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An Awesome Cairngorm Day Out
by achillespilot » Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:43 pm
Route description: Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse
Munros included on this walk: Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, The Devil's Point
Date walked: 15/07/2015
Time taken: 10 hours
Distance: 36 km
Ascent: 1860m5 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).
After a bleary-eyed 5:15am departure from Ayr I arrived at the Sugarbowl car park just after 8:20am to be met by low cloud and drizzly rain... But the MWIS assured me this would lift and the forecast was for low wind, high cloud and periodic sunshine. Fingers crossed then.
I set off shortly after and by the Chalamain Gap the jacket was off and the rain had stopped. I found the Gap pretty easy to cross as the rock was nice and sticky and hopping between the large boulders with my tent/sleeping bag free rucksack proved fairly straightforward. I had made it to the other side by around 9.30am, so thought I was making decent time (a friend had assured me I'd make it to the bothy in 2 hours - it wasn't til after he thought to tell me he'd jogged it!).
A short time later the Lairig Ghru appeared in all its majesty and I must admit I was pretty impressed. It's been a while since I enjoyed the scenery as much as I did on this walk, it really was stunning.
Something a bit Nepalese about this one, with Devil's Point in the background.
Although I was enjoying the views, the valley seemed never ending and it wasn't long before I realised I was never making it to the bothy by my target time of 11am. I started debating the merits of a 'timed' walk at this point. Part of me enjoys having to focus on speed and sticking to targets, part of me wishes - especially on a walk as beautiful as this one - I had more time to enjoy the scenery! I decided I would turn back if I didn't reach the bothy by 12, and the race was on.
I eventually reached the bothy at 11:56am, almost 3.5 hours after setting off. I immediately headed up the Devil's Point looking forward to a rest at the top. The climb was steep but fairly short and I made it in good time, meeting a gentleman at the top who had approached from the south and was attempting the same route minus Braeriach.
The sheer height of the next peak (which isn't even a Munro) compared to the Devil's Point was pretty intimidating, but once up that it wasn't far to Cairn Toul. I had barely stopped by this point so had my first proper rest for 10-15 minutes and took on some food. The views were spectacular and despite almost constant sunshine the occasional spot of rain provided welcome relief from the heat!
The walk from Cairn Toul to Sgor an Lochain Uaine looked like a mere hop so I thought if I get this one out of the way it'll be one (albeit the 3rd highest in the country) more to go! After about half an hour I was atop Angel's Peak and feeling pretty good. I had 4.5 hours to get back to my car and complete the route in my target of 10.5 hours.
At this point I'll digress and mention that my last proper day on the hills had been a couple of weeks back when I'd bagged the south Glen Shiel ridge on a horrible clammy day cumulating in fork lightening and thunderstorms. My mate and I had a few too many in the Cluanie Inn the night before and then camped along the track, managing 3 hours sleep before setting off at 2.30am. I felt awful the whole day and really struggled. So back in the Cairngorms I was glad to be feeling good after a so far pretty strenuous but satisfying day!
The walk round to Braeriach was really enjoyable as the climbs were gradual and the terrain was mostly level ground. The melting snow in the coires had formed some pretty incredible shapes. I reached the top after about an hour of walking and ate the last of my food.
I'm now over a quarter of the way through the Munros and although I'm still a relative novice, I have enough experience behind me to conserve some energy for the way down. I knew this was going to be a pretty tough descent of around 12km including some rough terrain on tired legs... and it proved to be so! The initial section was on good path but long and without much height-loss. This was followed by a steep descent into the Lairig Ghru and then a climb (yes a climb on the way 'down' - not impressed!) up to the Chalamain Gap.
The Gap was nice and dry so was pretty easy going, and once I was through I knew it would be less than an hour to my car. By this time I was out of water and feeling pretty shattered, but kept plodding on and was delighted to make it back in 10 hours and 5 minutes!
I'd recommend attempting this in one day, I'm reasonably fit but definitely carrying a few extra pounds of my own and I would probably rate it 8/10 for difficulty. I'd imagine carrying the extra food, bedding and possibly tent to do it overnight would negate the few hours rest you were gaining. In all this was probably the best day I've had on the hills so far despite pushing myself time-wise and being on my own - can't wait to get out for another epic day soon!
by teaandpies » Mon Jul 20, 2015 10:10 pm
I can't wait to get this done.
by Driftwood » Mon Jul 20, 2015 10:21 pm
You look to have been lucky with the weather, too - I've only had "overcast" or even cloudier for the couple of walks into the central Cairngorms so far. And well done on getting around ahead of time, that's quite some distance and ascent, especially with so much rough ground.
by ancancha » Mon Jul 20, 2015 11:19 pm
by achillespilot » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:38 pm
by Silverhill » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:29 pm