For two mountains so close in proximity, Glas Maol and Creag Leacach could not contrast more. The summit of the former is an unremarkable dome while the latter’s angular backbone rips sharply through the skyline, showering a cascade of rock and scree down either side. It looks like a work in progress, the sculptor nipping off midway through, never returning to finish the job.
My ascent of the pair was to start in the south, in the upper reaches of Glen Isla, at a small riverside car park below Auchavan. The estate road to Tulchan Lodge enabled swift early progress and soon I passed the secluded outpost.
Ahead of me lay a stiffer test, Monega Hill. The route to the top follows the Monega Path, an ancient right of way that was once the main trade route between Glen Isla and Braemar. There is a sign about a mile north of the lodge but I chose to follow the valley track a little further, crossing the Glas Burn, before I struck off up hill.
The ascent is initially steep, but the gradient becomes more manageable as the path swings north, passing through a collapsed gate before tackling the long spine. Although the old trade route bypasses the summit, a well-walked path, dotted with small cairns, leads straight to it. Here the hill ends abruptly, craggy slopes plunging into Caenlochan Glen. I was surprised to see a couple of sheep clinging to a precarious outcrop below me, but they seemed content enough.
I rejoined the Monega Path in the shallow col below and ambled gently over Little Glas Maol where I spotted a herd of red deer. They romped round me, only to find their way blocked by Caenlochan Glen. Clearly deer are not quite as adventurous as sheep.
I bid farewell to the Monega Path a little further on and headed straight up Glas Maol. The grass beneath my feet soon thinned, heralding the arrival of the stony summit plateau, its trig point flanked by mounds of rubble.
My second Munro, Creag Leacach lay to the southwest and, with excellent visibility, I headed off over open ground, descending to the col above Bathach Beag. Here I picked up a wall and fence that would lead me to the summit. Before that, however, I was keen to find a small howff that lurks amid the rocks on the ridge. Search successful, I ducked into the tiny stone shelter for a quick snack.
Creag Leacach boasts an exceptionally stony summit ridge, so it was a relief to reach the top with both ankles intact. The descent, however, offered more of the same, with the added snare of rusty fence wire. I carefully picked my way over the southwest top and set a course for Carn Ait, an outlier with some impressive cairns.
It was time now to head for home, but one last challenge remained – the Corbett of Monamenach. Following Tulchan Estate’s southern boundary, I passed over Mallrenheskein without incident but nearby came unstuck in the peat hags on the north side of Black Hill. Boots well and truly blackened, I eventually found myself at Glack of Glengairney, my weary limbs facing, without relish, 200 metres of remorseless ascent.
At the top, however, there was an opportunity to pause and admire my route in its entirety. Glas Maol and Creag Leacach radiated around me, both very different in character and complexity. They are good neighbours none-the-less.
Time: 7 hours
Start/finish: Auchavan, Glen Isla: parking by river (GR: NO 192698)
Maps: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 43 (Braemar & Blair Atholl) or Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheets 387 (Glenshee & Braemar)
Information: Blairgowrie, 01250 872960
Route: follow track N to Tulchan Lodge and continue for 1.5km. Go left on signed Monega Path. Ascend Monega Hill and from summit walk WNW over Little Glas Maol. Beyond narrow gully (GR: NO 173761), strike NW up Glas Maol. From summit, descend SW to cairn (GR: NO 159758) and follow fence/wall to summit of Creag Leacach. Continue along ridge to south top (943m) and descend SW. Climb Carn Ait and head E then SE to Mallrenheskein and follow boundary line SE to col (668m). Ascend Black Hill. Descend SE to Glack of Glengairney (608m) and ascend to summit of Monamenach. Path descends to col where track drops E to Auchavan.