Birthday walk on Creag Liath, nr Newtonmore (and some planning for winter)

A nice way to spend my birthday!
After the success and enjoyment of the previous walk to Creag Dubh (here) we decided to go for another early morning walk, starting from the same point at the end of the Glen road in Newtonmore as we had on our walk to A'Chailleach (here) but heading off SW along the river Calder and then NW along the Allt Fionndrigh on a 7 mile walk aiming for the summit of Creag Liath (743m).  The day of our walk, the 19th of June was my birthday so that, coupled with a test of my new boots, was a double bonus!

So, after a nip of birthday whiskey (well it would be rude not to eh!) we arrived at the car park/pull-in at the top of the Glen Road slightly later than planned thanks to our 15 month old daughter, Isabelle, sleeping in (normally not a bad thing) with Monty, our Springer Spaniel in tow, and headed off across the bridge towards the abandoned township of Glenballoch, following a good track along the course of the River Calder.

The walk we'd loaded onto ViewRanger was from the the "Mountains of Scotland" blog - here but we deviated from this slightly, opting to turn the walk into a more circular route rather than a simple "there and back" - which would have been easier!

The start of the walk, looking down to the bridge and track towards Glenballoch
Walk stats
Date - 19th June 2015
Distance - 6.81 miles
Time - 3hrs 14mins
Avg Speed - 2.1mph
Height Gain - 1650ft
OS map used - OS Explorer 402 (this has now been replaced by OL56) and OS 1:25k maps on ViewRanger Android app

River Calder
After crossing the small bridge over the Calder we headed along the well graded track that follows the course of the River Calder for just under a mile before reaching the abandoned (well it certainly looked abandoned to me so apologies if it's not!) township of Glenballoch.

Good track towards Glenballoch and, eventually, Caern Liath

The old township of Glenballoch

Just a tree, but it looked nice
From here we took the NW path that follows the course of Allt Fionndrigh for another 2 miles before reaching the crossing point which was a small but passable footbridge - the bridge is a little rickety but does the job and keeps your feet dry even though Monty would have, I think, preferred to get his wet as he's not keen on the gaps between the planks!

Looking towards Meall na Caerdaich along the Allt Fionndrigh
Slightly rickety but much better than getting our feet wet

Boots update!
As you may have read in my previous post (here) my Scarpa Charmoz boots "failed" and leaked badly on during our walk to A'Chailleach - to cut a long(ish) story short a new pair of Scarpa Charmoz Pro GTX boots arrived the afternoon before today's walk so it was a great excuse to try them out ahead of our planned walk to Ben Macdui.

Being pretty much the same boot albeit an updated version the fit was the same and comfortable (although I've purchased a pair of Orange Superfeet insoles to assist with the overall comfort) - most importantly they kept my feet warm and dry.

I've contacted GoreTex directly who have advised me to contact the retailer I purchased the boots from - slightly awkward as I bought them in December 2012 from Cotswold in Keswick and don't have the receipt any more.  Who keeps their receipts for 3 years?!

So I've emailed Cotswold to see what they saw and will go from there - I'm not expecting too much, if anything, to be honest but it's worth a go as they were an expensive pair of boots and should have given many more years of use.

Ascent via the final track after the river crossing
After crossing the bridge the path rises along the stream course that flows down the gully between Meall na Ceardaich (879m) (a potential target for another walk?) and the slopes of our target, Creag Liath standing at 743m.

The path is obviously used by 4x4 vehicles for grouse shooting and maintenance of the hillside as the going, although properly uphill for the first time on this walk, is fairly easy.

After about 300 meters or so we struck off the path (slightly later than the route described in the post mentioned above) on a SE course that would take us up across the heather onto the flanks of Creag Liath itself.

We passed over a slight, craggy, false summit (Monty as you can see from the picture below seemed to take great pleasure in scampering up there ahead of us and waiting!) before the final sharp ascent to the, cloud free, summit at 743m.

Monty, patiently waiting near the summit of Creag Liath

View (SE) from the summit of Creag Liath

Snow in the corries nr Carn Dearg, Carn Ban and Carn Ballach

Summit cairn on Creag Liath (743m)
Even though the summit cairn leaves a bit to be desired the views were lovely, cloud free, and visibility stretched across the valleys to nearby mountains and snow filled corries.

Looking back towards the track back to the car and the river Calder
As I mentioned earlier we decided not to retrace our steps and follow our route back to the car, instead opting for a slightly more adventurous route across the summit and then descending the Eastern slopes of Creag Liath to re-cross the river just ahead of the wooded enclosure on the Western side of the river.

The actual descent wasn't too bad at all but initially we did wonder if we'd made the right decision as the ground looked really steep - until I realised that we'd come off the summit a little too early and would, if we followed our course, be attempting to descend down the area marked on the 1:25k OS map as littered with boulders and very tight contour lines - it always pays to check and double check the map (you can see the moment of realisation on the route marked by a 45 degree route change just before the rocky section!).

Once we'd settled on the correct route and had scoped out a line down the hill we stopped at a large boulder for a well earned cup of "birthday" tea and cake before carrying on down the hill to the river and a successful, dry, crossing!

From here it was a case of following the path again back past the township and along the banks of the Calder back to the car park.

My new shiny Scarpa Charmoz Pro GTX boots - nice and dry!
All in all a lovely walk and one that we both enjoyed, especially Monty!  The views from the summit of Creag Liath were lovely and thankfully cloud free and yet another walk (3 out of 3 now) where we saw no one else on the trip!

And so to the winter planning.... Looking about at the surrounding peaks with patches of snow sparked off a conversation about getting back up to Scotland this coming November/December for some winter walking.
A bit of googling later we had a date, flights and a great idea for where to stay - well more how to stay rather than where...  Expedition specced Landrover Defender!  A company called Scot hire these out for around £120 a day which is pretty good when you consider the cost of a hotel/B&B and car hire, you also get pretty much everything you need for the trip including sleeping bags so keeps the cost of baggage on the flight down.
Now to convince the grandparents that they'd like to look after Monty and Isabelle for a long weekend in November!

You can download the .gpx file and PDF info sheet (from ViewRanger) here;

ViewRanger route of the walk, recorded on my Nexus 5;


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