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A wee walk in the Cairngorms

A wee walk in the Cairngorms

Postby MountainMiscreant » Sun Sep 27, 2015 7:28 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Sgarsoch, Beinn a' Bhùird, Beinn a' Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Bhreac, Beinn Bhrotain, Ben Avon, Monadh Mòr, Mullach Clach a' Bhlàir, Sgòr Gaoith

Date walked: 16/09/2015

Distance: 100 km

Ascent: 5000m

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Living in London, I've been slowly bagging munros at the rate of around 20 or 30 a year, getting up to 220 - until two years ago. Then I decided to learn paragliding with the ambition of hiking up and flying off a few munros before I compleate. So the Highlands have been neglected while I've been learning to fly :( Finally though I've returned for a wee walk. Not fly because: 1) The weather forecast looked a bit doubtful for flying and 2) I wanted to do more than just a hike up/fly down day trip :)

Of course, having not been up to Scotland for a while I wasn't sure of my hill fitness. I needed a new pair of hiking shoes, and as my old waterproof jacket had worn out I would be using a new jacket, untried and untested by personal experience. New gear and uncertain fitness.. what could possibly go wrong? I just needed a prudent plan. So naturally instead I planned one of my most ambitious walks yet - a five day hike in the Cairngorms, which would mean sleeping out and carrying a 15kg pack :)

I still had nine of the 'gorms left to do, but the ones I'd done were all the 'central' ones and the ones left were on the east and west sides! Not the most convenient! I also had An Sgarsoch still to tidy from an attempted Tarf round in which it was missed. Puzzling over the map I worked out a way to do all of them except Bynack More. I just couldn't fit it in, so it remains still to be tidied, but at least it is more accessible than An Sgarsoch :) This was my plan: Sleeper to Aberdeen, then Day 1 (Wednesday 16th) bus to Bridge of Dee. Ben Avon camp out near or at Beinn a Bhuird. Day 2 (Thursday 17th) Beinn a Bhuird, Beinn a Chaorainn, Beinn Bhreac, descend to Derry Lodge and walk all the way around to Corrour Bothy. Day 3 (Friday 18th) Monadh Mor, Beinn Bhrotain, descend to Geldie Lodge, put up tent and do An Sgarsoch, camp out at Geldie Lodge. Day 4 (Saturday 19th) Geldie Lodge to Mullach Clach a Bhlair, Sgor Gaioth, camp out somewhere on the way down. Day 5 (Sunday 20th) walk out to Aviemore. Sleeper train back to London.

I started my ascent of Ben Avon from the Bridge of Dee at about 10.30. The weather was fine with low cloud, the walk up Glen Slugain seemed to take forever but I eventually reached the Sneck, close to 4pm. I'd met one other walker on his way down, and he was to be the only person I'd see that day. By the time I reached the Sneck I pretty much knew that, weather permitting, I'd be able to complete the planned walk - the weight of the pack wasn't giving me any trouble, it was only going to get lighter, and my legs were fine. From the Sneck it was a short walk up to the summit of Ben Avon and a play on the tor. The clouds were only just above tor height, some were lower and there wasn't much to be seen looking down into the valley below, but at least it was dry!

Descending back to the Sneck I refilled my water bottle and ascended the opposite side towards Ben Bhuird, intending to camp below Cnap a Cheilirich, which I did, putting up my tent about 6pm. It had been a satisfying day with the timing being as I expected.


That night it rained a lot, with some wind and I was mindful of the last forecast I'd seen for my next day, Thursday - expecting a lot of rain and wind strengths enough to make walking uncomfortable. I wasn't looking forwards to that, if that was how it was going to be. But I awoke to no rain, and no wind :) Just a lot of clag :( This was the view from my tent in the morning!


I set off in the clag for Ben a Bhuird, with visibility of about 50m. I took a direct bearing to the summit and started walking until I was just thinking it should be somewhere close and should check the GPS when the summit cairn appeared suddenly, about 50m to my right!


Still in the clag I took another bearing to the Moine Bhealaidh below Beinn a Chaorainn. As I walked cloudbase raised, views started appearing, and I felt confident that it was going to be a good day.


Two hours later I was on the summit of Beinn a Chaorainn, and another two hours after that on Beinn Bhreac.


It was only 2pm but it was going to be a long walk from there to Corrour Bothy, my next overnight stop. It took me until 6pm to reach Corrour Bothy, and I didn't see anyone the whole day, I was the first person to arrive in the bothy that evening - but not the last :) By 8pm four other people had turned up, and that was it for the night.

The next day started as the last ended, with low cloud but above the summits. The plan for this day was to contour around Devils Point into Glen Guesachan and find a way up between the crags onto the Monadh Mor plateau. As I followed the Guesachan Burn around the corner I looked out for a climbable line and readily saw one that suggested itself to me.

I crossed the burn and started making my way up the line I'd seen from a distance. It was pretty much as expected - steep, on slippery wet grass, with just a slightly difficult part between rocks at one point, beyond which the going onto the plateau was easy. Once onto the plateau I quickly reached Monadh Mor and began descending towards the bealach between it an Beinn Bhrotain. On the way day down to the bealach I met two people, one of whom was just about to compleat on Monadh Mor!

The walk over onto Beinn Bhrotain was easy and I took a break. It was only about 1pm and the clouds had finally properly lifted. Life was good. Now just a small question of how long it would take to reach Geldie Lodge - I needed to reach there with enough time left in the day to do An Sgarsoch? I have to say that after descending Beinn Bhrotain the walk across its lower slopes seemed to take forever - a never ending expanse of almost flat, boggy mooreland. I reached the Geldie Lodge at 4pm and had the tent up and rucksack contents reduced to a minimum by 4.20pm.

Now the question was should I go for An Sgarsoch? It would be terrible pity, having come this far, to miss it. But if I did it, I would not be back at the tent until after sunset, and possibly not before dark? Well, of course there was no real question about it - fortune favours the bold :) Anyway I've navigated my way off hills in the dark before, this isn't difficult terrain, there was a stream I could handrail practically all the way down, so going for it was the only option :) As I neared the summit I saw a herd of deer running across the slope on the horizon.


In the end I was back at the tent just before it got properly dark. I awoke the next day, my last true hill day, to bright sunshine. It was a Saturday and a couple of people were already passing the lodge for their hill day just as I finished packing up. The bright sunshine continued all morning as I made my way along following the Geldie Burn until the waterfall over the Eidart. On the way I passed a woman who'd been so busy applying what I presume was suncream to her face and neck that she hadn't noticed my approach - she screamed and practically jumped out of her skin when I said 'hello'. That's the first time I've ever had to apologise for giving someone a shock just for saying 'hello'. Or for just saying anything in fact :)

Shortly after the waterfall I started an ascending traverse towards a spur of Mullach Clach a Bhlair. It was an easy way up onto the mountain, but as I reached the plateau the sun, which had been so bright and promising all morning, started to become cloud covered. Low cloud started to sweep in just as I reached the 4x4 track, and by the time I reached the summit cairn there were no views and I was once again, as with so many of my summits, in clag.

From Mullach Clach a Bhlair to Sgor Gaoith there were no difficulties but I wasn't sure where I would camp that night. I thought of making my last camp high, on the bealach before Sgor Gaioth, but that meant carrying 2l of water for the night and next morning's breakfast from the Caochan Dubh, as there would be no certainty of finding any more water en route after that. The extra weight in the rucksack made the last part of the walk seem harder than it should have been! Anyway I duly arrived at the bealach below Sgor Gaioth, left my rucksack had a quick walk up to the summit which I reached about 5pm and was suprised to find someone else approaching it from another direction just before me! He was also planning to camp out.


I was back at the rucksack by 5.15, and as there was still lots of light left in the day decided not to camp high but descend down towards Glen Feshie. Unfortunately there were no good camping options before the start of the forested area and I pitched my tent in the flatest and driest place I could find in a boggy, midge infested area! Camping up on the bealach would have been better!

All that was then left for the Sunday was a leisurely walk out as far as Feshiebridge, with beautiful sunlit views of the valley below, all the way across to Monadh Liath mountains on the other side of the A9.

Of course, I had to stop for a while to watch the gliders of the Cairngorms Gliding Club taking off, and wished I'd been able to see these mountains from above - the closest I got to any flying on this visit! Maybe next time :)

I decided that Feshiebridge was the official end of my walk, and hitched from there into Aviemore where I had a few hours to kill before a bus to connect with a train to connect with my sleeper back to London. A most enjoyable 5 days of pretty good walking weather. It was great to be back :)
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Re: A wee walk in the Cairngorms

Postby Silverhill » Sun Sep 27, 2015 9:33 pm

Wow, what a trek!!!!!! :shock: :crazy: :clap:
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Re: A wee walk in the Cairngorms

Postby weescotsman » Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:17 am

Not a bad "wee" walk indeed...... stunning to say the least.
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Re: A wee walk in the Cairngorms

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:54 am

Nice route, pity that the weather was on the grey side.
Good place to be for a few days on the trot, really get to feel the big spaces
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Re: A wee walk in the Cairngorms

Postby dogplodder » Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:55 am

Enjoyed seeing these hills linked up like that. I did them in pairs or separately so it was good to mentally follow your route! 8)
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Re: A wee walk in the Cairngorms

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:59 am

That's a big old walk that! Nice one.
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Re: A wee walk in the Cairngorms

Postby teaandpies » Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:09 pm

Amazing :clap:
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