Saturday 27 February 2016

Mount Keen

It was a bit of a drive down to Glen Esk and along to Invermark and the start of our walk - but the views were great, the eastern Cairngorms, the tops in snow, in glorious February sunshine. 

We were raring to go - especially Rafe, who had been stuck in the car for two and a half hours! Our objective, Mount Keen, the most easterly Munro.

Burn of Branny in Invermark

We parked up in the good sized car park in the little village of Invermark, donned boots and jackets - despite the sunshine, it was still early, and it was chilly.

Invermark Church

The route out of the village was well signposted, over the bridge, past the church and onto an excellent track beside the Water of Mark.

Rafe and Jim - Glen Mark near Invermark

The sky was, oh so, blue and the walking was easy - a gentle leg stretch.

Rafe and Jim - looking north west along Glen Mark

As we continued along the Glen, the hills rose up around us, speckled with snow. The river reflected the sky and the birches were purple against the gold and green...

Rafe beside the Water of Mark

It wasn't long before we got our first view of Queen's Well, about 3km into the walk. Queen Victoria (not my favourite historical figure) apparently watered her horses at the well in 1861. The local laird, Lord Dalhousie, erected the monument to commemorate the event,

Queens Well, Glen Mark

We took the short detour off the main track to the Well - quite a few photographs were taken. We had a swig of juice and a biscuit whilst Rafie had a drink at the Royal well.

Rafe and Jim approaching Glenmark Cottage - views to Couternach and Pandewen

The main track swings away from the Water of Mark just beyond the Well, north past Glenmark Cottage. Its a lovely old shooting lodge, currently a remote holiday cottage - looks a marvellous and romantic place to live - on a sunny morning!

Rafe by Glenmark Cottage

We crossed the Easter Burn (ford) and the Ladder Burn (interesting "bridge") easily - before starting a gentle ascent up the Ladder Glen.

Over the Ladder Burn to Upper Glen Mark

Jim and Rafe starting the ascent of the track beside the Ladder Burn

We started to pass through patches of snow, softening fast in the sun, but hard and icy in the shade. It was pretty easy to avoid, and we made good time.

Looking back - south east - into Glen Mark from Ladder Glen

Rafe and Jim in the Ladder Glen

The Ladder Glen

The path was good, the route clear, we did a zig and a zag before coming out on the open hillside above the Ladder Glen with Mount Keen, clear and bright ahead.

Looking back - south east - down Ladder Glen

The Ladder Glen with views north west to Mount Keen

We continued on the track, north across the snowy hillside, the snow increasing as we ascended,

Rafe - that's not the summit! - views to Mount Keen

Jim - Ascent of The Mounth road

After about a kilometre, we left the Mounth road which carries on into Glen Tanar, and headed off towards Mount Keen. Although the path was now snow covered, the route was obvious - up.

Looking back - south east - towards Glen Mark

It wasn't particularly steep - and the widening views kept our attention away from the climb...

Looking back along our ascent route to Mount Keen

Jim and Rafe - Nearning Mount Keen summit

Lochnagar and friends appeared in the north, perfect in the blue.

Views west from the ascent of Mount Keen - Lochnagar and the Cairngorms

Looking back - south east - over Angus Glens

There was a nasty little, unexpected, false top - but we were soon approaching the summit - frozen and rocky.

For the first time, a chilly wind got up...

Rafe and Jim near Mount Keen summit

East towards Fife from ascent of Mount Keen

Mount Keen Summit - views north

We made our way to the trig point - Mount Keen (Munro 235, 939m) - the views were stupendous - clear, crisp and far reaching - in every direction.

Mount Keen summit (Munro 235, 939m)

Lochnagar from Mount Keen

West from Mount Keen summit

West to The Cairngorms from Mount Keen

After a bit of an explore around the summit, we tucked in behind some rocks out of the wind, for a spot of lunch and a cuppa.


South east over Mount Keen summit

We chatted with a group of climbers who had ascended from Glen Tanar - Londoners who had picked the right week to visit Scotland for a week of hillwalking!

Pretty good view - lunch on Mount Keen

Before heading off the way we had come, back across the shining mountain towards the Ladder Glen.

Ptarmigan - near Mount Keen summit

A couple of ptarmigan, well camouflaged, in full winter garb, popped up from behind a rock to check our Rafie's intentions. Rafe knew he wasn't allowed to take one step in their direction!

Rafe and Jim - descent from Mount Keen - views south east

In the sun and out of the wind it was Hot!

Lochnagar and the Cairngorms from Mount Keen

Jacket off!

Rafe and Jim - descent from Mount Keen

Views over Glen Mark from descent from Mount Keen

Down hill - we were fast. It wasn't long before we were into the Ladder Glen - the snow had softened and was melting fast. No icy patches now!

Jim and Rafe - looking down Ladder Glen from descent from Mount Keen

Ladder Burn - views to Glen Mark

Back beside the Water of Mark - we were ready for a bite. We found a likely spot beside the water and had a second lunch. The sun was dropping behind the hills and it was chilly in the shade. We didn't linger.

Water of Mark - good place for a second lunch. Views north west

A gentle stroll back along Glen Esk - different light, different views - and we were soon at Invermark.

Another cracking day!

Jim and Rafe - nearing the end of the walk - in Glen Mark

Route:  Car park at Invermark at the W end of Glen Esk (NO446803), W along road for 250m, past church, N on track (sp Queens Well and Mount Keen) past House of Mark and NW along track beside Water of Mark to Queens Well and Glenmark Cottage, cross Easter Burn and Ladder Burn, track NW above Ladder Burn and onto open moor, continue on track to NO405856, N to Mount Keen summit (NO409869) (Munro 235, 939m), Return to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 17.5km  Ascent: 810m  Time: 5 hours 30 minutes

Map:  OS Explorer OL54 Glen Esk and Glen Tanar

Mount Keen

Saturday 13 February 2016


Moruisg from the start point beside the A890

We'd two walks in mind - another walk in the Monadhlaith, or Moruisg, near Achnasheen. Both walks have a bit of a rep for being boring, boggy lumps - so a winter outing might just pep up the interest and freeze up the bog.

We'd been watching the weather and the avalanche forecast for a few days - both had been a bit up and down. By the end of the week the weather was drying up, but with strong easterlies forecast, the best chance of good visibility was in the west. The avalanche risk had gone up from moderate to considerable - but Torridon looked better than the more easterly forecast...

Moruisg it is.

We planned to team the Munro with Sgurr nan Ceannaichean, a Corbett (which used to be a Munro), just to the south of Moruisg.

North east along the River Carron from the footbridge at NH082520

An early start from home, saw us setting off from the little layby on the A890, in Glen Carron, under a chilly looking Moruisg, the sun still behind the hill, just before 10am.

In Glen Carron with views south to Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Across the River Carron foot bridge and under the railway line, we were soon yomping across the frozen moor (it would certainly have been a bog trot, if not for the temperature!).

Railway underpass in Glen Carron

We were soon ascending into patchy snow, Rafe bounding about, chucking it in the air and playing catch!

Loch Sgamhain from the start of the ascent of Moruisg

West along Glen Carron to Sgorr Ruadh

There was a vague path, intermittent in the heather, grass and snow. There were a couple of gates through the deer fence to negotiate and then we just went up.

Frozen burn on Moruisg lower slopes

Jim - ascent of Moruisg

Views west along Glen Carron - Moruisg and Creag an Ardaich

Frozen burn on Moruisg

It was a fair, steep slog, but as we ascended, the sun came up over the mountains, lighting up the scene. The glorious hills of Torridon were spread out to the west, behind us - we had every excuse to stop and stare...

Ascent of Moruisg - views west along Glen Carron to Sgorr Ruadh

Jim - ascent of Moruisg

The forecast was for the easterly wind to drop from 45mph (60mph gusts) to 25 mph (40mph gusts) by the middle of the day. As we were heading up the north westerly slope, we had been reasonably sheltered so far and we were hoping that the forecast drop in the wind would have kicked in by the time we neared the top.

It didn't. In fact we felt that the initial forecast was a bit on the conservative side!!

Snow devils - Ascent of Moruisg

As we got higher, great gouts of wind, swirling snow devils, hit us more and more often. For the most part it was exhilarating and sometimes funny. But every now and again, dropping to the knees and waiting out the squall was the only way to stay on the hill!

Across Glen Carron - Fuar Tholl, Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor

North over Glen Carron to Beinn na Feusaige with the Fannichs beyond

Rafe - White out on Moruisg

Jim - Taking cover from snow devils on Moruisg

But between the gusts, the views were magnificent.

Winter sun on Moruisg - views north to distant Fannichs

Sun rises over Moruisg

West over Glen Carron to Torridon

Windy on Moruisg

Higher was definitely colder, the snow got deeper, turned crispy and very soon icy... Crampons required.

Snow devils on Moruisg - views to Torridon

The wind was blowing directly into our faces now, as we neared the summit plateau, constant and strong, two step's forward and one back. Hard work!

Christmas cake Moruisg

But it was clear as a bell. I don't think we've ever had better views...

Snowy upper slopes on Moruisg - views 

We topped out on the icy summit plateau, beside a large cairn and a snow filled "shelter". Not much shelter to be had here.

It was about 200m south west along the plateau, to a smaller cairn, the summit of today's Munro.

It was extremely windy!

Jim and Rafe lean into the wind on Moruisg summit plateau - views south

Walking the short distance across the icy plateau convinced us that today was not a day to be on the summits for any length of time. We made the decision to head back down into Glen Carron and not take on Sgurr nan Ceannaichean - the hills would still be there another day!

Moruisg summit plateau - views south
Sgurr a'Chaorachain, Sgurr Choinnich and West Monar

I'm lucky that I don't really suffer with cold hands - I rarely wear more than my excellent Extremities dri lite gloves, (they're brilliant for using the camera!) - but today they definitely they weren't adequate. The -15C windchill turned my fingers numb. I was lucky to get any photo's at all.

Views west from Moruisg summit plateau
Glen Carron, Fuar Thol, Sgorr Ruadh, Beinn Liath Mhor, Liathach and Ben Eighe

We soon reached the summit - Moruisg (Munro 255, 926m).

We had a very quick photo session. There was no point in trying to hold the camera still or even point it in any particular direction - I just had to hope that the excellent light and the superlative views would make up for the lack of any framing!

Moruisg summit (Munro 255, 926m) - views north east

We soon turned about and headed back across the plateau. Rafe was just loving it - leaping about, trying to catch the bits of snow and ice that were flying about.

Once back at the shelter, we met up with another couple of walkers, who had ascended from the south east. They were having a spot of lunch and enjoying the views before making back to the glen. Rather than join them, we decided to find a slightly more sheltered picnic place.

Rafe and Jim - descent from Moruisg - views west to Torridon

With the wind at our backs and gravity on our side, we were very soon out of the worst of the wind. We were now blessed with the views of Torridon before us - and now that my hands had defrosted, I took many photographs.

Descent from Moruisg - views north to The Fannichs

Ben Eighe from Moruisg

As we descended we dropped into the edge of one of the larger gullies on Moruisg's west face. A frozen waterfall was draped into the depths, icicles hanging from every rock. We were in the sun and out of the wind - seemed like a good place to stop for a sarnie and a cuppa.

Descent from Moruisg - Jim - frozen waterfall in gorge (NN095505)

Pretty good spot for lunch - views west over Glen Carron

Can't think of anytime when we've had a better picnic view.

Rafe and Jim - Lower slopes of Moruisg - views north

Once off the steeper slopes, we made good time. The wind had dropped. The gloves and hat were off.

Descent from Moruisg - Jim and Rafe, Glen Cannich

There's been some tree planting - pine and birch - across the glen. Looking forward to a much more varied landscape in the future...

Loch Sgamhain and Beinn na Feusaige

The afternoon sun had softened Moruisg's bogs - we had to make a few more detours around the gunky bits - Rafe didn't bother!

It was warm enough to sit out by the car, taking off the boots and having another cuppa, by the time we got back - with a pretty good view of where we'd just been...

A very short hill day - but definitely not boring and really not too boggy!

Moruisg in the afternoon sun at the end of the walk

Route:  Car parking area beside A890 Glen Carron Road 1km W of bridge over Allt Coire Cruaibh (NH080520), E to fb at NH082520, SE to railway underpass at NH083519, SE on open hillside to neck of land at top of two gullies (NH096506), continue SE on open hillside to summit plateau at large cairn and shelter, SW for 250m to Moruisg summit (Munro 255, 926m) at smaller cairn, return to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 7.5km  Ascent: 800m  Time: 5 hours

Map:  OS Explorer 429 Glen Carron & West Monar

Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor

Setting off from Glen Feshie - it was chilly - before the sun had a chance to peep over the hills...  Off we go! Jim - Setting off near Auch...