The weather forecast was not fantastic, but looking ahead things didn’t appear to be getting any better. So I took a risk, and set off on what was to be the longest and most remote of my planned walks for this trip, which would take me deep into some of the remotest mountains on the margins of the Mounth and Atholl.
The cycle in, through Glen Ey, felt quite long, and had plenty of climb. That wasn’t entirely helped by my bike GPS deciding that my route didn’t look sufficiently hard-core for a mountain bike, and giving me an extra 80 or 90m climb as a small but frustrating diversion. I knew, however, I’d make up for all the climb later (and wouldn’t need to do it on foot either).
It’s fair to say that the route I’d planned-out doesn’t really follow the conventional approaches for these hills, which would normally be done as three walks rather than one. However, having biked in I was keen to walk as many as possible.
I left the bike tied to the fence surrounding the ruins of Altnatour Lodge, and set off deeper into the glen; throughout the ride in it had been closing-in around me, and by now it felt slightly claustrophobic, with thick cloud above, and moutains left, right, and ahead. My route followed an ATV track at the beginning, climbing gently up the slops of Càrn Bhac. It began to get drizzly, and the track continued up past grouse butts, but eventually petered-out into singletrack as I closed in on the summit. The last few hundred metres took me into the cloud, which was just lapping around the stony summit. This would, as it turned out, be the last I’d see by way of a view for quite a while.
Ahead of me was the ling traverse to the second Munro, albeit via a Top. I (very) briefly dropped out of the cloud at the bealach between Càrn Bhac and Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, but I was soon climbing back into the cloud, and rather heavy rain. Visibility for the last kilometre or so of the walk across to the second Munro was extremely limited. I didn’t hang about long at the second cairn, and my phone seemed to be playing up, so I decided to push on in the hope that I’d drop back out of the cloud and the rain.
After contouring for a while I eventually reached the point where I needed to turn-off the circuit and onto a spur to reach Càrn an Righ, which lay a bit over a kilometre away. It was a nice quick ascent, and given that I was still walking through cloud, and the wind had picked up considerably by this point, I touched the cairn and immediately about-turned back towards the main loop.
The walk onwards to Glas Tulaichean felt like it took an absolute age, though it was only a few kilometres. My phone battery died (and, as it would later turn out, the phone died in a more interesting manner too), and I started to feel remote. At this point I was as far away from the start as I was going to get, and I was feeling pretty miserable. I got to the summit, and again felt no real desire to hang around; there was still no view to be had at all.
Around this point I decided to check on the map how far it was to the final hill, An Sochach. I suspect I was wondering if I could reasonably bail and come back to it another day. It was at this point I realised I also didn’t have the right map with me, and I’d lifted the map for Atholl rather than Glenshee. It was not proving to be one of my more successful outings.
Not knowing a safe descent route, I carried on, and eventually, after many miles of crossing heather with very little path, spotted the path which climbed up the side of An Socach. The climb up the hill itself was fast and easy, and before too long I had bagged by fifth and final munro of the day, completing the Munros of the OL52 map which I’d failed to bring out with me. My mood was buoyed by this, and the cloud was finally lifting.
I still had quite a long walk out, along the long back of An Socach, and back down to the bike, but it seemed to go faster than the earlier walking, despite mild protests from my knee, which had now enjoyed half a box of ibuprofen. The descent was steep, and became a little slow-going, with no path, despite the presence of more grouse butts.
I was rather glad to make it back to the bike, and enjoy largely free-wheeling back down the track to Inverey, and then out again to Braemar. I got back late, and ended up only having the energy to make myself cheese on toast.