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Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak?

Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak?


Postby dogplodder » Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:09 pm

Route description: Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

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

Date walked: 09/07/2009

Distance: 22 km

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In May 2008 Moira and I climbed Carn a' Mhaim from Linn of Dee. I was using my Sony Cybershot for the first time and accidentally had it fixed at the movie setting all day - the result being a mixture of badly shot horror movie and hilarious.

It was the first time I'd seen the Lairig Ghru, Cairn Toul and Devil's Point. We had to make a sharp exit to lower ground when a thunder storm came too close for comfort but here are a couple of Moira's pics from the summit taken just before the storm.

Cairn Toul from Carn a' Mhaim (May 2008)
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Devil's Point from Carn a' Mhaim
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I don't think on that day I thought I'd ever climb these hills but the following July I was invited to join Gill, a university friend of my daughter, and her dad, to climb Angel's Peak and Cairn Toul from Glen Feshie. It's not the most common approach to these hills but it's a handy one if you live in Kingussie as they do. John is an experienced hill man who must be well through his second round and Gill is romping through them whenever her A & E medical job allows - so it was too good an opportunity to miss! :D


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We met at 8.15 am at the parking area a kilometre north of Achlean Farm and set off at a spanking pace, turning left at the rock indicating the way to Carn Ban Mor via the Foxhunter's Path (so called after a family of fox hunters who once lived at Achlean) through native woodland and up the north side of Coire Fhearnagan.

Foxhunter's Path from Achlean
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View over Glen Feshie
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North down the Allt Ruadh and towards demoted Munro Geal-charn
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Once over the watershed the views open up to the north, east and south.

North to Sgor Gaoidh
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East to Braeriach
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South over the Moine Mhor (the Great Moss)
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Further east we got views of the cliffs of Sgor Gaoidh plunging into the deep cleft of Gleann Einich, secretive Loch Einich out of sight far below.

Cliffs of Sgor Gaoidh
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Vehicle track which feels a bit out of place crossing the remote wasteland of the Moine Mhor
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Monadh Mor straight ahead
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Our targets for the day with cloud on top
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The name Cairn Toul comes from Carn an t-Sabhail meaning rocky hill of the barn, which doesn't seem so appropriate looking at it from the east side but looking from the west you can see its barn-like qualities.

Cairn Toul showing its sculpted barn shape - taken from Monadh Mor on a different day
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The track comes to an abrupt end just before a steep drop into a small ravine carrying the upper reaches of the River Eidart, which is easily crossed. Somewhere near Loch na Cnapan we stopped for a bite to eat. John was keen to reach the Wells of Dee up on the Braeriach plateau so we took a north easterly line from Loch nan Cnapain and as we climbed higher were soon into clag. At one point my dog Jack disappeared on the scent of a deer, returning to the whistle five minutes later. In these situations it's a good thing dogs navigate on their noses and not their eyes. I wasn't best pleased with him so he went on the lead for a while after that. :?

John was navigating with his map and compass and in the murk I didn't photograph the Wells of Dee - which I should have done because rising at 4000 feet on the Braeriach plateau this is the highest source of any major river in Britain. The River Dee was first mentioned in the 2nd century AD by Claudius Ptolemy and means "Goddess", coming from the same Greek word that gives us diva and divine. The infant Dee emerges in tiny pools and flows to the cliff edge where it plunges into An Garbh Choire and joins a tributary from the Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru to form the productive salmon river which eventually joins the North Sea at Aberdeen. Having spent four years of my life studying at its sea end it felt quite satisfying to finally make it to its source! :thumbup:

We made our way carefully to the edge of the An Garbh Choire and followed the rim south east over Carn na Criche then up to the summit of Sgor an Lochain Uaine (Angel's Peak - so called seemingly to balance Devil's Point). We could see very little of the Lairig Ghru or anything else at this stage but the cloud cleared a bit once we reached the boulder field round the summit of Cairn Toul.

Rim of An Garbh Choire between Braeriach and Angel's Peak
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Braeriach plateau stretching west from summit cairn - and somewhere in there are the Wells of Dee
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We climbed up the boulders and to my pleasant surprise got a view from the top. :D

Carn a' Mhaim from Cairn Toul summit (1291m)
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Devil's Point from Cairn Toul
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Cairn Toul was 99 for Gill and she was hungry for 100. John said we had come far enough and he didn't think we should continue to Devil's Point. Gill said she hadn't come all that way to stand and look at it. I suspect if it had just been the two of them he would have relented and gone with her but there followed a conversation about the advisability or not of Gill going on alone to make her century. In her defence she's strong and fit and knows how to use a map and compass so if the cloud returned (which it did) she would be able to get back to us. On the down side she'd left her phone in the car and in any case we didn't have a mobile signal. I remember thinking it was the sort of situation where if the group leader hadn't been her dad she would probably have accepted his advice but because it was her dad she was determined to go. :wtf:

A bit reluctantly on John's part, they agreed on a plan. Gill would head off as fast as she could to Devil's Point while John and I had a leisurely lunch on Cairn Toul. We would then make our way slowly to the col between Cairn Toul and Angel's Peak and wait for Gill there. They both marked the meeting point on their maps and Gill was gone.

Cairn Toul and Devil's Point from Monadh Mor showing the route Gill would have taken
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John (with a mouthful of lunch) in Cairn Toul summit shelter
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On Cairn Toul summit - me talking and looking a bit anxious although at this point I wasn't :lol:
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Following our leisurely summit lunch we set off, walking south at first following the route Gill had taken, then contouring round to the right over the boulder field. The wind was now gusting strongly and I was caught off balance, stumbling and banging my knee. It was sore, reducing me to hobble pace, but this was okay as we still had a bit of slack to fill to allow Gill time to complete her century detour. By the time we reached the arranged rendezvous point in the col at the foot of Angel's Peak the wind was of gale proportions and thick swirling cloud had blown in reducing visibility to a few yards. We found a rock for a bit of shelter and hunkered down to wait.

Now for the required mutt shots for Morag! To avoid any confusion these were not taken on Cairn Toul - but were taken by Moira on another hill at around the same time. :D

Jack conserving his energy which he tends to do whenever we stop
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The best hill companions you could ask for :angel:
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We were above 4000 feet, it was cold and sitting still wasn't the best idea. So I got Jack on one side and Tess on the other and snuggled them close which they were both quite happy about. A kind of labrador blanket. I could tell John was getting anxious. The time he'd estimated for Gill's detour to Devil's Point was past and she wasn't back. Every so often we walked about shouting and blowing on the dog whistle but the cloud was so thick we couldn't see anything and the wind was so strong the whistle probably wasn't audible for very far. :?

I tried to reassure John that Gill would be fine. But it was cold and thermal dog blanket or not I was shivering. What I wanted to do was start the descent because I knew the knock to the knee would slow me down but John didn't want me going off on my own which would potentially mean two missing females instead of just the one. The question was how long should we wait at the col? If Gill was hurt at what point should we go looking for her? John didn't want to leave me but with the gammy knee I wasn't much use for a search. It was starting to feel a little bit worrying. :o

So I prayed. Not an audible prayer but a silent urgent prayer from the heart. "Please make this cloud move so we can see". That was all. I was facing in a north westerly direction and within seconds there was a powerful surge of wind and the cloud parted revealing the cliffs of Angel's Peak. It was one of those stunning moments you get in the mountains when it feels almost worth it to have had no visibility because of the sheer wonder of seeing the view again! Wow! :D

John got up and walked a few yards and almost immediately spotted Gill not far from us! :clap: It was an emotional reunion and I doubt I will ever again witness such a high altitude mini domestic! :lol: I went and hugged her and congratulated her on her 100th Munro as it seemed a bit of a shame this achievement was not receiving the attention it deserved. :clap: It turned out Gill had been near to us for about half an hour but the cloud and wind had made it impossible for us to find each other. Even two keen labrador noses had failed to alert us to her being nearby.

Angel's Peak and Cairn Toul from Braeriach on a very different day a few weeks later
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John set off at a gallop to find the best route down and we followed, me going as fast as I could. Gill could easily have kept up with her dad but she stuck to me like a limpet feeding me chocolate and keeping me going with her chat. It probably took longer than I remember but it seemed in no time we were passing Loch nan Cnapan and then on to that reassuring vehicle track.

Loch nan Cnapan
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As we reached the tree line John was out of sight and I pleaded with Gill to go on ahead as I knew her mum would have a meal ready and would be waiting for them. She refused until I nagged her into it on the grounds I'd been down this path several times before and had the dogs for company. I could then go at a speed more suited to my knee without feeling I was holding them back. Walking up the road in the gloaming I couldn't see the car and wondered what I'd do if it had been stolen (as if a car would be stolen in Glen Feshie!) but it was there - and right next to it were John and Gill waiting in their own car to make sure I got back okay. :thumbup:

I drove home tired but thankful. Thankful for an amazing day in an awesome place, thankful for such lovely people and thankful to God for keeping us safe. :D
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby morag1 » Sat Jan 12, 2013 5:05 pm

Hi Kathleen, I read all your reports and always enjoy them but I think this is one of your best :clap:

It was great to know the story behind the name of the River Dee. I've spent a lot of time wandering the banks of the Dee and have always wanted to trace its source to the Pools on Braeriach, maybe sometime soon I will.

As for your prayers being answered, well, who knows? All I can say is I've been in similar situations in my life and just when you think all is lost something happens and all becomes well again.

Thanks for the lovely photos of your dogs - I always like to see them as they look so happy out on the hills and its clear they are well looked after :D I dont have a dog just now as I work shifts and couldnt possibly look after it, but sometime in the future then who knows? I would try to get a labrador and go walking with it.

Enjoyed this, thanks for posting, hope you and your family are well xx
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby penworth » Sat Jan 12, 2013 5:12 pm

Brings back memories of Sgor Gaoith with you... and some pretty thick fog for a little while! Glad you made it down safely - and thanks for posting the great pictures - I'm yearning for longer day!
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby PeteR » Sat Jan 12, 2013 7:12 pm

Really enjoyed this report dogplodder :D

A great story and lovely pictures to go with it :D Was planning on a trip up this way tomorrow, but the forecast has got me thinking :? Might just go for an early, early start.
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby dogplodder » Sun Jan 13, 2013 3:45 pm

morag1 wrote:Hi Kathleen, I read all your reports and always enjoy them but I think this is one of your best :clap:

It was great to know the story behind the name of the River Dee. I've spent a lot of time wandering the banks of the Dee and have always wanted to trace its source to the Pools on Braeriach, maybe sometime soon I will.

As for your prayers being answered, well, who knows? All I can say is I've been in similar situations in my life and just when you think all is lost something happens and all becomes well again.

Thanks for the lovely photos of your dogs - I always like to see them as they look so happy out on the hills and its clear they are well looked after :D I dont have a dog just now as I work shifts and couldnt possibly look after it, but sometime in the future then who knows? I would try to get a labrador and go walking with it.



Thanks Morag. The Dee is a beautiful river but whichever way you go it's a long walk to its source. 8)

About what happened that day.... In itself it doesn't prove anything but taken along with everything else it was a remarkable experience for me. It makes me wonder if others on here have similar stories to tell....? :wink:

If you do get round to taking on a dog you could do a lot worse than with a labrador. Once you get past the crazy puppy stage they settle down into the most even tempered, dependable breed you could wish for. :D But they suffer through their own popularity - many being bought as cute Andrex puppies and ending up in Rescue when owners can't cope. :(
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby dogplodder » Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:37 pm

penworth wrote:Brings back memories of Sgor Gaoith with you... and some pretty thick fog for a little while! Glad you made it down safely - and thanks for posting the great pictures - I'm yearning for longer day!


Good to see you on here Pen and welcome to Walkhighlands! :D

But beware - it's an addictive site. 8)

You on the way up
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At the top
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby NickScots » Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:08 pm

Lovely dogs, do you ever find the gritty paths get to their pads ? My Mum's lab used to get red pads sometimes, worse day was three Munros around Ben Starav, very gritty granite.
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:58 am

PeteR wrote:Really enjoyed this report dogplodder :D

A great story and lovely pictures to go with it :D Was planning on a trip up this way tomorrow, but the forecast has got me thinking :? Might just go for an early, early start.


Thanks Pete. Just wondering if you made it out on Saturday and how you fared? :o

It was pretty dreich here. :? :D
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:45 pm

NickScots wrote:Lovely dogs, do you ever find the gritty paths get to their pads ? My Mum's lab used to get red pads sometimes, worse day was three Munros around Ben Starav, very gritty granite.


Yes. That is a good question. Some rock is very abrasive to dogs' pads and I think the answer is gradual exposure. When my present two labs did a sponsored walk up Ben Nevis we did a phased build up to it and they were fine. :thumbup:

But I still feel bad remembering my old lab Sam who climbed Ben MacDui with me in 2000 and by the time we reached the top his pads were raw and bleeding. That was down to him not being prepared for that length of walk on that kind of terrain and was entirely my fault. :thumbdown:
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby shredder » Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:51 pm

dogplodder wrote:
NickScots wrote:Lovely dogs, do you ever find the gritty paths get to their pads ? My Mum's lab used to get red pads sometimes, worse day was three Munros around Ben Starav, very gritty granite.


Yes. That is a good question. Some rock is very abrasive to dogs' pads and I think the answer is gradual exposure. When my present two labs did a sponsored walk up Ben Nevis we did a phased build up to it and they were fine. :thumbup:

But I still feel bad remembering my old lab Sam who climbed Ben MacDui with me in 2000 and by the time we reached the top his pads were raw and bleeding. That was down to him not being prepared for that length of walk on that kind of terrain and was entirely my fault. :thumbdown:


Have you thought of using these? :wink:

http://www.animalsource.co.uk/dog-boots---walker-active-protective-dog-shoes-6196-p.asp
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby dogplodder » Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:01 pm



Thanks for this - it's certainly a thought. :wink:

I remember seeing police dogs in Belfast wearing protective boots but suspect my two would have them off in a blink! :lol:
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby pollyh33 » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:32 pm

Congratulations Kathleen on your A+ report, go to the top of the class :clap: :clap:

Sorry I missed this post first time round but I would definitely have caught up with it when I do these hills, your reports are always excellent reference sources :thumbup: :thumbup:

Well done again !

P X
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby dogplodder » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:56 pm

pollyh33 wrote:Congratulations Kathleen on your A+ report, go to the top of the class :clap: :clap:

Sorry I missed this post first time round but I would definitely have caught up with it when I do these hills, your reports are always excellent reference sources :thumbup: :thumbup:

Well done again !

P X


Thanks Pauline but you are too kind. I never for a moment thought this was in the running to be a winning report - and can only conclude it's by divine intervention! :lol: :D
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:24 pm

Obviously divine intervention has good taste!!! :lol: :lol:
Congratulations - great report, I'm interested in the route, but staying home until the weather improves :crazy:
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Re: Happy coincidence or divine intervention at Angel's Peak

Postby dogplodder » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:32 pm

Huff_n_Puff wrote:
Congratulations - great report, I'm interested in the route, but staying home until the weather improves :crazy:


Lovely to hear from you Huff n Puff and thanks! :D

Although not the most popular route for accessing these hills it's certainly worth considering. It avoids the up and down into the Lairig Ghru from the Chalamain Gap (which can be tough on the return leg) and the long walk in from Linn of Dee or Rothiemurchus. And apart from the boulder field at the top of Cairn Toul it's probably also easier on dogs' paws. :wink:

But as you say it's one for longer balmier days than we're enjoying right now! :lol:
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