Carn Liath - 975m
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain - 1070m
Sunday 20th March 2011
Weather/Conditions: Signs of spring below and winter conditions on the tops - mist, wind and thick snow. Although conditions were better than my first time on Beinn a' Ghlo.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 18.5km / 1000m / 6h 50m
Accompanying: Colin, Faye and Peter
We stopped in at the Ballinluig Motor Grill for a greasy bacon roll (or two) then got on our way for an easy-going 9.55am start at the Loch Moraig car park. Unlike when I'd visited a month earlier, we could drive up to Loch Moraig. The snow had receded far up the hillsides, and the mood of the valley had gone from desolate to amicable. Wildlife was reappearing in time for spring, a good thing but for the red squirrel who fell victim to the car tyre. For once I was glad I wasn't driving.
We'd thought about doing the Beinn a' Ghlo round anticlockwise. Everyone knew now about my one-Munro trip in February and my desire to see myself up the three Munros. Logically, we could start with Carn nan Gabhar and do the ones I hadn't climbed. In the end we turned off for Carn Liath. It was a boggy approach as usual which never agrees with my ageing, leaking boots, although the ground dried out a couple hundred metres beyond.
For the first time, I saw the full extent of the Carn Liath path. The snow had melted away since February to reveal a wide gravel track set straight up the hillside. It was kind of like walking up a driveway at three thousand feet. Although the ascent was long to Carn Liath it didn't seem so great as previously, which was a relief to me.
The summit remained covered in snow, but without the sword of rime-ice hanging off the side as it had before. We didn't stay long for the wind made it difficult to stop and Colin's spot-on navigation got us over Beinn Mhaol and down to the saddle toward Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain.
We stopped for lunch at this bealach on an eastern lee slope, away from the wind chill. My lunch was crisps, chocolate and a piece of dried fish from Colin who'd picked some up in Iceland. It tasted pretty good too. And since everyone else were native Gaels, I got more than a smattering of lessons in place names.
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain was quite unspectacular, which is a shame because I'm willing to bet that Beinn a' Ghlo is exceptional in good weather. The track climbed on a gradual incline, turned from NE to northward and dropped us right on the summit. Navigation wasn't a problem since the compass agreed with the beaten track. After a long misty slog, we found ourselves at a cairn. I took a just-in-case photograph, and then the ground dropped on the other side. We'd arrived at it then almost walked straight past, but it transpired to be the top.
We'd decided to give Carn nan Gabhar a miss, which curiously means I may take three trips to climb the three Beinn a' Ghlo Munros! The descent was varied bag though - the navigation down to Bealach an Fhioda wasn't obvious but not too difficult either. As we descended, I slipped, got up, and thought no more of it. Then the others above mentioned they were finding coins on the ground. Then I realised that the front pocket of my camera bag was open where I keep coins from the Southern Upland Way. I keep them there permanently along with a couple other items, but for the first time I very nearly lost them.
We unknowingly cut down into the corrie 300m short of the bealach, and then an enormous sweeping snow slope gave me one of the best glissades of my life. I dropped 100-150 vertical metres in a matter of seconds. Travelling at high speed made it difficult to keep facing forward, but what a rush! And when I was down I wanted to go back up and do it all again. Aonach Mor in the Nevis Range remains my best glissade of all time, when four of us descended 600 vertical metres in a matter of minutes.
The excitement fizzled out beyond the corrie headwall. We had a long trackless walk to get back to the Shinagag track and then a few more kilometres to the car. I got to see some of the area's valleys and surrounding hills. Up here, winter seemed in control although some life was returning.
And then the long march to the car park remained. Some things you knuckle down and bear, and this was one of them. On the way back I called Dougie (who I was on Beinn a' Ghlo with a month earlier) to ask him if he'd yet managed to get his forgotten boots back from Pitlochry - he hadn't yet. So we got back to the car park, pulled sore feet from tired boots and got his boots from the backpackers hostel. We got a quick drink and then we headed for home.
(0.00) 9.55am Loch Moraig car park
(1.55) 11.50am Carn Liath
(2.35) 12.30pm Lunch break between hills
(2.55) 12.50pm Depart
(3.40) 1.35pm Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
(6.50) 4.45pm Loch Moraig car park