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To The Devil's Point With Me (via Braeriach etc)

To The Devil's Point With Me (via Braeriach etc)


Postby The English Alpinist » Sat Nov 19, 2022 12:12 am

Route description: Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Munros included on this walk: Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine, The Devil's Point

Date walked: 13/11/2022

Time taken: 12.5 hours

Distance: 37 km

Ascent: 2092m

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33 toul view.JPG
The Devil's Point (just left of centre) seen from the summit of Cairn Toul.

20 gap at dawn.JPG
I pass through Chalamaine Gap at dawn, 7 hours later to descend at The Devil's Point.

For my latest 3-day foray to sunny (it was at times!) Scotland, I had planned to do the Drumochters, deigning them simple enough for one still serving Munro apprenticeship (35 to my name before today) and a guarantee of success in mid-November. However, an excellent forecast tempted me into a serious introduction to the Cairngorms. Beginning the day before, with a damp and misty pair from Glen Feshie, today was to be the 'real thing' as it were. I planned to strike at the very heart of this famed and mighty range, taking in 4 Munros from Glenmore, including no less than the 3rd, 4th and 5th highest in Britain. It was a long route, entailing being on high (yes, maybe even mentally too) for a good 12 miles, all the way to 'The Devil's Point': nice, but incorrect name - more about that later, perhaps. Let's stay serious for now: this, I felt, was a bold although sensible enough undertaking, and would finish with a long valley walk after descending from the 'Point'. Even starting at dawn, I'd probably be benighted, but I reckoned that didn't matter since I'd be well down into Glen Dee by then and on my way back.

21 moody early.JPG
It was moody early on, the first Top of Sron na Lairige shrouded in cloud.

23 cliffs.JPG
Visibility began to break through in spectacular fashion on Braeriach.

24 cliffs.JPG
The clouds oozed up from the abyss, never quite seen anything like that.

25 cloudscape.JPG
From the summit of Braeriach, 4,252 feet (1,296m), Britain's Munro #3.

The 'clear' sky forecast did not seem forthcoming. This made for a touch of anxiety of the long-distance walker, and I had expectations of seeing no-one all day since I'd started an hour before dawn. Also, the so-called Chalamaine Gap - very bouldery indeed - still only in the foothills, made me wonder what I was in for for the rest of the day. You then have to dip down into a wild little river gorge before gaining the shoulder of Sron na Lairige, the first Munro Top of the day which gives access to the grandiose 4,000 foot-plus altitudes. On the way up here, I was pleased and surprised to come upon a human. He, a senior, grey-bearded man who seemed etched from the very rocks, explained this by the fact he had been camping, thereby got a 'head start' on my own head start. 'Camping'. Yes, plenty of people do do this, but personally I think it a bit of exposure too far. A long solo experience, I can handle, on the proviso I'm back under a proper roof by the end of the day. So, with much respect to him, I motored on with my lightweight pack never to see him again. I hope he too reached Braeriach, as was his plan, for the reward on the eyes - see above - can only be described as magnificence.

26 twin peaks.JPG
The Angel's Peak and Cairn Toul lay ahead (Britain's 5th & 4th highest respectively).

26a to Carn na Criche.JPG
Approaching Munro Top, 'Carn na Criche', looking back on Braeriach.

27 lost top.JPG
Carn na Criche; a tale of two cairns and totally reliant on compass to find the right way off.

I had views and awe-inspiring cloudscapes now, as I circumnavigated the celebrated deep coires ringed by this string of Munros, but that fun phenomenon we call 'lack of visibility' was not done with me quite yet. Cairn na Criche, Munro Top and smooth and simple in itself, seemed to have a talent for pulling in the cloud cover. There are two cairns up there, and my map seemed to say the first is the summit, even though it was distinctly smaller. As I arrived at it, I marvelled, not for the first time this day, how instantaneously sense of direction is obliterated. I only found the second cairn, mere metres away, by trusting the compass. I only regained the route proper by following a bearing until I rediscovered the edge of the precipice. I must give a mention to the second impressive breed of person I encountered, somewhere between the two cairns: a fell runner, replete with shorts and pink wind-burned legs. Oh yes, the wind today: forecast as 65kph on the tops had contributed to my early anxieties, but never proved to be much problem, and you could argue you have not had a proper Cairngorm experience without at least that! Surprisingly, it did not hit at all on Angel's Peak and barely on Cairn Toul, but did on the penultimate top of Stob Coire for some reason.

28 angel of angel.JPG
My 'angel' of The Angel's Peak.

29 angel peak.JPG
Sgor an Lochain Uaine (The Angel's Peak) at 4,129 feet (1258m).

30 angel toul.JPG
Cairn Toul lays ahead from the Angel's Peak.

31 necklace.JPG
These 'rock necklaces' were a feature going up Carn Toul.

32 toul shelter.JPG
Cairn Toul, 4,236 feet (1291m), looking back on The Angel's Peak.

The highlight of a day of many highlights was The Angel's Peak, for mostly good reasons. There was the unexpected calm, the blue skies, the cloud formations that you could lose yourself in study until the cold tells you to move again, and even a sighting of an 'angel'! The sun, refracted through cloud, had created a little rainbow ring which kept me company on my left as I ascended. When I stopped to take a photo, a distinct figure inhabited this ring. Just me of course, but I reckoned this was a massive coincidence according to the geometry of light rays and angle of the sun and position of myself; then again, a physicist might tell me it was perfectly inevitable in the conditions. Whatever, it was my angel of The Angel's Peak on this day. There was nothing ethereal about the wiry hound that arrived on the summit just as I did, from the opposite side, but I did get the incredulous impression he'd summitted all alone as his people didn't arrive until some 5 minutes later along with 3 other canines. It was on to Cairn Toul, also spectacular, but it was not until after this that I realised I'd left my compass on the ground at The Angel's Peak. It didn't matter, with excellent visibility firmly in, but it soured the day a little to think what a crass disaster this could have been. In future, will carry a damn spare, lest I again be distracted by dogs or angels when I unrack at a summit.

34 penultimate top.JPG
On Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir (Munro top), Carn Toul, Angel's and Braeriach now behind me.

35 Cairn Toul.JPG
Cairn Toul in glory.

37 Devils standing.JPG
So I've made it; The Devil's Point. 3,294 feet (1004m).

One easy enough Munro Top later, and a simple dip and reclimb, and I was at my destination of The Devil's Point. So, why so called? Aghem, well. According to McNeish, who is accurate about things more often than not - and there's no politer way of putting it on a family website - it is, in fact, The Devil's Penis, or 'penis of the demon', more accurately, from the Gaelic. The modern naming is due to John Brown, apparently, who did not wish to offend his Queen who was liable to fondly enquire about the mountains hereabout. He (McNeish) would love to see a campaign for the Ordnance Survey to revert to the original naming - 'there should be no place in these Highland mountains for such woolly translations', he says. My only objection is that, either from on it or below it, I'm not entirely sure how the shape fits. Size, maybe, yes.

Anyway, I was soon down from it, and enjoyed a little regroup at the Corrour Bothy, psyching myself up for the very long plod back through the valley of the Dee. As expected, but a little sooner than wanted, I was hit by nightfall on this. It came on slightly tricky terrain, near the Pools of Dee, and I was grateful for the occasional strategically placed cairn to keep me on path. Lower down, it was easy, and the prospect of the rocks of Chalamaine Gap by torchlight worried me a bit but needn't have. A day to remember. Four famous Munros negotiated in stirring November weather, and even a piece of the Devil.


38 Corrour Bothy.JPG
Corrour Bothy, below The Devil's Point.

40 trek back.JPG
It's a long way back; Glen Dee.

41 pool of Dee.JPG
I'm at the 'Pools of Dee' as daylight goes.
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This walk was preceded by 'Bit of pre-dawn and other Mullarkey on Gaoith and Mullach'
https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=115695


It was followed, the day after, by 'I enjoyed Glenmore's Corbett Very Much Indeed'
https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=115700
Last edited by The English Alpinist on Sun Nov 20, 2022 5:51 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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The English Alpinist
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Re: To The Devil's Point With Me (via Braeriach etc)

Postby JWCW2014 » Sat Nov 19, 2022 9:45 am

Quite an ambitious undertaking with the amount of daylight available - did these in summer with 24c temperatures at the top and no cloud cover or wind (I was absolutely frazzled) and camped at the bealach by the Devil’s point. Worth the number of breaks I needed to cool down and take on liquid I think my time to camping was the same as yours for the whole route!
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Re: To The Devil's Point With Me (via Braeriach etc)

Postby R1ggered » Sat Nov 19, 2022 2:43 pm

Fantastic effort, i'm sure others will explain better but your angel i think was actually what they call a brocken spectre. Mind you my angel sounds better. :clap: :clap:
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Re: To The Devil's Point With Me (via Braeriach etc)

Postby The English Alpinist » Sun Nov 20, 2022 5:55 pm

I think it's an easy enough walk in good weather (would not have attempted it otherwise, or foreshortened it). Depends how many rests you want and how early you start. Also the bothy is a great option to rest overnight. I can well imagine a hot day up there - that's exposure of a different kind!
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Re: To The Devil's Point With Me (via Braeriach etc)

Postby JWCW2014 » Sun Nov 20, 2022 9:37 pm

The English Alpinist wrote:I think it's an easy enough walk in good weather (would not have attempted it otherwise, or foreshortened it). Depends how many rests you want and how early you start. Also the bothy is a great option to rest overnight. I can well imagine a hot day up there - that's exposure of a different kind!


Indeed - I rarely complain that Scotland’s weather is too warm but here it looks more akin to southern Europe or asia than the typically dreich and damp Scottish hills!
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Re: To The Devil's Point With Me (via Braeriach etc)

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Mon Nov 21, 2022 11:23 am

Some beautiful and very atmospheric photos!

To me, it looks like a huge day - well done. I managed Braeriach only via this route - as a there and back in late winter, and it still went dark as i picked my way through the Chlamain Gap!

tim
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