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High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach


Postby GariochTom » Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:49 am

Munros included on this walk: Braeriach, Sgor Gaoith

Date walked: 10/06/2012

Time taken: 35 hours

Distance: 36.5 km

Ascent: 1536m

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sgor-gaoith-bivvy-braeriach.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Day One

We started off from Whitewell a few kilometres south of Coylumbridge, at the respectable hour of 11am. Our intention was to bivvy overnight on Sgor Gaoith, so we would still arrive at our destination with plenty of daylight to spare. But as it turned out, the walk took much longer than expected...

We headed up the track and after getting slightly confused by the path network in Rothiemurchus, we soon reached Loch an Eilein. We skirted around the loch and just before Loch Gamhna, turned up a side path towards the south. A sign at the start of the path warned us that the path was not maintained, but we thought we'd take our chances and use it regardless (we like living on the edge).

I had just acquired a fancy new tarp for use with my bivvy bag, so I wasn't carrying a tent but my rucksack was still uncomfortably heavy. A few adjustments to the straps were necessary.

A couple of kilometres up the track, we reached a hut from which a short path apparently headed southeast through the forest beside the Allt Coire Follais, towards Creag Follais. According to the map, at least. However, we could not find any trace of a path as we made our way up the steep forested slopes. The forest in the mist had a magical atmosphere though, and seemed almost tropical. Truly ancient Caledonian forest, with Scots Pine, birch, heather, and hummocks that made the ascent particularly difficult. The midges were also out in force.

Image
Rothiemurchus by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Atmospheric forest by GariochT, on Flickr

It was a relief when we finally emerged above the tree line, and we continued upwards through the deep heather, towards the top of the ridge. Near the top, we found an impressive array of meteorological paraphernalia – thermometers, anemometers, those funny white 'beehive' boxes, solar panels, and even a step ladder and bottle of antifreeze.

Image
Weather monitoring by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Dreich by GariochT, on Flickr

We continued along the ridge, by this time in thick cloud and carefully following our compass bearings, eventually reached Sgoran Dubh Mor, followed by Sgor Gaoith itself. We could just see the top of the steep plunging cliffs. Just like the last time we were here we had virtually no view whatsoever, let alone of Loch Einich far below. Ah well, maybe the views would come tomorrow...

It was a bit breezy on the Munro summit itself, and we needed to top up our water supplies. The bealach by Fuaran Diotach, a kilometre or so further south therefore looked promising as a bivvy spot. It was just a case of trying to find it in the cloud, which we eventually did. It was indeed ideal as a bivvy spot with flat and soft ground next to a stream of crystal clear water. I think it was around 10pm when we actually arrived there though. We had considered descending to Loch Einich but it was far too late, and the visibility too bad, for that.

We set up our bivvies and I pitched my tarp like a tent using my hiking pole and bungees (I had been watching instructional YouTube videos by tarp enthusiasts the day before...).

After using half a box of matches in a attempt to light our stoves, we enjoyed a lukewarm dinner of pasta and tomato sauce followed by homemade rhubarb crumble and a cup of Cairngorm Gold. It was then time for bed. I clearly need more practice in installing myself into my sleeping bag within the bivvy bag under the tarp – it was a real struggle.

Image
Dreich bivvy by GariochT, on Flickr

Day Two

I awoke from a very good sleep. My warm sleeping bag was very comfortable. The view outside was nothing to write home about – still dreich – but I felt very content in my cosy tarp. I didn't get up until after 8am.

Image
Rain by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Bivvy view by GariochT, on Flickr

A slow breakfast and only one mug of coffee – we failed to light the stove for a second one – I really must get a new box of matches and keep it dry.

We struck camp then headed south, southeast, east and then north across the boggy ground to the south of Loch Einich. Following compass bearings and counting our steps to estimate distances seemed to work well, although a few unexpected lochans caught us by surprise.

Image
Loch nan Cnapan by GariochT, on Flickr

The incessant cloud had finally started to lift by the time we were southeast of Loch Einich, so we could enjoy impressive views across to Sgor Gaoith (the cloud still clinging to the ridge) and down to the loch.

Image
Gleann Einich by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Sgor Gaoith by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Loch Einich by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Gleann Einich and Carn na Criche by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Sgor Gaoich and Loch Einich panorama by GariochT, on Flickr

We continued up into the cloud towards Carn na Criche, passing the Coire Dhondail path on our way. A dotterel was hardly fazed by our presence.

Image
Long ascent by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Dotterel by GariochT, on Flickr

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Lichen by GariochT, on Flickr

The cairn of Carn na Criche eluded us but we eventually managed to get to the brindled upland of Braeriach – a very isolated plateau and birthplace of the River Dee.

Image
The Birth of the River Dee by GariochT, on Flickr

We headed over to the Falls of Dee which plunge over the side of the mountain into the Garbh Coire. A stunning view down the Lairig Ghru and across to Sgor an Lochan Uaine and Cairn Toul continually emerged through, then was concealed by, the rolling clouds. My favourite spot in the Cairngorms.

Image
From the Falls of Dee by GariochT, on Flickr

After spending some time just sitting there enjoying the view we crossed the stream and headed through more cloud, and over a few easy boulder fields, to the Munro summit itself.

Image
Braeriach buttress by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Vista from Braeriach by GariochT, on Flickr



Image
View from Braeriach by GariochT, on Flickr

We had initially intended to find a descente route down one of the ridges that flank Loch Coire an Lochain but the contour lines to the northwest seemed unnervingly close to each other. So we instead opted for the more established route down Sron na Lairig. Despite the presence of a path, it was an unrelenting descent and unforgiving on the knees.

Image
Sron na Lairig by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Sron na Lairig by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Lairig Ghru by GariochT, on Flickr

We eventually joined the Lairig Ghru which slowly led down into the Rothiemurchus Forest – particularly beautiful in the Allt Druidh glen.

Image
Into the forest by GariochT, on Flickr

On reaching the Cairngorm Club Footbridge we knew we didn't have far to go, and we finally got back to the car after 10pm.

A successful bivvy trip!
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GariochTom
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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby Rogue » Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:21 am

Nice report, some good pics in there but seriously ? Failed to light the stove ? Matches ? Fire steel and or a lighter surely. What kind of stove doesn't light ? Nothing more comforting than hot food / drink once installed in a tent or bivvy. Nothing more depressing to go without...


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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby audreywaugh » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:22 am

Lovely report and photos, nothing better than a comfy warm sleeping bag, especially on a morning like that.
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audreywaugh
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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby Rudolph » Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:44 am

Great report. We've still to do Sgor Gaoith and that seems a nice way to do it especially if there is a decent campsite nearby!

I'm eriously impressed by your starting to bivvi at 10pm in that clag - especially with a fire raising issue. Navigation all that way was a good effort too and would be beyond me. You are made of stern stuff. Did you have any midge protection?

Sympathy about the stove problems. We've been there! Lighters are OK but can fail too. We now take several boxes of matches in poly bags with silica gel, two lighters and a fire steel just in case. Usuallty one of them works.
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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby electricfly » Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:41 am

Enjoyed reading your report. What make of hooped bivvy was your friend using? Looks nice and stable. :)
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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby whiteburn » Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:09 pm

Couldn't survive without hot food :( :( + I need at least 2 cups of coffee in the morning to get me moving.
I normally carry multiple fire starters when backpacking. e.g. piezo electric igniter (came with the MSR micro rocket), fire steel, small disposable lighter and half a dozen waterproof matches.
The igniter, lighters and even matches are susceptible to water but I haven't been let down by the firesteel. :D
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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby GariochTom » Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:57 pm

Thanks for your comments and the tips in relation to lighting the stove, I definitely learned my lesson and will get a lighter and a fire steel, and waterproof matches too. :)
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GariochTom
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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby GariochTom » Thu Jun 14, 2012 6:01 pm

electricfly wrote:Enjoyed reading your report. What make of hooped bivvy was your friend using? Looks nice and stable. :)


Hi Electricfly, my friend was using a Terra Nova Jupiter bivvy and apparently she was pleased with it, even though it seemed a bit small at first!
I used a combination of my Alpkit bivvy bag (£30) and DD Hammocks tarp held up by my hiking pole and bungees, and that seemed quite stable too.
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GariochTom
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Re: High Level Bivvy: Sgor Gaoith and Braeriach

Postby GariochTom » Thu Jun 14, 2012 6:19 pm

Rudolph wrote:Great report. We've still to do Sgor Gaoith and that seems a nice way to do it especially if there is a decent campsite nearby!

I'm eriously impressed by your starting to bivvi at 10pm in that clag - especially with a fire raising issue. Navigation all that way was a good effort too and would be beyond me. You are made of stern stuff. Did you have any midge protection?

Sympathy about the stove problems. We've been there! Lighters are OK but can fail too. We now take several boxes of matches in poly bags with silica gel, two lighters and a fire steel just in case. Usuallty one of them works.


Hi Rudolph, yes the route we took up Sgor Gaoith was nice, especially going through the forest near Loch Gamhna but the lack of any path and the hummocky terrain did mean that it was particularly hardgoing... just to warn you if you are considering following the same route :)

I had a midge net but the midges weren't too bad, and we weren't affected by midges at all above the tree line - too high for them I think.
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GariochTom
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