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Size isn't everything!

Size isn't everything!

Postby ally63 » Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:11 am

Date walked: 05/12/2013

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 25 km

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Do you remember where you were during the 'great storm' on Thu 5th Dec? Planes were grounded, roads closed, schools shut and property was damaged. I had, thankfully, flown in from NI the day before so had missed the dodgey aircraft landings shown on our news screens! But, having travelled to the Cairngorms for a few days from across the pond, was I to be denied a chance to add to my all too short Munro list? Should I heed the warnings from MWIS, myweather2.com and anyone I asked from Aviemore to Coylumbridge and either stay in or stay low? Not for me the luxury of abandoning for more favourable conditions next week :( . After all, what's the worst that could happen :roll: ?

Well, before I expand on what happened next, an apology for tha lack of decent photos....or to be precise, ANY photos! Schoolboy error in that I brought my camera assuming the battery was charged only to find, after one attempt at a snowy panorama, that it was flat :shock: .

So, which category do you fall into? A 'bagger' of Munros; a 'tagger' of Corbetts; a 'collector'of Welsh 3000s; a 'ticker' of Wainwrights? Or, just possibly, are you someone who just enjoys walking regardless of height gained or miles covered? Do you walk for pleasure, exercise, meeting like-minded people or to escape the stresses of daily life? I thought I fitted into the latter category yet I was the one who kept a list at home of all my mountain days over the past three years; my trips to Kerry and Wicklow; Snowdonia; The Lakes; Fortwilliam; Crianlarich; The Cairngorms. This list included little M's for Munros, W's for Wainwrights etc alongside the particular mountain climbed. This doesn't make me a 'bagger' or 'tagger' does it? I just like to record data :oops: But here I was faced with the possibility of a 'wasted' trip that may yield nothing higher than a mole hill let alone a mountain! The anxiety and disappointment I felt was clearly disproportionate to what was hardly a life or death situation :wtf: . Even a chance conversation with a guy who works in Cairngorm Sports in Aviemore did little to allay my fears. I made the right noises and nodded in the right places as he expoused the benefits of making the most of any opportunity to get outside - he was right of course - but I wanted height, I yearned for exposure, I lusted after munros and nothing would stop me :crazy:

Thursday 5th Dec and the radio announced, "Winds reaching 90mph with gusts up to 120mph have been reported on the Cairngorm Plateau." Well, maybe saying nothing would stop me was a bit premature. I may be Irish and at times I'm guilty of perpetuating the 'thick Paddy' stereotype but even I could see the foolishness of going up onto Braeriach today. My mind went back to the fella in the shop and a conversation with Willie Anderson (CMRT). "Why not try the Lairig Ghru or Gleann Einich?" Staying in the luxury of the Hilton in Coylumbridge, both walks were an easy option.

I was first down for breakfast and strolling down to the caravan and camping site by 8.30am. Whilst most of Scotland seemed to be battening down the hatches I walked through the native Caledonian Pine Forest as a light dusting of snow coated the path ahead. This may not be too bad after all :wink: .

Exiting the forest after a few miles the shoulder of Creag Dhubh teased me with a clear summit and the possibility of an introduction to its bigger brothers of Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoith further south. "Don't be tempted Ally, they're only toying with you." The weather was definitely better than the forecast had predicted and 'The List' back home seemed to be begging to be added to. "You promised Tracy (my wife) that you'd stay in the valley so don't start messing about now!" That seemed to do the trick and within minutes the sky darkened behind me and proceeded to dump a load of white stuff and a gale whipped up to push me faster than my feet wanted to go. Vindication that the high places were out of bounds today :clap: .

Passing over the bridge that crossed the, by now, raging river, the clouds blew past and blue skies allowed me to watch ptarmigan scurry from the heather as I passed nearby. This is a truly remote and wonderful place. Usually looking down on these valleys you're unaware of scale. Like roads and fields viewed from a plane, the rivers appear as deep blue veins running down the limbs of the mountains. Approaching Loch Eanaich, the rock face of Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoith showed their scars from ancient glaciers that had slowly ripped the skin from their torso. Another dark sky threatened then delivered on its threat with gusts and snow that had me rushing onward to the shore and shelter behind one of the large boulders deposited millennia ago. My 'friend' from Cairngorm Sports had enthused about the natural history of this loch. This ancient glacial lake is home to an ice age relict population of Artic Charr.....incredible :shock: . How could I have missed the opportunity to walk through history, to experience an environment untouched by man save for this path and a few strategically placed boulders to aid crossing the river? I'm not being sarcastic here. Believe me, I was in awe of my surroundings when i had finally taken the time to appreciate them. So often I race from one summit to the next, trying to cram as many as I can into the limited time available. Here I was today, forced by circumstances to lower my sights but, in doing so, I was experiencing these mountains from a different viewpoint.

A quick snack and drink was all I could manage as snow whirled, swirled and found its way into every nook, cranny and orifice of my rucksack, and my person, that was left exposed in even the smallest way. I returned along the path, this time facing the gale but surprisingly warmed by a glow of satisfaction in the way the day had turned out. I turned briefly away from the wind to blow my nose and was startled by a snow covered man riding a bicycle towards the loch. He stopped and we exchanged greetings, his parting words that there was no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes :lol: .

By 2pm I was approaching the bridge again and being rewarded with a quite pleasant afternoon. Even Braeriach allowed a suggestive glimpse of its broad shoulder before draping itself again in a clouded cloak. The wind had eased and I stopped briefly for a cuppa and a rock-hard Picnic bar (other chocolate bars are available) - when will I remember to keep them on my person, not in an exposed pocket of my rucksack?!

I took the higher path where it splits at NH9240 0485. Given that this was my first outing in my Mantas (other boots etc.....) since February I wished I hadn't! My calfs ached and my feet screamed as the sudden incline finally exercised muscles untroubled so far during this trip. It lasted only briefly as I soon returned to flatter ground and entered the forest again, marvelling once more at this ancient relic, one of the last remaining examples anywhere in Britain.

By 5pm tired limbs were being soaked in a hot bath, glass of red waiting and the promise of a steak dinner only an hour away :) . I could never have imagined such an enjoyable day was possible beneath 500m. I can't admit to being cured for the longings returned the next day when calmer conditions started the old itch for high places. But in all honesty, I believe I turned a corner. Be it Cairngorm, Snowdonia, the Mournes or anywhere else for that matter, a whole new aspect has been opened up to me. I dread to think of opportunities missed previously through my lust for hills to be bagged or lists to be updated with a meaningful stat. Having said that, Gleann Eaniach has made it onto 'The List' but only to remind me that size isn't everything :lol:
Munro compleatist
Posts: 69
Munros:33   Corbetts:1
Joined: Dec 9, 2011

Re: Size isn't everything!

Postby JGKES » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:20 am

Enjoyed this report. Well written and amusing with a nice touch of irony here and there. I recall a walk to Loch Einich during one Whitsuntide holiday in the 70's. One evening the hotel bar in Grantown was accommodating a group of wader-clad fisherman (presumably they do their fishing at night) all huddled round a roaring fire. Such is the Cairngorms.
Posts: 50
Munros:51   Corbetts:8
Grahams:1   Donalds:3
Joined: Mar 6, 2011
Location: Sheffield

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