Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
20th June 2009
A walk up Ben Gulabin in aid of Macmillan cancer support.
This year I decided I would do a hill a bit closer to Aberdeen for the Macmillan Corbett Challenge 2009. Ben Gulabin was probably the best candidate as it was the closest one of the Corbett's that I had not been up before. The hill can be climbed with relative ease in 2-3 hours from near the Spittal of Glen Shee but this didn't seem to challenging and would only be a half day out. So I decided to extend the trip by starting 15km to the north near Baddoch and walking along the ridge to the west Glen Clunnie and over the three Munro's that lie near the Glen Shee Ski centre. I arrived at the start of the walk to find that the resident white horses of Baddoch had been rounded up and were corralled apparently waiting for the arrival of the blacksmith or more accurately the farrier.
White horses of Baddoch Burn
As I crossed the bridge over Baddoch burn a pair of Lapwing appeared to be having a calling competition on opposite banks of the river. Further on smoke issued from what had been a rather neglected building last time I passed through, the upper windows looked presentable but the lower floor was still behind metal shutters. After passing the building and before the next bridge I left the track and headed uphill following alongside a line of small wooden fence posts and onto a grassy vehicle track. This track became more defined as the steepness eased when gaining the ridge line just north of Strone Baddoch. A more gradual ascent took me onto Carn Chrionaidh above Dubh Corrie as the views back down the glen toward Braemar started to open up.
I was soon on the rocky top just north of Carn Aosda and shared the company of some mountain hares briefly before they hopped off around the hillside. A short drop onto a grassy col and then a last rise saw me onto the top of Carn Aosda with some uninspiring views of the ski centre. The ski tows don't look quite so much an eye-saw when the snow is down but during the summer it's not very pretty at all. Still I tried to ignore my immediate surroundings and enjoyed the more far reaching views across the Cairnwell burn to Carn an Turc and Cairn of Claise to the east. I was starting to feel peckish but decided to carry on for a while longer; I followed the well worn track around the hillside past Loch Vrotachan and up onto the Cairnwell.
Carn Aosda from the Cairnwell
A small stone topped hut in amongst some portable cabins and signal masts marked the top of the second Munro. Ignoring the surrounding metal work I reconciled myself with some fine views across the deep chasm toward Carn an Sac and Carn a' Gheoidh beyond.
Carn a' Gheoidh from the Cairnwell
After a snack I retraced my steps back toward the loch before heading around the cliff edge and onto Carn an Stac. Nice short heather and mosses gave a cushioned crossing to the final short rise and onto the rocky top of Carn a' Gheoidh.
North to the Glen Shee Ski Center
I settled down behind the cairn and out of the cool breeze to soak up a bit of sunshine and enjoy lunch and a brew. A mountain hare surprised me as it passed by my shelter at a reasonable speed, I was unsure why it was in such a rush until a couple of walkers appeared a few of minutes later. Taking the vague south west ridge I managed to pick up a path leading down through the many scattered rocks onto a more defined path at the col. The map had no indication of a track or path but what looked like a recently constructed or renewed vehicle track now leads all the way down toward Spittal of Glen Shee. The distinctive grassy knoll of Carn Bhinean stood sentry over looking Glas Tulaichean to the north.
Carn Bhinean and Glas Tulaichean beyond
I left the track to keep more to the ridge line as I worked my way over Carn Mor but rejoined it as the ground became rougher approaching Creagan Bheithe. Attention seeking Golden plover kept me entertained as I strolled along with Meadow Pipits and Wheatear skipping thorough the grass and heather. Ben Gulabin now lay immediately ahead; heather burning leaving what looked like Chinese script over its steep sides.
Ben Gulabin or Hill of the beak in Chinese
What appeared like a raised path struck straight up the hillside at times at quite a severe angle. My first thoughts were that this must be for MTV of some similar vehicle but I think even they would struggle with the gradient. A bit of effort and application though soon had me at a point roughly between Gulabin's two tops; it was now an easy stroll over to the summit. Time again for a bit of lazing around as I enjoyed the views and had a rummage in my rucksack for something to eat. The long ridges of Glas Tulaichean shone green in the sunshine to the west while Glas Maol and the stony top of Creag Leacach showed to the east.
Glas Tulaichean from Ben Gulabin
I had only been sat for a few minutes when a deer appeared from nowhere, the doe seemed as surprised as me and came to a quick halt. We exchanged glances for a short while before she hi-tailed it back the way she had come. After the grey and drizzly start the day had turned out fine and warm but it was now late afternoon and time to head down. The descent gave a quick test of the knees but it wasn't long before I was down at the main road. The plan now was to hitch a lift back up to my starting point but I was soon wondering how easy this would be. There was little traffic and most was heading south and I needed to head north. It wasn't too long though before some Irish guys stopped and offered a lift as far as the ski centre, they were parking there before heading to the hills. They planned to camp on top of Glas Mol to celebrate the summer solstice. The lads started to make preparations for there walk and the driver kindly offered to take me the rest of the way if I was still waiting after they had gotten ready. Fortunately a couple returning from Blaigowrie and heading for Aberdeen saved him the trouble and they soon had me back the car. After changing and making a mug of chocolate I settled down to watch what I think was maybe a novice para-glider eventually leave the hillside opposite. The first attempt resulted in being dragged a short way through the heather but after regrouping a successful launch was met with a whoop of delight and applause from the rest of the party.
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