After the change of weather last week on Beinn Stacach SS-043 (nice to nasty in 95mins) and having to climb over some deer proof gates to make good my return (10ft high) I decided that I needed a proper hill for my 100th unique summit (128th activation). That means a Munro but which one? Depends on the WX and I spent most of the week with work colleagues discussing which to do. By the end of the week it was clear the WX would be spectacular so that meant a Munro with a good view was needed. Carn Gorm come on down!
Carn Gorm is one of two Marilyns in the Glen Lyon horseshoe. There are 4 Munros and 2 Munro tops aswell. Fit and able bodied people should be easily capable of doing the horseshoe but I wasn’t too sure given I would be fooling about with radios and whether I’d be able to carry enough water as well given the temperature. Having seen it at first hand it doesn’t actually look that much. The distance walked is not much more than the linear walk and back to Carn Gorm but there is some up and down to include. Next time perhaps.
Parking is available in Invervar, well up Glen Lyon. The road in Glen Lyon, Scotland’s longest glen is not good. It’s bloody awful when every Sunday driver is out driving without thinking, more on that later. Anyway I was away early, 7.45am depart and was pulling into the car park at 9.40am. Now I’m sorry to say there has been considerable friction between the estate owners for Carn Gorm and walkers. You have to accept the basic fact that you are not welcome here and despite the Land Reform Act 2003, the estate owners don’t want you here. You can Google the sorry state of affairs but the contrast between the estate’s website and notices and those of the neighbouring estate up at the Giorra Dam (Stucd an Lochain and Meall Bhuidhe (Glen Lyon N)) couldn’t be more different. Up at Giorra the signs welcome you to enjoy yourself in the wonderful countryside with a small section that during Stag Season you should check for stalking but you can always walk on the marked paths. (Essentially Stucd an Lochain and Meall Bhuidhe munro paths always open). This not the case for Carn Gorm with the signs basically saying you should go and climb Ben Lawers or Schiehallion or something else but just stay away from these hills 'coz you’re not paying anything and you’re just causing disruption. Hrmph!
Wilfully ignoring all the signs I exercised my right to essential walk were ever the hell I goddamn like in GM-land! I was booted up by 9.50 and with a liberal coating of suncream and extra rations of water set off through the substantial gate with yet more notices about my duties ignored! There’s a lovely path through mature woodland and I was accompanied by the sound of a Cuckoo. It’s 21 years since I last heard one. The path soon emerges onto open land with the woods beneath you. The sun was scorching already. The Invervar Burn runs just out of site and was evidently full of water from the racket. (c.f. Invervar Burn Hydro scheme as another way to impede access to Carn Gorm)
After about 2kms of moderately steep climbing the path comes to the junction of 2 burns and the bridge appears. You can ford the shallowish burn and continue up to the shiellings then cross Invervar Burn and make for the ridge or take the bridge. The river wasn’t in spate but was still full of white water. I took the bridge. Hmmmm… it bends in the middle with my weight and due to a missing rail it twists alarmingly. 10 very worrying seconds to cross it and I was at the other side looking back as the bridge wobbled. Go and look up the film of the original Tacoma Narrows bridge collapsing. This bridge was moving the same way after my lardy bulk crossed over. From here the path hugs the edge of the woods. Literally as you have to duck to get past the overhanging branches. After few hundred metres you come out onto open hillside.
There’s a nice path to follow. Not a trench, but a nice obvious worn path. The ground is slightly boggy here but just boggy, not very. The gradient eases off for a while then it’s up the side of the ridge to gain the main ridge to the summit. The view isn’t wonderful yet, sure you can look back into Glen Lyon which is good but the big boys to the South (Ben Lawers etc.) are hidden as are the hills to the West. The coire starts to open out and you realise how shapely and lovely An Sgurr is at the head. Anyway onwards and upwards and after 40mins of huffing in the heat I had a quick drink. With some more groaning and straining I was onto the main ridge.
It was here you first start realise the view is going to be a cracker. This is not a hill to do in the dreik. It really warrants a good day. I also noticed that someone had stolen the gradient. There must be nearly a km to walk where you climb no more than 100m. Trivial. At the far end of this flat bit I had a comfort break and 1/3 of a Mars bar. This was before tackling the steep bit. But it’s not really steep. Not Ben Hope relentless steep. Not scary Ben Stack steep. Not when will this torture end Cruach Ardrain steep. Just a bit steep.
Probably about 25 mins steep. Then another flat bit and a final 75m ascent and the double summit appears.
The nearest cairn is the highest at 1029m with the trig point and wind shelter at 1028m. There’s bags of flat space, more than enough for a top band dipole without getting in the way of anyone. The summit was busy, 7 people there. In total I saw 11 people at the top. Did I mention the view would be good?
This was simply a spectacular Munro. It’s trivial to climb, a total 2hr25 elapsed to get here and a view to die for. The sad bit being the dead trig point. How this one was toppled remains a mystery. It lies on its side, the flush bracket long since stolen. I did think about looking for the bolt, the holy grail for trigpointers but you don’t know where the Trig should be and there’s lots of stones to move. Anyway the view; phenomenal. From the view of the back of the Lawers and Tarmachan ridges just across Glen Lyon to the South. The view of the horseshoe itself. Schiehallion to the North with the Cairngorms in the distance. The big hills out to Crianlarich. And Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe. Oh the wonder of seeing just how big Rannoch Moor is and the complete lack of anything there. Glen Coe is astounding. To see it from here is to realise the strategic significance. Of course Ben Nevis was big and ugly and devoid of most of the snow he had a few weeks back. There was still snow on Carn Gorm and lots on Aonach Mor but the Ben was quite bare. I spent the first 20 minutes just looking in the scorching sun complete speechless. To date I think this was one of the best views I’ve had. I drank it in and savoured it more knowing how much the owners appear to want to keep you out of here. If you only ever do one mountain in Scotland then this one should possibly be it for the range of views.
Anyway, man on a mission. Setup was easy as the ground was ok for tent pegs. Onto 60m and it was quiet. Never mind beacon-box online and wait and have a butty. On reverting to RX a witty riposte from John GW4BVE opened up proceedings. It wasn’t terribly hard to get 4 in the log and thus complete 100 unique summits activated. I really wanted a big score in the log but again conditions were naff. After another quiet spell and the beacon-box on again I managed to work 6 on SSB and Graham G3OHC on CW. I tried calling on 40m CW and there was nothing. Nada, zilch, rien. Now I’d worked Rob G4RQJ on NP-007 and he was struggling. Yet we could work each other with ease. Not loud but Q5. Rob had failed on 7.032, 7.118 and 60m was not playing. We spent ages chatting hoping someone would hear us but I didn’t work anyone else. Bizarre. I’m not sure if people had given up as the Irish fisherman had been pirating away for ages or they got fed up with the GM4 calling in morse and never listening for a reply. My monitoring sources say he only called CQ when there was an SSB SOTA station on the air. However, it was qualified so I finished the Mars bar and packed up.
Photos, water, banana, diabetic pills, comfort break and I was off down. The route was the reverse of the ascent and it was easy as the wind had picked up from nothing when I started to a refreshing speed now. It really was nice to plod down. My new rucksack is a major improvement on my old one. The position is better, I feel fresher carrying it and best of all, I feel more stable. I really could have done with a bigger one but this will force me to rationalise the junk. I don’t think there’s enough space for a Winter activation that features 23cms due to the extra warm stuff needed and the 23cms stuff.
It wasn’t long before I had to cross that damn bridge again. Suffice to say it’s still up and I got across. I spent 20 minutes at the crossing. Relaxing in the sun listening to the water on the rocks. I passed some fine pools in that burn. With the temperature and the clarity of water I was tempted to have a quick dip. I’m not sure what the estate owners would do if they found a fat, hairy, sweaty walker skinny dipping in the prized burn! It’s a thought though.
All good things end soon and I was back at the car for 4.30pm. The cuckoo was still calling his heart out. He was joined by a woodpecker. Another wonderful sound as he hammered away. No doubt the damage to the bark will be blamed on walkers by the estate! :-)It was extremely hot down in the glen and the Bridge Of Balgie Tea Rooms were calling. I changed quickly and set off up the glen. I was making for Bridge Of Balgie for a cuppa and then to turn out and take the road out past Lochan nan Larige and Ben Lawers to Loch Tay. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad move. All the day trippers were driving up from the Central Belt to Killin then along Loch Tay up to Bridge Of Balgie and the out along the glen. Which meant I met a steady stream of drivers coming the other way down a narrow single track road. Three times I met retards driving so fast around blind bends I had the ABS cut in. Anyway I arrived at the tea room just before closing and got a pot of nice rosy. £1.60 for a big pot of wonderful strong tea in a china pot, with a china cup and saucer and china milk jug I sat in the sun enjoying the view. I’d have said tranquility but the place was heaving. It was a really good cuppa. Recommended place to visit.
The final drive was up and over past Ben Lawers. I’ve never done this road and it was much quieter than the glen. The view of the back of Tarmachan is beyond words as is the majestic coire. Another phenomenal view. Then down past a heaving Ben Lawers Visitor Centre and reasonable drive out through Killin until Callander. Where I sat in a 30minute 3 mile queue to clear one set of lights. Pah!
Pictures already on the Flickr group. Don’t be put off by the fact you’re not welcomed here. Visit and walk on a Sunday, there’s no shooting on Sundays. Exercise your rights and don’t be intimidated.
Distance walked: 10.1km, total ascent: 883m, distance drive 195 miles.
Thanks to everyone who has spotted me, worked me and encouraged me to get to 100 uniques and just over half-goatdom. Without you etc. etc.