Sunday 17th April – An Amble Back Under Cloudless Skies
If you missed part one of this trip you can read it here.
Time: 7hrs 09mins
Hills: Carn an Righ (Munro, 1029m), Beinn Iutharn Mhor (Munro, 1045m)
Weather: Blue skies with some high cloud. Very warm and only a light breeze developing early afternoon
Route: Click to view on OS Map
The intensifying sunlight drew me from my slumbers and as the brightness filled the tent I could begin to see the frost glittering on the outside of the fly. Above me beaded a few drops of condensation on the inner but this was no great surprise given the calmness of the night.
I dozed for half an hour or so, enjoying the warming effect of the sunlight, before poking my head out at around 7:30am to check on the world. It was a beautiful start to the day though I’m a bit annoyed that I failed to get up early enough to watch the sunrise. Long, white tendrils of cloud were draped over the mountains and the grass sparkled with frost. Outside the tent it was chilly but the effects of the rising sun could already be felt. I put on my down vest and set about making some breakfast. Down by the burn I soon had the stove going and in short order boiling water for porridge (another Expedition Foods dehydrated pouch) and a latte. As the sun rose steadily above Beinn Iutharn Mhor it was quickly getting warmer, hinting at the long hot day to come.
The porridge was delicious (though I slightly underestimated the amount of water required this time) and the coffee warmed me up nicely. After breakfast I had a wander down the burn to wake up the legs and then returned to slowly pack everything away. The ice on the tent had rapidly thawed leaving the fly soaking so I left it up to dry as much as possible in the sunlight. After walking through the bog the previous evening my shoes and socks were still sopping wet so again I waited until I was almost ready to go before putting them on. I was able to dry out other things in the sunlight though (in particular the damp outside of the sleeping bag) so overall it wasn’t too bad putting everything back in the pack and the extra space made by the reduction in food certainly helped.
Once I’d ensured that I had everything I was ready to move off, picking my way uphill and way from the burn, cutting across to reach the low north-western shoulder of Carn an Righ where I had spotted a track the previous afternoon. The boggy ground was a brief chore but in the calm weather and under increasingly clear blue skies it didn’t take long to begin the climb. There was something of track for most of the ascent until it got lost in various scree and rock slopes below the summit of Stac na h-Iolair (I have no idea how that final bit is pronounced…). The final section to the top was very bouldery but it was a pleasure to reach the summit in the sunlight, put down the bag, stand back and admire the beautiful views. I’m sure a summit camp would have given me a stunning sunrise, but even now the views were superb, Beinn a’ Ghlo very close at hand and the distant Cairngorms still snowy.
I enjoyed the bimble along the broad ridge, picking out a number of spots that would have made a good campsite, and then made the final climb up to the summit of Carn an Righ. The substantial summit cairn provided excellent seating spots with views out in all directions. I must have spent a good three quaters of an hour up there, enjoying being on a Munro at 10am after a brisk 45 minute ascent.
Shortly after arriving I was joined by a guy from Edinburgh who had walked in from Straloch and spent the night camped at Daldhu. Carn an Righ was his only objective for the day so he was taking it easy. His breakfast of fried sausages did make me jealous though – next time! We shared a few accounts of recent hillwalks and our experiences in these hills. During this exchange a third guy arrived! I never expected Carn an Righ to have a crowded summit so early on a Sunday! He had walked in directly from Glenshee and was soon heading back the way with the aim of driving across towards the Tarf Hills for a wander up to them the next day.
He left and then I had a snack and a drink before heading off myself. The way ahead was clear, with the drop into the col, then a climb up on Meall nan Cnapain and finished off by a wander along to Beinn Iutharn Mhor resplendent in the sunshine. Although I had already climbed this hill, it was on a dreich day in September and I wanted to get a view this time.
The descent from Carn and Righ is an easy one, a faint path dropping through a few rocky areas before becoming more distinctive lower down. A final steepish section drops you down to meet the track coming up from Fealar Lodge (and my campsite). The water quality looked a little dubious here so I pushed on, crossing the col and climbing up the steep slopes of Meall nan Cnapain. The gradient relented soon and then it was an amble up to the broad plateau and the small summit cairn. Bag off, drink of water, long sunbathe! I watched a group on the summit of Glas Tulaichean as well as a couple of folk on Beinn Iutharn Mhor. The sun was blazing so I applied liberal amounts of sunblock and then settled down for a quick snooze.
The summit of Beinn Iutharn Mhor was next, reached by dropping to the bealach (through a band of delicious snow) and then a climb up, following a good track to the rocky summit area.
The last time I was here the ascent had been made into the unwelcoming arms of a northerly gale. Today was the complete opposite, just a faint breeze wafting up from the southwest. I reached the summit cairn and absorbed the stunning views. Despite the haze the Cairngorms and Mounth Hills, and away south to the Lomonds in Fife, were all visible. Nearby, the Glenshee Hills and the long sinuous outline of the Glas Maol group could be seen as well as a great view back to Carn an Righ and onwards towards An Socach and Beinn Iutharn Beag.
Again, I lingered long at the summit, the sun still shining although more of a breeze was picking up. Then I carried on, following the curve of the high northern face which looms above the tiny Lochan Uaine below. The cliffs were impressively corniced, layers of snow starting to slip inexorably towards the drop off. The path was delightful and I was soon at the lower eastern top and enjoying the last views of the surrounding hills.
From here, I knew from my last visit, it was a steep descent down the nose to reach the boggy ground above Altanour Lodge. I took in the stunning view down over Glen Ey and then continued on.
My water was almost gone by this point and although I descended quickly, picking up a clear path, I then lost it in the boggy morass above the river. I struggled on, squelching through mossy pools and struggling through thick, knee-high heather until finally, and with some relief I again came across the proper path again. Just a few more minutes and I was at the crossing over the Alltan Odhar where I threw off the pack and bounded down to the stream for a refreshing head dip and a drink. I went through about 1.5 litres of deliciously crisp mountain water in a minute. Thirst quenched I continued on the short distance to the ruin at Altanour where it was time for a spot of lunch.
Under the trees and with a little breeze for company it was a great spot to stop. I chatted with a couple who emigrated to Australia but always come back to Scotland each year to enjoy the countryside. They had just wandered up Glen Ey and were returning the same way.
After finishing off the last of my oatcakes I too was ready to head down Glen Ey. In the golden afternoon sunlight the glen looked glorious, the Ey Water meandering back and forth across the flats, the heather clad slopes rising steeply on either side, and a set of Northern Lapwings wheeling and tumbling and letting out their strange ululating calls.
These all helped pass the time, particularly as the long miles on the good vehicle track were sapping at the feet. Eventually I rounded the corner and could see the second ruin in the distance, indicating I was almost at the car. There was excitement just here when I came across a snake dozing on the path. As soon as it got wind of me it slithered off and was lost in the undergrowth.
I enjoyed the final drop down hill and before I knew it I was retracing my steps down, through the gate, past the houses and out to the car.
The total trip time was some 29 hours car-to-car with 15 of those spent at the campsite and at least 2.5-3 hours spent relaxing on summits and by burns and taking photographs. Therefore I covered a total distance of 45km in just 11 hours of hiking – not bad going with an 8.5kg starting load! I’ve posted a full gear report but suffice to say at this point that the heros of the trip were my battered and bruised TNF Hedgehog Trail Shoes, my Icebreaker long-sleeved base layer and my PHD Down Sleeping Bag and Gillet. I’ll remember this trip for a long time to come. It had all the essentials of a great camping trip – long distances, wild places and stunning views. Everything seemed to work out perfectly, from my shelter and sleep systems, to food and route choice, and I can’t wait to get there again before too long (next time with a Scarp 1 tent!)