Glen Ey is a delight. I have long meant to explore Glen Ey, having seen alluring photos of it in mountain guides, and seen it from afar, from the top of Beinn lutharn Mhor. I finally managed to explore it myself, yesterday, on my way through to Carn Bhac - the only one of that cluster of Munros west of Glenshee, which had so far eluded me. I had planned to get to this one earlier on this year - on my way to take part in a church event at The Compass Christian Centre in Glenshee. That walk though fell victim to an asault of incessant torrential rain, which made the prospect look nothing less than ghastly. This week we enjoyed a reversal of such fortunes, the dreadful weather forecast was changed to a decent one on Friday night - and so we packed and headed for the hills. In fact, the initial forecasts hadn't been totally wrong, it was simply that the heavy rain pssed through the eastern glens during the night, leaving the air wonderfully dry - but the ground like a swamp!
The starting point for Glen Ey looks complex on the 1:50 000 OS map, with paths going in all directions. In practice however, the village of Inverey, where the River Eye pours into The Dee, has a walkers car park with a clear wooden sign saying "Glen Ey". From there, the track is obvious, and winds its way alongside the river for five and a half miles, terminating at the ruin of Altanour Lodge. From there, walkers paths continue on into the upper reaches of the glen. Our mountain bikes convered the ground fast, over the track which is in pretty good condition. It's a ride which is full of interest all the way along. The river was swollen and charging down the glen, the base of the valley is typically glacial - flat bottomed and wide, but the track climbs significantly along its length. An uphill slog in though, means a fast escape from the hills at the end of the day! The flat valley floor is framed by mountains on every side, which seem to grow in stature as the track heads southwards into steadily more remote territory.
In wide, lonely Glen Ey, we met virtually no-one all day. The landscape is obviously not 'natural', in that the marks of mankind are in everything from the lack of trees to the deer management measures, shooting access tracks, and heather burning. On the other hand, it is positively a wilderness compared to 'bonnie Glenshee', one glen to the east of Glen Ey, which is a landscape mangled by the skiing industry, with its' cafe's, car-parks, bulldozers, fences, piles of earth and wire.
We abandoned bikes at the ruins of Altanour Lodge, which are now hidden behind a protective fence. The track itself ends at a turning circle a few yards beyond the ruins, and a walkers path continues then forks. We took the right hand fork which should have taken us south-easterly onto the southern ridge of Carn Bhac. In practice though, the path forded the Alltan Odhar, which in spate was uncrossable. The warm overnight downpour had melted the first of the winter snows which in combination were charging down the sides of the hills. We were forced to turn westwards, staying on the North side of the stream until just underneath the summit of Carn Bhac, where we were able to cross the burn and re-join the path. We left a little cairn marking the point at which we left the track so that we could re-trace our route, it would have been very easy to have descended a long way - only to have ended up the wrong side of a rising torrent. This was a swampy, squelch of a walk, but there is a bit of a path; suggesting that we were not the first walkers to have been unable to cross the Alltan Odhar.
The summit of Carn Bhac is wide and rocky, with a semi-circular cairn, which was plastered with driven snow. The views from this solitary munro are impressive, of such distinctive things as the famous Lairig Ghru through the Cairngorms, the Angels Peak, Devil's Point and Beinn MacDui around it, the Morrone at Braemar; and Beinn a Ghlo to the South. All that was left, was to return through the squelch to the bikes and Altanour Lodge, and fly down the track to Glen Ey and the waiting car in the fading afternoon light.
On paper this was an easy day out. 16miles, of which 10 were bikeable. At the end of it we were both really tired - and glad to get home! It was just so good to be in the hills again, after so long.
All photos taken on my phone!