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Easy Corbett bagging: Morven, near Ballater

Written by Fiona

October 16 2023

One of the great advantages of living near Inverness is the ability to travel north, west, east or south to find the best weather. Looking at the forecast for the weekend, I reckoned it was better in the east on the Sunday. I have a few Corbetts still to summit in Aberdeenshire and with Hubby G happy to come along, too, I chose one that would have a good path (G isn’t keen on a boggy trudge) and a route that wouldn’t be too long because the weather windows looked small.

Hubby G and I enjoyed an overnight in a larger campervan.

First though, a van night

My friend Cathy is the owner of Highland Campervans, near Inverness, and she has been giving me tips and advice on my next van. She kindly loaned me a larger Campervan, based on a Fiat Ducato, so I could get a feel for the size and layout.

The van is wonderful. It feels really roomy with a large bed at the rear, under-bed storage, kitchen galley, shower and toilet, table, bench seats, two swivel seats (driver and passenger), heating, hot water, large fridge etc. It felt like a home-from-home and a lot more luxurious than a VW Transporter size van.

It drives surprisingly well. I didn’t feel like it was too slow, even on the hills that climb over the pass at The Lecht and it handles perfectly.

G and I enjoyed a comfortable night, ready for a lazy, late walk on Morven.

By chance, as we parked the van at the start, I spotted a motorhome I recognised. It belongs to the partner, Andy, of my friend Maggie.

We finally found the path uphill.

Ascent of the Corbett, Morven

The route from the east starts at the end of a minor public road towards Groddie, near Logie Coldstone, and some 20 minutes’ drive north-east of Ballater. We followed an obvious track on foot from a rough lay-by (space for about half a dozen cars if people park sensible). The track turned into a well-trodden path that climbs gently through fields.

We passed through a gate and then continued uphill. This was a bit of an error because we would have been better forking right (north) at the lower point of the field.

At first, it seemed like we were on the right track but then we found ourselves on bits and pieces of trod that formed a spidery network through heather and bracken. Telling G that this was fairly normal for a Corbett, I continued to push uphill.

He didn’t seem too bothered although it was hard going. Then, we spotted several other walkers to our right and further uphill.

We checked the map and realised we were about 50m off the route. It doesn’t always tally that a route taken from a walking website, such as Walk Highlands, will produce a well-laid path – and especially not on a Corbett – but I had read that there was meant to be a decent path for most of Morven.

So, we traversed further right and there it was, an obvious path.

Speaking to others on the Corbett, we discovered that they had all done the same as us. If you want to avoid a rough march uphill through thick heather, it’s worth paying attention to the route early on.

Once on the path, there was no difficulty in finding our way. There are sections that are quite steep but, in between, the gradient levels a bit to give some relief to leg muscles.

As we climbed, we met with three women who were also enjoying the fairly short Corbett hike. We stopped for a chat and then pushed on. I was hoping we would meet Maggie and Andy as they came back down the slope.

The weather was brighter than I’d expected. There has been quite a high chance of rain at different times throughout the day and it had been difficult to work out when these would happen. So, we were fortunate to have very little rain. However, the wind was cold and strong at times. The higher we climbed, the colder it became and we also walked over patches of snow. Thankfully, it stayed fairly bright and this meant we were treated to some lovely views over the rolling countryside. Autumn is now upon us and the countryside is turning a lovely array of oranges, yellows, reds and ochres.

Morven has a few false summits, each marked with a cairn, but the highest point became obvious. As predicted, as G and I approach the top, we met Maggie and Andy. It was too cold to stand around and talk for long, so we said we would head quickly up to the summit, then meet them for lunch further down the slope.

The summit at 872m was very cold indeed. I quickly added layers and retrieved my warm winter mitts from my pack, adding them on top of my lightweight mitts.

We made speedy work of turning around after a summit photo and then descending the way we had come.

Quick descent of Morven

The slope was easy to descend. G had headed off first and I then enjoyed an easy run downhill to catch up with him. This had the advantage of generating some body heat. By the time we met Maggie and Andy again, about a third of the way down the slope and in a sheltered spot, I was feeling nicely toasty.

I added an extra insulated jacket on top to retain the warmth as we sat down on the thick grass to eat lunch and chat. It’s always lovely meeting up with like-minded friends and we hardly stopped talking for the next couple of hours as we finished the walk downhill and then enjoyed a coffee and biscuits in Andy’s roomy motorhome.

There is an alternative loop route back to the start but we missed the junction heading further south. This is a shame as I always prefer to see more of a mountain or area but I think we were chatting too hard and not paying attention to the route. Once we were on the obvious path, it was difficult to see an alternative.

As we descended, we met another walker who had also taken the heather-bashing route up the first part of the hill. It does seem like this is a common thing to do. Make sure you head further north to reach the proper path.

As we reached the lower slope again, a beautiful rainbow was visible right across the lower strath. This is such a beautiful area of Scotland and location for some very enjoyable walking.

The track further north is on an actual path.

Corbett Morven details

Distance: 8km

Total ascent: 750m

Route: Strava and OS Maps

Corbetts bagged: 134.

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