No prizes for guessing where I ended up for another overnight hillwalking adventure! I have plenty of big epic walks up my sleeve for when conditions are right and I hoped to tick off one of these during May, but the weather gods had other ideas. The weather had been pretty grey and miserable for much of the month, certainly when compared to previous years. As the end of the month approached I finally decided to take a gamble on a half-decent looking day, but this meant only a single day of hills. No matter though, I had the perfect route in mind. Off to the Cairngorms we go…!
My chosen route was a circuit of the 5 Munros to the south of Glen Ey, starting and finishing at Inverey. It’s one I’ve had my eye on for a while and this part of the Cairngorms is often said to be a little quieter than other areas on a good day. This could have been done as a single day with a wee rucksack, but as I fancied a night in my tent I opted for a wild camp in the glen to save a few miles and get the driving done the day before the big walk. After a very pleasant and scenic drive north from Ayrshire, I parked up and headed up Glen Ey, excited and very glad to be back in the hills on a camping trip.
I had seen plenty of evidence of wild camping online so I knew I’d find somewhere for the evening. My only concern was the fairly stiff southerly breeze, but the ruined Altanour Lodge would hopefully provide some shelter. Before I could worry about my camp spot there were still a few miles to cover, so I set off up the glen on what was a very pleasant evening indeed.
I had read that the glen is known for its wildlife and the abundance of birds and deer cemented this notion. Around half way to the lodge ruins I saw what was easily the biggest herd of deer I’d ever seen in person (I reckon upwards of 50-60 in total).
The wildlife and the awesome views ensured that I made light work of the miles and 90 minutes after leaving my car I made it to Altanour Lodge. The wind hadn’t died down at all – if anything it was picking up – so I spent a fair bit of time searching for a decent pitch before eventually settling on the most sheltered spot I could find, nestled in amongst the trees opposite the lodge ruins.
I had eaten my dinner before I set off which meant I didn’t have any cooking to do once I was pitched up, so things were very relaxed and lazy around camp. I collected some water and took a wee wander around the ruins before turning in for the night.
On the last few summit camps and bivvy trips I’ve been awake at the crack of dawn (or sometimes half an hour before it…), so my leisurely rise at 0530 was rather relaxed for me! I got myself fed and changed and cleared my camp within an hour and set off on my merry way at 0630. The day’s objectives involved about 20 miles and 5 Munros, the terrain between them being mostly pathless.
As I left my camp spot the conditions seemed rather pleasant – the temperature was perfect for walking and the breeze had died down a little too. This lasted all of about 10 minutes though and as the wind picked up it brought with it a sharp shower. On with the waterproofs then…
The lodge ruins on the valley floor were around 500m above sea level so there wasn’t a great deal of ascent to reach Carn Bhac, my first Munro of the day. I reached the summit 1hr 15 mins after setting off and thankfully the cloud took the opportunity to lift a little, taking the shower with it.
I absolutely love the Cairngorms for the feeling of wilderness and open space, but my phone camera never quite does the place justice!
I took some time to admire the extensive views and set off rather abruptly as another shower rolled in. The next target was Beinn Lutharn Mhor, which lay a couple of miles to the south across mostly pathless and somewhat boggy ground. The descent was easy and gentle enough and the boggier section at the low point between the hills was – thankfully – pretty dry and easy to negotiate, but things soon steepened as I made my way up the steep slopes to join the north ridge of the mountain. Once the ascent on the steep and loose scree was done, all that remained was an easy jaunt along the grassy ridge to the summit. By now the cloud had almost completely enveloped the hill so there wasn’t much by way of a view. Oh well, snack time instead then!
I was making decent progress so far, managing the first 2 Munros of the day in around 2.5 hours. I had a long way to go though so I set off south once more, contouring around Mam nan Carn as I headed for the bealach below. After I reached the bealach I had an out-and-back section to reach the summit of Carn an Righ. This time there was a pretty good path for most of the way so the ascent wasn’t particularly difficult or boggy. The cloud had also lifted once more and things looked a little more positive in the sky – would it last though…?
Just over an hour after leaving Beinn Lutharn Mhor I reached the summit of Carn an Righ. This was an especially remote feeling hill and I hadn’t seen a single person so far on my travels, only adding to the feeling of wilderness that I love so much. It was a wee bit windy on the summit so I dropped back down a little towards the bealach before stopping for another well-earned snack break.
My next target was Glas Tulaichean, which unfortunately involved a half-decent amount of descent and re-ascent to reach. Most routes I found online took a more gentle – but longer – option and followed some good paths initially towards Loch nan Eun before heading to the summit, but I opted for a more direct line. I headed down towards the Allt a’Ghlinne Mhoir – taking the chance to refill my water – before blazing my own trail up the pretty steep NW slope of Glas Tulaichean.
A fair bit of puffing and panting later I soon joined the vehicle track that heads for the summit, following this to the trig point. This was my 4th Munro of the day and the most southerly point of my route, a wee psychological bonus as I knew every mile from here was in the correct direction! It had taken me 5 hours to reach this summit from Altanour Lodge, so I was pretty happy with my progress so far.
The wind hadn’t really died down much so once again I headed off the summit before finding a more sheltered snack spot. A quick refuel later and I was soon at Loch nan Eun, another spot I’d looked at using as an overnight spot. Not in this wind though!
After skirting round the edge of the loch I crossed the boggy and wild feeling area of moorland below An Socach, my 5th and final summit of the day. Despite being pathless, it was easy enough to make good progress. I eventually joined on to an obvious path for the final ascent to the summit. The legs were starting to feel the distance and ascent now, so I was glad to be reaching the last top of the day, which I did after 6.5 hours.
Although I was enjoying the (now) fine views and good weather, I knew I still had big chunk of my route still to go – around 7.5 miles back to the car! I set off north, heading over some bouldery terrain before following hints of a path down the heathery slope towards the glen below.
The path eventually petered out and rather than waste time trying to find it, I just made a beeline for the stream below. After crossing this it was then back to a good path and then the vehicle track that starts just before the lodge ruins.
It had been quite chilly so far across most of the day (I wasn’t complaining – it was a perfect walking temperature) but the glen was very warm now after a sizeable dose of afternoon sun. I took the opportunity to ditch the waterproofs and extra layers, enjoying the 5.5 miles back to the car in my t-shirt.
As I plodded along out of the glen I was passed by a couple of folk on bikes, which seemed like a wonderful idea given the easy track and the fact that it was pretty much all downhill on the way out. If I’m being honest I’m glad I didn’t have my bike as this gave me the chance to savour the landscape and really take in my surroundings.
I ate up the miles, smiling away at the thought of the 5 new Munros under my belt and the epic walk to reach them all.
After almost 9 hours, 22 miles and 1900m ascent I made it back to the car at Inverey. I was glad to be able to take the boots off, but sad that another Cairngorms adventure had come to an end. It might not have been the double-digit epic I’d been hoping for, but this was a superb wee trip away and the wild upper reaches of Glen Ey is somewhere I’d happily visit again in a heartbeat!