Alles in Ordnung - into the White Silence of Beinn Bhrotain
by Graeme D » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:52 am
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Bhrotain
Date walked: 09/02/2013
Time taken: 8.4 hours
Distance: 27.2 km
Ascent: 943m5 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The original plan had been Beinn Mheadhoin with Kevsbald and CurlyWurly, but the heavy snows of the previous couple of weeks made us unsure of our chances of making the Hutchison Hut on a Friday night walk in from Linn of Dee. As the week wore on and a Plan B looked increasingly necessary, our attention turned to a straightforward day trip to Bhrotain and Darren pulled out, having already nailed Bhrotain and having quite a few other things on his plate at the moment anyway.
So, with a 7.45 rendez-vous at the Linn of Dee, I was away from Perth by 5.45, but not before finding the car battery dead and having to push it out of the garage. Fortunately our drive is on a slope as is our road, so that did the trick and got me going. I could only hope that it would start after the walk, as I didn’t have jump leads.
It was a rather eventful journey up the A93. I ran over a stoat just past Persie – it froze in the headlights and I managed to swerve just enough to see it go under the front wheels. After that, I didn’t witness what became of it, but at least I didn’t feel anything, which is about the best the stoat could hope for if the rear wheels did get it . Would it be there on my return journey? Probably not - as Kev said, if it had met its maker under my wheels, a big bird (or Caberfeidh) would have had it away by the time I returned! The road started to get a bit dodgy just before the Spittal and the back end slid out on one occasion when I was a little too keen on the brakes. The deer roaming around close to the roadside were rather unnerving, especially the kamikaze ones that decided to cross the road to visit their mates just as I was passing. Otherwise, the major hazard on the climb up and over the Cairnwell Pass was the volume of road kill. I wondered whether Caberfeidh would be around later with the broth pot to clear up!
The road improved a little after that and after a quick stop at the shop in Braemar to break a tenner for the parking change, I pulled into the Linn of Dee carpark at 7.30 in plenty time to get ready. There were a few cars dotted about in the trees but no sign of Kev. I drove right around, sliding about quite a bit but managing to keep going, and parked up in the bit closest to the road, just in case I needed to push out later and use the run down to the bridge to get started. A red van was parked a short distance away and a bloke was going about making a brew. Was it Gavin? I knew Gav has a habit of lurking about heavily wooded areas in a van but couldn’t make out whether it was him or not. After a minute or two, I got a clearer view and it was him after all. We pondered who was following who, myself having recently followed in his footsteps on Beinn Stacath and similarly, he in mine on Meall Tairneachain and Faragon Hill. Gav was heading for Carn a’Mhaim and the occupants of another car that pulled in were heading for Derry Cairngorm. Kev was running a bit late (something about running into Kate at the Spittal of Glenshee???) and when he finally did materialise, he promptly ran into a minor snowdrift at the carpark entrance, and needed a helping hand to get realigned and gain access. All the way from Glasgow and he falls at the final hurdle! After a bit of manoeuvring and more pushing, Kev finally got parked up just in time for a bloke in a Toyota Yaris to appear and get totally stuck. All the pushing and engine revving in the world was getting him nowhere and the cause eventually became clear – a puncture to a rear tyre. Man, this guy was having a bad start to his day in the Cairngorms! The Derry Cairngorm blokes and Gav decided now would be a good time to “do one” before anyone else showed up, and keen not to spend the entire morning pushing cars around, Kev and I prepared to make a sharp exit too. Sorry Mr Yaris, you’re on your own from now on!
We were off by 8.20 and made decent progress on the track out to White Bridge – so far, alles in Ordnung! The concern was what underfoot conditions would be like once we crossed the bridge and continued on the south bank of the River Dee, not to mention what the long stepped ascent up to the Beinn Bhrotain trig point itself would be like. As it turned out, the going on the path along the river was actually no worse than on the landrover track to the bridge, in fact in places it was probably easier going. As ever, work politics contributed much to the conversation – alles nicht so in Ordnung! – but it wasn’t all bad. Holiday plans to exotic destinations such as Achiltibuie, Barcelona and Lllandudno also featured on the agenda.
As ever, hillwalking provided the perfect antedote to the stresses of the working week and we were pleasantly surprised at how good the going was. We left the path just beyond the plantation at the foot of the Allt Iarnaidh and took a bearing for the summit of Carn Fiaclach Beag. At about 500m the snow really started to firm up and consolidate enough to take our weight if we chose our route carefully.
A first lunch and a brew was had on a nice little slabby section below Carn Fiaclach and from then on the snow conditions varied somewhat from completely solid and like a pavement to not quite firm enough to carry our weight, resulting in rather awkward and stumbling progress.
The overwhelming impressions however were of whiteness and complete silence. We both agreed that we had probably never been in such pristine white, totally calm conditions. I've certainly been in whiteout conditions when it has being blowing a howler, but up here today there was not a breath of wind or any sounds other than those being made by us.
That silence was eventually broken by the ominous sounds of a helicopter that sounded like it was hovering somewhere to the north or northeast of us - possibly the training operations that were apparently going on but also a prophetic portent of the major search and rescue operation that would take place the following day.
A final pull got us up onto the Munro summit but it took a moment for us to figure out that we were actually there, the whiteness straining our eyes and tricking me into believing that higher ground was immediately to our left. There was also no sign of the trig pillar. Excavation work with an ice axe on the rimed up structure in the centre of the shelter cairn eventually confirmed that it was the trig, and not a grand piano, Volkswagen Beetle, Caberfeidh or any other random object.
So, here I was. Number 141! Halfway there. What a journey it has been so far - moments of frustration, exhilaration, fear, tranquility, exhaustion and clarity, sometimes all on the same day! Here's to the next 141 and who knows exactly how many more years!
We decided not to retrace our steps, primarily to avoid having to reascend onto Carn Cloich-mhuilinn, opting instead to track east over the 1108 spot height and traverse down the north east side of the coire. The axes were definitely needed on the descent which was made even trickier by sporadic patches of powdery snow sitting on top of polished ice. Bum sliding was attempted a few times but never really worked due to the build up of powder under our arses. We were down by the river in an hour and twenty - the twenty probably accounting for the time spent on self extraction.
From there, it only remained to complete the loop and then retrace our steps with increasingly weary legs across White Bridge and back to the Linn of Dee.
Gav's van had gone when we got back (turns out he bailed not too far below the summit of Carn a'Mhaim). Kev declined a libation in the Fife Arms as he was heading for a birthday bash in Macduff and wasn't sure what the road conditions would be like. He headed off, but not before I had turned the ignition and to my relief the car had started straight up. As I was eventually pulling out, the two Derry Cairngorm guys appeared. They had made it and reported pretty similar conditions to us.
Oh well, back down the road, running the gauntlet of the roadkill. And for the record, the stoat wisnae there!
by kevsbald » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:12 am
Exactly as I remembered it. The floating etherealness and the fact that we got to the top while others failed really meant it was a great tick in terms of endurance and perseverance.
Bring on Torridon!
by The Rodmiester » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:21 am
by Cairngormwanderer » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:25 am
by rockhopper » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:44 pm
by Alan S » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:55 pm
Well done to both of you in those conditions
Like the floating pic
by lomondwalkers » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:06 pm
by pigeon » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:19 pm
by Gavin99 » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:38 pm
by Frigate » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:28 pm
Road kill? remember - Nie schneller als dein schutzengal fliegen kann fahren
by soapy27 » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:42 pm
by ChrisW » Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:04 am
I'm disappointed that the discussions on holiday destinations didn't include the Canadian Rockies but I'll soon be back up top posting those teasers
Glad your car behaved itself (had you left the lights on at home?) and equally glad to hear that the stoat managed to avoid becoming another grim statistic of the A93
Excellent and really enjoyable report, cheers
by PeteR » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:12 pm
by gammy leg walker » Sat Feb 16, 2013 3:57 pm
by Scotjamie » Sun Feb 17, 2013 12:44 pm
Well done on the good navigation, perseverance, and reaching half-way before me (but I'm not bitter)