Distance: 18.8 miles
Time: 8hrs 30mins (including several stops)
Ascent: 1,333m (4,373ft)
Munros: Carn Bhac (956m), Glas Tulaichean (1,051m)
Weather: Warm, chilly breeze at Munro height, sunny all day
Route: Click to view
It was a dawn of bright promise over Aberdeen as both members of the Stocket Hillwalking Club and the infamous Cairngorm Club gathered on Mid-Stocket Road for the first 7am start of the season. The preceding days had been warm and sunny and there was optimism for a day free of snow-wading. It didn’t turn out quite that way, but certainly the seasons are changing, the snow is finally melting and the heavy layers and crampons have been replaced by a need for wide-brimmed hats and copious amounts of sun cream and water.
After a long drive in a creaky coach we set off from Inverey under beautifully blue skies. After 9:30 in the morning there was still a distinct chill in the air and a feel of a lingering frost. We took the standard track that climbs gently up into Glen Ey, marvelling at the views and enjoying the stillness of the early morning.
After passing the ruin at Auchelie and crossing the bridge we took to the open hillside; the steep end of the northern wall of Glen Ey. The short heather made for good progress up a steep slope though the intensity of the sun soon drove off the layers. It was a relief to finally crest the broad, rolling summit. The views were immediately superb. Behind us the giants of the Cairngorms had risen, whilst off to the east we could see the snow-covered slopes of Morrone and the tip of Lochnagar beyond the Stuic buttress.
We wound our way along the series of tops above Glen Ey, first Creag an Lochain and then the twin-summited Carn Creagach. From this vantage point we had a good view onto the corniced north side of Beinn Iutharn Mhor, and beyond it the impressive outline of Beinn a’ Ghlo’s most northern summit. We also could see the significant drop down to the bealach leading to Carn Bhac. In the end it was less tiresome than it seemed and only a couple of snow slope crossings slowed our progress up to the wide, flat and rocky expanse of the summit of the day’s first Munro.
We admired the view over to Ben Macdui, Braeriach and the other high Cairngorms and then dropped off slightly to the west to take a brief rest-stop.
After this we had to drop south-west of Carn Bhac and negotiate a wide expanse of bog that runs in a series of wide furrels to the north of Beinn Iutharn Mhor. Our plan was to head west of Iutharn Mhor and climb the pass between it and Carn an Righ to reach Glas Tulaichean. The bog was made easier by the lingering snow and we soon gained a drier ridge that we followed for some distance before dropping off to the south and crossing a swift-flowing burn.
After this we contoured our way around the western end of Beinn Iutharn Mhor, coming across a small herd of deer and a great deal of frogs/toads enjoying the snowmelt and the sunshine.
Ahead of us Carn an Righ and Beinn a’ Ghlo looked very close. Now we turned south, picking our way along an animal track that hugged the side of the mountain above a snow-choked burn. A break for a snack and a map consult and we picked our course; climbing up a burn below the dark flanks of Carn an Righ.
Part way up we spotted members of the Cairngorm Club who had contoured around from Beinn Iutharn Mhor’s summit.
We caught up with them as they paused for a snack below the track leading off to Carn an Righ. However, Glas Tulaichean still stood between us and the pub at the Spittal of Glenshee, several miles distant. With the advancing hour we decided to give the King’s hill a miss and turned east to follow a narrow track which gently climbed towards the outfalls of Loch nan Eun.
We then had to cross two snow-filled burns to get to Glas Tuliachean’s north-east shoulder. The first of these was broken by a huge crevasse, more than a dozen feet deep, which had to be stepped over with some trepidation. After this there was a steep climb up to the north-east ridge which still carried plenty of snow, albeit slushy in the heat of the day. The views opened up, back over Loch nan Eun and the surrounding peaks, as well as to the myriad peaks of Beinn a’ Ghlo.
It only took me a few minutes to traverse the snow slopes and climb up onto the deserted summit.
From here, under the beautiful afternoon skies which had begun to cloud over, there were magnificent views all about. I took the time to get a couple of self-portraits and then sat with my back to the trig point to breathe in the stunning surroundings. My last trip up this mountain had been in the mist and drizzle of a Scottish spring.
After enjoying this perfect afternoon we dropped south from the summit on a more subtle vehicle track than the unsightly scar that rises further east.
The heather here was short and springy and we made quick progress down to the ruin in Glen Lochsie. Our final obstacle was a fast-flowing burn that had stratified evidence of deep, deep snow.
Once across this though I picked up the dismantled railway line and made rapid progress along it to the Dalmunzie Hotel. The views back up Gleann Taitneach, now glowing in the afternoon sunshine, were beautiful.
The Corbett of Ben Gulabin kept me company as I trudged down the 1.5 miles of tarmac to the Spittal of Glenshee where an ice cold beer was the reward for almost twenty miles, climbing two Munros, and all in just 8.5 hours.
The next day rosy red hands, neck and nose told of a spectacularly sunny day in the Scottish mountains. Spring has sprung at last.