A photo from the same position looking west along the ridge to the next 2 Munros.  The photographic break was required after our little trotting exercise.

The Mighty Gate of Invervar – Part 2

PLEASE REMEMBER TO CLICK ON THE PHOTOS – THEY LOOK MUCH BETTER IN LARGE SIZE.

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The Mighty Gate of Inverar

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Here’s the proposed route again as a reminder.

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Proposed Route Map

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The Mighty Gate of Invervar was a right bugger to close…a bit of muscle power and leverage was required.  A turnaround of fortunes you might say given that, in the past, opening the big beast was the overriding problem.

While most walkers seem to tackle the round clockwise, today FD and I headed off anti-clockwise up the SW spur of Meall na Aighean.  The terrain was near perfect for us…a well used path up a grassy slope.  There’s not much else to say about the ascent – just the usual about views opening up etc. etc.  Here’s a few photos.

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Heading up the SW ridge of Meall na Aighean – in the distance the snow capped Carn Gorm

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Glen Lyon

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This looks like what should be our route back from Carn Mearg (background). We turn right here still climbing the spur

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The Fatdog contemplates the distance to the first Munro (hiding behind the snow topped summit right of photo) and is unimpressed.

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Happiness is snow…no matter how little. In the background the summit tor of Meall na Aighean.

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The clouds are beginning to roll up Glen Lyon. Minutes later visibility was right down.

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The weather was being kind though the wind felt a bit livelier than forecast.  There was certainly some sun and blue sky about but…cloud was beginning to build in the west.  It looked like we were going to be treated to the odd squall.

We were within sight of the summit tor when the snow/sleet/hail swept in from behind.  With it came a biting blast that nearly took my feet away as we clambered around the rocky knoll at the highest point of Meall na Aighean.  The visibility had by now dropped right down to about 20m.  We’d been on the go for 2 hours and had now completed the first of our two Munros.  Huddled in the lee of the summit tor it was time for our lunch and a good look at the map before beginning the next phase of the walk.

Fortunately the sky cleared after 20 minutes or so…so we set off in the direction of the second of our targets, Carn Mairg.

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Our next Munro – Carn Mearg.

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All our troubles began when I opted not to take the direct route to the summit so as to spare Maisie a very short boulderfield crossing.  We looped around the back of the summit instead to pick up an easier slope…

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Mistake was not going straight up the small boulderfield on the front of the summit.

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…easier slope?  I think I made a wee faux-pas

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….Good, I see you’ve caught up with the story so far.  Now just give me a sec’ to stop panicking and I’ll continue.   

As you are already aware, I’m perched some 5-10m into a brick-hard snowfield on the north face of Carn Mearg, clinging on by…not a lot.  FD’s in-built crampons appear to be functioning well but, at this point, I find I can’t actually move in any direction. The slightest shift of weight is creating a stomach churning micro-movement of my toes…or possibly my imagination.  Only a metre below me I know the snow has a slightly softer top that will give me a bit of bite – as long as it doesn’t slip away from under me as soon as I put my foot down.  And as for that sizeable boulder below…I’d swear it has a grin a mile wide on its big ugly face, safe in the knowledge that if I do slip it ain’t gonna feel a thing.  Anybody got any bright ideas?  No?  I thought not.

Right…I’m going to move the poles inch by inch…gradually mind… and twist my trunk around until both poles have turned about 90 degrees and I’m facing slightly downhill.  Done!  Ah…unfortunately my feet are still facing uphill…that’s a bit of a bugger!  They are apparently unconvinced that, in this set of circumstances, any change of direction can be a good thing.  I’m pushing down hard on the points of the poles, one at a time, praying for a bit of give on this titanium-hard surface. 

Very slowly I’m turning my feet turn to match the poles.  Mmm…ok…now we’re facing sort of sideways and slightly downhill…and I still can’t move properly.  As well as still not being able to move properly the view looking downhill is a damn sight more scary, especially since my weight is leaning in that particular direction.  I’m contemplating a “bum-slide” but my half-on angle and that big boulder is ruling out that particular option.  Apart from all that, any wrong movement will see me land with a thump on the ice and with the best will in the world the points on the poles won’t “arrest” me before SPLAT time!

Right…I’m shuffling at bit further, repeating the process with the poles so that I’m now facing straight down the slope.  Better…but even more scary than before.  I can’t help but feel I’m waiting for the klaxon to go and then off I’ll shoot, straight down the mountain at maximum speed and won’t stop until I hit mighty Schiehallion on the far side of the valley.

Inch by inch the poles and the feet are slowly covering the single metre required to reach the “better” snow.  The Fatdog is strolling down beside me wondering what on earth all the fuss is about.  Strangely I don’t feel like explaining at the minute.

Joy!  We’re back at the path allowing me the luxury of contemplating my folly – that of even attempting a snow slope at this time of year given that it’s liable to be either brick hard, or in the case of cornicing, about to come clattering down at a rather inconvenient pace.  I think we’ll take the even longer way round to reach the summit.  All this lounging about on snow fields has added an interesting 20 minutes to the day’s proceedings.

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Well, here we are at the summit of Carn Mearg.  That’s our second Munro and it’s taken us…let’s see…3 hours and 15 minutes including our first lunch of about 20 minutes.  Not bad at all. 

The longer route to the summit proved to be a bit of a dawdle…but it’s a wee bit chilly up here.  I thought the wind was supposed to be less than 20mph today but it’s coming in a bit faster than that.  Must be these squalls blowing down Glen Lyon from the west.

Time for our second lunch, I think.  O surprise…The Fatdog thinks this is an excellent move!

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Schiehallion

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Looking over Glen Lyon to the Lawers Range

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The Lawers Range from Carn Mearg

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Looking back to the first Munro of the day, Meall na Aighean…it looks a piddly little hill!

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FD at the summit of Carn Mearg – awaiting the arrival of her second lunch.

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No smiles today.

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With our two Munros done I suppose it’s time to look at the map to check our route back…

…of course it’s not!  You knew fine well we wouldn’t stop here…didn’t you!

As FD is literally bOuNcInG I rather suspect she’s good for quite a few miles yet and my legs are holding up very well at this point.  Ok…it’s obviously time to push on to Munro number 3 – Meall Garbh…if only I could figure out what particular minor bump among the many I can see on the horizon constitutes that particular hill summit.

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Somewhere along the big long ridge is the next Munro – Meall Garbh

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We’re now heading north west off Carn Mearg towards Meall Garbh and beginning to meet up with fellow hillwalkers.  I haven’t seen anyone travelling behind us and I’m now understanding why every other walker I can see w-a-y along the route in front of us is coming this-a-way.  Along the long, wide and exposed, ridgeline – they have their backs to the prevailing wind!  It’s not causing me any real problems…it just needs a bit more effort to be put in over the next 4 kilometres when I had rather hoped we would be strolling.

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The revised map!

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Maisie is over the moon.  I normally leave this to Cap’n Jack, but in his absence I’ve taken on his appointed role and have broken into an easy downhill trot.  The Fatdog is ecstatic and bounds after me, paws thumping along the cropped mountain mosses, causing seismometers all around the country to register readings of 6.5 on the Richter scale.  She’s definitely ok for another few km!  My legs are obviously better than I thought as I’ve now covered a few hundred metres loping along, walking poles clutched in my right hand like skinny spears.  I’m going to have to slow to a walk now as there’s a minor patch of scree coming up…not to mention the fact that I may require oxygen if I keep up this pace for very much longer.  Time for a photo break I think.

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We’re now on the ridge to Meall Garbh. This is looking back to Carn Mearg.

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A photo from the same position looking west along the ridge to the next 2 Munros. The photographic break was required after our little trotting exercise.

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It’s been a further than anticipated wee stroll but we’re almost at the summit of Meall Garbh.  In fact it’s felt a bloody long way!  The wide open ridgeline with its long abandoned metal fence posts has taken a couple of turns since we last spoke and dipped down just before the last few hundred metres onto Meall Garbh.  I have to say that, even a week ago, I never reckoned we’d be talking about completing 3 Munros today.  Only problem is I think the walk is beginning to take its toll on my left leg.  I’m sure I can feel that front quad (muscle) beginning to tighten.  We’ve covered about 11km and about 1100m of ascent so far and I reckon we’ve still about 6km to go including another 130m of ascent onto Carn Gorm, the final Munro.  It’s taken us…oh…about 4.5 hours so far.  I’ll need to take things a bit easier now and put in less effort on the remaining climbs.  It’s odd…the niggling quad.  Usually it’s the back of my legs that are the problem.  Always something new…eh!

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Fenceline

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The shallow drop before the easy climb to Meall Garbh

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The Meall Garbh summit with its cairn of old metal fence posts

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This has been photoshopped quite a bit to bring out the hill centre background. Yep – that was our first hill today – Meall na Aighean. The second hill, Carn Mearg is on the left.

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Looking west…I’m a wee bit concerned about this final ascent up Carn Gorm.  One of the other walkers we met commented that it was a bit steep with patches of snow.  Given that the ascent tackles the NE spur there’s a chance the snow could be old and hard…and after Carn Mearg  we all know what happens when you try to walk up hard snow…don’t we!  I have to say from what I can see from here it doesn’t look too inviting.  Hope it’s ok as we’re now committed to this route.  The bail-out option down the corrie looks a wee bit slow and bumpy.

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I suspect we’re on the wrong path.  This faint track contouring around the back of the bump on the map named An Sgorr is dropping ever so slightly into the corrie meaning that we’re going to have to regain height before our final climb up Carn Gorm.  I hoped we’d be higher at this point.  Never mind the quad is holding up and Maisie is still moving well.  Still, after having to push against that strong breeze since the summit of Carn Mearg, I could be doing without the extra ascent at this point in the proceedings.

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FD sets the pace for the final ascent up Carn Gorm

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Easier than it looked from a distance.

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We’re about half way up the final climb to the summit of Carn Gorm and the ground conditions are nowhere near as bad as anticipated when I viewed this hill from a distance.  There is no snow sheet and what is on the ground is sparse and fresh making for an easy ascent.  The cloud is beginning to build again from the west and it rather looks like we may be treated to a bit of a squall before we hit the summit.  I’m beginning to get a wee bit concerned as I’ve had to slow up to spare the quad.  I daren’t risk pushing too hard at this stage now that the legs are beginning to tire.  On top of that I can feel my temperature drop slightly as I’ m not moving fast enough to keep as warm as I would like. Leading us upwards Maisie has dropped her speed to match mine and is doing a grand job of pacing me up the final stage of the mountain.  Fourth Munro nearly in the bag.

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The ears give an indication of wind strength.

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 It’s a bit chilly, here on the summit of Carn Gorm.  We been walking now for some 5.5 hours.  While the legs are not complaining too much I’m glad we’ve run out of hills to do.  There’s some nasty wee squalls pushing down Glen Lyon from the west so we ain’t gonna hang around up here other than to take a couple of photos before we follow the SE spur back down to Invervar.

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Squalls down Glen Lyon

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The ridge back to The Tank.

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 Well…it appears we can still do it!  Four Munros with about 1300m of ascent and we made it without having to pull out all the stops.  Unfortunately there’s just the  small matter of 4km walk out and 800m of descent still to do (sigh)…

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Coming Next…We round off our March 2012 programme with a much different wee stroll… The Nemesis Bypass!  :shock:

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15 thoughts on “The Mighty Gate of Invervar – Part 2”

  1. Looks like your intense training programme is paying off and obviously having a personal pacer with you like Maisie is helping to push you even further! And who needs an anemometer when you have labrador ears?

    1. Thankfully Maisie’s pace setting has tempered itself with her increase in years. A few years back, on the steep sections, it was a bit of a killer – especially if she was tracking a rucksack in front! :D

  2. You old fraud. A four Munro outing and you don’t even have the decency to be properly shattered. Whatever you and Maisie are on, I want some. Very impressive.

    Grand photos – which is more than I got.

    1. Not shattered but…let’s put it this way…we didn’t think of attempting any hillls for a few days afterwards.

  3. A grand tour there are a respectable day that younger fitter people would be pleased to do. Looks like you are both right back in the groove. Good news for you and good news for us devotees of the FBC.

    More of the same please :)

    1. This is a very easy round Andy. I’d never done it in the past because of its unfriendly reputation but I was looking for a walk of certain gradients and terrain relatively close at hand. I reckon this would be easy for a beginnners first round of 17km as there are no real stiff ascents. One for the plodders! :lol:

  4. I just hate that “what on earth am I doing here” moment…
    I had one of those just below the lip of Coire Dhondail, staring a few hundred metres down to a dead body in a bag, thinking “”Me next…”
    Well done Sir! and Maisie too. I am assuming here, a safe return to the car…?

    1. My “what on earth am I doing here” moment was on the north side of Am Bodach as myself and Cap’n Jack were literally lifting Maisie up the big rocks of the boulderfield! Could barely drag myself up after that.

      The walk to the car was a bit stiff legged on the long descent I have to confess…but not problematical. Took a few days for the legs to recover though :wink: .

  5. Neat trick that Ken, have a scary moment to get the adrenaline going and then feel up to doubling your intended route!
    Not very nice those situations though, very hard to get moving again.
    Had to smile though at the thought of you turning around to face outward but you toe’s where still pointing in ouch!
    Fitness levels are obviously on the up if you’re trotting along high mountain ridges, I could almost hear a song coming on and “the sound of music” ;-)
    Excellent read,
    Paul

    1. Hi Paul. good to hear from you again. :D

      Ended up doing more than intended…but it is an easy walk for 4 Munros. Must admit I had doubts about the final hill as the legs were beginning to tie up but it was less steep than I had anticipated.

  6. When we did those (clockwise – we were actually told by someone it wasn’t allowed for walkers to go anti-clockwise) we had a very icy descent down the NE ridge of Carm Gorm! You should have gone over An Sgorr – I thought that was the 2nd nicest hill on the round.

    As for your icy moments on the north slope of Carm Mairg (my favourite hill of that round), I had some moments just like that when I changed my route choice on the upper, very icy slopes of Ben Vorlich last winter and had to contour round extremely steep slopes with rocks and a thin veneer of very icy snow. All the same thoughts were going through my head too!

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