A' Bhuidheanach Bheag - 936m
Carn na Caim South Top - 914m
Carn na Caim - 941m

Saturday 17th December 2011

Weather/Conditions: Cloudy whiteness, all day. The start and end were the highlights. In the morning we had good views to A' Mharconaich and in the evening the twilight colours (purple, mainly) were brilliant. Otherwise is was a long, snowy, misty slog.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 17.7km / 850m / 6h 10m
Accompanying: James and Struan (then unexpectedly BlackPanther and Kevin)

The eastern A9 Munros seem to get really bad press, but I wanted to climb them anyway. James and Struan were planning on doing something and when I joined them, I pushed to do these because they were two I hadn't climbed before. I was staying in Pitlochry at this point so they came up from Edinburgh to pick me up en route. I was shattered in the morning, but we stopped by the deli in Pitlochry and got some rolls and a cup of tea - enough to get me going for the day.

We got to the car park, when the old situation arose: nobody had brought a map. James had done the hills multiple times, so he was happy to go without. Therefore, so was I. If all else really failed, we could just walk west and we'd get back to the road.

A' Bhuidheanach Bheag

We set off up the track (where you can see the Beauly-Denny line is being constructed - but that's another story) as A' Mharconaich exploded into light and shade to our right. Spindrift kicking up on it's slopes hinted at wind speeds. Following a snowed-up track, we walked onto the plateau and into the cloud. Near white out conditions were growing, just at the time we didn't have a map.

And then our asses were saved by two faint figures that walked out through the mist. We got chatting to this pair, a girl and a guy, who were doing the same hills. But I didn't have the balls to ask if we could look at their map.

Then the conversation went as follows:

Her: Is anyone here on Walk Highlands? [.com]
Me: Eh, yeah I am. Are you on the forums?
Her: Yes, my username is BlackPanther
Me: I'm Kevin29035!

And then we burst into laughter. What were the chances of that? With the ice broken, I took a picture of their map so we'd have something to go by if they weren't going the same way as us.

We were saved...

We all walked to A' Bhuidheanach Bheag together. The navigation was easy - just a direct south, although our tracks drifted in and out of this direct bearing. Fifteen minutes later, another big group of perhaps ten walked out the mist. There were another two Walk Highlanders here - by chance. Small world? But I didn't anticipate how long it would take to get to A' Bhuidheanach Bheag. This is a hill for a clear day because it's a long haul with the mist down.

The trig point arrived and another Munro was down. James decided to head back to the road, but Struan, BP, Kevin and I were keen to go to Carn na Caim. Not that I really wanted to. In fact, by the time we'd arrived back at our ascent tracks, I was silently wishing to go down. But we all went on anyway. My reasoning was 'If I don't do it now, I'll have to come back', which in retrospect, is a pathetic excuse. Hills should be savoured, and loved. But my need to climb a Munro made sure that I got my tired body all the way over to Carn na Caim. The hills aren't inherently boring but walking from one end of the plateau to the other with nothing but footsteps to look at can be.

Carn na Caim and Descent

Half way to Carn na Caim, Kevin (not me!) was checking the map when it blew out his hands and disappeared into the white wilds. For a moment the thought was to go down, we didn't have a map. But of course I took a picture and this was enough to take us all the way to Carn na Caim. The navigation to this summit is easy like a' Bhuidheanach Bheag, too. Just follow the fence posts, watch out for the right-hand bend and strike off for the last bit to the cairn.

The cloud even opened up a bit on the summit that we got a view north to Meall Chuaich. Enough to settle a mind tired by the miles of snow slogging. And the end of the day was also the most interesting part (a reason in itself not to have gone down earlier). We descended by Coire Uilleim, which seemed narrower than it looks on the map. We dipped out the cloud and followed the gully until it petered out. As we walked along the firm snowfields below the hills the sun set and all the hills turned purple - that deep beautiful glow of darkening winter evenings. A time to savour because it won't last long. The plateau above had been hard work (much harder than I'd expected) but this was just beautiful, and complete payback.

We arrived back at the car where James was waiting.

I'd like to come back to these hills on a clear day. I think they would be much different; my main thoughts about this day was that they were tough - but with an inspiring end. Much of the time we were walking in white world which ran out of fun after a while. And when I got back to Pitlochry after darkness, Dave's reaction to my late arrival was "I thought you said it was a short walk?"

Yeah, that's what I thought...

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 10.05am A9 parking
(2.35) 12.40pm A' Bhuidheanach Bheag
(4.45) 2.50pm Carn na Caim
(6.10) 4.15pm A9 parking

Written: 2012-02-17/18