Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn Bhac, An Socach
Area: Pitlochry to Braemar and Blairgowrie
Munro’s: Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn Bhac, An Socach
Date walked: 22/01/2011
Total Time taken: 9.1 hours
Total Distance: 35 km
Total Ascent: 1200m
Cycle in= 1hr 18min
Cycle out= 1hr 15min
Cycle ascent= 150m
Walk ascent= 1050m
Walk distance= 17.2km
Walk time= 6hr 30min
Weather= Superb sunny all day, cold wind on summits
I had been watching the weekend weather forecast, which was forecast to be good and sunny, as I was looking to bag a couple of Munro’s this weekend. Theresa, a good friend of mine, had three of the Glen Ey Munro’s to do and since I still had two of those Munro’s to do, a decision was made that we would walk them together.
The plan was to meet up at Inverey at 0800 on the Saturday morning, so with my customarily early alarm call I left Dunfermline early and arrived at Braemar at 0730. I then continued along the icy road and arrived at Inverey just before 0800 just as dawn was breaking. There were a group of four other walkers in the car park kitting up ready for their walk which was presumably along the lines of the walk that we were about to embark upon..
By the time I got kitted up and made the bike ready, Theresa arrived.
There is monument here at Inverey to one of my Kith and Kin, John Lamont born in Inverey 1805. He attained the lofty position of Professor of Astronomy at Munich University. His most important work was on the magnetism of the Earth. He also calculated the orbits of the moons of Uranus and Saturn, obtaining the first value for Uranus’ mass. He was obviously a very bright individual indeed. (It runs in thefamily )
We set of on our bikes up the track at about 0835 and soon arrived at the gate at the end of the forest. After another 1km we cross the bridge over the Ey burn and soon arrive at Auchelie ruin. The four guys we saw earlier were leaving the main track at this point taking a small track heading to Cairn Nan Seileach. We continue cycling along the main track at a pretty sedate pace. It’s nice and flat with a number of small hills but there are large patches of ice and we have to dismount the bikes to cross these. There are another two bridges to cross and we arrive at Altanour Lodge after 1hr 18mins. There were two tents pitched here and another walker, who cycled passed us on the inward journey, was getting ready to start his walk. He told us he was going in as far as Carn a Righ so he had a fair journey ahead of him.
Carn Bhac summit, our first Munro, is about 3.5km West of the ruined Lodge reached by climbing up over the south slopes of Carn Creagach to the bealach then directly up the slope to the summit. I noticed what looked like a path and headed across the heather towards it but it petered out and we just walked over the short heather entering the snow line and then walked over the snow up to the summit. We had considered donning crampons but because I could still get my toes into the snow, and the slope was not very steep, we continued without. We arrived at the summit at 1130 and met another group of four walkers at the cairn. The tents at the Lodge belonged to these guys and they were heading back down after two days Munro walking around the area. The weather was excellent but there was a cold wind blowing and as we consumed some refreshments our fingers started to freeze up. So we did not dwell for long and after donning gloves we were again on our way.
It was at this point that Theresa noticed her ice axe was missing and that she must have dropped it on the ascent. We had a quick look back down the hillside but could not see it. If we retraced our steps back to the Lodge we would most likely find the axe but that would mean cutting the walk down to two Munro’s which Theresa was not in favour off. So, we decided to press on with our original plan. We did ask the guys going back down to pick up the ice axe if they find it and leave it at the bikes which they agreed to do.
We then continued on our way heading south west along the ridge line for 1km and then turning South for 2.3km to the bealach below the Beinn Iutharn Mhor ridge line. Again the snow was hard but with a nice layer of powder on top so crampons were not needed. All the time on the descent I was trying to pick a good line for the 1km up to the ridge but as we got nearer to the base I realised that we would need crampons because it looked a lot steeper than I remember. So we stop for a couple of minutes to don crampons and then we steadily made our way up the steep slope. A walker was descending and we met him at halfway. It turned out to be the chap we met at the lodge. Because of the conditions he had decided not go all the way to Carn a Righ but to instead walk the same three Munro’s as we had planned but in a clockwise direction. We asked him to look out for the axe and he said he would.
Theresa’s crampons were a bit of a loose fit so she found it a bit uncomfortable walking uphill, but she persevered and with some relief we eventually arrived on the ridge with an easy 1km walk to the summit of Beinn Iutharn Mhor. The sun was still shining and the views were excellent.
After a short break we headed the 3km South down to the bealach and then West rounding the slopes of mam Nan Cairn and Beinn Iutharn Bheag to the head of Loch Nan Eun. The Loch was completely frozen over in stark contrast to the summer conditions when I was last here but it still looked impressive. It was now a 2km walk over the snow and up the 150m steep ascent to the summit of An Socach which didn’t take us long. The sun was going down now so we were not going to hang around. Looking at the map I had decided the quickest way back to the lodge was to head North descending for 300m then descent North East down the Coire and follow the burn out of the hillside. It would have been nice to find a stalkers path coming up the burn but it was not to be so we crossed the burn a couple of times then crossed the Alt Beinn Iutharn, neither was in spate. A hundred metres later we crossed a bridge over the Altan Odhar, which Theresa had spotted way back, and walked the final 100m back to the bikes. Unfortunately there was no ice axe so looks like it is still on the hillside.
We have a quick bite to eat and now it’s an easy 9km cycle back to the cars. The sun is going down and there seems to be a little more ice on the track than I remember. At about halfway its dark and we have to put head torches on and gingerly cycle back to the car park. As I arrived at the car I turned around to see Theresa fall off her bike 2m from the road. Luckily she was unhurt. Poor sole I must have worn her out.
After a quick meal in Braemar we set off on the journey home.
A great day in the hills with good company.