Inverey – Altanour Lodge
12 March 2012
8.7 km/217 m/02:00 hrs
Two days of great weather were forecast for the East Highlands, so it was time (at last) for the first wild camp of the year! For quite a while I had planned to do the three Munros at the head of Glen Ey from Altanour Lodge.
The drive down to Braemar in sunny and warm weather had been very pleasant, and I started walking from the Inverey car park shortly after 15:00.
Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, one of tomorrow’s targets, in the distance.
After two hours I arrived at Altanour Lodge, where I almost expected to find some other tents already pitched (considering the nice weather), but all I could see were some walkers on the path far away and two mountain bikes inside the ruined building. It seemed I would have the whole place to myself.
Beinn Iutharn Mhòr.
I found a campsite between the trees and the Ey Burn, a bit too close to the noisy stream, but I had come across the decomposed remains of a deer between the trees and wanted to keep a safe distance from it. I also didn’t want my tent to be visible from the path as I had planned to stay another night and was going to leave the tent pitched during the day.
Altanour Lodge – Carn Bhac – Beinn Iutharn Mhòr – Inverey
13 March 2012
25.6 km/818 m/09:30 hrs
Munros: Carn Bhac + Beinn Iutharn Mhòr (Nos. 216 + 217)
It had got dark at about 19:00, and after having my dinner there was nothing else to do, so I tried to get to sleep just after 20:00 (I should have brought something to read, I suppose). Of course I wasn’t tired at that time and lay awake for ages. During the night I woke up several times because I was feeling cold, and altogether I didn’t sleep well at all. Although I was almost glad when it was time to get up, it wasn’t until 09:00 that I was ready to go.
The weather situation didn’t look too promising.
Looking back to Altanour Lodge.
It was supposed to be sunny and warm with hardly any wind – in reality it was cold and very windy, and the tops of the surrounding Munros were in cloud.
Beinn Iutharn Mhòr.
It seemed like an endless slog up the heathery slopes of Carn Creagach. I was so disappointed – how could the forecast have got it so wrong? Somehow I had lost all my motivation to climb these hills, my progress was really slow and every few minutes I turned around to see if the clouds had lifted, even a little bit maybe…
When I reached the bealach between Carn Creagach and Carn Bhac, at least I could see the Cairngorms in the north.
And when I turned around this time, the summit of An Socach was actually free of cloud – there was hope!
Eventually I reached the summit, after an incredible 2 hrs 15 mins (for a distance of less than 4 km).
On my way down to the bealach at height 894 m, it looked as if the clouds were dispersing from the north.
Still no change on Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, though. Next I had to cross a huge area of bog and peat hags.
The bog wasn’t as bad as I had expected because it was mostly dry(ish) so that I could walk over it, but it was still slippery and it took some effort to climb up and down the higher peat hags.
After crossing the boggy area, I looked at the steep hillside in front of me and tried to figure out an ascent route. Suddenly I noticed the silhouette of another walker appear on the skyline, and watched him finding his way down. I thought if he could descend this way, then I should be able to climb up that route.
We met at the bottom of the slope and stopped for a brief chat. He confirmed that there was no better ascent route than straight up from the bealach (I had considered walking into the corrie containing Lochan Uaine and then ascending the ridge from the west). So it was “onwards and upwards” – and it was steep!
But it wasn’t totally bad because in the meantime the sun had come out! 🙂
Looking back from the ascent.
Higher up the slope, I met another walker who was on his way down, but as he had chosen a route about 30 metres away from me, we could only shout some greetings across to each other, whilst trying not to fall off the steep boulder field. But he assured me I didn’t have far to go now…
And so it was, a few minutes later I arrived on the broad, grassy ridge.
View to the Cairngorms with the Lairig Ghru.
Looking back along the ridge.
The summit cairn with Glas Tulaichean in the background.
What a difference the sun made… now I was really enjoying this walk, at last!
View to Carn an Righ and Beinn a’ Ghlo.
View towards the Glenshee Munros.
I continued down the S ridge to the bealach, then contoured around the northern slopes of Màm nan Carn. There were still some substantial snow patches on the SE side of Beinn Iutharn Mhòr.
View along the Allt Beinn Iutharn.
Soon after, I could see Loch nan Eun. A great location where I had a nice campsite last September (apart from the fact that it was infested with spiders!).
My campsite had been near the outflow of the loch, overlooking Gleann Taitneach.
There was just one little problem: A large snow bridge covering the stream that feeds the loch.
I didn’t feel like walking back up all the way to walk around it, but it also didn’t look very stable as it had collapsed in some places already. In the end I managed to walk across at the narrowest place I could find, which was still several metres wide.
Loch nan Eun.
Now I had a decision to make – to climb An Socach as planned or return to my campsite. Somehow I couldn’t face another, probably pathless climb, and I didn’t know how difficult the descent along the N ridge to Glen Ey would be. It was already 15:00 and – considering how long the ascent to Carn Bhac had taken me in the morning – I didn’t want to descend an unknown, pathless route in the dark.
I decided to walk back to Altanour Lodge along the Allt Cac Dubh (which happens to be part of my Challenge route in May – at least now I know that it might be a good idea to wear Goretex socks that day!).
After fording the stream down in the glen, I found a good path leading all the way to Altanour Lodge.
Glen Ey in the evening sun.
It was 16:45 when I arrived back at my tent, and somehow I didn’t see the point of spending another cold night in this place. If I would pack up quickly, I could make it back to the car before dark… and that’s what I did.
Evening light in Glen Ey.
On the way back, I briefly thought about staying at the Youth Hostel in Braemar and doing An Socach the next day via the shorter route from Glen Clunie. But I only had a print-out of today’s route with me and would have had to buy another map (one I’ve got at home already).
In the end, the thought of a good night’s sleep in my own bed was too tempting and I drove home that evening. I would just have to come back another time for An Socach…