Four Munros and three Corbetts South of Braemar

Saturday 13 July 2013:

Creag nan Gabhar, Carn an Tuirc, Cairn of Claise, Tom Buidhe + Tolmount (26.1 km, 1189 m)

Sunday 14 July 2013:

Ben Gulabin + Morrone (19.2 km, 1167 m)

Day 1, Saturday 13 July 2013

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.

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Callater Burn.

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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.

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Loch Callater.

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Loch Callater (zoomed).

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Glen Clunie and Baddoch.

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Approaching Creag nan Gabhar.

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The Cairnwell and Carn Aosda.

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Creag nan Gabhar summit cairn.

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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.

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On the ascent to the track I came across lots of cloudberries.

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Lochcallater Lodge.

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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…

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… and it was as impressive as I had imagined it to be!

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From the track above Loch Kander it is just a 15 minutes detour to the summit of Carn an Tuirc.

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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.

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On the way to Cairn of Claise, I suddenly noticed a “wall” of cloud quickly moving towards me.

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And within seconds, my surroundings disappeared in thick clag.

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Cairn of Claise summit.

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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 😆

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The “views” on my way to Tom Buidhe.

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Tom Buidhe summit.

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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.

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Tolmount summit.

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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.

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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.

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Just when I reached the bottom of the glen, thick white clouds came rolling down at speed, it almost looked like an avalanche!

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The head of Glen Callater.

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A potential camp site by the Allt an Loch, but I wanted to walk a bit further.

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Glen Callater.

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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.

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Day 2, Sunday 14 July 2013

1) Loch Callater – Auchallater

6.2 km/14 m/01:30 hrs

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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.

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Lochcallater Lodge.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Creag Leacach on the other side of the glen.

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The track contours around the NE flank of the hill, where another, newer one continues right up the hillside in an almost straight line.

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Track.

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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.

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Ben Gulabin summit.

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Glen Shee.

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Glas Tulaichean and Gleann Taitneach.

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View up Gleann Beag towards The Cairnwell and Glas Maol.

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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!

3) Morrone

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.

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At first the walk leads through the sheltered birch woods at the foot of Morrone.

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The various paths through the woods are well signposted.

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Past the trees, a well maintained path leads up through the heather.

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This weekend the Braemar Junior Highland Games were taking place, and I could see a crowd of visitors gathering in the Memorial Park.

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Ben Avon in the distance.

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Five cairns in a row across the path (?!)

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View towards Lochnagar.

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Radio mast at the summit.

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Morrone trig point.

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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.

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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.

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