…

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24 04 2016
tessapark1969

Nice report. Hope you are feeling better now – there seem to be a lot of lurgies going round!

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24 04 2016
mountaincoward

Everyone I’ve spoken to (either physically or online) has had the same thing – no matter where they live in the country!

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23 04 2016
fedup

Another epic! At least its one more off the list 🙂 I’ve had a lingering cough since christmas so need to visit my GP, my son has just had a quick course of steriods to help his lingering winter bug. That was the day we heading up for my 40th and it went downhill weather wise from there!

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24 04 2016
mountaincoward

I’m ‘lucky’ in that I’m asthmatic and have persuaded my doctor I need to keep a course of steroids in the house for emergencies like when this year’s bug went onto my chest. I took the steroids by about the second or third day as I could see where it was heading and that staved the chest danger off. I still had all the other cr*p lingering for a month though 😦

The day was only an epic because I was ill. The drive up and back were certainly epic though!

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23 04 2016
underswansea

Sounds like quite a trek. Had to look up what ‘faffing’ was. I knew it was some kind of fooling around! Looks like beautiful country. I can’t remember the last time I saw a phone booth. Very fine report and photos. Bob

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23 04 2016
mountaincoward

We still have a lot of our traditional and famous red ones – the ‘tardis’-type ones 🙂

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23 04 2016
Simon Howlett

An epic Munro and sounds like you had an epic drive up too! Fantastic scenery, love the shots of the broken shelves and waterfalls.

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23 04 2016
mountaincoward

The Chest of Dee was really lovely. I was a bit alarmed to see it on a ‘Wild Swimming Site’ though!

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23 04 2016
Simon Howlett

That alarms me too, I would not fancy swimming in there!

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22 04 2016
chrissiedixie

What is it about these winter lurgys that they seem to last so long? I’ve been struggling with a horrid, horrid cough for a fortnight now – moved to my chest today as well. Some days you don’t feel so bad, then the next day you feel awful again. I’ll stop moaning now……

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22 04 2016
mountaincoward

Exactly how I was – and everyone else I know. I don’t know – they get longer and worse every year somehow 😦

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22 04 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

That sounds like an epic Carol. I’m just back from the Cairngorms and they are plastered with snow again. Completely white over the 4000 footers so they must have had another dump recently. More cold weather and frosts forecast for next week so winter might yet have a sting at the end of it. A steroid inhaler seems to have helped my breathing problems recently.

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22 04 2016
mountaincoward

Well the walk wouldn’t have been an epic if I hadn’t been so ill. Shame really – I was glad the weather turned bad in the end or I’d have had to stay on and try a Corbett or something feeling dreadful the next day.

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