Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
16th & 17th April 2011
A long tramp from the Spittal of Glenshee to reach Ben Vuirich (Hill of stag roaring) and camp on the shores of Loch Loch.
After arriving at the Spittal of Glenshee and making a brew I took my map out to confirm my starting point only to realise it was the wrong map! A good start, I asked a guy making ready for a cycle ride if he knew the best place to get one. The ski shop was closed so he suggested the Spitall of Glenshee hotel but I had no luck there. The next town south was a little way and held no guarantees so I elected to return north. I was sure I would get one at Braemar but hoped I wouldn't have to go back that far and have a change of fortune at the Glenshee ski centre. Fortunately the cafe was open and did have the required map, so all in all not too much of a delay but a wee bit frustrating. So correct map in pocket I left my van at the space set aside for walkers just up the driveway to Dalmunzie house and headed back out along the road toward the hotel. I followed the sign for Enochdo and joined up with the Cateran trial, a circular walking route through the Perthshire and Angus Glens
Ben Gulabin from the Cateran Trail
After a steady climb up the grassy slopes of Coire Lairige I arrived at An Lairig. Crossing the bealach I followed the track down then alongside Allt Doire nan Eun to the "Lunch Time Hut". Behind the hut a wee burn crawled its way up a narrow grassy embankment toward another Bealach between Elrig and Creag Bhreac. There was enough grass lying between the thickening heather to keep the walking fairly easy. I was heading for Loch Cranoch and followed the line of a fence in its general direction. A couple of Roe deer hurriedly left the company of grazing sheep as I approached whilst a couple of Buzzards performed some smart aerial manoeuvres. Not long after I noticed some walkers stood in conversation and shortly after I joined them it was apparent they were part of a larger walking group. It was the Perth ramblers and they must have been twenty or so in number, we chatted a while and the leader suggested the line of the fence would take me on a good path to the loch.
There was a solitary tent by the waterís edge with its owner possibly gathering wood for a fire near the opposite bank. The track from the loch heads a short way down to Crannach to pick up the main track out of the Glen. I headed over the hillside, grass cropped short for the main part, in the direction of the bridge below Creag Loisk. A few grassy tussocks and boggier sections interrupted the pleasant going before I dropped on to the track near the bridge. Leaving the side of Allt Fearnach a bit further upstream as I cleared the line of some pines I now headed uphill on a rising traverse. As I began the ascent I was surprised and a bit shocked by the number of deer skulls lying around in the area. I'm not sure if this is where they start butchering the carcassís after a hunt but I couldn't think of any other reason. Deer bones would be a bit of a feature over the weekend as I came across a number of places were handfuls of remains were left. The grassy lower slopes of Druim Cul turned to heather then bog on the way to Meall Daimheaidh. The testing terrain continued all the way over to bellow the crag's of Carn Dubh before the route up provided an energy sapping ascent. Eventually working through the crag's I emerged on the rounded but rocky top of Carn Dubh. It was more pleasant walking over a carpet of short heather and grass for the short excursion to the top of Ben Vuirich. I enjoyed the views over to Beinn a' Ghlo and down Glen Loch but the chill wind soon had me sloping off northward to find shelter lower down.
Beinn a' Ghlo and Loch Loch
Some large boulders made a nice windbreak without blocking out the current nice spell of sunshine. I had no definite plans for my onward route but any ideas of including a traverse of Beinn a' Ghlo's top Carn nan Gobhar were soon put to bed. While not entirely thinking about bed, I was now inclined to at least start thinking about looking for a place to pitch up for the night. After my sandwich I dropped steeply down into the Glen and found a nice area of grass around a ruin at the foot of Ben Vuirich. I decided to push on and head up toward Loch Loch to see what lay in store there, I could always return. Passing another muddy pool by the side of the track I noticed that the scores of tadpoles and frog spawn had been joined by a newt. After he had reluctantly posed for a photograph I continued up the glen toward the loch, the bulk of the Beinn a' Ghlo massif now providing some shelter from the wind. One or two nice spots alongside the river were looking suitable but I was glad that I continued to the loch to find an excellent spot right on the shore.
Ben Vuirich from Glen Loch
Tent up I could enjoy the evening, after a brew I enjoyed some smoked mackerel and pilaf rice. After another cup of tea I wandered part way down the loch returning to the tent as the light began to fade.
Camp at Loch Loch
I awoke at 2.30 at first unsure of the time, there was a bright glow filtering in to the tent from one side. Donning my fleece I emerged under a bright, almost full moon and a hazy night sky. The dawn broke clear with a deep blue sky although and the cold wind that sprung up in the night was still blowing. First job was to get the stove fired up before I relaxed while watching the sun slowly cast back the shadow's on Beinn a' Ghlo. Although taking my time I was all packed and on the move before 8.00, heading off down the side of Loch Loch, curious name really, a bit like calling your dog "dog". A feint path along the loch soon had me walking along the grassy banks of the stream that forms the outflow of the loch.
Beinn a' Ghlo from An Lochain
It was very pleasant indeed as the day started to warm and I emerged from the shadows of Creag an Loch. A gaggle of geese made their presence heard as they arrowed their way across the sky. Leaving the waters of An Lochain below Creag Dhearg I traced Allt Feith Ghuithsachain uphill toward I series of cascades. It was getting warm and the waters were looking more and more inviting, it was time for a quick dip. I knew it would be cold but even after bracing myself the breath was exhaled from my lungs in a series of short sharp bursts. As ever a dip at this early part of the year was very brief to say the least. Out of the water though the sun soon had me warming through and I had a feeling of total refreshment (when the feeling returned that is)! Further on I paused to enjoy some waterfalls, a sight that would be improved once the tree's lining the gorge were back in leaf. I was back crossing some rough ground as I weaved my way up onto the southern ridge of Meall na Spionaig, in the company of some large pockets of deer.
Deer below Meall na Spionaig
It was now that the Scree laden southern slopes of Carn an Righ appeared and further east the conical summit of Glas Tulaichean. It was starting to feel very hot as I made my way south along a section of landrover track. I relucatantly added some weight to my pack by replenishing my water supply before taking to the steep grassy slopes of Carn an-t Sionnaich. This was the start of a long undulating ridge that would lead me back to the Cateran trail above the Spittal of Glenshee. I stopped at the cairned top for some lunch and took the opportunity to re-check the details of the ridge on the map. The ridge now extended ahead of me easing its way up over Top 764 and 770 before reaching Meall a' Choire Bhuidhe in the far distance. Beinn a' Ghlo had been a prominent landmark all day and now stood imposing as ever above the corrie walls of Braigh Feith Ghiubhsachain.
Beinn a' Ghlo above Braigh Feith Ghiubhsachain
After the short descent from Carn an-t Sionnaich I was greeted by a section of peat bog but this was negotiated without much fuss. I was then able to pick out a feint path and for the most part is was a gentle climb up along the broad grassy ridge. Detouring onto the heather clad top of Carn Dearg I spotted a couple more Roe deer who gently loped off before circling behind me. The rounded top afforded good views of the next couple of hills on the ridge, Meall Ruigh Mor Thearlaich and Meall a' Choire Bhuidhe with its rocky knoll of Carn Tarmachain extending from its side.
Meall a' Choire Bhuidhe from Meall Ruigh Mor Thearlaich
After another short drop I negotiated the up and down of Meall Ruigh Mor Thearlaich before a slightly steeper climb onto Meall a' Choire Bhuidhe. The ridge became more defined along the upper section before lowering me down to Lairig Charnach; it was time for a snack while enjoying the view down to Glen Lochsie. After crossing a narrow col I was greeted with the next significant wobble in the ridge, Ben Earb, whose slopes increased my heart rate once again.
Glen Lochsie from Ben Earb
The ridge had taken me in a general south east direction but there was a little kink next before I reached Creag an Dubh Shluic. It was now just a short distance back to An Lairig to join up with my outward path on the Cateran trail. The ridge continued onto its way to Meall Uaine but turned down into Coire Lairige and the final section back to the Spittal of Glenshee. It had been a fine couple of days walking and now all that remained was the hour and a half drive back to Aberdeen.
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