Tolmount - 958m
Tom Buidhe - 957m
Cairn of Claise - 1064m
Glas Maol - 1068m
Creag Leacach - 987m
Saturday 4th September 2010
Weather/Conditions: Hazy and cloudy with sun coming through - became very sunny half way through the day, then the cloud came back on Glas Maol.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 19.8km / 1200m / 7h 50m
Accompanying: Michael Kerrigan and M guy (6 Munros), and Samantha Munro and David Adamson (4 Munros)
Carn an Tuirc
The first Munro ranked high in the 'easy' department and the five of us set off together, a great time to catch up with friends I'd not seen in a long time. The path headed through the glen then up onto the side of the hill where although it became fainter, there was always something to follow. Since the car park was above 500m, the ascent onto this first Munro was not great. Martin and I settled into a pace and steamed ahead up the hillside. Just chatting and catching up, we headed into the cloud and a long plod followed all the way to the summit. Which such modest ascent, we arrived at the top in just over an hour. Well, it's Glen Shee after all.
The downside of being so far ahead meant a long wait on top, and it was blowing a gale too. But I lay into the corners of the great windbreak on top and watched as the clouds rolled by. The cloud was thick, but didn't lie like a blanket. We would have breaks here and there and very occasionally, the sun or a trace of blue sky would penetrate the grey.
All on top of Can an Tuirc, we headed off together to the second Munro Tolmount. With Tom Buidhe, this Munro sits in the middle of the plateau, just a swell of grass of moss though poised at the head of the long Glen Callater. I walked up that glen a couple of winters ago and only realised afterwards that the reticent peak at the back of the glen, so many miles away, was in fact the very Tolmount we were now heading for. But it was hardly as interesting as that winter in Glen Callater. We couldn't twenty metres in front of us.
Navigation was no issue, since Martin had brought along a very fancy piece of gear - essentially a GPS well suited to the needs of the hill walker. It plotted our exact location on a 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map and gave a whole array of fact, figures and diagrams. So navigation wasn't an issue at all, though to walk on a plateau in the cloud is slightly eerie in the way you cover miles of horizontal ground without actually seeing anything.
And right where it should have been, we arrived at the summit cairn of Tolmount, placed on top of a last couple of metres of rock and boulder.
The question is - is Tom Buidhe a Munro at all? Some seem to think not, but yet it's a typical Glen Shee mound, rising seventy metres from the saddle connecting it to the rest of the plateau. Unlike Tolmount, it does not drop in dramatic thrusts into any valley-head or display any other drama. A Munro nonetheless...
After a lengthy stay on Tolmount, we headed in a southerly direction down one hillside when, for the first time on the plateau, we came out the cloud. A guy was running down Tom Buidhe in the opposite direction which inspired a few comments about how nuts that is, and then we began the short pull up the other side. It's pretty quick and easy, and we reached Tom Buidhe without much effort at all. A couple of silly pictures at the top followed (see below!).
Cairn of Claise
And then on the way to Munro #4, the sun came out, at last. The walk to Cairn of Claise was long and if I was alone, I wouldn't have tolerated it so much. In the company of others, with people to talk and listen to, it's easy to cover any amount of distance without paying much attention the ground. In any case, it was sunny and fairly warm and the objective was now in sight.
The upper parts of Cairn of Claise were unusually rocky for this region, and the size of the cairn (as unstable as it is...) shows how much more rock is on this hill. But when we got to the top, the silly pictures began, though now Samantha and David were to descend. Martin, Michael and I wanted to head onto the last two Munros in the group, Glas Maol and Creag Leacach. David was going home and Samantha would pick up the three of us after a stop by the ski centre coffee shop.
Munro #5, Glas Maol, seemed a long way from Cairn of Claise and there seemed to be a lot of effort involved in reaching it's summit. I suspected that I believed these Munros to be an easy ticks and therefore under-estimated the required effort to climb them. But it wasn't too bad - momentum was strong among the group and we found tyre tracks to follow, leading us along the outer edges of the ski area.
Well I guess because of that, I can't tell myself we're climbing these for the wildness...
Anyway, a last short push up a slope brought us to Glas Maol and by now the sunshine of Cairn of Claise was gone. The air had become very hazy and even nearby hills were obscured behind a veil. We took a couple minutes on the summit (more silly photographs) before heading to Crag Leacach, Munro #6!
This one didn't take long to get to (just becoming a slog by now), it was quite simply a short descent and ascent back along a ridge unnaturally rocky and narrow for this region. The rest of the Munros could have been the Campsie Fells - they look identical, except the Campsies are more wild - but Creag Leacach was a little different, perhaps a small version of something you may find in the main Cairngorm range.
At the top, Martin got another few photos of me - I was doing well today for photos of myself!
We discussed descent options for a while but decided a route straight off the summit, perpendicular to the ridge was just as good as any. The slope was uniformly steep, so our descent was immediate and within a few minutes we were out of the cloud for the last time. Boulders and scree gave way to grass and it felt like a long way off when the legs were getting a little tired. A last pull over a hillside brought us down to the car park, and now we were done - six Munros completed, five of them new for me.
Afterwards, the four of us - Michael, Martin, Sam and myself - drove up to Braemar, looking for somewhere to eat. This was all well, except a piping competition was taking place and the town was packed from end to end. We managed to find one free table after searching and settled down to kind of early tea. Then Samantha and I headed off home, Michael was staying up here to do a few of the main Cairngorms and Martin headed hom himself.
Sam and I had a loud music-fest on the way back with Daft Punk, the Prodigy and more coming out the speakers in big volumes -just the way I wanted it, although the journey home seemed to take long. I got home eventually but not without getting onto a train for yet another hour of travel!
(0.00) 9.20am Car park
(1.10) 10.30am Carn an Tuirc
(1.45) 11.05am Carn an Tuirc (left)
(2.50) 12.10am Tolmount
(3.40) 1.00pm Tom Buidhe
(4.45) 2.05pm Cairn of Claise
(5.45) 3.05pm Glas Maol
(6.40) 4.00pm Creag Leacach
(7.50) 5.10pm Car park