Airgiod Bheinn - 1061m
Carn nan Gabhar - 1129m
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain - 1070m
Carn Liath - 975m
Sunday 4th March 2012
Weather/Conditions: Good weather all day. Some strong winds and snow flurries on Carn nan Gabhar. But it got better and better and most of the day was in great sun. Only had to cross one easy snow bank (no axes) on the way to Braigh.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 22.1km / 1330m / 8h 20m
Accompanying: Steve, Doug, Struan
The first time was with Dougie: we started in Blair Atholl because snow had shut the minor road to Loch Moraig. The moorland trees were bent to the tearing of the wind. We summited in full-on winter conditions. We turned back after one summit and still had a long day. The second time was again in winter, but in calmer, thawing conditions. The group consensus had been to descend after two Munros. Then for nearly a year, Carn nan Gabhar eluded me.
The day I finally climbed it was a cracker. I drove up to Blair Atholl with my brother Steve coming along. We met Struan and Doug there and we headed out over the moors. I was keen to get Carn nan Gabhar first, thus avoiding a repeat of last time. So we did the Beinn a' Ghlo round anti-clockwise. Mist shifted on the moors on the walk in and Airgiod Bheinn (silver hill, aptly) loomed larger and larger. The haul up the south ridge was simply just that, a haul, but a steep ascent made for quick height gain. Carn nan Gabhar would be Steve's first Munros in nearly a decade. He'd come along without really knowing the hill so when we finally got to the top of Airgiod Bheinn - a Top - he rested at the summit of what he thought was his Munro. Then I pointed over to the distant snow-covered hump and said that was where we were going.
"You're joking, right?"
Well not quite. And with a new Top under my belt, we headed across the plateau to Carn nan Gabhar. The trig point isn't quite the top, it lay further on across the boulderfields. It was nice to have finally climbed the big hill I'd never managed to reach. I wasn't too worried about the rest of the day.
The weather was improving too. I'd had an ambition to stand on Beinn a' Ghlo and see north over the moors of Tarf and Tilt to the Cairngorms. It's one of the emptiest stretches of land in Scotland. And my ambition came true today. The vista from Carn nan Gabhar is brilliant and I shot plenty of photos.
We descended on a vague track towards the Braigh, passing other folk out walking these hills. Ahead of the others, I stopped at the bealach to wait. A superb place to sit, the wind of earlier had died and a warm sun beat down, breathing life into the high, yellow-green grasses. And then a swooping group of birds flew by, all twisting and turning with an animated and playful chirp that caught me by surprise. I never found out exactly what they were - maybe one for an ornithologist.
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain passed by with ease. A snowfield had to be crossed but we kicked in steps and balanced up the hard-packed bank. Steve realised that the second Munro wouldn't take as much effort as the first and began to relax. Carn Liath wasn't so far away anymore either. I think Beinn a' Ghlo would be a great mountain in perfect winter conditions. The ridges are fairly flat and undemanding, but they're so damn aesthetic. Stand on Carn Liath and look to Braigh, and say that's not one of the most perfect arcs on any Scottish mountain. The geological forces had a paintbrush in hand when they weathered these mountains.
We descended toward Carn Liath and at the bottom we took a break. I found my mojo and steamed up the ridge to the top. I went as fast as I could, and got to the cairn in 24 minutes. Not bad at all. Struan reached the top five minutes later: "I'm not in my twenties anymore", is what he had to say.
The others caught up and we just hung around enjoying ourselves. Despite the fact that earlier I'd been a bit worried about the lurking torrential showers, we were in sun pretty much all day. It had been great weather, you couldn't ask for much more.
Carn Liath marked the start of the final descent. One of the most interesting things was the open view to the south: everything was sunny and green. I'd been up this mountain twice in winter conditions and never really got a sense of the open greenery below.
The light turned golden as we descended down the front of Carn Liath. The descending was a wee bit tedious but there was no reason to have anything bad to say. A great day just coming to a close. We plodded down the approach track to the cars then headed off MacKay's in Pitlochry for a drink and chips. Steve and I left soon for Glasgow. He'd more than doubled his Munro count (from 2 to 5) and I'd got my Carn Liath plus some great summit panoramas. Superb.
Carn nan Gabhar
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain - Cairngorms Detail, 120°
(0.00) 9.15am Loch Moraig car park
(3.30) 12.45pm Airgiod Bheinn
(4.20) 1.35pm Carn nan Gabhar
(5.45) 3.00pm Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain
(6.18) 3.33pm Bottom of Carn Liath
(6.42) 3.57pm Carn Liath
(8.20) 5.35pm Loch Moraig car park