Carn Mairg is one Marilyn on the Glen Lyon Horsehoe circuit with Carn Gorm being the other. This is a fantastic high level walk that never drops below 850m and rises to 1048m on Carn Mairg’s summit including two more Munros, Meall Garbh and Meall na Aighean and a few Munro tops. A little too much for me especially if partaking in radio tomfoolery.
The WX this Sunday was fantastic after the houlie that had been blowing all of Saturday, bright blue sky and no clouds but a bit chilly, 3C according to the car when I left at 7.40am. The drive up was uneventful until I got to Glen Lyon. The road up to the Ben Lawers visitor centre then to Bridge of Balgie is a narrow single track road that rises to 550m. From there it’s another 8 miles to Invervar. However, there was a lorry loading sheep at one of the farms en route and this blocked the narrow road so I was delayed 20mins. At least the lorry would force all the oncoming traffic out of the way once we set off.
There’s a car park at Invervar, the location of much friction between walkers and the Chesthill Estate. Once it was over cars blocking the village but even though there is a car park the estate still loathes walkers who pay nothing for the Munros. The shooting notices were up that push the law to the maximum trying to frighten walkers away to Schiehallion or Ben Lawers. “Stalking everyday” Best of all, you must walk clockwise around the horseshoe as going the other way disturbs the deer and causes management issues. My response is unprintable. Anyway I got 9th of 10 spaces in the car park and was off up at 10.40am.
Up the path as if I was going to Carn Gorm but as soon as you leave the forest you turn right up the hillside. The path is clearly visible in the distance but harder to find close in. I went in a straight line through waist deep bracken and short heather till I hit it. Then it should be plain sailing but I lost it about 10 mins further on. I wasn’t sure if I was following an animal track till some boot prints were visible. It climbs quickly but not a rate too fast for FMF, “The Human Lardball”! It’s faint in places but I kept heading up into the crags. Then you find the main path from Balintyre farm. This is an ATV track and zig zags up the hill. At the foot of the crags proper the ATV track drops into Choire Chearchaill towards the bothy. The Munro trade route is now very obvious up through the crags starting at NN671490. It climbs a lot and is up and down with quite boggy bits but the path is always obvious. This section is only about 750m long but as you climb 150m it takes a few minutes to walk. The path gets better from the 700m ASL level.
All the time the view behind you has been getting better. Sadly you have to stop and turn around to appreciate what is on offer as the view when walking is rather boring. I took a few photos of Glen Lyon from here and continued. It was getting cold in the wind. But the sun was still bright yet sadly the cloud was building out West. After about 3 years hillwalking experience I could guestimate when it would cloud over. I judged that if I got a move on I’d get to the top before the cloud came. What did surprise at the 850m level was finding ice in puddles and snow on the ground. Just a fine dusting that was out of the sun but there were places were the ground was frozen too. Seems early to me.
The path actually heads to Meall na Aighean not Carn Mairg. That is reached from Meall na Aighean. I did think of contouring round rather than climbing up and then down but that normally means more effort than following a path up. So that’s what I did. Eventually I could see the path to Carn Mairg a few hundred metres away and I made straight for it. This drops into the col about 80m before climbing towards Carn Mairg. The summit looks magnificent, a boulder fortress sat on the ridge. The front route is a touch of a scramble but for scaredy-cats the rear provides steep yet easier access. I was running out of steam and at the final col between Carn Mairg and Meall Liath and after a lokk at the GPS I was dismayed to find another 90m still to climb. Of course by now you get the full splendour of Schiehallion. This stands all on it’s own and does wonders for the spirit. And there’s the wall. It runs from across the col and is made from the rocks at the top. Why and what it did is a mystery but it made little sense to me. In the distance The Cairngorms at 52kms distant were white in fresh snow, Beinn a’Ghlo was standing proud with the scar of a path up Carn Liath visible at some 31kms
So one last push and I was there. It was frighteningly cold now. A few photos and down to the North to get some shelter. It’s a pain the col is 90m down as it was tranquil there. Hmm, rules is rules and so I had to set up in a windy place. I reckon the windchill took it below 0C and without thinking I was a little light on the layers. I had enough but I was pushing it; an hour would make me cold. My head was OK though. That’s Buff Power!
The pictures at the summit show my new Buff. This is the most expensive rag you’ll buy. But it works. For a tube of thin man-made material it does exactly what the makers say. I bought one as a few walkers at work have them. They’re right about most stuff. And yes, it does work. Surprisngly well to be honest. It’s a hat or scarf or a balaclava or … It does show how much I was sweating which isn’t nice but my balding bonce was warm. It wasn’t enough sitting down but by then I had it as a scarf and the Peruvian silly hat was in place. When walking it was excellent.
So onto the air. It was slow at first with some of long skip contacts. But the QSB finally allowed a decent haul of contacts but there were more occasions of long skip as EI7CC and EI8JB were worked. I got Brian G8ADD to spot my QSY to 7.032. I was going to call and then announce a QSY to 7.025 or so. By now the sun had gone and it was proper cold. Winter cold in fact. It didn’t seem too bad as I started to work G4ELZ. But all at once the biggest QRM-fest erupted. Wall to wall signals plus someone trying to QRM everyone. Funny a constant tone was easy to ignore and after another CQ call I had ON7? and that’s when the snow came. I thought it was going to rain as I could see it a few miles out but being absorbed with the paddle I’d not noticed it creep up. Anyway as the icy dust started falling I threw in the towel in disgust. I packed up treble fast and got down to the col. 5 minutes bag adjustment, a few energy bars and a drink and I was set.
The snow showers were brief, a minute of snow then sun. Quite pleasant as the sun and wind were enough to dry me off before the next shower. I did think of taking a direct route out to the bothy and picking up the path. The ground 1km from the col looked hellish, 6ft peat hags and bog. So that meant climbing 80m back up to the path. When I got there, Meall na Aighean was only about 10mins away and not bagging the Munro just seemed rude. So up to the top, touch the tor that marks the summit and about face. The rest is easy as it’s just follow the path back. Except I missed it and wander off the wrong side.
Now I knew I was wrong soon but it took another 10 minutes faffing about before I stopped and worked out where I was. I knew I could get 3 cross bearings to Carn Gorm, Carn Mairg and Meall Garbh (Ben Lawers) and that would mark me on the map nicely and that meant that I didn’t need to rely on the GPS. For speed I used the GPS which showed I was about 500m out. That took 10 minutes of tramping across rough ground before I hit the path and then everything was easy. Reverse the route and go down the hill. At 700m I had a brief stop and then simply walked back to the car arriving at 5.05pm having lost the path in site of the gate to the forest. Well I went in a straight line. I’m sure that must have sent the deer management potty!
It takes 40mins to drive the 20 miles to the Ben Lawers visitor centre and this the 1st place a mobile phone will work. I checked in with the boss (Mrs. FMF) and set off back home. That drive took another 2hrs. Music for the whole trip was an eclectic mix of Bebop and Prog Rock: the Anderson brothers, Ian and Jon (Jethro Tull: Benefit, Yes: Fragile) and a Cannonball Aderley double live CD. Lovely.
So a big day out, proof that money spent on a Buff is money well spent, Glen Lyon about 40% complete, 2 Munros bagged, another CW QSO and confirmation that Fragile sounds as good today as did 38 years ago when I listened to my big sister’s boyfriend’s brand new copy! The pictures are on Flickr.
Total walked: 14.3km, total ascent: 1230m, distance driven 177 miles.
“Did we really count to one hundred”