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Braeriach and its friends by bike to Loch Einich

Braeriach and its friends by bike to Loch Einich

Postby Delice » Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:15 pm

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

Date walked: 30/06/2015

Time taken: 9.25 hours

Distance: 37.6 km

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This was day 3 of our 'Chasing weather across the north of Scotland' trip. We'd had good then bad weather on the west coast the previous 2 days so maybe the east would treat us better? MWIS seemed to think it might, although it was forecast to be another day of 35-40 mph with strong gusts on the higher ground. So after a disappointing day 2 on the eastern Fainnichs we - that's me and Mr T my walking buddy - took his van down to the Cairngorms. Nice campsite at Rothiemurchus. I think I might even have slept a bit! There was still cloud in the early morning but if strong winds were still around that made us think it might blow away! We set off about 8 and drove round to Whitewell. Both Mr T and I had been thinking this would make a good route to do Braeriach, after I had heard a programme on the radio that had talked about that valley. I think it was based on an old book talking about the natural history and so on. We left the van, noting the cloud seemed to be breaking and there were bits of blue sky. Whoop! This was hopeful!
A short spur took us onto one of the main north-south cycle routes heading south towards the plateau. Straight and wide, it was an absolute pleasure to ride. It had a lovely bound surface that was really smooth and at a good gradient for a gradual ascent, with beautiful open pine forest to either side. Noone else about yet. Soon we were approaching the lower slopes of the plateau and a fork in road. We chose to stick by the river on a narrower path running beside the water - a lot rougher going now, but beginning to see more of the open high ground emerging.
It looked like the cloud was stubbornly sticking to the head of the valley and we could feel the effect of the wind too.
The guy at the campsite had warned that there were thunderstorms forecast for later in the day, in which case we'd need to be off the plateau and away within 15 minutes or else we wouldn't get back over the river crossings! Alarming stuff and I could well believe it, having seen how even small Cairngorm burns can rise to angry torrents a year or so. We had to cross a few tributaries but at least there was a bridge over the main river.
We cycled about 10 kms up the valley - about 1 1/2 hours of riding - before leaving our bikes just short of the fork where a small path leads off up into Coire Dhondail - we'd spotted it way back from the main track.
Loch Einich itself was slightly hidden ahead by the lie of the land, but the encircling scarps of the Cairngorm plateau - particularly the crags of Sgor Gaoith and its northern spur - were impressive.
The path was narrow and winding, passing some lovely burns tumbling down waterfalls to the valley floor. As per usual I was fidgetting about - layers on, layers off? :? Hat on, hat off? :roll: Somewhere here I realised I'd lost my sunglasses 8) which was a major disaster, seeing as I was sure we were in for glorious sunshine [not! but you can never be sure!] Mr T was a bit ahead by now - my role as official team photographer always slows me up - often an excuse for a breather but don't let him know that! :wink: I decided to abandon searching for the sunnies thinking there was a chance we could drop down that way on the return - and caught him up. The corrie was impressive, with another waterfall where Allt Coire Dhondail appeared over the edge of the plateau and the clouds were also scudding over the rim pretty fast!
Higher up the path was very loose and moving under foot. Just shy of the top we stopped in a sheltered rocky cleft to take stock before we headed into the teeth of the wind and the minimal visibility of the clouds.
It was obvious we would be doing some compass work and Mr T retrieved our first waymark on the GPS.
The wind was strong as we topped the plateau, but we headed off into the cloud on our bearing, chatting about nonsense as you do on long walks! We were headed more or less east on rising ground, straight across the plateau to meet the far edge just above the col before Sgor an Lochain Uaine - Angel's Peak. Some exciting but limited views over the edge to thick slabs of snow, clinging to the crags,
but we couldn't see our destination.
This was about the best view we had all day from the plateau
:( Angel's Peak was shortly followed by Cairn Toul. :crazy:
This was one or other of them. Shockingly I can't remember which but it was probably Cairn Toul??
:lol: Rocky up and same down.
Now don't tell me Andy Goldworthy has been up on Cairn Toul doing his outdoor scuptures?
Still nothing to see and too cold to hang about for long! Even so, we met a few other nutters on similar missions to ours! One guy had come up from Glen Feshie and had decided to call it a day at the Angel's Peak.
Back at the bealach between CT and SaLU we did the obvious thing of contouring round at 1145m to avoid the re-climb, then followed the spur north as it started to turn away south. We hit the plateau edge again and continued past our initial joining point round onto Carn na Criche. We topped that, just for fun - it took a while to find the cairn! Then back to the edge for a km or so til we got to the place where the Dee forms a shallow valley before it tumbles over the edge. There was a group of youngsters ahead of us, carefully skirting a wide strip of snow filling the hollow. We could hear the water running underneath but it was solid and we marched straight across it. In the murk it was hard to see the solid ground beyond and maybe the others thought we were madly launching ouselves over the edge! They didn't follow us!
From here we took another bearing for the summit of Braeriach, and in another 15 minutes we were there! Several other parties turned up shortly after us - some had come across the Lairig Ghru. What a shame to be up on the 3rd 4th and 5th highest mountains in Scotland and not get a view! :( Of course I'll have to come back and do them in good weather, but still - a great sense of achievement. Our route off was to head south west across the plateau to Einich Cairn, then head down the steep slopes to meet our approach path - and hunt for my sunnies!
Picture of a puddle?!
As we dropped below the cloud again, the valley looked amazing stretching out ahead of us, with dappled sunshine even!
At first we were a bit disorientated because snow lying on the edge of Coire Bogha Cloicha made it look like a massive new valley to one side, which didn't appear to fit the map. Snow and angles of light can be very disceptive. Anyway, it turned out we were just where we hoped we'd be. Time for a bit of messing about in the sunshine - posing for photies and a spot of 'skiing'.
And dropping down, shortly afterwards Mr T found my sunglasses right by the path - Happy days! The wind was still strong, creating big waves running up Loch Einich as though we were at the seaside!
But this time it was going to blow us back down the valley, not work against us!
As usual the ride back down was much faster than the up. We were down in about 3/4 hour, this time taking the higher path where it forked at the river, which gave us an exhilarating fast downhill run to meet the main track back to Whitewell.
Red squirrels in the forest - an added bonus!
Just time for a quick dip in the cold river water before the midges caught up with us again. Then back to the van in some lovely evening sunshine.

A cracking day - despite the complete lack of plateau views! And that was a very good route. Any opportunity to use a bike to cut down on the tramp in and tramp out gets you off to a good start I reckon.

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Re: Braeriach and its friends by bike to Loch Einich

Postby Silverhill » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:50 pm

That looks like a great approach! I think I may use it for my trip to Braeriach. Thanks for sharing! :D
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Re: Braeriach and its friends by bike to Loch Einich

Postby dogplodder » Sat Jul 18, 2015 1:59 pm

Nice to see this approach and chuffed you got your sunnies! How likely was that? :D
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Re: Braeriach and its friends by bike to Loch Einich

Postby rockhopper » Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:53 pm

Enjoyed that ! Glad to see it cleared up for you.
The cycle out and back to Loch Einich is one my favourite mountain bike trips - try to do it at least once or twice each time on our holidays up in Coylumbridge - brings back great memories - cheers :)
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