Carn a Mhaim and another dubious pitch. January 2012.

Date: Sat-Sun 28th-29th January 2012
Distance: 17.5km + 9.5km
Ascent: 1100m + 50m

Another Thursday/Friday reading the runes and trying to second guess the weather. Again deciding between an Easter Ross wild-camp and a β€˜Gorms wild-camp. Plumped for latter.

A seemingly brilliant forecast on Friday night at 2200hrs had been replaced by a much cloudier affair when we got up on Saturday. 😦

Nonetheless departed our Perthshire accommodation to the sound of Tawny Owls under a starry sky at 0700 heading for Linn of Dee.

Kicked off from Linn of Dee at 0830 – red eastern skies as we drove north had faded to grey by sunrise. Always enjoy the walk from here to Derry Lodge though – tempting views of the southern Cairngorms entice.

The view back to the Linn of Dee pinewoods was attractive:

Ambled along the track – not sure how many times we’ve walked this now. Overflown by around 20 Black Grouse heading for the woods – a good place to hear the lek come April. 8)

The sun started to break through some cloud gaps. The frost refracted the light in a multi-colour array of lights:

Passed Derry Lodge after an hour or so. A few MR teams were present, about to head off.

Carried on past the beautiful pine woods – we’ve been remiss in never camping here.

The landrover track becomes a footpath from here, delving west towards the Lairg Ghru. After about 40mins there’s another pine plantation at Luibeg Bridge under Carn a Mhaim.:

We had a look at the Luibeg Burn and decided to take the bypass N to the bridge rather than fording. Spotted some bullfinches in the trees on the way. Crossed the bridge and returned S to the path – the usual mud soup was frozen enough to walk on.

Took the track another 500m W and then dropped off our camping gear a bit off track for the ascent of Carn a Mhaim.

The ascent of Carn a Mhaim is a straightforward affair – an easy ascent of the SE ridge. Views quickly develop out to Lochnagar over Glen Lui:

Height gain rather quickly develops views south too – Beinn a Ghlo:

Hazel and Glen Lui:

There were snow patches 700m-800m that needed a bit of care but otherwise a simple walk. There were ptarmigan calls to hear but the birds were staying concealed.

On arrival at the summit the hills to the west were still sunless – dramatic nonetheless. Glen Geusachan:

Cairn Toul and Braeriach:

Spent a while on the summit – quite a long while. Things started to clear and brighten.

Cairn Toul and Devil’s Point:

Hazel at summit:

Beinn a Ghlo:

After half an hour and some lunch we were looking at blue sky and sunny white hills….result!

West Lairg Ghru pano:

Link to larger pano.

We ended up spending nearly 80 minutes on the summit – and time well spent it was. Eventually tore ourselves away for the return to the tent.

Descent was a return route – did see a ptarmigan on the return:

Used the crampons for the harder, steeper patches on descent. Repacked the bags and had a confab. We’d planned to camp on Sgor Mor – the forecast was ambivalent about Sunday. Swithered about returning to Derry Lodge and the pine woods to camp (and a sound track of owls and Black Grouse) but decided to go with the plan.

Sun on enticing pines:

Headed west for a km on the track and then turned south to skirt Creagan nan Gabhar to the west side. Purified our night’s water on the way up.

Some deer looked interested but unmoved as we passed by:

This route gives a nice view of the southern Lairig Ghru – light could have been better:

Arrived at the summit of Sgor Mor just at sunset – the hills north had a bit of Alpenglow:

Sunset and Beinn Bhrotain:

Pitched just east of the summit – a nice mossy patch but difficult to peg given the thin covering over rock. Cooked up tea and got things sorted in the gloaming. Retreated to the tent to stay warm.

Got up a few hours after sunset to have a look – minimal moonlight but thinning cloud.

Took some night shots to the Southern Cairngorms:

Thought the tent looked a bit dark so fired up the Hilleberg Flux Capacitor for a bit more light:

To the south the light pollution was as eye-catching as ever:

Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth and Stirling could be seen as blotches of orange.

Retired for the night – a bit chilly but reasonably comfortable. Sprang forth to enjoy the stunning Alpenglow on the east facing cliffs to our north:

An in-tent prep of our cocoa and eating some nibbles was followed by a rather focussed tent strike and we were off faster than usual.

Despite down mats we’d heated the pitch:

We had planned to take the Sgorr Mor ridge east over Sgor Dubh – we’ve done that before and the views are stunning. Under the circumstances we dropped south towards White Bridge instead.

South towards Glen Tilt:

Dropped to the track near Chest of Dee – a minor cutting:

Headed for the car from here:

Back at the car just after noon – another questionable camp decision. Still getting the tent out twice in January has been fun – and we got the views from Carn a Mhaim we missed first time. A very worthwhile summit.


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