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Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul from Linn of Dee

Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul from Linn of Dee

Postby go spazieren » Sat Sep 09, 2023 2:34 pm

Route description: Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Munros included on this walk: Cairn Toul, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine

Date walked: 08/09/2023

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 36 km

Ascent: 1290m

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Sgor an Lochain Uaine (aka The Angel's Peak) was another of the new 1997 Munros that I had missed out on, and in fact the only Cairngorm Munro I still had not bagged. A route from the Linn of Dee makes sense for me living in Aberdeenshire, and the NE Ridge scramble looked like an interesting option. Was always going to be a long trek though, even using the bike part of the way.
I set off from home at a leisurely 7:30am, and was up at the Linn of Dee car park about 8:30am. On getting out of the car I was subjected to a midge attack. I always forget these things don't all live in the West! Boots on in car, hastily assemble bike and get pedalling to escape. I was soon out in the open on the Derry Lodge track and clear of the annoying wee beasties. It was already getting hot and destined to be one of the hottest days of the year. The pedal up to Derry Lodge is nice and easy. I have painful memories of long days in the Cairngorms 30 years ago when we never used a bike, and that last few km on the return journey seemed to take forever. I continued cycling to the point where the track goes from landrover track to more like a footpath and left the bike, about 7km from the car park. An accomplished pedallist could certainly go further, but for me that was the point where it was easier and quicker to go on foot. For some inexplicable reason, I left the good footpath before the ford over the Luibeg Burn and followed some ATV tracks to the south, looking for a shortcut. Bad idea, they petered out and I had to do a short cross country excursion to regain the track. Not too far or much time lost though.
I continued on the path contouring round to the Lairig Ghru where The Devils Point and Cairn Toul came into sight, with Corrour Bothy below.
Devil's Point and Cairn Toul

Progress continued to be fast along the Lairig Ghru up to the point of leaving the path and heading up to Lochan Uaine for the start of the scramble. That's when the going got a whole lot tougher. I have to admit, the next 2km and 300m or so of ascent were as painful as I've experienced in a while. I left the Lairig Ghru path just below where the Allt a'Gharbh-choire and Allt na Lairig Ghru join to become the River Dee. Initially crossing over flat occasionally boggy ground with added boulders and deep holes amongst them for extra fun. The burns were easy enough to cross but might not be when in spate. Then it was a steep climb up the lower NE slopes of Cairn Toul through deep heather hiding more large boulders before making a climbing traverse across boulders, grass, heather and scree, still on a fairly steep incline, directly towards Lochan Uaine. No sign of a path. The SMC scramble guide said the approach was hard going and they were not wrong! It was with much relief that I rounded the corner where the going levelled off and Lochan Uaine came into sight with the impressive NE ridge of Sgor an Lochain Uaine behind.
Lochan Uaine and the NE ridge of Sgor an Lochain Uaine

I took a bit of a breather at this point. It was very hot and I was glad of the extra water I had carried, and also topped up in the lochan which was pretty clear. The NE ridge was thankfully just a short gentle climb away through many boulders but on easy enough terrain. In truth, most of the ridge could be considered no more than a walk through bouldery terrain apart from the very uppermost tower as most of the scrambly bits can be avoided. I stashed the poles at about 1000m however, and clambered over various outcrops for a bit of fun. It would be a good route to practice scrambling (if not for the brutal approach walk). There is little to no exposure, the rock is grippy with good holds, and lots of little features of varying difficulty that can be climbed or avoided all together. Just before the summit you have to pick your way steeply up a big bouldery tower with hands on rock, but again, there are various possible routes, not much exposure and nothing too difficult.
Summit tower on NE Ridge

Another good thing is that you pop out right at the summit, where I was thankful to find a nice cooling breeze. Going over Cairn Toul was my best option for the return journey so off I set. There were a few people out and about on the ridge, not surprising given it was a Friday with perfect weather. The climb to Cairn Toul was nice and easy over typical Cairngorm bouldery terrain. The NE ridge of Sgor an Lochain Uaine was quite impressive looking back from Cairn Toul.
NE ridge of Sgor an Lochain Uaine from Cairn Toul

I continued on down to the bealach above Coire Odhar and the Corrour bothy. Adding the Devil's Point to the route would have not been too arduous, but I was feeling a bit weary by now and had recently included climbing the Point on a round of Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mhor from White Bridge, so I made my way straight back down to the bothy and onto the path back. Only last year when I descended this way I was suffering from severe knee pain and I did not have pleasant memories of it, but this time with miraculously repaired knees (just got better on their own) it was a nice easy and fast descent on a good path. The trudge back along the path to Luibeg (taking the correct route this time!) was easy but felt like a long way and it was with some relief that I found the bike safe and sound and reverted to 2 wheels. Just before Derry Lodge I watched the Coastguard helicopter make a brief touch and go on the flat ground west of the buildings - a practice exercise I assume.
Unexpected helicopter!

As mentioned at the start, I was very glad of the bike for that final 7km. A more tiring walk than usual, I think probably a combination of the very hot weather and the rough 2km pathless energy sapping trek up to Lochan Uaine, but a good day out nonetheless.
go spazieren
Mountain Walker
Posts: 5
Joined: Jun 30, 2023

Re: Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul from Linn of Dee

Postby rockhopper » Tue Sep 12, 2023 11:41 pm

Nice route and a little different form the norm :thumbup:
It's great when you get such good weather even if the heat can make the going a little tougher - cheers :)
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