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Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby fatdogwalks » Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:32 pm

Route description: Sgor Gaoith, from Glen Feshie

Munros included on this walk: Sgor Gaoith

Date walked: 12/08/2009

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I don’t suppose many people remember the album In and Out of Focus by the Dutch rock band, Focus. I recall them being hugely popular in the early 70’s. So what have a Dutch rock band got to with hillwalking you may ask? Well bugger all would be my reply. But I’m standing on the crag top summit of Sgor Gaoith peering down to the blue of Loch Eanaich some 600m below with my eyes not quite able to differentiate between the solid rock beneath my feet and the huge bulk of Braeriach across the other side of the deep narrow glen. I momentarily focus on the white horses on the water of Loch Eanaich but as my eyes catch the rocks comprising the tiny cairn beside me they appear to wobble uncertainly and then blur making me step back sharply from the edge of the crag.
Oh, there’s nothing wrong with me...it’s just the new varifocals. Maybe it’s not the best place to test them out...600m of plummeting abyss! I’ve never needed distance glasses up until now but I’ve had my new pair on all day which has been quite a revelation. Suddenly I can see the colours in small birds and wonder at the sharpness of the pine needles on the branches at the side of the track. A whole world of until now undiscovered clarity has entered my life...the Resurrection man now has stunning HD.

Having broken myself back in with last week’s easy ascents of Glas Maol and Creag Leacach I decided to up the work load for today’s walk. For the first time since our ill fated attempt at Beinn nan Aighenan in early May, when my lower back decided that descending should be completely banned from the whole hill walking experience, Cap’n Jack was able to come out to play. I decided to be a wee bit more adventurous than I would have been on my own, but still picked a relatively easy hill, though with a bit more meat in terms of distance and ascent. We would be heading for Sgor Gaoith is the western Cairngorms. This walk would provide a relatively easy 14 km, with roughly 1000m of ascent. This would give me a fairly decent check on how things on the aches and pains front were progressing.
We arrived at Feshiebridge about 9.15am having left early to make it through the notorious A9 traffic lights at Bankfoot, north of Perth. Parking in a small car park just of the road before the little bridge over the Allt Ruadh on the road to Achlean, we set off eastwards through the forest and out onto the pine and heather movie set that is the Cairngorm Nature Reserve.
A walk on the red granite gravel paths through the manicured pine forests of the Cairngorms has an unreal quality I’ve yet to experience elsewhere. Nothing appears to be out of place. The tall Scots pines are underpinned with a thick bed of heather and native shrubs, the ensemble creating the impression of an oversized botanical garden. Toss in a bit of blue sky and sunshine and you find yourself walking in a Highland fairyland. A shortbread cottage could appear in front of you and you wouldn’t find it at all surprising...well, not unless the shortbread tasted crap I suppose.

The path climbed steadily from the large engraved boulder marking the entrance to the reserve, through tall pines perched on the steep north edge of the gorge formed by the downward roaring of the Allt Ruadh. High above a lone buzzard circled, it’s high pitched keening making us stop to scan the sky above for signs of movement. The buzzard circled, reckoned we were nowhere near dead yet, then moved slowly northwards continuing to voice its disappointment with life in general through its unsettling cry.

At the older forests edge we passed through more recent planting of 1m high pines before following the path around the west spur of Meall Tionail before reaching the bleak sparseness of the various spurs and corries surrounding the source of the Allt Ruadh.

There was a suggestion of a track cutting south across the face of the slope separating us from the summit but we opted to take the straight up approach. It was a bit tougher than I would have liked with the heather deepening at times, making progress a bit on the slow side. I went for the interminable plod approach while the Cap’n chose the charge and collapse system. It was classic tortoise and hare stuff. About half way up the slope the heather deepened and our pathetically slow speed dropped to a crawl.

The sound of loud gasping behind me was followed by a tirade of abuse.

“Hills, I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues and Thee!”

The last couple of words were aimed directly at me by a glaring Cap’n Jack. Quite frankly this is not the sort of bad language you expect to hear on the mountains these days. Having not been in the hills for a few months the Cap’n was beginning to suffer from a surfeit of indolence and was itching to take a swipe at his tormentor-in-chief...i.e. me. It’s the same every walk, he remembers half way up the hill that he hates hillwalking and one hillwalking parent in particular. On the plus side you have to be impressed at his ability to mangle Shakespeare. It did raise a smile though, on what was to be the hardest part of the day.

What? Of course the tortoise won!

The hill’s ability to continuously extend its height was at best irritating. It didn’t have so much a series of false summits, more a never decreasing horizon so no matter how many steps upward we took there always seemed as much slope to climb as there had been 5 minutes before.
Eventually we cracked it and found ourselves on a broad plateau.

To the south tiny moving dots on a wide rolling ridge suggested traffic either to or from the other Munro, Mullach Clach a Bhlair. They were too far in the distance for us to tell whether they were coming or going. We had arrived a few hundred metres south of the summit, a small rocky rise, but I knew beyond that rise lay a big drop and that’s what we’d come to see...the view downwards to Loch Eanaich.

And, I suppose, that is where this “tail” began with me perched on the edge of the abyss, camera in hand, with my whole world swimming in and out of focus.

The Fatdog had to be consigned to a spot a good 10m from the edge as even on her lead she was keen to explore the perimeter of our lofty perch. For sanity’s sake (ours) she was quickly removed before she started her victory roly-poly antics. Cap’n Jack made a short foray near the edge just before the summit but decided that looking after the Fatdog well away from the droppy-off bits was a bloody good idea...even though FD’s celebratory rolling had now begun in earnest.

By now we could clearly see the crowds charging across the plateau to where we stood on the summit of Sgor Gaoith. It was time to toddle off to find a lunch spot.
As the hordes closed in on the summit of Sgor Gaoith we looked to the north where the deserted ex-Munro (and now Munro top) of Sgoran Dubh Mor beckoned as a quiet feeding station. Off across the ridge we toddled with the intention, once lunch was over, to complete today’s circuit by descending via the Munro top of Meall Buidhe and then another ex-Munro Geal-charn .

We didn’t hang about long over lunch. Dark clouds were building in the south west and it appeared that the glens west of Drumochter were beginning to fill. There was little doubt that the base of the cloud layer was dropping as it came towards us. We checked the map then cut SW off the summit of Sgoran Dubh Mor dropping down towards the ridge that would take us across Meall Buidhe to Geal –charn. This was at times a stony route as we undulated along the series of small bumps leading to the ex-Munro. The only point of note was the unexpected steep sided channel between the final bump and Geal-charn. It was nothing exceptional, just an oddity given the rolling nature of the surrounding landscape.

As we looked back from the final top of the day we could not but be impressed with our timing as a layer of cloud swamped the summit of Sgor Gaoith. After another quick check of the map we picked our spot on the horizon and took our leave of Geal-charn’s rounded top and began our descent to pick up the west spur down to the path near Allt Coire na Cloiche...straight into a boulderfield.

The Fatdog is now an expert on these obstacles and made short work of the first part of the descent.

The drop through the heather and thick moss was a bit slow. I had my usual routine ache from the lower back but the knees, having suffered a pounding at Tuesday’s circuit class, wanted to complain as well about their harsh treatment so each step had to be carefully planted to avoid any jarring movements. The dense moss proved to be a bonus here as it cushioned a lot of the shock. We made it down to the path without falls or stumbles so all in all I was happy with how the decaying carcass had performed during today’s walk. The lone buzzard reappeared as we wandered back through the pinewood no doubt disappointed that his potential prey had made it off the hill in one piece.

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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby mountainman » Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:24 pm

I remember walking this hill..1st Munro in fact with a mate and as we reached the ridge we could hear this howling/waterfall sound even though it was a calm day. As we went over to the edge to look down towards the loch below the updraft practically took us off our feet. My mates' dog was very nosey but sure footed as she was on all the hills. Unfortunately I had no camera with me as the views all around were brilliant.
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby Freewheelin » Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:22 pm

Rememer doing this on a very chilly March day a couple of years ago. Nice walk up through a couple of snow fields, got to the top, a few pics, a look over the side and a sit down in glorious sunshine and silence for my tea break. Got packed up to go, and just turned to have another look over the side before heading down when the Navy's rescue helicopter rose vertically out of Coire Odhar not 50 feet from me!
Don't know what was louder - the howl of the helecopter's engines or the howl from me! :wtf:
... fair loosened the ol' bowels, it did! :lol:

Sgor Gaoith looking across to Sgoran Dubh Mor.JPG
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby kevsbald » Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:36 am

It's a great hill but the summit does take a while to get to - like Freewheelin, I did this in Winter through deep snow and boy was I buggered. The view down to Loch Einich and Braeriach is quite dramatic, isn't it? And no, I don't remember the Dutch band, Focus. Before my time.... :lol:
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby Graeme D » Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:20 pm

Great report there FDW! I also know someone who likes to perform victory rolls precariously close to the edge of precipitous drops.....and the dog quite likes to do them too! :lol:

I don't know what it is with all the talk and pictures of winter asccents over the last few days! Has there been a significant change in the weather? Is there a cold front moving in from the Arctic that I don't know about? Either way, it's making me wish it was December (and I don't mean for the Christmas shopping bunfight!) This one (and the other one and associated tops and bits and bobs) has been skirting about the edge of my radar for some time now. Thanks for moving it firmly into focus (no pun intended :lol: ) and with winter not that far off as well...... :D
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby Paul Webster » Fri Aug 14, 2009 7:44 am

Quality report there Ken as ever - great that you are back on the hills.

Glad to hear so many of you like Sgor Gaoith - something of a favourite outing for me but doesn't often get the praise it deserves.
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby fatdogwalks » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:57 pm

Many thanks for the comments guys :D . It's a hill with great views and well worth the visit. Thanks for the route Paul - made a good day out.
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby beth grant » Sun Aug 16, 2009 7:06 pm

Did this hill last Sunday,the forecast was not great but we managed to the summit and back before the clouds appeared.We too had fantastic views and looking down onto Loch Einich is an image that makes the effort worthwhile.
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby benno » Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:30 am

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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby yokehead » Mon Aug 17, 2009 8:05 pm

Ah, Focus. Funnily enough I was blasting out 'Hocus Pocus' at the weekend, hadn't heard it for years. Look at Bennos' link and hear it here:
http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/song/Ho ... us/1853848

Would make a fine song to sing out as you climb up the mountain! 8)

Saw them at the Oval in 1972 along with Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Argent, Wishbone Ash. £1 to get in, those were the days! I made out I was an official photographer so got behind the barriers right next to the stage. :D Showing my age now, can't say I'm 37 any more. :lol:

Great report by the way!
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Re: Sgor Gaoith - In and Out of Focus

Postby fatdogwalks » Mon Aug 17, 2009 8:47 pm

Benno your post had me puzzled - looked at it on my computer at work but looked blank :roll: . Wasn't until I opened it up just now (at home) that I realised my employers defense systems had been blocking it (you tube).

Coincidence - I put the same clip on my blog a few days ago!

Thanks for the comments yokehead - I can also remember when you could see big acts pretty cheaply - now I'm depressed! Out of your list I think I saw Wishbobe Ash, but some of my reminiscences are becoming a little hazy :lol: !
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