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Corbett bagging: A new friend and a run to Càrn Chuinneag

Written by Fiona

July 13 2021

Cath and I have been friend-matched by a someone we both know. Jo knew that Cath was keen to find people to join her on training runs for this year’s Cape Wrath Ultra. Jo also knows that I am always up for an outdoors adventure.

On Saturday, Cath, who is the founder of Highland Campervans, and I met for a run-hike of Càrn Chuinneag. The Corbett is located in Strath Carron and starts from west of Ardgay. Brilliantly, it was only an hour’s drive from Inverness so that suited us both.

The weather forecast was a little uncertain but we took a chance that any potential rain or clouds would drift away from us and annoy other people. We were almost 100% fortunate with this…

The track at the start of the route.
Heading into the clouds.

Run-hike of the Corbett, Càrn Chuinneag

While there are many mountains to choose from in the Highlands, I am always keen to bag a new summit. Càrn Chuinneag appeared to be a good possibility for a run-hike. It also offered the right distance for Cath’s training plan.

There is a small car park at Glencalvie Lodge, accessed on a narrow tarmac road from Ardgay.

The first part of the run was on a wide Landrover track that gradually ascended south through Glen Calvie. We followed the line of the River of Glencalvie, although it was difficult to get lost due to the track.

As we ran, we chatted and got to know each other. We settled into a comfortable pace that allowed us to talk – and we knew this would be a pace that we could maintain for the expected 18km of the route. (It ended dup being closer to 24km with 1027m of ascent.)

Our run circuit of Càrn Chuinneag. See Strava and OS Maps.

Checking the map, the ascent route on the steep northern slope of Càrn Chuinneag was obvious. We easily found where other people had created a path.

By now we were climbing into cloud, although the route was still obvious.

The path climbed and zig-zagged its way to the western slope of the Corbett, before we turned easterly and the to the north to gain further height. The first summit of the mountain was at 829m and while this is a qualifying height for a Corbett (762m/2500ft), the summit proper was at 839m and around a kilometre further east.

As we gained height we were thrilled that the low clouds started to part and drift away so that we could enjoy the fantastic views of the glen and many surrounding mountains.

Summit trig on Càrn Chuinneag.

I think I prefer a day where the cloud comes and goes, rather than it always being blue sky. The cloud offered extra atmosphere and plenty of surprises.

Descent from Càrn Chuinneag

From the summit of Càrn Chuinneag, it would be possible to return the same route. But we both prefer a circuit route where possible and Cath suggested we descend to the north-north-east.

We spent some time off-path and tramping over rough ground but it wasn’t for too long. Our goal was to reach the northern shore of pretty Loch Chuinneag.

I like to have a target to focus on when running or walking on rough ground.

Having skirted the edge of the loch, we then focused on a track we could see further east and descended down the slope of Carn na Gobhlaig-beithe. We were able to follow a narrow trod on this section.

Again, we found ourselves on a wide Landrover track that was perfect for our easy-going running pace.

We headed generally west and enjoyed the track, views and more chat. I usually find outdoors people to be really interesting and Cath had many great tales of life and work to tell.

Rather than regaining the track through the glen that we had started on earlier in the day, we chose to take a turn north. Still on a wide track that was more undulating we ran a route around. the base of a couple of knolls.

The track headed north and then west again to where we had earlier run through the estate of Glencalvie. We made one sort wrong turn because we were looking at several beautiful cockerels in a house yard, rather than concentrating on our route.

A quick turnaround saw us heading back to the start point after a brief stop at a river for a leg dip. Cold water is a great way to relieve fatigued muscles.

It was at this point that our weather luck ran out as we quickly headed the last 100m to the car in a very heavy downpour. We laughed at how fortunate we had been to enjoy hours of running in good weather.

Wishing Cath good fortune in the Cape Wrath Ultra

I can tell by Cath’s ability, fitness, endurance and training (she is coached by Ian at Trail Running Scotland) that she is going to enjoy being a participant in the Cape Wrath Ultra. The race travels over eight days from Fort William to Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Britain.

It turned out that Jo had indeed set up a good friend match. Cath is an excellent navigator, a good runner and great company. I hope we will find the time to enjoy other running outings. I am also looking forward to tracking her progress during the Cape Wrath Ultra when I am once again chief blogger.

Corbetts bagged: 58

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