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Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby IanEzzi » Sun Jun 14, 2015 10:39 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Sgarsoch, Beinn Bhrotain, Beinn Dearg (Blair Atholl), Càrn an Fhìdhleir (Càrn Ealar), Monadh Mòr, Mullach Clach a' Bhlàir, Sgòr Gaoith

Date walked: 28/05/2015

Time taken: 96 hours

Distance: 106 km

Ascent: 4300m

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After seeing PastMySellByDate's report (http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=49064&p=267067&hilit=braeriach#p267067) a while ago I was inspired to modify my Cairngorm plans to do something similar.

There were so many options that I couldn't settle on any one route, although I knew I wanted to start at Blair Athol and finish in Aviemore, and definitely wanted to visit Allt Schiecheachan and Tarf bothies. Eventually, out of sympathy to my concerned girlfriend who asked for some form of itinerary so she knew where I might be, I narrowed it down to the south western munros, leaving the Braeriach plateau for a summer scrambling expedition instead.

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Thursday night saw me disembarking from the train at Blair Athol and start the gentle climb up to the Allt Schiecheachan bothy. The usual testing of dodgy knees and watching of the skies pre-occupied me most of the way along the easy track and the bothy appeared in the dip of a small burn within a couple of hours. I had been warned the bothy was small, cold and damp but it was well maintained with the remains of someone else's coal to augment the kindling I had been carrying with me.

Allt Schiecheachan.jpg
Allt Schiecheachan Bothy

Bothy Fire.jpg
Quickly warmed up


Next day I made surprisingly quick progress up the side of Beinn Dearg, despite the trails on the ground not quite matching what appeared on my Landranger Map (or, for that matter, the 1:25000 tiles on the walkhighland GPS planner). Thankfully what trails did exist were very good going and lead relatively directly to the summit.

Heading off the north of the summit lead me to my first small snow patch. I was prepared to some extend for snow in as much as I was carrying an axe, but it wasn't needed as the snow was the perfect consistency for step kicking in summer boots.

Beinn Dearg.jpg
Snow patch on the north slopes of Beinn Dearg

From here I descended down a rough and intermittent quad track to the Tarf River. My intention had been to follow the river to the bothy, but it was still ridiculously early and the weather was perfect, the clouds in the sky only adding to the scenery (not that my photographic abilities could do them justice). I decided instead to continue up Carn an Fhidhleir, giving me one less hill to do on Saturday. I traversed the slopes above the Tarf water until reaching Glas Feith Mhor then Glas Feith Beag, before step kicking up a nice long snow patch to finally reach the summit.

Carn an Fhidhleir.jpg
Carn an Fhidhleir summit view

All that was left for the day was the descent off Carn an Fhidhleir via Allt a'Chaorainn to the Tarf Water and my target for the day, the Tarf Bothy, a bothy I've wanted to visit since I learned it existed.

I saw two eggs like this, deposited near the bank of small streams, perhaps due to later than normal snow melt washing away nests from the moor above?

The river posed a slight problem as it was wide and relatively deep, however not so deep that it couldn't be easily waded with the boots off (although not after I'd spent 15 minutes mincing around on the banks trying to find a dry route to step-stone across).

Tarf Bothy.jpg
Tarf bothy

The bothy was fantastic, well maintained and with multiple spacious rooms. I read the short biography of Che Guevara that I found in one room, lit the fire and relaxed.

Tarf Fire.jpg
Getting to practise my bog-wood fire lighting skills. No shortage of materials at the side of the burns near the bothy.


The next morning I was up early with the sun and enjoyed a beautiful frosty glen to myself. I only planned to hike over An Sgarsoch today but was worried that I would get to Geldie Lodge too early with only the last few chapters of my book to occupy myself. I left the bothy by 7:30 and was on top of An Sgarsoch by 9:00. It was gorgeous on the summit, hot and windless (behind the shelter of the very regal cairn at least). I stopped and killed some time on the summit listening to some of my favourite Townes Van Zandt numbers on my stereo and bidding fairwell to the Glen Tilt/Blair Athol hills.

Big and Round.jpg
Approaching An Sgarsoch

An Sgarsoch.jpg
Summit Cairn

I descended off the north side of the hill and encountered another sizeable snow patch which require a little more care as it was steeper and more slumped in the middle so I had to skirt around the top. After that it was good old fashioned heather-bashing until I met the path rising up from Geldie Lodge. I happily strode down this to the lodge and stopped for lunch.

Geldie Lodge.jpg
Geldie Lodge

I was prepared to camp here but had secretly been hoping for some company as I assumed this might be a popular spot for others to camp at and two nights of my own company in empty bothies was enough solitude for one trip! The wind was also picking up and I was struggling to find a decent pitch for my tent that was also sheltered. As it was only midday I finally decided to stash my camping gear and carry on to Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain, I could worry about a campsite later.

I found the route across the grouse moor surprisingly tiring, and the gradual featureless slope gently rising towards Cnapan Mor made the 2.5km distance seem a lot more. As I hiked I twice disturbed what I *think* were Golden Plover, and once almost stood on a clutch of 4 green and black eggs. I was anxious not to disturb any more and started to regret my choice of route (I normally love hiking off the beaten path) but seemed to pass through the breeding area as the heather started to thin out on the higher slopes.

No prizes for guessing who was about to burst out of the heather and cause me to keech myself for the nth time this trip...

From this point on it was just my lack of water that was bothering me, so I stopped to drain the remainder and fill my bottle up with snow (after scraping away the top few cm which was covered in windblown dirt). I laboured up the gradual slope and eventually reached the summit where a strong cold wind had picked up. I had to stop though and admire the views of Glen Geusachan and the Devil's Point.

Monadh Mor view.jpg

From here I descended down to the col between Monadh Mor and Bhrotain and climbed through the boulder field to the summit of Bhrotain. By this point I was feeling the miles but I finally melted enough snow in my water bottle to wash down some Green and Blacks 70% chocolate which gave me a wee boost.

Beinn Bhrotain.jpg
Beinn Bhrotain summit with unfortunately shaped rock drawing the eye...

The final descent back to Geldie Lodge took some time, lots of steep heather and rock bashing between Aghaid Garbh (rough slope?) and Allt Dhaidh Mor, but finally I was back on the track and returned to where I had stashed my gear.

Grouse Feather.jpg
Some distraction from the steep heather and boulders

Here I had the time and the weather to stop and relax with my hip flask and a rollie (a guilty pleasure of mine on the hills which I resolved to stop on this trip, fingers crossed I remember next time I'm stocking up for a camping trip!). It was at this point though that the Alaskan Malamutes which Mountainlove encountered on her trip made their appearance, coming over the hillside from Glen Feshie

Invasion of the malamutes.jpg
Malamutes ho!

This was a real spectacle as more and more of the dogs came over the horizon with owners (more or less literally) in tow. I felt they made a bit of a meal of the river crossing, but then I didn't have two immensely powerful Alaskan sled dogs trying to pull me in opposite directions as we waded across on slippy rocks!

The dogs were beautiful mild mannered beasts so I took the opportunity to tag along as they were heading for the Geldie ruins to camp for the night anyway.

Malamute howl.jpg

malamute shack.jpg
One of the dogs joining us in the Geldie Lodge lean-to as we had our dinner.

Funnily, the dogs were on the Malamute equivalent of the Duke of Edinburgh award, and had to cover a certain distance with a certain amount of load on their backs, in order to be classed, and shown, as a 'working dog'. As such the owners had the liberty to pack rather generously, including what appeared to be 8 litres of bottled water! Perhaps not everybody has my faith in the quality of riverwater in the Scottish glens...


After very little sleep due to the high winds (or my poor pitching) and at least one midnight canine squabble I struck tent on Sunday morning feeling a bit rubbish, and with a sore knee to boot from yesterday's exertions. A highlight of the night was a brief lull in the wind which let me hear a snipe drumming nearby.

Thankfully I was slightly ahead of schedule which meant I could stay down low in Glen Feshie all day rather than climb any hills. I liked this as my original route saw me skipping a chunk of the Glen to bag Mullach Clach a Bhlair, which I could now save for Monday.

Glen Feshie lived up to expecations and as I had started early and only had 15km to cover, I had a long lazy afternoon in the bothy at the end to recuperate and finish my book (and also read an Iain Rankin novel I found lying about the bothy).

Eidart falls.jpg
Eidart falls

Feshie pass.jpg
Glen Feshie

Ruigh Aiteachain.jpg
Ruigh Aiteachain nestling amongst the trees


Lots of swithering! I couldn't decide if I really wanted to hobble up Mullach Clach a'Bhlair and Sgor Gaoith with my sore knee and then take a long gradual descent to Aviemore, or take the long flat route out and spend a nice afternoon in the pub. Time was a factor as I had a bus to catch at 6pm.

Once I got some motivational music playing on my phone, had some breakfast and moved around a little I felt good for the long hike over the hills. Rather than take the more adventurous route up Mullach Clach a'Bhlair via Lochan nam Bo though, I decided just to bash straight up the landrover track to give me a head start on the day. This worked a treat and I was on my first summit by 11.

Unfortunately at this point the mist came in and since the immediate surroundings of the summit weren't desperately impressive, I hustled on. As I was in full on 'bagging' mode at this point I didn't bemoan the presence of the landrover track, given the uninspiring views I was present with I was just glad to make quick progress.

Thankfully things started to open up as I approached Carn Ban Mor and I finally caught a view of Sgor Gaoith

Sgor Gaoith.jpg

After dawdling to enjoy the views into Glen Eanaich I made the summit more or less on schedule, but as time was pressing and the summit wasn't exactly sheltered I continued on, promising myself lunch once I reached the patch of sunlight I could see in the distance on my descent route.

Einich bay and snow.jpg
View down into Glen Eanaich

My descent was interesting, although I wanted to carry on along the ridge to Sgoran Dubh Mor, I also reckoned that the most direct route would be to descend via Coire allt a'Mharcaidh towards Inshriach Bothy. This proved to be a great decision, as the path through the coire, although slightly intermittent, was mostly a joy to walk, traversing just above the tree line with two or three hidden little burns to cross.

After all my grouse encounters over the weekend I didn't think I'd be too bothered by another, but as I looked down I saw what looked like four golden frogs scattering in front of my foot. I managed to avoid squishing the wee guys and on closer inspection found four beautiful grouse chicks all sitting static in the heather hoping I wouldn't notice them. I didn't want to risk scaring them so didn't go for my camera (which I had packed away at this point as a sort of resolution to get my head down and stop wasting time taking photos!). As I left them the mother, who had been hiding only a couple of foot away, did what grouse do best and exploded out from the heather with a noisy scolding, causing yet another near heart attack.

After following the path through the coire and down through the trees I had some fun navigating through 1km of trackless Caledonian forest to try and land up at the Inshriach Bothy. I got fairly close after deliberately erring slightly uphill and basically ignoring my bearing after half a kilometre, so I was pleased enough with that.

After the bothy it was only about 10km to town, flat and well tracked but meeting the bank holiday crowds along the way. I still found the privacy for a quick dip in Loch Gamhna where I was watched suspiciously by a goose that had obviously laid claim to the Loch.

Gaimhna goose.jpg

Finally I could just saunter back along the flat easy paths and even had time to grab a quick couple of pints at the Old Bridge Inn before rushing for my bus.

At this point my luck ran out, the bus I had booked (due to the train strike) was late, and after half an hour I broke ranks to grab a chocolate bar in Tesco. During the what must have been no more than 2 minutes that I wasn't watching the road, the large citylink coach somehow managed to hurtle all the way through the congested town centre, complete with two sets of traffic lights, and past the now abandoned stop :roll: So I ended up getting scalped for a single back to Edinburgh on the train I would have booked anyway if they hadn't been threatening to strike, and could have stayed in the pub for another couple, d'oh!!!

At least I got a picture of a nice plump chaffinch scrounging outside the O.B.I. before I left...

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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby Phil the Hill » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:18 pm

Wow, that was an epic! We were up there the week before, but only managed Sgarsoch and Fhidleir from Glen Feshie. We encountered the huskies too, but the only shot I got was blurred. Is a Malamute a breed of husky or are they something else? The Falls of Eidart are a beautiful spot and would I think be much more popular if they weren't so remote.
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby trederdog 100 » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:06 pm

What a great route, a long one as well. Think I'd get tired carrying all the food! Good to see Glen Feshie again - camped there at a lovely spot further up from the bothy, a great place to overnight, with the central Cairngorms luring you in.
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:03 am

That was a fantastic read, great photos and an inspiring trip. :clap: Interesting to hear about the husky training, if I could get spaniels to carry their own gear they might get to go camping too :lol: :lol:
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby Essan » Tue Jun 16, 2015 6:16 pm

Phil the Hill wrote:Is a Malamute a breed of husky or are they something else?

A different breed, but likewise bred for sled hauling


My neighbour has a pair of them (and a small garden!!!!). They are friendly and normally quiet - but howl (like a wolf) when they hear a police/ambulance siren etc!

btw, great report IanEzzi and glad you found the bothies all in good shape. Was up at Tarf and Scheicheachan myself last month - but I got a "taxi" in to the former! Wish I could walk with a big pack as well as I use too .....
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby IanEzzi » Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:09 pm

Thanks all.

if I could get spaniels to carry their own gear they might get to go camping too

I can see the problem there, aren't Spaniels bred to spend 50% of their time airborne? Can't imagine they'd appreciate being grounded by a 30lb backpack! :lol:

Trederdog, surprisingly my food bag really didn't seem that big, I've noticed again and again on these trips that my appetite seems to decrease a little so I've been reducing my food intake accordingly (although I suspect smoking roll ups in the evening helps, I only do it when I'm camping/bothying but I think it replaces the evening snacking tendency!).

My 'bag' for four days was one leftover dehydrated camping meal and three packs of Ainsley Harriot Cous-cous, one per night with the spare as a treat on my last night. I supplemented the cous-cous with some olives.

For my lunches I had 2 Stockan's thick oatcakes per day with two slices of cheese and a handful of jerky (my girlfriend got me a huge supply off the internet at christmas, it appears to be 'all natural' and is very tasty).

Breakfast was two Stoats porridge bars per day (annoyingly I can't find the large ones they used to do, so it's two wee ones instead) and a strong coffee made with an MSR filter and coarse ground coffee.

Then it's just snacks like Tesco raisins and chocolate covered peanuts with about 1/3 a bar of good dark chocolate a day, plus an instant hot chocolate at night. I think I also had a spare energy bar from cycling that I took with me.

I do worry that if I kick the smoking, as I have resolved to, I might suddenly have to find some extra willpower with the food intake! Maybe I'll just tuck into the hip flask which typically comes back still half full... :roll:
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby ancancha » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:10 pm

An enjoyable read, I had the same experience with the grouse chicks, initially thought they were big frogs :lol:
Some great photos :clap:
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby jamesb63 » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:11 pm

Fantastic reading and an epic walk :clap: Looks like the weather gods were also on your side
well done I am looking for some longer walks also to cover (and ive gave up the fags :o )
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby IanEzzi » Fri Jun 19, 2015 9:53 pm

Cheers James, the Cairngorms seem to be the easiest place for long trips like this, there's bothys and good places for camping everywhere, and the hills are a bit rounder and easier than the west coast so you can stick a few together in a day with a big rucsac without destroying your knees!
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Re: Tarf/Geldie/Feshie glens bothies and summits

Postby Mountainlove » Mon Jun 22, 2015 11:52 am

Fantastic report and what a walk it must have been carrying all that food and firewood!!! :shock: :clap: :clap:
Great to see a picture of the dogs again and I finally understand the backpacks they have been wearing :D
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