One weekend, two Corbetts
This weekend, I hiked to the summit of two Corbetts in the Cairngorms. At least I thought I did… First, though, an account of the weekend of Corbett bagging.
Why the Corbetts?
Corbetts have become increasingly interesting of late. While I still have 42 Munros to hike to compleat* my first round, most of them are a long drive from my home. I have plans to bag many new Munros on longer summer days this year.
At the same time, a walking friend, Rob, has finished a round of Munros and is now focusing on bagging Corbetts. Since we often walk together, I have been happy to hike with him to quite a number of Corbett summits this year.
Corbetts offer another list for me to tick – and while I am content to walk many mountains repeatedly simply because they are local or a great hike, I do like to have a goal. This means I have been sometimes bagging new Corbetts rather than walking Munros for the second time.
Saturday’s quickie Corbett
On Saturday, hubby G and I were looking for a quick summit hike and we chose Geal-charn Mor near Aviemore. The Walk Highlands website reckoned three to four-and-a-half hours to do this 824m Corbett.
We made fairly easy work of the out-and-back seven-mile route to finish in two hours.
The route was mostly very easy to find as we followed the Burma Road from close to Lynwilg, near Aviemore. The Burma Road was apparently built by prisoners-of-war in the 1940s and it’s now a popular right of way, running for 13 miles from Lynwilg, over the Monadh Liath into the valley of the Dulnain where paths and tracks head down to the village of Carrbridge.
Leaving the Burma Road, almost at the top, there was a bouldery path to the summit through moorland. The trig on the highest point was obvious.
We took a photo, had a quick bite to eat and descended the way we had come.
Sunday’s wild, wet and windy Corbett
The next day we planned to walk with Rob to The Fara. It is another Corbett, this time accessed from Dalwhinnie, along the shore of Loch Ericht.
The weather was wild. The wind raged and blustered at loch level and I was concerned about how strong the winds would be at higher altitude.
We decided just to keep going, to see whether we would make the summit.
While I do prefer a fairweather hike, there are many days in Scotland when this is not possible and I do think there is a lot of experience to gain from hiking in tricky conditions.
It’s important to assess your ability and experience if you plan to hike mountains in the wet, wind, snow and mist but as the three of us felt comfortable with navigation we pushed on.
Turning away from the loch uphill, we moved into a forest and followed a tree break up a steep slope. The trees provided an excellent wind break and for a while we enjoyed the peace and relative calm.
Above the trees, on open moorland, the wind buffeted us from one side again. I am lighter than hubby G and Rob and so I found it much harder to cope with the wind. However, it was manageable.
The higher we climbed, the steeper the slope and the stronger the wind became. I started to worry again about making it to the summit.
Climbing on to the flatter summit ridge the wind dropped for a short while – and then picked up again. By this time, the wind was filled with sleety rain and it pelted us at the side and into our faces.
We pulled our waterproof jackets and hoods around us and pushed on, with rather grim faces.
The summit was so close and we knew we would make it although it wasn’t a pleasant final stride out to the top.
We spotted a huge cairn, climbed to touch the top and looked down on a nearby tor (a large freestanding crop of rocks). We checked the map, looked up the route on Walk Highlands, checked our position and height electronically and concluded, after a short discussion, we were at the highest point.
We crouched down behind the cairn for shelter and enjoyed a quick lunch before heading back down the mountain slope to the forest and then to the loch shore.
If the weather had been better we had planned to walk along the ridge to the south west for a longer hike but the wind and sleet made us retreat. It has been a great outing in tough conditions and we were satisfied with the morning’s effort.
As it turns out, we now wish we had walked around 50m along that ridge in a south-westerly direction. Read why…
*compleat is the archaic spelling of complete and is usually used, even today, in reference to someone who completes a round of mountains, such as the Munros.