Today was always likely to be relatively hard work – with most of the day off the beaten track – but with the potential for great views and a wonderful “out in the middle of nowhere” feeling. It did not disappoint.
The TGO Challenge planning notes said that I had to identify all Munros and Corbetts on my route sheet. This is all well and good if you’re a bagger, but I only have a vague idea what a Munro is and don’t have a clue what a Corbett is. Planning today’s route wasn’t too hard but trying to work out why a 942 metre hill was not a Munro was challenging. And another problem was that there is not enough space on the route sheet to write “when I include a hill’s name it doesn’t mean I intend to go to the top so it doesn’t really matter whose list it is on.”
Anyway, for those who’d like to follow the route on the map as they read the blog, here’s my route for that day: E via easiest route under foot – Sneachdach Slinnean (NH621026 914m not Mun) – NE – Carn Ban (942m not Mun) – Carn Ballach (920m not Mun) – Meall na Creughaich – Meall a Bhothain – Round Carn Sgulain (Mun NH684059) – Carn a Bhothain Mholaich – Round Carn an Fhreiceadain (Corbett) – Beinn Bhreac – Meall a Chocaire – A Bhuidheanaich – Carn Coire Dhugain – Camp NH798093 It looked great and I couldn’t pronounce a word of it.
Crossing the snowfields was interesting; looking out for slight changes in the colour which indicated a potential icy pool beneath. A few times I found existing footprints in the snow and took advantage of them. At one point I saw a little black frog sitting on the snow. I bent down to have a closer look and s/he flattened him/herself against the ice. I pretended that his/her cunning attempt at camouflage had been effective and walked on.
In my trail shoes, my feet were getting quite cold crossing the larger snowfields so I wasn’t hanging about. I only plunged knee-deep into cold water and mud a couple of times, which was fortunate.
The going got easier when I reached Carn Ban …. but this was where my navigation skills failed me. I had one of those “The map is wrong. The GPS is faulty. And someone has moved that glen.” moments. I must’ve spent 20 minutes, getting colder and colder, trying to figure out where I was. I was convinced that I was heading towards Carn Ban because I was heading uphill and there were some other people with rucksacks going that way and… erm, well, I’m not really sure. It was mildly inconvenient that I was heading SE and should have been going East. Oh, and that valley really shouldn’t be there, but maybe if I just keep going it will all become clear?
Eventually I figured it out. I was heading towards Carn Dearg. The valley was probably Gleann Ballach. I needed to go North and stay on the high ground; not SE and down into the valley which, for some reason, was an option I had considered.
Back on track, I was now quite annoyed with myself. I could’ve avoided the confusion by anticipating the lie of the land and paying more attention to where I was rather than (subconsciously) following the other walkers.
The walking was now easy and enjoyable. Yes, it was a bit chilly but it was a lovely day for walking and I just followed the high ground, first NE then generally East. There were faint tracks in the short scrubby vegetation and I guessed that they had probably been maintained by hillbaggers. With that in mind, as I approached Carn Sgulain, it was clearly going to be less effort to head for the summit rather than forging my own path to the South as planned. It was not a deliberate decision to “bag” a Munro; it just sort of happened. I reached the top at the same time as another walker who, if I recall correctly, was returning to hillwalking after a lengthy gap and was finding it quite hard going so had decided to cut his planned 3 Munro trip to 2. I don’t seem to have taken any photos to mark my first TGO Challenge Munro, but I did take my GPS for a wander round all the nearby lumpy bits just to make sure I’d been to the top.
By late afternoon I was getting quite tired. I’d had a great day but cross-country walking always wears me out and I was wishing that there was a way I could change my route to make the last few miles a bit easier. I was wild-camping that night so it didn’t really matter where I ended up. I considered taking the track S into Kingussie but that would have taken me back over ground I’ve done before so, instead, I decided to miss out A Bhuidheanaich and take the more direct route towards Kincraig and look for somewhere to camp by the quirky-shaped patch of forest.
I bagged the trig point on Carn an Fhreiceadain [Oh my word, I’ve just realised I did a Corbett, too!] then headed as due East as I could manage. I was at the trig point at about quarter to six – and the forest finally came into view at about twenty past eight.
I had my tent up by 9pm. It was a nice spot near a burn and with lovely views of snowy mountains. I was exhausted but I’d had a brilliant day.