Thursday, 11 February 2016

Glen Roy Carn Deargs

Looking up Glen Roy
Along the river Turret, Parallel roads centre
Chimney Stack before Gleann Eachach
KY on the ascent to Carn Dearg (SE)
From Carn Dearg (SE) towards Loch Lochy Munros
KY descending Carn Dearg (SE) towards Carn Dearg (NW)
Carn Dearg (SE) from Carn Dearg (NW)
John descending from Carn Dearg (NW)
View south from Carn Dearg (NW)
Carn Dearg (NW) to Carn Dearg (SE)
Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Ascent:      895 metres
Distance:   16 kilometres
Time:         5 hours 27minutes

Carn Dearg (south east)     768m      2hrs 15mins
Carn Dearg (north west)    815m     3hrs  21mins

It was a bit late in the year for first footing the Scottish hills but this was my first foray into the mountains in 2016. After the successive storms from Frank to Imogen, there was a brief respite and the Met Office forecasts, which are now available for individual mountains, were invaluable in deciding where to go. John was on standby for a two-day walking trip to build our hill fitness and to collect some Corbetts. As soon as we spotted a couple of days with some prospect of reasonable visibility, we made arrangements to travel to Spean Bridge. We decided to tackle the two Corbetts both called Carn Dearg at the head of Glen Roy. Glen Roy is famous for the parallel roads, remnants of the last ice age that provide real physical contour lines in the glen.

We were walking by 10:30am after a 3-hour drive north. The road in Glen Roy was quite icy and after almost falling on the walk up to Brae Roy Lodge I briefly considered going back to retrieve my crampons from the car. The Lodge at the head of the glen was unoccupied although the nearby cottage had signs of life; a generator was working and the dogs were barking. We crossed the old Turret bridge, an 18th century humped back bridge and remnant of the military highway. We then turned to the west to follow a track alongside the river Turret for a couple of kilometres until it narrowed to a boggy path. The sun was casting glorious shadows on the hillside and the blue skies created that feel good factor that can make or break any walk. We passed a couple of chimney stacks, all that remained of former cottages.

We stayed on the east bank rather than crossing the footbridge and began to climb up Gleann Eachach aiming for the bealach at 570 metres. The ascent was a tough battle through long grass recently flattened by snow and lacking any path. By the time we reached 400 metres, we turned and headed for the ridge leading to the southeastern Carn Dearg, despite the gradient it was a lot easier than crossing innumerable deeply incised burns that carved into the hillside. By 550 metres we were walking in soft snow but as we reached the more gentle slope of the ridge the snow had hardened in the wind and our speed over the ground increased as we targeted the distant cairn. To the east, we could see the lower slopes of Beinn Teallach and Beinn a' Chaorrain but Creag Meagaidh was lost in the clouds. As we neared the summit a golden eagle glided directly above us, as always it was a mile or so away in less than a minute and before cameras could be retrieved for that close up.

A biting wind from the north-west had made it progressively colder, we put on another layer at the summit where we had some lunch and goggled at the snow covered peaks in all directions. The cloud level was down to about 1000 metres so we were denied views of the higher summits such as the Grey Corries and Ben Nevis. The descent to the bealach between the two hills was a leisurely slither through the mainly soft snow. The ascent to the NW Carn Dearg was slightly steeper but with good footing and sheltered from the cold wind it gave us time to enjoy the white mountainscapes although dark clouds were beginning to come in from the north-west. The summit was a small cairn in the middle of a snowfield where we finished the coffee before beginning the longish walk out.

On days like this, there is a jauntiness about your step as you begin the descent down the snowfields, finding sections that hold the boot and then on the lower slopes twisting and turning through the long grass on the descent towards Gleann Eachach. We made good time to the footbridge beyond which is an easy final 5 kilometres back along the path and track to the Lodge. With just a couple of kilometres to go the rain arrived and became progressively heavier as we wound our way back to the car. All the light of the day had dimmed and Brae Roy Lodge had a desolate appearance. Another walker arrived at the head of the glen but showed no intention of getting out of his car to walk.

We stripped off our boots and waterproofs and headed back down the long winding road to Roy Bridge where we booked into the bunkhouse. It was my fifth visit and it has not improved since the first visit in 1991, nor is there a shop in the village any longer but the hotel has reasonable food and the Wifi code is given free when you buy a drink, so the bar was busy with a remarkable number of men with a beer on their laptops augmenting the silence.

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