Unfinished business around Glen Geldie

Day 1 Auchlean – Monadh Mòr – Beinn Bhrotain – Geldie Burn

Day 2 Geldie Burn – An Sgarsoch – Carn an Fhidhleir – Auchlean

Day 1

Auchlean – Monadh Mòr – Beinn Bhrotain – Geldie Burn

12 October 2011

20.4 km/1211 m/07:30 hrs

Munros: Monadh Mòr, Beinn Bhrotain (Nos. 198 + 199)

I had attempted these two hills for the first time as a day walk on Sunday, 18 September. The weather was miserable when I started from Auchlean, but according to MWIS it was supposed to clear around midday. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, instead it became worse – visibility down to a few metres, strong winds and the occasional hail shower. At first I kept going, trying to regard it as a good navigational exercise on some rather boring hills, but shortly before Tom Dubh I turned back, because I didn’t enjoy this walk in the slightest.

A few weeks later the weather forecast looked a lot more promising, and I decided to give these two another try, but this time I was going to make a two-day trip of it, including An Sgarsoch and Carn an Fhidhleir on the way back, two Munros I had given a miss on my Munro bagging trip at the start of September.

On Wednesday morning I left my car in the car park near Auchlean, at the end of the single track road east of the River Feshie. A good path leads first through a plantation and then up the open hillside.

The eroded path is in the process of being repaired.

After passing the shoulder of Carn Bàn Mòr, the Mòine Mhòr (the Great Moss), lay before me.

I was pleased to find the terrain significantly less boggy than on my first attempt. A mountain biker passed me, apparently on his way down to Glen Feshie.

From the plateau, the views in all directions were stunning – Braeriach to the northeast…

Sgòr Gaoith to the north…

… and the way ahead, with Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (Angel’s Peak) and Cairn Toul in the distance.

The Allt Sgairnich, one of the feeder rivers of the River Eidart.

When I reached the point where I had turned back the last time, I was really glad that I had come back on a day like this. To think that I would have missed these views!

Loch nan Cnapan with Sgòr Gaoith behind.

Tom Dubh.

Before the ascent to Monadh Mòr, the Allt Luineag, the second feeder river of the River Eidart, has to be crossed.

The Allt Luineag.

Looking back to the crags on the east side of Sgòr Gaoith.

Angel’s Peak and Cairn Toul.

After ascending the wide ridge on mixed terrain of grass and small boulders, I reached the summit of Monadh Mòr.

The Devil’s Point and Glen Geusachan.

The deep gullies on the northwest flank of Beinn Bhrotain.

The view south towards Glen Geldie.

On the steep path down to the bealach between Monadh Mòr and Beinn Bhrotain, a hill runner in shorts and T-shirt caught up with me and stopped for a little chat. He had been running over a number of Munros already, was now heading for Beinn Bhrotain and planning to stay in Corrour Bothy. His rucksack for an overnighter was only slightly bigger than my usual day pack!

During the last part of the ascent to Beinn Bhrotain over a large boulderfield, the clouds suddenly descended.

A last look back to Monadh Mòr, before it disappeared in the clouds.

With the low cloud level, I didn’t get any views from the summit of Beinn Bhrotain.

From the summit I walked south to find a way down to Glen Geldie. When I was below the thick layer of grey clouds, I could see that the sun was shining in the Linn of Dee/Braemar direction.

To avoid the boulderfields south of Beinn Bhrotain, I descended the steep heathery slope just east of the Allt Leum an Easain.

Further down, I crossed the Allt Dhàidh Mòr and followed its western bank to the Landrover track in Glen Geldie. This was very slow going through peat hags and boggy ground.

I had planned to camp by Geldie Lodge, but it was getting dark quickly, and with a potentially difficult crossing of the Geldie Burn ahead, I decided to camp on this side of the river and deal with that the next morning.

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Day 2

Geldie Burn – An Sgarsoch – Carn an Fhidhleir – Auchlean

13 October 2011

30.9 km/1187 m/11:00 hrs

Munros: An Sgarsoch, Carn an Fhidhleir (Nos. 200 + 201)

The night had been very mild, with a bit of drizzle. When I opened the door of my saggy tent, the clouds were down to almost ground level.

I wasn’t very keen on climbing two Munros in zero visibility, and for a short moment I even considered walking back along Glen Feshie instead. But these are very remote hills (and not very exciting ones), so I stuck to my plan just to “get them out of the way”.

I didn’t need to worry about the river crossing, the water level of the Geldie Burn was low and I could get across with dry feet, using the stepping stones. After another easy crossing of a tributary stream, I was greeted by an apparently bored stalking pony in a small enclosure, who kept running along beside me on the other side of the fence.

The ruined Geldie Lodge, a former shooting lodge.

A doorless shed on one side of it, which could be used as shelter in an emergency.

I followed the good stalkers path that leads around the north flank of Scarsoch Bheag. Glen Geldie was still lying under low cloud.

Shortly before the Allt a’ Chaorainn the path ends (at least on the map), but on the ground it goes around Scarsoch Bheag and only peters out just before the bealach. From there I followed a stream in a southerly direction, which would take me almost straight to the summit of An Sgarsoch.

In the meantime it had started to rain, and the “view” was something like this:

On the last metres before the summit I was struggling against a strong headwind. It was quite a relief to reach the summit shelter and I sat down for a short break.

An Sgarsoch was my 200th Munro, but it will not be a memorable one – apart from the fact that it was freezing cold, raining and that I had no views!

(My 100th had been a very different story, it had been part of a round of four Munros I had done on a perfect day in August 2009 – Braeriach, Angel’s Peak (No. 100), Cairn Toul and Devil’s Point – at the end of the day I camped near Corrour Bothy and walked out through the Lairig Ghru the next morning.)

In the summit shelter I took off my rain jacket, added a fleece and put the jacket back on, plus a pair of gloves. As it was raining heavily, I got wet during the process and came to the conclusion that I needed to review my clothing setup!

I normally wear a T-shirt or longsleeved baselayer and a Páramo Quito jacket. That is sufficient most of the time, but I always carry a fleece in case it gets really cold. The problem is, to put it on, the jacket has to come off first which is not ideal in the cold and rain, and I generally don’t like wearing three layers anyway. It restricts my movements and soon after putting it on, it feels far too warm. So, in the rain and wind on the summit of An Sgarsoch, I decided to get a warmer jacket and I had something in mind already…

I took a compass bearing and descended to the bealach between An Sgarsoch and Carn an Fhidhleir. The terrain on the way down was a mixture of grass and heather, wet but not overly boggy. Lower down, the clouds lifted and I could see that the bealach consisted mainly of peat hags and bog.

After crossing the boggy area, I made my way up the hillside and onto the broad ridge, where I even found a faint path.

The “views” from the summit of Carn an Fhidhleir were somehow pretty similar to the ones from An Sgarsoch…

From the summit, I walked along the north ridge.

On my way down, the clouds lifted, and I could see along the length of Glen Geldie for the first time today.

I even got my first look of An Sgarsoch!

Where the ridge flattens out, I managed to locate the path that leads down to the Feshie.

River Feshie.

Following the river, I soon came to the sign for the bridge across the Eidart, which I had used during the TGO Challenge in May. But this time I couldn’t be bothered to make the detour to the bridge, and just waded through the river instead.

On my way down Glen Feshie I suddenly noticed that there are three parallel paths, the highest of which is the driest (the one I was walking on), whereas the one closest to the river is the boggiest. That’s the one I was using in May, because I didn’t know there was a better one higher up – something to keep in mind for the next time!

A short time later, I arrived at the ford at Ruighe nan Leum, where I had camped (in a green tent city) on the Challenge 🙂

Upper Glen Feshie.

Fallen tree (almost…)

When I arrived at the section where the main path has disappeared due to a landslide, I took the little path going off to the right, instead of wading through the river twice (coming from the other direction, I hadn’t noticed the bypass path in May).

It was getting dark when I approached Ruigh-aiteachain bothy, and for a moment I was tempted to stay there overnight or camp outside, and walk out the next morning.

But then again, it would only take me 1.5 hours to get to the car park, and I decided to walk on.

I tried to walk without a head torch as long as possible, but in the end I had to switch it on to prevent me from stumbling or falling on the rough path. The last hour I walked in the dark, and I arrived back at the car after 20:00.

When I got home, I immediately went online and ordered a Páramo Ladies’ Velez Adventure Smock. I had seen one at Braemar Mountain Sports in May, when the weather was cold and wet and I was longing for a nice warm, waterproof jacket. But I had resisted the temptation at the time, because I didn’t want to carry an additional item of clothing for the rest of the Challenge. I had not even tried it on, but I had touched it and had loved the warm, cosy feel of the fabric. And I had even loved the colour (which doesn’t happen very often with Páramo clothing)!

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