A special overnighter in the Cairngorms
by benbrown_94 » Wed Sep 01, 2021 2:36 pm
Route description: Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse
Munros included on this walk: Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine, The Devil's Point
Date walked: 28/08/2021
Time taken: 11 hours
Distance: 38 km
Ascent: 2053m19 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We'd had this trip in the diary for a good couple of months now and I couldn't quite believe our luck when I was looking at the forecast the week before. High pressure was set to sit firmly in charge and didn't look as though it was going anywhere fast. In fact, it appeared the best conditions were going to be across the Scottish Highlands.
We set off after work on the Wednesday towards Pitlochry to try break up some of the drive, this way we managed to get a warm up walk in on the Thursday (Schiehallion) and then get some extra bits sorted in Aviemore on the Friday.
Saturday morning arrived and it was the perfect morning, clear blue skies and it felt somewhat fresh for August, great walking conditions! We parked up along the way to the Ski Centre at Glenmore and set off towards the Chalamain Gap.
Once over the gap we began to descend to the Lairig Ghru, an incredible mountain pass that goes right through the Cairngorms. We followed the valley for what felt like forever, and, don't get me wrong - it's super impressive but it does go for miles!
We were looking out for the Pools of Dee, as that was our first mental checkpoint we were anticipating, it was steady away up to the pools and quite easy going. We arrived at the pools in around 3hrs I recall, and filled up our water bottles from the streams coming down the mountainside.
Conscious of time, we pushed on downhill towards our next mental checkpoint, the Corrour bothy. After the pools, the journey down suddenly became much more pleasurable, the views opened up even more to our left and right and now we could start to see some of the Cairngorm giants. The terrain became easier underfoot and allowed us to pick up the pace heading downhill. Ben Macdui was to our left, and the day's objectives to our right. The Devil's Point in front of us looked incredible and I couldn't wait to get up on the high tops.
We planned to have lunch around the bothy, and actually used the shaded side outside to sit and have lunch. The sun had been relentless all day and it was nice to get out of it for half an hour. It was still warm in the shade and we rested well.
We got chatting to a man from Stirling, having his lunch in the bothy - he said he'd been in the area for three days and just about to head back out for home. He kindly told us that the waterfall running up alongside the path to the Devil's Point came from the very top so we could fill our bottles again up there, which was super useful with it being quite dry; I wasn't sure how much water would have been flowing from source!
The path up didn't feel too steep, but having walked what felt like ages along the Lairig Ghru, the legs were feeling the pull up. Still, we made good time and found ourself near the top in not too long. We carried on at the beallach to head straight up to the Devil's Point, opting to leave our packs just off the path before the pull up. This made it much more pleasant, losing the weight of carrying the tent and gear around with us all morning.
Our first Munro, quite possibly the longest it's taken to reach a first Munro of a day! Still, the views were excellent as we looked over to Ben Macdui and the southern Cairngorms. We didn't hang around long, eager to push on, grab our packs and get up towards the second of the day.
On the way up to Cairn Toul, we got stopped by a man who, kind of abruptly wanted to ask us a question..
"Can I ask you a question?!" he said, "Why is there so many folk up here with big packs on, is there some sort of event on, something online, or am I missing something?!"
We couldn't tell whether he was genuinely curious, or whether he wasn't happy with the amount of people out 'wild camping' or just out in the hills nowadays. He said he was up there 20 years ago and there's many more paths that have just 'sprung up'. We were talking to him for a good 5 minutes, trying to explain the benefits of being able to witness the sunset and sunrise from the mountain tops, but he was adamant he'd always prefer a hot shower any day! Each to their own, of course...
After that, we continued on towards Cairn Toul. We may have come slightly off the main path here as we ended up clambering over some quite loose boulders to reach the summit but we managed to pick our way over them and reach the summit cairn. We had our second breather of the day here and had some more food, including some sweets from the sweet shop in Aviemore (highly recommended)!
Time was getting on and we wanted to reach Braeriach in good time, so we headed down towards Angel's Peak (Sgor an Lochain Uaine) which didn't take particularly long, we were tiring by this point so it was welcomed how easy this crossing felt. Better still, when we reached the top of this one, it didn't look like there was much of a drop between where we were stood and Braeriach.
It was one of those where you could see the next summit, not too far away, but you had to do a huge detour round the corrie to actually get there. We aimed for the rivers coming from the Wells of Dee to refill our bottles and collect our water supplies for tonight's tea and breakfast in the morning. The walk around the corrie was reasonably straight forward and when we started to reach the plateau that led to Braeriach I was amazed by the vastness of it all.
The area felt huge, and not many features, I was quite grateful for the good weather, I imagine it being quite tough up there just following a compass bearing. Everything up there amazed me, especially these huge rivers flowing over the 3rd highest mountain in the UK where usually being on high tops means a limited supply of water.
All topped up on water we set off again to reach the summit of Braeriach which didn't take too long from there. Once there we started to look for somewhere to pitch the tent, we wanted to be high to have enough of a breeze to stop the midges and the forecast seemed well suited to do that. I also wanted to see the view of where we'd just come from at sunrise too.
We'd just got the MSR Access 2 and were really excited to use it, so pitching on the 3rd highest mountain for the first time seemed sensible... It went up no problem however and we were rather happy with our spot.
Sunset kind of fizzled out, with a bank of haze on the horizon so we sat in the tent, rested and had our tea for the night, Chicken Tikka and an Apple Crunch for dessert! The new tent felt much more spacious than our old Vaude, we could actually both sit up in this one.
The alarm was set for 6am, I was excited because there was the possibility of an inversion. I poked my head out the tent after the alarm had gone, only to be disappointed to see nothing but cloud. So much for the inversion, we were actually in it! Ten minutes later, I had another look, nothing. And then again, still nothing. 30 minutes after my alarm, I thought I'd head out anyway and within ten minutes I started to see blue skies above me. I quickly grabbed my camera and lenses just in case...
What happened next will most likely stay with me for a very very long time, the cloud base that engulfed us suddenly dropped and the views around us were absolutely incredible. There was cloud rolling around below to the East and a full on inversion to the West. The clouds and mountainsides lit up by the rising sun, I was running around all over trying to compose images, my camera lens kept misting up from all the moisture in the air.
Another couple came past, who had been camping further along the plateau, we all couldn't quite believe it.
"Totally worth getting up early for!" they said, I couldn't agree more! Wow, what a morning.
After it all settled down, I went back to the tent with the tent door wide open just to stare and take it all in. A fog bow formed right outside the tent door and I grabbed a few more snaps on my phone this time.
Around 7am now, it was time to start taking the tent down, and just as we started to pack up the cloud that was below us came back up again and engulfed us once more. And believe it or not, that was it for the sun for the entire way down. It was wet, drizzly and pretty grim heading off, but I didn't really care, what I witnessed that morning made up for it entirely, and then some.
I bloody love the mountains...
by litljortindan » Wed Sep 01, 2021 4:35 pm
by uk-scrambler » Wed Sep 01, 2021 4:42 pm
by benbrown_94 » Thu Sep 02, 2021 11:38 am
litljortindan wrote:A stunning looking morning -worth all the effort just for that I imagine. Had a similar experience on Ben Tallaidh a couple of times except in the evening -ascended in clear weather only for a cloud to form out of nowhere on the summit but then, on both occasions, that cloud sank below the summit just before the sunset. It must have been quite magical getting out of the tent on the occasion when you saw the cloud above thinning and then sinking. Doesn't always work out that way of course!
Yes absolutely. I often tend to go out where blue skies are forecast for both days, but you don't get conditions like that when there's no clouds. Like you say, it doesn't always work out like this so there was an element of luck, but you've got to be in it to win it!
by jayedubya73 » Thu Sep 02, 2021 1:34 pm
by benbrown_94 » Thu Sep 02, 2021 4:06 pm
jayedubya73 wrote:Fantastic photos. I was on the other side of Lairig Ghru a couple of weeks ago with a walk round Ben Macdui. Looking over this route from Càrn a' Mhàim was amazing. Really motivated me to get this route in before the end of the year... hopefully!
I'd certainly recommend, it's incredible. I'd been over Ben Macdui around 4 years ago and never got the views so to get them on this trip, and then some was incredible! It's some walk up the Lairig Ghru mind!
by Mal Grey » Sun Oct 03, 2021 6:21 pm
by benbrown_94 » Mon Oct 04, 2021 9:35 am
Mal Grey wrote:Great stuff, and well worthy of the Report of the Month prize.
Thank you very much, it's the conditions that made it that spectacular!
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