Words & Photos Graham Uney
Distance: 11 miles/18km
Time: around 7 hours
Start/finish: Park on the old bridge at Lynwilg (GR: NH 883107)
Map: Ordnance Survey Landranger sheet 35 (Kingussie & Monadhliath Mountains).
Information: Aviemore TIC, 0845 2255121
Travel: Trains to Aviemore. Traveline: 0871 2002233, www.traveline.org.uk
Geal-charn Mor has always held a bit of a special place in my heart. I first climbed to its top when I was training for a winter Mountain Leader assessment, and as I strode out across the dome-like tops of the range, the snow underfoot became more and more crisp as I gained height.
The white clouds that had scurried behind me earlier had cleared, and the sun sparkled on ice and snow crystals all around. It was one of those days when you really just don’t feel like descending into the glen, so I didn’t! Instead, I pulled a snow shovel out of my rucksack, and dug into a huge drift of névé just beneath the summit crown. I crawled into my sleeping bag as the sun lit the snows of Cairn Gorm across Strathspey, and enjoyed my first ever night alone in a snow hole. Looking back now, I guess I was fortunate to be in training, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have had the right kit with me to endure a cold night on the tops, but as it was my night was comfortable, and by morning I was ready to head off into the Monadh Liath at the crack of dawn.
I’ve always remembered that first ascent of the hill, and when conditions over on the Gorms have been too bad to take a winter group up onto the plateau, I’ve often brought them here instead. We’ve played around in the snow countless times on Geal-charn Mor’s snowy flanks – had snowball fights, hurtled down the gentle slopes on orange survival bags, practiced digging avalanche hasty pits, and had some pretty gruesome navigational nightmares too. They all add up to some fabulous and memorable days. It always makes me smile when I tell my group that we’re heading into the Monadh Liath instead of up onto the higher Cairngorms nearby. You can just see their faces drop – until we start out up An Gleannan that is, and they realise what a wonderful place this is in the winter months.
There are often crossbills in the old pines at the foot of the glen, pinging around the tree tops with flocks of siskins and redpoll, and on one occasion we stopped at the last tree as we ascended, and watched in awe as a huge female golden eagle soared back and forth across the broad ridge of Creag Ghleannain to the south.
Every time I climb the Corbett I seem to do it by a different route, but one thing is always constant, the huge numbers of mountain hares I see up there. The south-east face seems to hold particularly large numbers, and it’s always a fine sight to see them in their winter pelage, blending into the snow patches that they so obviously seek out.
Follow track up the north side of the burn into An Gleannan. Climb N to a col, then NW to Carn Dearg Mor. Climb NW again to Geal-charn Beag, then descend S to track across bealach. Head SW to summit of Geal-charn Mor. Follow ridge S to An Sguabach, then traverse corrie to NE and follow ridge to Creag Ghleannain. Head E to little rocky knoll, then descend S to track at Ballinluig. Follow track E to Lynwilg.Tweet