Creag nan Gabhar, Carn an Tuirc, Cairn of Claise, Tom Buidhe + Tolmount (26.1 km, 1189 m)
Ben Gulabin + Morrone (19.2 km, 1167 m)
Auchallater – Creag nan Gabhar – Carn an Tuirc – Cairn of Claise – Tom Buidhe – Tolmount – Loch Callater
26.1 km/1189 m/08:45 hrs
Corbett: Creag nan Gabhar (No. 59)
To take advantage of the lasting heatwave, I planned another backpacking trip, this time to the S of Braemar: The four Munros S of Loch Callater – and if I had enough energy, I could even walk as far as Mayar – then camp somewhere along the White Water, and return via Jock’s Road the next day. On the way in, I could include the Corbett Creag nan Gabhar.
On the drive to Braemar, I was slightly worried I might be struggling for a parking space, considering the weather and it being a weekend. But when I arrived shortly before 11:00, there were still plenty of spaces in the car park at Auchallater. After applying a generous amount of sun cream, I headed up the track towards Loch Callater.
It was already very hot at this time of day, and the colours of the heather-covered slopes looked lovely in the bright sun.
After contouring around Sròn Dubh, I followed another track that zig-zags up the hillside, leading to the intermediate top of Sròn nan Gabhar.
Looking back to Braemar, with Ben Avon on the skyline.
Loch Callater (zoomed).
Glen Clunie and Baddoch.
Approaching Creag nan Gabhar.
The Cairnwell and Carn Aosda.
Creag nan Gabhar summit cairn.
To join the track that comes up from Loch Callater and leads to Carn an Tuirc, I first descended to the peat hag-covered Mòine Bhealaich Bhuidhe which was thankfully dried out because of the recent warm weather.
On the ascent to the track I came across lots of cloudberries.
During my first visit to the Loch Callater Munros in November 2009, I had done the same circuit in a clockwise direction, coming up Jock’s Road and starting with Tolmount and Tom Buidhe. I had been lucky to get clear views from the first two hills, but then the clouds had lowered and for the rest of the walk visibility had been down to a few metres.
Today I was looking forward to seeing Loch Kander for the first time…
… and it was as impressive as I had imagined it to be!
From the track above Loch Kander it is just a 15 minutes detour to the summit of Carn an Tuirc.
I was surprised about the size of some snow patches on the lower slopes of Cairn of Claise, given the time of year and the warm weather.
On the way to Cairn of Claise, I suddenly noticed a “wall” of cloud quickly moving towards me.
And within seconds, my surroundings disappeared in thick clag.
Cairn of Claise summit.
When I sat down by the cairn to get my compass out for the next section of the walk, I noticed a movement beside me – a very well-camouflaged Ptarmigan, who decided to follow me when I got up, and kept running a couple of metres beside me for several minutes 😆
The “views” on my way to Tom Buidhe.
Tom Buidhe summit.
Then it was on to Tolmount, and when I approached its summit, the clouds lifted for a moment and, looking back, I could get a glimpse of Tom Buidhe.
I suppose I can’t complain because this time I got views from the two hills I didn’t get to see the last time, and vice versa, so at least I have seen them all once…
But in these conditions I didn’t feel like continuing to Mayar, and instead I decided to camp down by Loch Callater.
From my previous visit I knew that this part of Jock’s Road is not visible on the ground, so I just followed one of the streams down the grassy hillside.
Just when I reached the bottom of the glen, thick white clouds came rolling down at speed, it almost looked like an avalanche!
The head of Glen Callater.
A potential camp site by the Allt an Loch, but I wanted to walk a bit further.
When I came closer to the loch, I could see some large tents and several Landrovers at its S end, so I had to continue along its NE bank.
Eventually I found a suitable pitch near this beach, out of sight of the other campers.
1) Loch Callater – Auchallater
6.2 km/14 m/01:30 hrs
In the early morning, Tolmount’s top was covered by a single large cloud, but apart from that it looked like another nice and sunny day ahead.
I sat down on the bench outside the Lodge for a short break, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, and thinking about the last time I was here during the TGO Challenge in May.
The door of the main building was wide open, with several pairs of children’s shoes lined up outside, and I was wondering who was staying there.
All that was left now was the enjoyable walk down Glen Callater back to the car park, where I met several mountain bikers and walkers heading up the glen.
2) Ben Gulabin
6.3 km/481 m/02:00 hrs
Corbett: Ben Gulabin (No. 60)
Back at Auchallater, it was far too early to drive back home, especially on a day like this. I decided to add another two hills while I was in the area, although I didn’t have the relevant maps with me, but in this case I was quite confident the ViewRanger app on my phone would do.
Driving along Glen Clunie was a bit of a shock – it had been turned into a “wild” camp site with lots of huge family tents, some complete with gazebos, camping furniture etc., lined up along the river. I had heard that this seems to be the norm in some areas like Glen Etive, but I had never seen it with my own eyes.
After buying some cake and soft drinks in the restaurant of the Glenshee Ski Centre, I parked at the entrance to a track at the foot of Ben Gulabin, a bit over a km N of Spittal of Glenshee. I didn’t bring a daypack, so I just took all the camping gear out and used my Osprey Exos, which felt a bit strange on my back when it was almost empty.
Looking back to the start of the track.
Creag Leacach on the other side of the glen.
The track contours around the NE flank of the hill, where another, newer one continues right up the hillside in an almost straight line.
Nearer the summit, the track becomes a path again. From the distance I could see another walker at the summit, and we had a brief chat before he made his way down again.
Ben Gulabin summit.
Glas Tulaichean and Gleann Taitneach.
View up Gleann Beag towards The Cairnwell and Glas Maol.
This must be the easiest Corbett I have climbed so far, the route up and down is certainly not attractive, but it is worth it for the views alone!
6.7 km/672 m/03:00 hrs
Corbett: Morrone (No. 61)
On the way back to Braemar I had another stop at the Glenshee Ski Centre to check on the walkhighlands website where the best start point for Morrone was (and to buy some more cake…).
I wasn’t going to follow the exact walk description, but it was useful for finding the duck pond and the large car park beside it.
At first the walk leads through the sheltered birch woods at the foot of Morrone.
The various paths through the woods are well signposted.
Past the trees, a well maintained path leads up through the heather.
This weekend the Braemar Junior Highland Games were taking place, and I could see a crowd of visitors gathering in the Memorial Park.
Ben Avon in the distance.
Five cairns in a row across the path (?!)
View towards Lochnagar.
Radio mast at the summit.
Morrone trig point.
In the meantime the wind had picked up considerably and I was struggling to stay upright and take photos. It was so strong that it made my eyes water and I tried to find some shelter behind one of the buildings to have a short break.
After a quick look down into the Dee valley and towards Mar Lodge I returned by the same way.
It had become quite chilly now because of the strong wind, and back down at the car park I changed into some warmer clothes. Then I drove to the Fife Arms Hotel and sat outside for a while with a pint of cider, chatting to other guests.
When I became hungry, I went inside to order a meal. Although the bar area was not very busy, it took a long time for my cheese burger to arrive, and I wasn’t impressed with it either. One of the additional ingredients that I had ordered was missing (although I had been charged for it), and the burger itself was dry and overcooked. I did eat it because I was hungry and just wanted to get home after that, but I don’t think I would eat there again in a hurry.
But all in all, this was a very enjoyable weekend with great weather, apart from the clouds on the plateau on day one.