Day 2’s walk of 19.2 km with 910 mtrs of ascent and 1191 mtrs of descent. Click for a larger version of the map.
Day 2’s walk was an excellent one! It was on this day that I cracked my personal elevation record, which now stands at 1121 mtrs – a shade over Mount Snowdon’s elevation 🙂
It was also a day where on reflection I think I made a bad call decision wise, but you can read all about that later…
The day proceeded precisely according to the plan. I’m not sure I ever remember reaching the end of Day 2 with the plan remaining intact!
Anyways, once again, I will let a handful of images from my Facebook Journal tell the story of day 2:
I open up the tent on the morning of day 2. My worst fears are realised – poor visibility! The next section of the walk would be over very rugged terrain, with a track only being available for the first portion. I would now need to make a decision with regard to the risks and whether or not to proceed.
This section of the whole walk was assessed as having the highest risk – especially if visibility was poor. Far too many steep sides! The fog of day 2 made me think very hard about whether to proceed up the mountain. In my mind the biggest risk was the cross-over from Braigh Coire to Beinn a’ Ghlo. If I made the crossing too early I would be in danger of falling down a pretty steep mountain side. In the end I decided to proceed on with the plan and would essentially assess the risks individually whilst on the ground. The lure of breaking my own elevation record was just too much! 🙂 (Click for a larger version)
In a change to my usual routine, the porridge has been replaced by muesli. This made a big difference. I was finding that I could spend the next 3 hours or so without having to snack on bars at all. A big improvement! The downside is more weight, but in this case I think that it is worth it.
There is a light drizzle, so all the goose-down items are packed away. I’m now headed off to get water for the up and coming walk.
Despite a contrary decision the previous day, I decide to fill up a spare 1 litre bottle as I wasn’t sure whether there would be access to any water whilst high up on the mountain ridges.
With much relief I spot the tent looming out of the fog as I head back from the stream. Losing the tent would have been very embarrassing 🙂
As with all my camp spots, I leave the area in pristine condition. No one would ever know that I have been here.
Here I’m contouring around the base of Braigh Coire to find the track that would take me to the top at 1070 mtrs.
I soon find the track. The ascent up Braigh Coire is perfectly safe, even in poor visibility – as long as one stays on the track!
Peering down through the fog I get occasional glimpses as to how high up I am. I wonder what great views I’m missing?
Snow starts to put in an appearance as I ascend. Luckily it is easily avoided!
The climb starts to flatten out – I have got to be almost there!
Up ahead I spot what looks like the top…
But once I pass the feature it becomes obvious that it is not the top. Looks like I have a little further to go. According to the map there should be a cairn marking the top…
Finally – I spot the cairn!
The top of Braigh Coire at 1070 mtrs – I’m now a happy chappy. 🙂
The compass pops out to get me a route toward the Beinn A’ Ghlo mountain range. This is potentially the most dangerous part of the walk. If I go too far East, too soon, I’m in real danger of encountering big vertical drops. I’m relying on the shape of the mountain contours to guide me in conjunction with the compass for a general bearing.
Here I’m headed roughly Eastward on the ridge-line. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for any signs that things are about to get steep.
I soon get to a small plateaux which is my indication to veer more Northward. The plan now is to head on the new bearing whilst peering over to my right for any signs that a descent Eastward is looking practical.
The slope on the right hand side now looks manageable and as a bonus I spot this track which isn’t on the map. Based on its heading I’m betting it will take me right to Beinn A’ Ghlo!
As I descend the visibility opens up. It is now obvious that I’m in exactly the right place! That’s the dodgy bit out of the way – or so I thought…
Occasionally the cloud clears enough to reveal the beauty of the surrounding terrain. This is the view Northward up the Glas Leathead.
As I start the ascent up the side of Beinn A’ Ghlo, the weather really starts to clear. I’m gobsmacked by the view!
I find a track to take me up Beinn A’ Ghlo. But it runs into a snow field. This snow field continues along the length of the mountain – there is no way to go around it.
When I get to the snow field I notice that there are shallow steps kicked into the snow by another hiker. This snow is unlike the snow I encountered in the Lake District. Here it has obviously melted and then re-froze. The top layer is crusty and quite slippery. I’m now in a dilemma. I have no ice-axe as I was reliably informed that I would not need it. I didn’t want to turn back as this was the mountain I needed to bag to beat my elevation record. It’s a tough call as to whether to continue as there is a bit of a drop to the left. In the end I decided I had come too far to turn around. I would use my fingers in the snow as an anchor point, then dig in deep snow steps. Once the steps were made I would take my fingers out of the snow and allow them to warm up. Once warm I would repeat the process. It was slow going, but I wanted to be safe.
Occasionally I look down whilst traversing the ice and snow. I start wondering if I made the right decision, as this part of the climb really needed an ice-axe to be safe. I knew that if I slipped from here, there would be no possibility of arresting my fall. The ice covered snow added to the sense of danger as it made the snow quite slippery. In many respects the view downwards made me concentrate even more on the footing and to take my time with the awkward, hand-in-the-ice, kick two deep steps then repeat methodology.
With much relief I clamber out of the snow field. I take some time to analyse my decision making process. I’m glad I made it, but was the risk worth it? Would my fingers have been enough to arrest a fall whilst kicking out the steps? I guess I will never know. I’m not entirely proud of the decision, but I guess my drive to get to the top clouded my judgement. I don’t recomend that others make the same kind of decision. Either get the right kit or don’t do it!
Once past the snow field, the climb up the top of Beinn A’ Ghlo up to the Carn nan Gabhar peak is reasonably easy. But alas, the fog has moved in again. I guess I won’t be getting any good views from the top.
Sometimes the cloud lifts enough to show enticing glimpses of the surrounding terrain and it looks beautiful!
The peak starts to beckon. I’m quite excited as this is the easy bit – I’m almost assured of breaking my own elevation record at this point!
The terrain soon gets very rocky under foot which does impede progress a little. I’m quite surprised that the relatively flexible Salomon 4d boots are actually coping quite well with this terrain.
Out of the fog in the distance I spy the trig point marking the top of Carn nan Gabhar at 1121 mtrs!!!
And there it is!!! Woooot!!!!
Victory pose time! This is now the highest I have ever been on a mountain at 1121 mtrs of elevation. Shame there is not much to see due to the poor visibility.
Compass pops out again to give me the safe bearing off of the mountain to the North.
As I descend I take a last look behind me up to the peak before I lose it in the cloud and fog.
On the way down I spot this rather odd cairn structure!
I soon reach the snow line again, though luckily I can walk around it here. I surprised by the thickness of the snow. This place must have been really hit during the winter.
I now find a track – which once again does not appear on my map. I think OS need to re-survey their maps! Having a track going in the right direction in poor visibility is always very helpful!
More snow! I just handrail this snow all the way downward and Northward.
I soon start getting glimpses of my route Northward. The bits of the scenery that I can see look really good. I’m hoping the cloud will burn off to get a better view of my surroundings.
Still headed Northward though I’m now veering Westward. The intent here is to climb down to the River Tilt and intercept one of the few bridges across it. I know this bit of the walk will involve a very steep descent. But after that, the rest of today’s walk should be quite easy.
Water on the descent is plentiful thanks to outflows from the snow fields. Looks like I carried the extra litre of water for nothing 🙂
I’m now headed NorthWest toward the Tilt River.
A look to the West. In the far distance I can trace the North-South mountain range that marks the route of the River Tilt.
Here I take a glance back to the peak I had descended from. Alas most of it is above the cloud base.
In the very far distance toward the centre of the picture, the weather clears enough that I can see the destination for today’s walk – Tilt Tarn.
It’s now a case of following this ridge-line to the River Tilt.
Looks like I have some more snow to cross. But this is reasonably flat – so no problems here!
The snow here is softer than the snow I had crossed on the side of Beinn A’ Ghlo. I guess, for whatever reason, this snow never got a chance to melt then re-freeze.
One small climb up to the top of Meail a’ Mhuirich. After this climb it is all downhill to the River Tilt.
I get to the top. Up ahead to the West is the mountain range marking the River Tilt’s path NorthEastward. The walking here is very easy, but I know that up ahead there will be a very steep descent down to the River Tilt.
Once again, an unmarked trail puts in an appearance. I’m hoping it will take me all the way down the steep descent, but alas, this was not to be.
Nearly at the edge – it will soon be the big descent!
The trail seems promising at first…
But when I get to the big drop, the trail runs out. It looks like that I will have to be careful on the climb down through the heather and rock. I’m using zig-zag techniques to try and mitigate the steepness of the descent. I am happy though as I have eyes on the only bridge across the River Tilt for miles around.
After an exhausting descent I soon make it to the bridge. I still find descents harder than ascents. I know it sounds counter intuitive – but that is indeed the case. The descent had really hit my knees too. As a result I decide to have lunch once I cross the bridge to allow the knees to recover.
Lunch consists of prima cheese, oatcakes and a very nice Thai Soup. The chillies in the soup really added to the feeling of a warm glow!
At this point I will be following a vehicular track for around 6km Northward. This track follows the River Tilt on the right. Tracks like these make for swift progress, even though most of it is gently sloping up-hill.
Despite being on a track, the views are still stunning and make the journey an interesting one!
The whole area is criss-crossed with water falls and other stream-lets. After the meal I had emptied the remaining water out of the 1 litre bottle as I didn’t see any point in carrying it. I would just use the Travel Tap from here on in.
The track starts to descend. I know that at some point it will cross the ‘Falls of Tarf’. The descent is the clue that we are nearly at that crossing.
I get to the ‘Falls of Tarf’ but can’t quite believe my eyes. There is an actual suspension bridge here!!!!
The falls themselves are some of the best falls I have seen on the walk. This River was identified as a risk during planning as it cuts East-West right across the park. From here on in I will be on the wrong side of it, with no viable crossing points for quite some time!
Just as the map indicates, the track has narrowed to a walking-only track. Never the less, progress is still swift.
After around 3 km the terrain begins to open up. This and the River turning Eastward are my signal to head NorthWest off of the track, up towards Tilt Tarn.
I take a last look back at the mountains to the South before I start my ascent up to Tilt Tarn. Only this morning, I was up on those mountains staring in this direction toward Tilt Tarn!
The climb has now started. This is the view back to the River Tilt.
I reach the top – but there is no sign of the Tarn! I am pretty sure that it is just around the corner though as the streams and hills seem to indicate that I’m in the right place…
As I work my way Northward the Tarn puts in an appearance. The terrain here, like at most Tarns is extremely boggy.
I soon find a good spot for the tent. I know that the time is against me as the clouds are gathering. It looks like the rain is about to tip down!
Despite the prospect of getting wet, I decide to fill the water bottles up first. I figure that I’d rather be doing that job before the rain sets in.
The water here is quite brown, but does taste ok!
The tent goes up just in time! The rain has decided to come down. Against my better judgement I had orientated the tent so that I would have a good view of the mountains and Tilt Tarn. However, the prevailing winds are from the South in this direction. This means that the rain is being blown right into the tent. I decide to fully close up the tent whilst I prepare the innards.
It felt weird unpacking in the tent – it’s not something that I normally do!
The rains soon subside. This gives me a chance to open up the tent and get ready to prep this evening’s meal.
Waiting for the water to boil for my meal. Luckily with the JetBoil, one never has to wait long!
Today’s meal is Mountain House Salmon, Potatoes and Dill. Once again, another delicious meal! After my meal I settle in for a good night’s rest. The night is a very rainy one, but I figure I’d rather it rained at night whilst I was in my tent rather than during the day!
The camp spot for the end of Day 2, right on the end of Loch Tilt with the tent entrance facing Southward.
That’s it for Day 2. Tune in next week for Day 3’s instalment!