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Braeriach - Cairn Toul traverse: I hate young people

Braeriach - Cairn Toul traverse: I hate young people

Postby Christopher Pulman » Tue Dec 21, 2021 5:57 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: 02/08/2021

Time taken: 12 hours

Distance: 43 km

Ascent: 2050m

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Braeriach is such an enticing mountain. It reclines above Aviemore, a confluence of gentle ridges and elegant corries, drawing the eye wherever one goes, making Cairn Gorm and Sgòr Gaoith merely the background scenery to the true star of the mountains.

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Braeriach distracting me from the Tesco shopping

I caught glimpses of the Braeriach - Cairn Toul ridge through the cloud in 2018, when climbing Ben Macdui in the snow. They have been high on my mountain wish-list ever since.

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Cairn Toul and Sgòr an Lochain Uaine

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At the beginning of August, I travelled to Aviemore for a week with two friends from work. Here they are; just look at them:

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Young people

Youths! Enjoying their mid-20s, with their working joints and trim 70kg frames. They're so well-adjusted and enthusiastic, heading out on morning runs, logging their results on Strava (whatever that is), swapping Spotify suggestions (whatever that is), being polite and respecting people's feelings. How I hate them!

Anyway, after a warm up on Meall Chuaich on the 1st August, the young people and I decided we would go for the Braeriach - Cairn Toul traverse on the 2nd, which seemed to have the best weather forecast.

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I parked at the Sugar Bowl car park and we set off around 7:30 am. Our plan was to walk the Lairig Ghru to Corrour bothy first and return via the ridge, but in fact we changed plans en route. The weather was a little overcast, with some cloud swirling from the mouth of the Lairig Ghru.

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A little cloud around Cairn Gorm

The youths set off at speed up the Chalamain gap and I just about kept up. Fortunately they slowed in negotiating the boulder field in the gap and I overtook. The youths have questionable balance -- probably still growing into their bodies. Also, they're scared of heights.

We descended into the Lairig Ghru together, discussing our route. The youths were of the view that, as we were still fresh, it might be better to start by climbing Braeriach and walk the circuit anticlockwise. I didn't disagree. So we set off on the path that climbs steeply up the southern side of the pass and onto the spur from Sron na Lairige. The start of the path is a grind; it was no problem for the young, who disappeared over the horizon, with me plodding behind. But I caught a couple of good photos of the cloud swirling of the ridge, and it turns out the youths had cameras and caught some photos of me following in the distance.

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Climbing the ridge

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Chasing the youths

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They're just mocking me now

By the time we made it to the top of Braeriach, the cloud was clearing out. It was becoming clear that we had chosen the right day. The young people, still overflowing with energy, were excited by the views from the top. I gave them a suitable scowling.

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Young people on top of Braeriach, smiling vacantly

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A wise person with appropriate grumpiness

But admittedly, the views were excellent, both from the top and as we skirted the coire towards the next peak.

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The classic view of Cairn Toul and the Angel's Peak

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Ben Macdui

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The Angel's Peak

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Looking towards Monadh Mòr

On a clear day, the best views of the route are (I think) from the approach to Sgòr an Lochain Uaine, and from the top of that second peak. From there, one can see the real size of Garbh Coire, the impressive walls of Braeriach, and the steep flanks of Ben Macdui as they drop into the Lairig Ghru. (Also, a quick note about the top of the river Dee above the falls into Garbh Coire: there is something fascinating about that stretch of river. It is only around a metre wide, but quite deep, flowing quickly in a surprisingly straight line from the Wells of Dee. It looks as if the water runs along a small fault-line or dyke. In any case, I refilled my water bottles (the youths didn't need to drink as much, because they were barely breaking a sweat) and we hopped over the stream.)

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Looking down Garbh Coire towards Ben Mcdui

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The Braeriach plateau above Lochan Uaine

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Zoom in on the top of Braeriach

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Zoom in on the Falls of Dee

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The mouth of the Lairig Ghru below

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The route we had walked

The climbs up Sgòr an Lochain Uain, down to the bealach, and up to Cairn Toul were steep, but fairly short. The young people obviously sped to the top of each, and then had to wait patiently for me. Fortunately they had some sweets to keep them busy.

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The ascent up Sgòr an Lochain Uaine

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Looking back the way we've come

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Carn a' Mhaim, looking tiny from the top of Cairn Toul

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Looking back at Cairn Toul.

While young people are terrible in almost every way, however, they do have their moments. On top of Cairn Toul, youth 1 commented that he wanted to take a picture of me and youth 2, entitled "Cairn Tools". Youth 2 replied that he would take a picture of me and youth 1 if there were only a peak called "Cairn ****s". They show some promise; I think I'll see if I can foster their darkness.

The walk down Cairn Toul is fairly steep. I had no trouble keeping up with the young, given my greater gravitational potential energy. Also, youth 2 (the sprightliest and most insufferable youth) was wearing new boots that were starting to rub. It didn't stop him making it to the top of the Devil's Peak first, however (which is a trivial climb after Cairn Toul). It has excellent views to the south, however, and we could see the long route home up the Lairig Ghru below.

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The short climb up the Devil's Point (looking almost insignificant from this angle).

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Impressive slabs on Beinn Bhrotain

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South to Deeside

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The long walk home, with Ben Macdui above

The drawback of walking the traverse anticlockwise is that one needs to descend the path down the Devil's Point to Corrour bothy. It is extremely steep and loose, especially at the top, so much so that at some places it is impossible to stand still without slipping. But the descent is not long. Incidentally, the young people don't like me humming folk songs as I walk, because they listen to horrific post-2000 music. They don't pine for the old country and their hearts were never broken by anyone called Peggy or Molly.

The Devil's Point looks better from the valley floor.

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The Devil's Point, looking more impressive from the valley floor

To punish me for my musical transgressions, the youths started off up the Lairig Ghru at a furious pace (despite youth 2's blistered foot). It was largely flat walking to begin with, so I was able to keep up. There were midges beginning to appear, and stopping for long wasn't a viable option, beyond a few pauses for photographs.

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Speedy bastards

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Braeriach, still looking fine

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Cairn Toul and the Devil's Point

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Cairn Toul and Sgòr an Lochain Uain

An anticlockwise route also has a double sting in the tail. The climb up to the Pools of Dee is not insignificant, and I really felt it after a long day's walk. Even the youths were beginning to feel the distance, although they still looked happy (curse them). Then the climb out of the Lairig Ghru to the Chalamain gap is very steep (although short). The youths did it in one fast stage. I did it in eight short stages. But the views from the pass are striking, and the evening sun was brightening the landscape.

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Looking back to the top of the Lairig Ghru

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Looking down towards Speyside

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How are the youths still smiling?

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Sun on Cairn Gorm at the end of the day

The youths were not really flagging until we got back to the car, but then they were out of energy. Surprisingly I had a little left in the tank. Unlike me, the youths have no body fat to sustain them. It should be noted, however, that the walk statistics on Walkhighlands are wrong.It isn't 1800 metres and 34km. It is 2050 metres and 43km (56,000 steps).

I'll need to work on my cardio a bit. The youths and I are planning to walk the Mamores next year (maybe the eight Munros on the main ridge). And after only one more year of ageing, they'll still be inexcusably young.
Christopher Pulman
Posts: 50
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Joined: May 17, 2019
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Re: Braeriach - Cairn Toul traverse: I hate young people

Postby Graeme D » Wed Dec 22, 2021 11:07 am

Try taking DofE groups out. The language goes off the scale! And the yoofs can get a little shirty too! :lol:
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Graeme D
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Re: Braeriach - Cairn Toul traverse: I hate young people

Postby ch351 » Fri Apr 01, 2022 2:17 pm

This is by far my favourite walk report. I prefer a touch of misanthropy when contemplating potential hikes.
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Re: Braeriach - Cairn Toul traverse: I hate young people

Postby mrs shanksi » Tue Aug 02, 2022 8:43 pm

Great report. I am thinking about doing this route (or from the Linn of Dee) but I may be too old (48). I don't have the energy of youths! Years ago I ran the Lairig Ghru but was traumatised by the boulder field.
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