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Last updated: 15/10/10


'Glen Clova it wasn't'
12 March 2006

Once again, the Day Meets Coordinator - though re-embodied since our last excursion in this direction a few years back - had chosen an ideal day to attack the Munros at the far end of Glen Clova: the mountain weather forecast for the day (12 March 2006) was one of worst ever seen (“very difficult conditions indeed, with any mobility at all impossible in many exposed areas; extreme wind chill; persistent snow – whiteout; will feel as cold as minus 25C directly in wind”). Thus forewarned, a group of hardy souls, including Jean R. recovering from her recent accident (see February Newsletter) and Alison a guest, found themselves in the bus (newish, smallish, even warmish) travelling down the A90 in bad road conditions which grew even more thought-provoking after the turn-off to Edzell. Some of the time was spent trying to get the new Club mobile phone into working order; after some failures, we were able to bellow “I’m on the bus!” to someone sitting three seats away.

At Edzell, with six inches of snow on the road, all including the driver agreed that becoming stranded at the far end of the glen, even if we got there, was not an attractive way to spend an unexpected day or two. Thus, with mony a backward glance at the Panmure Arms, we straggled up the Glen Lethnot road as far as Newbigging farm, where we struck off up the hill on a landrover track. On the way, a small black and white dog (very effective camouflage, in the conditions) was collected, and this, though over a mile from home by this time, disappeared uphill, while we rediscovered the joys of differentiating between tyre trenches and snow drifts as height was slowly gained. Two of the party, Alec M. and Ken the Elder, soon decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and reversed direction, no doubt anxious to explore the upper reaches of the glen. The rest of us ploughed on, past grouse butts of varying sophistication, until a pony shelter suddenly appeared through the gloom at GR 537715, and provided a welcome respite from the wind.

From here on, the track – increasingly useless anyway – vanished, and progress up steeper slopes became a matter of nice judgement between bare snow and barely visible heather tips. Or it would have done, had the navigational brigade, led by Derek but supplemented by Alex B. and others, not decided that the expert eye, athletic balance and experienced judgement of those at the front should be supplanted by the sterner technology of map and compass, or GPS. Unfortunately, this involved prolonged stops while the boffins huddled around their equipment arguing about grid references and magnetic deviation, followed by a few straight-line steps into the deepest local snowdrift. After several such episodes, on or near the top of Torr na Menach (GR 537 721), at about 460 m - or 500 m, depending on whom you believe - Derek rightly decided that the prospect of even worse conditions further up, and even deeper snow on the planned eastward return route, dictated retreat for all, with not even the trig point of East Wirren achieved.

Turning round straight into the gale exposed us to the worst of the conditions, and our upward tracks were already obliterated in many places, but eventually the pony shelter came into view at 20 yards or so, and, being about 1 pm, Luncheon was declared amongst sacks of grouse feed and a rather fetching safety helmet and visor – which would have been most useful. Then it was a march down the track for a surprisingly long way, and back to the road (though with no sign of the dog). Here, the Younger Ken declared that he at least wished to make the most of the day, and strode off right to reach Edzell via Bridgend, the Caterthuns (ghostly noises), and sundry farms and fields, one accommodating a couple of hundred geese, and another several unhappy lambs. The others took the direct route, spurning (so it is reported) many offers of lifts from passing motorists.

Back at the Panmure Arms, where Alec and the Elder Ken were discovered surrounded by pots of tea and the England-France rugby match, a welcome drink or two was followed by a good and remarkably varied High Tea, culminating(?) in the traditional Presidential Speech from Ian. Then it was the open road (snow turning to slush at this level by now), a rather nasty video on the bus display unit (O tempora! O mores!), and a relatively early return to Aberdeen. A day to remember, if not exactly delivered as advertised: better luck next time?

Author: Ken Thomson