Monday, 27 July 2015

Geal Charn, Dorback, Abernethy Forest

Geal Charn from Dorback

Dorback Lodge

The Dorbach glen

Geal Charn from the track

Approaching the summit of Geal Charn from south east

Looking south to Cairngorms from Geal Charn

Descending along the Allt Mor

Upper Dell

Thursday, 23 July 2015
Ascent:      560 metres
Distance:   13 kilometres
Time:         3 hours 15 minutes

Geal Charn            821m     1hr 57mins

There are many Geal Charns (White Hills) in Scotland, including 4 munros and 2 corbetts. Geal Charn Dorback lies to the east of Nethy Bridge in the Abernethy Forest. I had travelled up the Dornach Lodge road late in the evening and, after a forlorn search for a camping spot. I eventually gave up looking and pitched my tent in the turning circle at the end of the road despite the no parking sign. I would be off early in the morning. There was a large depot for heavy plant and vehicles across the road that was protected by security lights and the the gates rattled in the wind throughout the night. It was cold but I had a comfortable night and was up by 6:45am. I packed the tent and gear, had some breakfast and was walking before 7:30am.

I set out through the gates towards the abandoned Dorback Lodge, there were a couple of nearby houses and a kennel of dogs who gave me a rousing reception and brought out the occupant of the house. The track turned to the south and passed through a serene glade of scots pine before beginning the long gentle climb to the head of the glen. It was cool but accompanied by bright sunshine - perfect walking conditions.

The track is well made and it was 5 kilometres before I came to the col and crossed a burn before beginning a south westerly climb up the flank of the Geal Charn plateau. It involved an interminable convex slope through the heathers with peat hags decorating the broad summit plateau. It was maybe not the best approach but at least it was in the lee of the hill; unlike the final 400 metres of walking that were into a strong westerly wind. The hill had only one redeeming feature: some outcrops of magnificent white quartzite. At last I had climbed a Geal-charn that had some evidence of what the name suggested. Most Geal Charns are rounded hills with short grass, lichens and heathers and this one had those features as well.

The views south towards the Cairngorms were dominated by heavy storm clouds and the wind was whipping across the summit. The descent was steep but easy - initially going north west and then curving to the north east down a broad ridge. I headed for the track coming up the Braes of Abernethy. It followed an undulating route across two burns and led down to Upper Dell, another beautifully situated ruin with some mature trees providing some shelter. I headed across the boggy meadow below the pylons and managed to bounce across the river without any difficulty or wet feet. There is a sandy area below the road, hoaching with rabbits. I had made good time and a couple of workers from the premises across from where I was parked waved to me in a friendly fashion, my anxiety about parking in the turning area for large vehicles was unfounded.

It was still mid morning so I was able to enjoy the drive to Nethy Bridge, a rapidly expanding village, and then on to the metropolis of Aviemore for a visit to the outdoor shops. I had harboured thoughts about climbing the two corbetts at the head of Glen Feshie but the dark rain clouds and strong winds made me think again so I headed down the A9 and was home mid afternoon.

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