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Beinn a Chaorainn Epic: High Wind and High Water
by dawnfoth » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:14 am
Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chaorainn (Cairngorms)
Date walked: 15/03/2014
Time taken: 11 hours9 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 forecast this Saturday was, as far as I saw, cloud, snow (rain at lower levels) and wind of 50 – 60mph. Fanatstic!! We were going anyway. I think it is fair to say that the weather was not as described above.
We set off from the Linn of Dee (on foot) all in good spirits and before we knew it, had reached Derry Lodge.
For this trip there was GammyLegWalker, Jonny616, ScottishLeaf, Quoman, his pal Alec, Bear the Rottweiler and myself.
At Derry Lodge we had a brief discussion about the route and took the ‘High Road’ as Quoman advised of slippy tree routes and large boulders on the lower path. We would take the lower one on our return journey. There is a wee stream to cross on the high path and I am guessing in summer it is not much more than a trickle, but it’s more like a small river today. We pretty much ran across it, whilst trying to stand on the boulders hiding under the surface of the water and all make it with dry boots.
It has to be said that the trees in this area, the Scots Pine, is one of the most beautiful and interesting. I love them. We continue on, past the wee bridge we would later cross. The wind in the glen is very strong and we anticipate much higher winds ‘up top’.
Finally we reach the Glas Allt Mor. It’s fair to say it’s in spate. There was a chap with his husky dog on the other side putting his socks and boots back on having just crossed bare foot. He indicated to us where he had crossed, but after a short discussion and reference to the map, we decided to start climbing up onto the plateau, thus avoiding the river. The winds were gradually increasing and we were spread out like some sort of search party on the climb, but regrouped on the edge of the plateau. It was getting cold and I most certainly added an extra layer. It was just as wells. As we were crossing the soft snow covered peat bogs, grass tufts and streams we were to be blasted by what can only be described as a mini hailstorm. The wind was hurling snow and ice across the ground. In between the clouds would open their curtains flickering sun across the plateau in a rare scene. Across to Beinn Bhreac, it looked truly glorious, but the walking conditions were not, which we would soon discover.
We continued, and by the time we reached the last ascent, the wind was so fierce it was difficult walking. We were single file, with a little distance apart as we climbed. Finally I could see my friends on the summit and shouted to those behind that we were here. I could hear sounds and language, not to be repeated here, that indicated their relief!!
Bear the dog appeared to have the best seat in the house by the cairn. We parked ourselves down and rested awhile before braving the elements again. The decision we made at the summit, which we all agreed was that we would descend. This did not involve much discussion as we all wanted to get out of the wind. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and my hindsight says that we should have gone back the way we came. I myself had said that I would rather cross the river than go back the way we came. I take this back.
We descended the shoulder of Beinn a Chaorainn toward the Lairig an Laoigh which is littered with small boulders. This combined with the wind, which seemed stronger since we reached the summit, made the walking very difficult and within a very short distance I, myself fell and banged my knee. This was an accident waiting to happen. I immediately felt unwell and sat down and indicated to Quoman thus. He came and sat beside me. I felt like I was going to pass out which has happened once before many moons ago after a similar occurrence. After a rest, a few puffs of my inhaler and some water I was brand new. We continued through and finally reached some better walking ground. Gammy would shortly fall and get back on his feet as well. ScottishLeaf’s ice axe was needing re-attached to his rucksack and he, Alec and Quoman were grouped together. Meanwhile, GammyLegWalker, Jonny616 and I would be hurled by the wind 20-30 feet away. Harem Scarem!! We continually had to stop, lean against the wind and stab our poles into the ground to prevent ourselves from being hurled again. I have since checked the Cairngorm Mountain Weather Report. The average windspeed during our descent was between 78 – 84mph. Goodness only knows what the gusts were, but for it to lift Gammy and Jonny…. Oooffffffttttt!!!
We reached what Quoman said was the zig-zag path. Aye right!! The path was further to our left, but the descent down the scree was ok. We just took it easy. It was a relief to be back in the glen, even though the wind was still strong, as it was now at our back. The relief was so strong that I had forgotten all about the river we had to cross until ScottishLeaf mentioned it. I tried to put it out of my head and hoped that it had gone down a little from earlier. How wrong could I be?
The thought had never crossed my mind, but the temperature today was high and certainly not the -12 wind chill that the forecast had also predicted. The snow was melting on the plateau and the Glas Allt Mor had in fact risen. I did not want to cross it, but I don’t suppose any of us did.
There wasn’t any option here. Either we cross the river or we have to go back up the hill, and a fair bit back so as to avoid the huge gully that the winds up there might hurl us down and cross the plateau to where we ascended. This would take us hours and the risk of danger as high. We can all swim, but we can’t fly!
Jonny616 made a statement I won’t forget. ‘I don’t want to spend half an hour walking up and down the river trying to find somewhere to cross’… Or words to those effect. I walked up the river, then down. I then walked back up to find Alec, Bear and Quoman on the other side. Qouman was indeed standing in his bare feet and boxers. Alec had crossed the river several times, having had to go back for Bear who slipped the harness and returned to the bank. He was already soaked. I took off my boots and socks and chucked them over then handed Alec my rucksack. I rolled my trousers and long johns up to my knees. Lord knows why?!! I sat on the edge and put my legs in the river trying to find a stance. It was waist deep. Alec held my hand. I tried to take a step, but the water forced me over and I was in. All I could hear was screaming. Thankfully Alec had my hand, but he nearly went in himself holding onto me and swiftly manoeuvred me over to the edge and Quoman grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and pulled me out and gave me a big cuddle. Boy, I needed it. Alec got out but his wrist looked sore and his watch had been torn from it.
We had no idea how our friends had got on as we were in a bit of a hollow. We tried to get changed as quickly as possible. We were just wearing our waterproof trousers. I had my wet vest on and my new primaloft ME jacket. It kept me warm until we got back to the car. We finally caught up to our pals and realised that Jonny616 had gone for a bigger swim, rucksack as well and he was soaked. He did not get changed. He had got across onto an island ok, but the second section was a torrent and he lost his balance and was in on his back taken about 15foot down the river where Gammy managed to grab hold of his rucksack whilst trying to then strangle him with it at the same time.
The walk out was incredibly wet and the track we had walked on earlier was now a stream, and other streams were rivers. It has been one hell of a day and we all agreed it was a long walk out on weary legs and feet. The wee bridge that we had passed and now crossed was quite exposed and I was nervous crossing it, wishfully thinking Jonny616 would walk a bit faster across it. The wind was whipping the water up and blowing it across the surface and into the air. The trees groaned as we went past and the wind howled like a jet screaming through the glen.
The positives from today: Gammy got his first Munro for this year, and one he will never forget. We are all one closer to our target and we now have a basic emergency procedure in place for contacting relatives. And it was a learning curve in many other ways too. Best of all, we have all our components intact, safe and well.
This was a trip that will not be forgotten in a hurry. I will not be returning to this mountain. This was my third attempt. I can only say that I am thankful for great walking buddies who take great care in looking after each other as well as being great company in the hills.
by ScottishLeaf » Mon Mar 17, 2014 8:56 am
One I'd be happy never to repeat, yet somehow managed to still enjoy in a weird masochistic way!
Bottom line is we all looked after one another and we all got out together. Without our pals on a day like Saturday, we would've been stranded or worse.
by scoob999 » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:42 am
kinda glad we stayed in now It's all just character building stuff, glad you all got out safely if wet
can't help thinking it would've made a great video though
by quoman » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:54 pm
What a day never to be repeated that wind was something else we were getting blown about like ragdolls.
I to was sh***ing myself crossing the Allt still all home safe and sound minus a watch and a buff
by Jock McJock » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:08 pm
by PeteR » Mon Mar 17, 2014 1:43 pm
I had a "burn" to ford when I was out on Sunday...........with all the snow melt it had transformed into a raging torrent and I was glad to have the option of a boggy, energy sapping walk to a footbridge lower down in order to get across.
by Tomsie » Mon Mar 17, 2014 2:43 pm
by IreneM » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:04 pm
by Rottiewalker » Mon Mar 17, 2014 4:54 pm
by SAVAGEALICE » Mon Mar 17, 2014 5:12 pm
by ceaser » Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:47 pm
by gammy leg walker » Mon Mar 17, 2014 8:26 pm
ceaser wrote:Fab report Dawn , but with gammy and Jonni there , you must have known something was going to go wrong
And where were you Ceaser you were invited to this little jaunt but we never saw you.
Cracking TR Dawn you have really captured the whole drama of the day with your writing and pictures its one that will live long in the memory.
PS Me & jonny 616 have an other epic already in the planning for April,
by pigeon » Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:00 pm
by Sick Kid » Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:38 pm
Well done for getting through it
by dawnfoth » Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:11 pm
Trust you Scoob! - I'll leave the videos to you!!
As for your next Epic in April Gammy..... hmmmmm..... let me think.....