Navigational challenges on featureless plateau

A’ Bhuidheanach Bheag (936m); Carn na Caim (941m)

  • Pronunciation:             Uh Vooyernoch Vayk; Karn na Kyme
  • Translation:                  The Little Yellow Hill; Cairn of the Curve
  • Total distance:              20.3km
  • Total time:                    5hrs 30mins
  • Total ascent:                 918m
  • Weather:                       Very foggy, especially above 700m. Often zero visibility. Snow cover above 700m. Light winds with a hint of snow at times. Temperature about +3° throughout the day.
  • Start / end location:    Lay-by #88 – A9 southbound just south of Dalwhinne. [Grid Ref: NN 640 823]

    Admiring the foggy view on Carn na Caim

From the lay-by on the A9 we walked along the side of the road for 200m to reach the bulldozed track that leads generally SW up the hillside, and at one time serviced the quarry (now disused) high up on the plateau that connects today’s two Munros. I’m not too sure exactly what was once quarried here – but one would think that it had to be something special to justify it being done at 900m in altitude!

Cameron at the summit Trig Point of A' Bhuidheanach Bheag

The quarry track does around five little dog-leg turns as it weaves its way up one of the many small finger-like ridges that extend down from the high mountain massif above. The walk was very straightforward and only mildly complicated by the ice lying under the few inches of snow on the path: although these conditions only began above 600m.

From the start of the walk there were large numbers of red grouse all around us on the heather moorland. There were also many camouflaged shooting butts lower down on the moorland – you can draw your own conclusions! We also spotted at least 10 mountain hares. Later, we discovered that apparently many of these hares have been fitted with radio collars and their movements have been tracked and lifecycles monitored for the number of years now.

Elaine at the summit of Carn na Caim

Several hundred metres before we reached the quarry a blanket of thick mist and cloud had completely obscured any hope of a view: indeed the visibility was only around 5-10m (horizontally). So when we finally topped out at the quarry (902m spot-height on OS map), which we couldn’t see any evidence of due to the snow covering and poor visibility, we simply followed a bulldozed track southwards along the huge featureless plateau towards our first Munro, A’ Bhuidheanach Bheag. This track wasn’t marked on our paper-based OS map, but did appear on my GPS SatMap version. The track extended slightly south of A’ Bhuidheanach on my SatMap, but in actual fact continued a bit further on the ground. There were very few natural features on this plateau, which coupled with the poor visibility, made navigation tricky.

About 3km from the quarry we reached A’ Bhuidheanach Bheag (936m or 3,071’). The highest point was a Trig Point on an otherwise flat and featureless expanse. A bit disappointing compared to most of the other summits we’ve so far visited. After a quick photograph we retraced our steps back to the quarry and then continued NE to our second Munro, Carn na Caim (941m or 3,087’), only 2km away across the plateau. Once more, the summit “point” was a disappointingly small pile of rocks: blink and we’d have missed it.

Again we retraced our steps back to the quarry and this time followed the track back down the hillside. We decided to fit our crampons for the first time today to help our walk down the icy path.

Obviously we didn’t have the weather today to do justice to these two hills – I reckon that the views east towards the Cairngorms and west towards the Ben Alder group of hills would have been great in fine weather conditions. May be next time. One thing that was evident was the influence of man high up on the plateau: first with the quarry and service track and then with the bulldozed track across the high plateau. I can only think that the latter has something to do with stalking or shooting – but this is just my guess.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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2 Responses to Navigational challenges on featureless plateau

  1. Karl says:

    If you do a Google search for Carn Na Caimans, your blog comes up near the top of page 2… Well done. And I think it’s the only write up out there that doesn’t mention the A9 as being an eyesore.
    I’ve been trying to find something about the quarry – but so far nothing! I’ll let you know if I come up with anything.
    The track seems to for the people on the estate to gain access to the hills, but for what reason (other than shooting as you suggested) I have yet to discover.

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Karl,
      Thanks for trying to find out some more information about the quarry near Carn na Caim. I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance yet to read the more recent post entitled: “Vein quartz quarrying at 900m“? There are a few details about the quarry and why it turned out not to be viable.
      Cheers,
      Cameron

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