Glenshee 9 Munros, 16-17 February 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Two days of guided hiking on the Munros above Glenshee. John King and Emma O'Shea were leading.

Glenshee 9 Munros

Day 1 - East of Glenshee

The Munros east of Glenshee are a compact group and with a head start gained from being able to drive to a height of 665m, they offer a relatively straightforward way to climb 6 Munros is a single day. That said, it is still a big walk to fit within the limited daylight of February and we knew it wasn't going to be an easy day! We met and set-off just before 9am. It is a steep climb away from the ski centre car park to begin with and the weather was definitely not in our favour with heavy drizzle being blown in side ward on a strong southwesterly wind. On reaching the subsidiary top of Meall Odhar we decided to face into the weather and traverse the flank of Glas Maol, to reach the ridge of our first Munro of the day, Creag Leacach. This took us across some steep ground, but the recent thaw has completely stripped away the snow cover, so the going was relatively easy on grassy slopes.

Creag Leacach is an unusual hill for this area, being a pretty well defined rocky ridge, in contrast to the big, rolling plateau all around. Once we gained the ridgeline the weather seemed to improve a little and, with some care required over the wet boulder fields, we soon made our way to the summit cairn. Retracing our steps to begin with we then ascended onto the vast dome of Glas Maol. There was very little snow up here either and it felt more like a damp day in late spring than winter! Heading down the northeast side of the hill towards the route of the Monega Drove Road we started to pick up some more snow but it was still very patchy and we able to easily follow the tracks out towards Cairn of Claise, the day's third Munro.

As we ascended to the summit the visibility started to improve with views opening up towards Glen Clunie, but the wind was picking up a bit as well, so we decided not to hang around and instead headed off east over the Mounth plateau. We soon descended out of the cloud and the summits of Tolmount and Tom Buidhe appeared ahead. We had planned to stop for food, but the summit of Tom Buidhe looked so close that we pushed on and claimed our fourth Munro before lunch! There was very little snow and the walking was quick and easy, however, the wind on the summit was pretty fresh so we carried on further. Our descent took us down into a sheltered gully where we could stop for a well-earned break and a late lunch.

Starting off again it only took 10 minutes to reach Tolmount. By this time the cloud base had really lifted giving nice views east to the Lochnagar Munros and north down Glen Callater. After a few photos, we headed back down past our lunch spot, then on up on a rising traverse to our last Munro of the day, Carn an Tuirc. The snow patches here were deep and soft, hiding quite a few streams underneath and we were lucky to gain the ridge out to the final summit without getting our feet too wet! Soon we were crossing the final boulder field to the summit with nice views to the hills we'd been on and across the glen to where we'd be going tomorrow.

From Carn an Tuirc it is a steep descent but it doesn't take long and we reached the main road again in a little over an hour with snow free slopes making for good progress. We were at the end of the walk around 5pm and after a bit of shuffling of cars it was time to head off. Definitely a successful day on the hill, a significant boost to everyone's Munro count and it was good to be able to squeeze in all six Munros without having to use our headtorches!

Day 2 - West of Glenshee

There were some strong winds forecast with gusts of up to 60mph for the day and a mixture of low cloud and heavy showers so we didn't have high expectations for views, though we were quite looking forward to some more seasonal conditions and an expected battle with the elements. The 3 Western Glenshee Munros provides a good route option in such conditions!

With a few pairs of tired legs from the previous day's efforts and some fresh legs for others we headed up onto the Cairnwell. The mountain hares were very obvious sporting their white winter coats whilst running across the relatively snow-free hillside, and seemed to be enjoying themselves in the milder temperatures. The ski fence provided good protection from the wind on the ridge and it wasn't long before the summit of Cairnwell was reached and shelter taken by the summit building.

From there we headed out towards Carn Gheoidh, the wind was really strong in places making reaching the summit an achievable challenge and we made good use of our knowledge of the hill and stayed below the crest of the plateau as much as we could on our way to the summit avoiding the worst of the wind. There really weren't many views other than very occasional glimpses towards the loch and occasionally across into the glen. We spent a few minutes on the summit but it wasn't a place to linger today and it wasn't long before we were dropping down towards Loch Vrotachan and the fishing hut on its shore. We found this an excellent spot for lunch after just being soaked by a particularly heavy shower and we all found a spot inside to dry off. The relatively short climb to the summit of Carn Aosda followed which was catching the full force of the wind making staying upright a challenge before a quick descent down one of the ski tows back to the car park.

A satisfying, fun shorter day out making good use of local knowledge and good timing so that when the worst of the weather arrived we had already turned for home.

More photos by John King are here on Flickr. Some more photos by Johnston Orr are here on Flickr.

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