Regular readers of this nonsense will probably be of the opinion that the author is passed it and no longer up for a “big day” in the hills. You’re mostly right, but today Jazz and I fought back with a 10 hour walk to climb Carn a' Chlamein – a Munro in Glen Tilt. My old Munros guidebook (pitifully unthumbed! – this would be number 13) still harks back to the day when you could drive up the glen: today we’d have to do it the proper way with a walk in from Blair Atholl and back out again for a grand total of 34km. (I had discussed the modern alternative of cycling in with Jazz but there is no way she’d fit in my panniers, and running alongside is not something I dare suggest!)
As you know, Glen Tilt is the most beautiful glen in Scotland and so spending a long day there is hardly an endurance. There was a rifle practice in session at the range near Gilbert’s Bridge so we kept to the east side of the glen by taking the lovely track from the Glen Fender road sign-posted Deeside. Now despite an excellent pedigree as a gun-dog 1, Jazz isn’t wild about the sound of gun-fire (neither am I, come to that) and so we passed smartly by.
As we left the trees we could see that the tops were still in cloud, but we’d been promised a fine afternoon, so we shelved the backup plan and pressed on for the hill. About now we joined up with an older gentleman carrying a big pack heading our way with an obvious limp. Our opening conversational gambit of “Going far?” got the response “Cape Wrath“. Clearly this chap was in a different league as he was doing the full Scottish National Trail (SNT) despite being 80-years young and having declined his doctor’s offer of a new hip! Suddenly our “big day” seemed a little paltry. We chatted as far as Gaw's Bridge near Marble Lodge where he stopped for a lunch of painkillers.
We followed the glen track to where the lovely Allt Craoinidh burn joins the Tilt and had our lunch. This is the point a faint track starts heading upwards to join a newish stalkers track that then follows the broad ridge all the way to the top. The first bit leaving the glen is reasonably steep but we soon reach the main track which is stony but takes its time to ascend the hill giving great views along and across the glen as it does. In particular we get a great view of Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain and Carn Liath, and the route we took to descend last time: my knees can still feel it!
By now the clouds had burnt off leaving the new problem of finding places for Jazz to cool off: every peaty pool was used! The track goes basically all the way to the summit (making a bit of a mess in the softer ground at the plateau just before it). The summit gives a great view down the glen towards Schiehallion and up towards the mountains above Glenshee with Beinn a' Ghlo in front of us. I had toyed with the idea of continuing to come over Braigh nan Creagan Breac and back to the glen road, but time was pressing and the peat hags on its summit did nothing to tempt me over. So it was mostly back the way we came. Having just come this way and seen zero wildlife or livestock, Jazz was free to explore and had fun sniffing her way down.
Once we had got back to the river-side it was clearly time for a dip, mostly to get 5 layers of encrusted peat off my companion’s coat. In a most un-Jazz-like display she jumped off the back straight into the Tilt causing a Common Sandpiper that had been resting beneath to have a heart-attack. With the peaty slick floating down there was no way I was joining her, so instead we wandered back to the pools of the Allt Craoinidh. The thought of a refreshing paddle in a highland stream after a hot walk seemed perfect. The reality lasted about 8 seconds before I could no longer feel my legs: incredibly cold even on a hot summer’s day. But in a scene from Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I felt pretty smug because I found a towel in my rucksack!
It is now just a march back down the glen in lovely afternoon sunshine. With the shooting types finished we could take the track beside the range and head back to Blair Atholl. One advantage of being up a hill in these parts is that you occasionally get decent phone signal and so I had begged the Missus to have a couple of beers chilling. And so, exactly 10 hours after starting off, and with Jazz’s dinner being attacked, it was a happy chap that poured the first beer.
- Let’s not bother bringing the truth in at this point. ↩
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