Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Gaick Pass Corbetts

 Edendon Water
Start of the track from the A9 by the Trinafour junction
An Dun and Maol Craig an Loch from the track to Sronphadruig Lodge
Starting the climb up Maol Creag an Loch
Maol Creag an Loch: the real summit*
Looking over Loch an Duin to the plateau of An Dun from Creag an Loch
Toad in descent
Allt Loch an Duin braided burns
Maol Creag an Loch from An Dun ascent
From An Dun summit the south end of  Loch an Duin
Edendon glen  from An Dun
Sronphadruig Lodge

An Dun, so now for the cycle out
Tuesday, 7 May 2015
Ascent:        1025 metres
Distance:     27 kilometres (13km by bike) 
Time:           5 hours 41 minutes

c     Maol Creag an Loch        875m      2hrs 13mins
c     An Dun                            827m      3hrs 58mins

Another rare good day was forecast and I thought it a good opportunity to climb Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour, a mountain I had been saving for a good day. However, the morning forecast was suggesting that the visibility would be hazy and I would probably have to wait 3 hours for the evening bus back to Crianlarich at the Corran Ferry. So my next option was to look at the Gaick Pass munros, steep and difficult hills at the head of the Edendon Water, just off the Drumochter pass. Although up at 6:30am, I faffed about loading the bike and gathering lightweight gear for the warm weather predicted. In the process, I forgot to put in my jacket so I had to hope the forecast would hold. 

I stopped at Perth for diesel and had a look at the new Tiso store sitting at the start of the A9 leading out of Perth. It was well equipped but sadly I am not currently looking for gear. Needless to say, the A9 was playing its usual tricks, lorries that drove at 45mph on the single lane sections and then accelerated to 60mph on the dual carriageway sections thwarting any overtaking. The Scottish Government contractors had chosen the morning busy period to close some of the dual carriageway sections for grass cutting and then brought traffic to a halt for patching operation on the single lane section. It took well over an hour to travel the 45 miles or so to Dalnamein Lodge, where I mistakenly parked and cycled a couple of kilometres up the track before realising I should have parked at Dalncardoch Lodge, just by the Trinafour road. It was one of those days and this was confirmed when I cycled up the most travelled track at the first junction and ended up at a private house. I doubled back and found the track up to Sronphadruig Lodge.

Once on the track that runs along the quite splendid Edendon Water, I was relaxed and happy. I met three Dutch walkers who told me they loved the tranquillity, solitude and altitude although they came from a town below sea level, minus 20 metres apparently, and they seemed to be struggling for oxygen. I remained open-minded about which way round to climb the two corbetts until almost reaching the derelict Sronphadruig Lodge. I decided to cut up to the right before the fenced forest and then climb the less steep Maol Creag an Loch first. It was tough going with thick heather and steep ground but the views across to An Dun were good. The colours were startling: the gravy brown of the hillsides from the dormant heathers, the straw coloured the grasses, the deep blue of the loch and the patches of snow, brilliant in the sunshine.

There is a long convex summit plateau, the type where you never quite see the top and having walked along the ridge overlooking the loch I was confronted with a drop and climb to what I assumed was the summit. There was no cairn visible and when I arrived, I could see why. It was possibly the smallest cairn on the flattest ground that I have encountered. I had some lunch and noticed a bigger cairn about 600 metres away to the south-east, I remembered reading that other walkers had been confused by the true summit. I felt obliged to walk over and check it out, during which I was buzzed by a low flying helicopter. The big cairn is 10 metres lower than the mini cairn and apparently marks the boundary between the old Perthshire and Invernessshire. The highest point is definitely the mini cairn at the grid references shown on the OS map.

I headed off to the north west with Meall Chuaich acting as my lodestone whilst admiring the Cairngorm summits through the haze to the north. Trying to find a suitable route down to the wonderful topography of the Allt Loch an Duin where it drains Loch an Duin was not easy. The slopes are relentlessly steep and there is much debris and landslip. I then had difficulty crossing the river and had to walk back almost to the loch before crossing. I then faced 375 metres of excruciating  ascent, so steep that I was using hands on some sections. A descending toad gave me chance to have a breather and I was mesmerised by the braided burns forming a wonderful natural design on the valley floor below. 

Reaching the ridge was a relief and there was a gentle incline onto the plateau. It was formed with a spirit level and gave an easy walk to the cairn which sits at the southern end. This is an armchair viewpoint for the resplendent Edendon glen below. The Highlands in all their majesty are splayed out in map form with Sronphadruig Lodge sitting proud at the head of the glen.

The descent is steep but there is a twisting path through the heather that eventually leads to the small dam across the Edendon Water. I crossed this and walked back down the west bank enjoying the gorgeous sound of the river, the late afternoon warm sunshine and admiring the Lodge which is sadly dilapidated.  I eventually came to the new concrete ford, crossed and walked back up the other side of the Edendon Water to collect the bike. 

The descent was fairly brisk although the track surface mainly course gravel, the front suspension took a real hammering as did my hands which were numb by the time I crossed the A9 and headed down the Trinafour road where I had parked. For once the A9 was traffic free so it was a remarkably easy journey south as the sun played with the landscape and made the journey home unusually relaxing.

Glorious view back at the end of the day

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