The last time we were here, back in the autumn of 2011, stalking prevented us from climbing Beinn Dearg and so we had to be (very) content searching for the source of the Mighty Banvie Burn. Today we had no excuses and to cap it all, it was a stunning day with blue skies, no wind, no insects, warmth and still enough snow to make everything stand out. But we’ll have more to say about the snow later…
Once again we leave Blair Atholl and go through Diana’s Grove at the castle. This early in the season the castle is closed and so we had the whole place to ourselves. Although the Grove has mostly escaped the winter’s storms the same can’t be said for Banvie Woods which has taken a pounding: it’s such a shame to see it so damaged. After the wood it is a wander along the estate road to the bothy near Glen Bruar where elevenses were booked. This was a straightforward walk in with only the passing milestones to tick off. The bothy itself is at the 5¾ mile and has a suitable milestone to prove it.
From the bothy the track now heads up the hill and this is where things slow down considerably because a deep snow bank is covering the track. This resulted in lots of dropping to knee depth in loose snow. Eventually we get onto heather which is slightly better but this is the knee-deep stuff with only faint paths through it: Man+Dog don’t approve. So it is an unpleasant slog to get onto the shoulder of Meall Dubh nan Dearcag. Ahead is another big snow bank and the spirits dropped, but fortunately at this height the snow is hard and makes for easy walking. Unfortunately progress is again slowed because my walking companion has discovered Mountain Hare tracks across the snow and is off in pursuit. I can see them in their winter finery but Jazz doesn’t, so there’s more fun in watching Jazz repeatedly traverse the snow bank after them – she’s dedicated and daft.
From here it is straightforward to the summit, although it has a slight sting in the tail with a final steep bit over a boulder field (of red granite, hence the hill’s Gaelic name). Note that you can’t see the real summit until either very close or very far away! Near the top we met a couple of loonies on bikes 1. We’d been following their tracks and we compared notes about how hard the first snow bank was: we all agreed it was bad – glad it wasn’t just me! But at least they had gravity to get them back down: for some reason potential energy doesn’t apply to walkers 2. The view from the summit was stunning with Beinn A’ Ghlo, Carn a’ Chlamein, Schiehallion, and the Deeside mountains all looking superb.
It was then a matter of getting back down. This was actually pretty enjoyable until the lower snow bank. The warm sunshine (in March!?) had made the snow even less supportive and worse than the morning. At one point Jazz had started over a bank of snow and I followed 3 only to find myself up to my chest in snow and heather with feet in freezing snow-melt as the snow covering a stream had given way. Fortunately no damage done but extricating myself took all my legendary gymnastic skills 4. Sweary words were spoken 5. So it was with some relief we got back to the bothy five hours after leaving it, and a chance to wring out the socks: unless you’ve done it, you can’t begin to appreciate how nice the result is!
It was now just a matter of the 5¾ miles back to Blair Atholl but at least the estate road is well maintained and in the lovely afternoon sunshine we were in very good spirits and watched the wildlife: a male Merlin giving us a close flyby, a flock of Pink-footed Geese heading north, and a few hundred Red Deer keeping an eye on us from high on the hill.
This was (mostly) a very enjoyable and long day in the hills. I walked 31km: Jazz with her constant searching for hares and grouse must have been closer to 50km. Apparently both of us were engaged in industrial-strength snoring that night!
BTW, did you notice the colour of those Scottish skies? Blue?!!?
- I asked them if, other than insanity, there was any reason they had a bike up here. They got my respect with the answer: “No”. ↩
- Like the classic Physics exam questions: “Ignoring air resistance…” we have “Ignoring the fact you have to bloody walk…” ↩
- You go first Jazz, it may be dangerous. Sadly Jazz’s new diet means that she is now only 80% of the mass she was last November and so failed to break the snow. Clearly my safety was a factor the vet didn’t take into account. ↩
- A double flip, full rotation, with pike – as I recall. ↩
- And I had to reproach Jazz for it. ↩
|Do It Again:|