Glen Clova is one of the Angus Glens, which along with Glen Isla, Glen Prosen and Glen Esk, take great bites out of the southern Cairngorms. Those of you that read the Scottish Mountaineer will have seen the recent article about The Carn Dearg Mountaineering Club’s brand-new Hut in Glen Clova. Unfortunately, I can’t offer any more insight on this exciting development. What I can say is that the rather tired and overpriced Glen Clova Hotel Bunkhouse will be closing in spring, to be transformed into more en-suite rooms for the hotel.
It may be only 55 miles as the crow flies, but by road it is a tortuous 3-hour journey. Joe Glennie was first to set off and the last to arrive (with the obvious exception of clan Beattie). Joe was too lazy to drive all the way and so came up with a cunning plan…. “I had Friday off work and only managed to book one night’s accommodation at the bunkhouse. I drove to Braemar, via Rhynie and Dinnet (so-called because you Dinnet really want to be there), due to the Lecht snow gates being closed, and parked up at Auchallater. The day was dawning fine and cold as I made my way up Glen Callater and I was wishing I had skis for the soft snowy ascent up Carn an t’Sagairt Mor and even softer snowier descent down the southeast flank that had me stumbling through deep windslab. A wee scramble up the frozen boulders of Cairn Bannoch then it was out with the map and compass as the cloud rolled in.
I skirted the side of Tolmount and headed south towards Tom Buidhe when I heard a special and unusual sound. It took a while to recognise it but I stopped, took a few deep breaths and held it, heart beat slowed and I listened intensely. There it was. Nothing. The wind had dropped off, the ground completely covered in soft snow. No sound of water or life, just pure delicious silence. After a few moments the wind started again and so did I.
From the summit of Tom Buidhe I continued south over the featureless expanse. The sun fell and so did the cloud. I was glad of my GPS. On Dun Hillocks the cloud cleared and the moon rose and it felt like a new day. I would have lingered on the summit of Mayar if a strong biting wind hadn’t suddenly blown in from the north. The views from the ridge line of Shank of Drumfollow were magnificent in the moonlight and it was with a slight reluctance that I descended to the valley below.
I awoke the following morning in my own ensuite room after a luxurious long lie. There was a kind offer of a lift up the road which would have saved me an hour and a half of walking on tarmac but as the saying goes, “Time and Dan wait for no man”. Breakfast, coffee and faff had me setting off at about quarter past Joe.
It felt good to finally leave the low ground behind but the powdery snow of yesterday had become the soft slush of today so the going wasn’t the easiest. I followed Jock’s Road past Davy’s Bourach – a great wee howff, and up to my footsteps of 24 hours before. I couldn’t actually see them due to the thaw but continued on to the top of Tolmount and then traversed the high ground between Cairn of Claise and the cliffs of Coire Loch Kander to the summit of Carn an Tuirc. Again, I was glad of my GPS.
I genuinely believe that there is no such thing as a boring or unpleasant hill but in the clag and the wind and the slush, as I stood alone in the fading light on top of a poor excuse for a cairn on what was probably the highest piece of ground on a barren bouldery lump I had my doubts. At this point in time I just wanted a fish supper. Happily, I soon reached Braemar and had one.”
The skies were clear on Saturday morning. Brent Criag, Al Tait and Derek Harman turned left out of the front door and ascended the track to Loch Brandy. They circumnavigated the loch to the high point of Green Hill where they had superb views towards Lochnagar.
Mutiny on the Scorrie: Heavy, Babs, Dianne, Nathan, Evelyn and Allan set off (once Heavy had found is keys) up the Kilbo Path to Mayer. There was snow down to the bottom of the Glen, but it wasn’t deep and the path had a pleasant gradient, which meant that the bealach was soon reached. The summit of Mayar was just a short yomp across the plateau. There was a fair bit of wind on the summit, in contrast to the rest of the day, but the views were great. The party retraced their steps to the bealach and ascended Dreish. For their descent, the party headed northwest towards the Scorrie (the NW ridge of Driesh), which was where the problems started. The temperature had risen during the day and the snow was now getting pretty wet and slippery. Most of the party mutinied at the sight of the steep slope, leaving Heavy to continue alone. The mutineers returned via Driesh (round 2 for the tickers?) and the Kilbo Path. All eventually returned safely.
Drummond and Ella undertook a similar journey to Team Heavy, but went to Dreish first, and then Mayar. Dan also followed the masses up the Kilbo Path, but just beyond the treeline he put on his skis. “The snow cover was a bit marginal, but I only had to take them off once to get to the top of Mayer. From there I slid cautiously (for there were hidden rocks) north west towards Jock’s Road. This is a fairly featureless area that would be challenging in white-out, but fortunately the clag that occasionally threatened stayed on the western horizon. There was more snow in this area, but it was still ‘survival skiing’. I took my skis off at about 500m and then walked back to the car.”
Most folk went home on Sunday morning (some even did so on Saturday night)… what is the club coming to? Sunday’s weather turned out rather nice. Ella, Drummond and Dan did a clockwise circuit of Loch Brandy. There is a pleasant path all the way to the Loch and the corrie remains largely hidden until the last rise is created. But the wait is worth it. This is one of the finest corries in Scotland, with steep walls rising high above the sizable loch. “The Snub” is the ridge that forms the western wall of the corrie. The snow was perfect for kicking steps and after a short while they were admiring views across the snowy plateau towards Lochnagar. Once up it was an easy walk to Green Hill. Drummond was up against the clock and so he and Ella descended from here to the car. Dan continued on to include the Corbett Ben Tirran (The Goet). For Ella, it will require another trip before the MMC trophy is rightfully earned.
Glen Clova may be a long drive (or walk), but it is a worthy destination. The munros may not be the most dramatic, but there are a plethora of amazing corries and hidden lochans to explore. There are also some great place names to ponder, including “The Witter”, “Benty Roads” and “Boustie Ley”. We’ll be back!