Carn Ban Mor and Sgòr Gaoith: 10/08/17

About this time last year I was ruminating, in that way that curmudgeonly old gits do, about the vagaries of Scottish hill classifications. It was to do with Carn Ban Mor (3,451 feet) not being a munro, on account of having, in close proximity, a parent hill, Sgòr Gaoith (3,668 feet).

Being neither a committed bagger nor cairn-toucher I didn’t much care, and still don’t. Which is just as well, because it doesn’t end there: turns out – if Wikipedia is to be believed – that Sgòr Gaoith itself also has a parent peak (Braeriach – 4,252 feet). Well, seeing as it’s Braeriach, we’ll say no more about it; you wouldn’t want to get into a dispute with Braeriach,

We followed the path – well walked and well engineered, winding up out of Glen Feshie from near the croft at Achlean. The first part is through woodland, always climbing but never too severe, until eventually the trees begin to thin out.

Encouragingly, well beyond the end of the established tree line, there are signs of regeneration and a gradual recolonising of the slopes by native pines. This could well be a consequence of Glenfeshie Estate’s policy of controlling deer numbers; if so it’s a welcome one, although personally I’d rather see implementation of the programme handed over to a few lynx.

Gaining height across the open hillside is, in the main, progressive rather than strenuous, and the views back towards Glen Feshie and beyond begin to open out. The path does steepen a little as it climbs to its high point, which is just about where you need to look for a small cairn marking the junction for the final short, easy stroll up to the summit cairn/shelter of Carn Ban Mor. It’s worth paying a bit of attention to directions and landmarks at this point because, by the time you reach the top of Carn Ban Mor and look back, this way-marker cairn will just have dipped out of sight.

Summit cairn/shelter – Carn Ban Mor

On a previous outing we’d decided against pushing on to Sgòr Gaoith; this was partly down to a later start, but also because a couple of trip reports I’d read had suggested that the walk across was deceptive in terms of both distance and re-ascent from the hollow between the two summits. In the event it proved somewhat easier than we’d expected, although the wind was beginning to pick up and the temperature was dropping as we climbed towards the distinctive outline of number 5 buttress (visible from the platform of Kingussie Station if conditions allow). The drifting clouds also meant that the top was disappearing and reappearing every couple of minutes.

The wind was sufficiently strong to keep us away from the very edge of the precipice, but we did venture close enough to get some shots looking down into Glen Einich and across to Braeriach. Loch Einich was a much more attractive colour than it had been when viewed from the shoreline a few days previously…

Braeriach – not quite prepared to reveal everything

This one – not one of mine, by the way – made it onto the Visit Scotland site

The edge of Sgòr Gaoith dissolving into the low cloud

With the wind coming hard from the west, the only viable shelter would have been one of the grassy hollows just above the 2,000 foot drop down into Glen Einich; maybe worth bearing in mind for a calmer day, or one where the wind is blowing away from the edge. We chose a more cautious option and walked back to the shelter on Carn Ban Mor , which had the dual advantages of being perfectly aligned for the wind direction, and a long way from the precipice. It was an easy decision, and a unanimous one.

Having said above that I’m not particularly fussed about touching summit cairns (or trig points), I do have a fondness for sitting inside them when they double up as a shelter. The one on Carn Ban Mor is particularly helpful, as it’s an exposed top, whichever direction the wind is from, and there isn’t much in the way of natural cover. We took an extended food stop while Braerich, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul played a game of cat and mouse with us – the object being to get a picture with all three summits clear of cloud. Inevitably the mountains outlasted us; they are better equipped for a long game.

Just a final word about Braeriach: what a staggering piece of mountain architecture that is! From a distance, or close proximity, it just seems to keep revealing one more new facet, then another… We haven’t yet viewed it from the Cairn Toul approach, so there’s still more to discover. The Highlands – there’s always a reason to go back.

 

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9 thoughts on “Carn Ban Mor and Sgòr Gaoith: 10/08/17

  1. Hi Dave. Braeriach is certainly not the ‘parent’ of Sgor Gaoith and indeed I have never before heard this term used of any Munro. Munros are Munros and Tops are Tops. The two Tops of Braeriach are Carn na Criche and Sron na Lairige.

    It is a magnificent hill as you say. A hill to be explored – particularly An Garbh Choire. The traverse of Braeriach to Cairn Toul is simply one of the best days out in the Cairngorms, or anywhere else for that matter, whether you collect (different from bagging!) Munros or not.

    These are impressive photographs Dave.

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  2. Hi Gibson: I’d only come across this ‘parent peak’ thing once before, when I was checking the trig point height of a local ‘Marilyn’ (Walton Hill) and noticed its parent was shown as The Wrekin, which struck me as odd as it’s getting on for 30 miles away and there are higher hills which are closer.

    I’d looked on Sgòr Gaoith’s page just to confirm it’s exact height in feet when I noticed the Braeriach reference. The page lists it as both a Munro and a Marilyn, with the latter seeming to be a classification applying to the whole of the UK, Republic of Ireland and Isle of Man. I’m thinking that what this boils down to is that the ‘parent’ term refers to Marilyn lists and has no relevance when just dealing in Munros.

    I’m still not sure how the links work though: continue on from The Wrekin and the sequence takes you to Kinder Scout, Cross Fell, Helvellyn, Scafell Pike, Snowdon (!) and finally Ben Nevis. Which would, admittedly make a hell of a LDP.

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  3. It’s been a very long time since I was in these parts – I had just had my A Level results!
    I agree with Gibson (I rarely disagree!) about parent hills.. Load of nonsense. Hills are hills and the very best have places to explore and great views. Some of the Munros are pretty poor in this respect, but their tops can be quite superb.

    Fabulous pictures, Dave – incredible resolution too.

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  4. Yep, my thoughts also; which I suppose is why I don’t have the inclination towards bagging or much interest in lists. The highest hill in the whole of Worcestershire and Shropshire is Abdon Burf (also known as Brown Clee) and it’s an awful place; human debris and “sheep scoured misery” to use George Monbiot’s phrase. I’ll happily drive right past it to get to The Long Mynd.

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  5. The high summits and plateau of the western Cairngorms is some of my favourite terrain both on foot and skis. Been up here many times including going around Carn Ban Mhor in a complete circle on skis. That moment when you look down and say, “There is someone else up here on skis – oh – hang on!” 🙂
    I think the only benefit of hill lists and bagging is it sometimes get you out to quality places you might not otherwise have visited. Alan is totally right though, there are some truly dreary Munro’s and loads of tops and unmarked places that offer sensational views. I should confess I was a munro-bagger in my youth (I still have a geeky spreadsheet) but have long since realised I’ll never complete them.

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    • I can really understand why overnighters are so popular in that area. The idea of linking the best bits of two or three day walks is very appealing, even though we’re still making sense of just one small part of the Cairngorms. We’re just at the point where, at least some of the time, we have our bearings; although there are also plenty of other times where we come out onto a top and it takes a while to confirm where we are in relation to other hills. One of us is often pointing and saying things like “See that path – we’ve walked up there” and then a bit more of it fits.

      I also have a geeky thing on the go: it’s a Routebuddy sheet with all of the routes we’ve done recorded on there, so that I can see where the gaps are and try to work out how to walk some of them.

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    • Lynne and I finished the Munros in 1991 – we used the Tables and planned our own routes- rather than use a guide book. Neither of us would say that any of them were ‘dreary’. We ski toured a good number, chose good mountaineering routes in winter and backpacked remoter ones. I’d been to the summit of several of them before via rock climbs or winter climbs – but even then did not find subsequent ascents by easier routes less enjoyable. E.g. Buachaille Etive Mor via the Rannoch Wall vs the normal route up Coire na Tulaich which, incidentally, doesn’t stand comparison with even the simplest rock route, Curved Ridge.

      Simple truth is Lynne and I just love being among hills and the concept of a ‘dreary’ one is alien to us. Some Munros are more spectacular than others; some give better views; some involve long approaches, but for me, they all offer interest, even in poor weather. This is true of sub Munros too of course.

      Incidentally, and I may be in the minority, but I’ve never met a true ‘bagger’ – they’ve all had a much wider interest in hills than just list ticking. Indeed many are or were very fine climbers and mountaineers.

      Maybe I should elaborate in a post. There again maybe not. The word ‘pompous’ springs to mind! It’s just fun after all.

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  6. Hi Gibson, for some reason WordPress decided to put this comment into the spam folder (it hasn’t done that with any of your others). They’re easy enough to retrieve, as long as I notice there’s one there.

    Anyway, here it is, so no harm done and thanks for stopping by again. What is it with this blogging software?

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