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2nd Time Lucky at Sgor Gaoith

2nd Time Lucky at Sgor Gaoith

Postby David182 » Tue Oct 20, 2015 4:50 pm

Route description: Sgor Gaoith, from Glen Feshie

Munros included on this walk: Sgor Gaoith

Date walked: 18/10/2015

Time taken: 6.23 hours

Distance: 18.5 km

Ascent: 923m

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Over a week ago, on saturday night, I decided to start planning for a Munro the next day. The weather had been proving fantastic, and I was distinctly bitter that I hadn't been able to get out and enjoy it. A quick phone call to my friend Ewen, and a bit of research on this site, and it was decided we would give Sgor Gaoith a go in the morning. After glancing through the walk reports, it sounded pretty easy. What could go wrong?!
Come sunday morning, and the weather was proving a bit gloomy. But we figured we'd get a break, and surely at some point we'd be able to savour the views over Loch Einich. After some disagreements with my satnav, we finally got through Feshiebridge, and past the Cairngorm Gliding Club, and parked up at the first car park we got to. Which was empty, but the sign there promised us a nice straightforward ascent to the summit. And so we set off through the forested area, and almost straight away came upon a fork in the path. Now dear reader, you will remember how I said I "glanced" at the walk reports..... Well, unfortunately I neglected to read the part where you take the left fork. We figured the right path was larger, therefore we should take that.... From that point on we were utterly scuppered. The path zig zagged up and around Creag Ghiubhsachan, and then into the valley that we wanted to head along, but crucially, on the wrong side. And even more crucially, it just stopped dead. At this point hindsight would advise retracing one's steps, but we decided that we should march onwards, and we'd surely pick up a path. I mean, it couldn't just end?!
And so we beat through the heather, straining desperately to see a path. At one point we thought we saw an unusual marker or stone from a distance, which we figured must surely be on a path. Upon crossing a small valley to get to it, we started to think it was a motorbike or quad, "hurrah, we've done it", only to realise it was a particularly shiny, doubled over tree. I can't even begin to tell you the embarrassment.
We travelled further along the valley, looking enviously over to the other side where we could see a clear path, as we trudged through heather and mossy outcrops. We'd gone too far to just cut over. It would have taken an age. Eventually we started to see the path coming down from Carn Ban Mor, and decided to cut upwards towards it. It was at this point Ewen revealed to me that he was having visions of us being airlifted off the side of the hill. I have no idea why we were naked but I guess that's just how his mind works!!
As we neared the top of the ridge we were aiming for, we could see the cloud coming in, surrounding Carn Ban Mor and of course our eventual target, Sgor Gaoith. I'd read about how dangerous Sgor Gaoith could be in bad weather, and was starting to have serious doubts about going any further. As we approached the path, at long last, we both had to pull on our waterproofs. We exhausted, and the Gods seemed to be against us. I knew Sgor Gaoith wasn't far away, but I also knew the best thing about the summit was the view, and if we weren't going to be able to enjoy that, then it wasn't worth it for us.

To continue onwards in hope, or cut our losses?

I think it was a unanimous decision in the end. The walk back was horrible. This was a new experience to both of us; walking back with no feeling of accomplishment, and very much licking our wounds. When we got to the end of the path, and met the single track road, I realised just how far away we had to walk to the car. This did not help matters one little bit!!

track (1).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Cut to a week later and compare with.....

track (2).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

All week the attempt at Sgor Gaoith had been niggling at me. It hurt! Yes, ok, so ultimately it was down to the weather that we called it quits, but what if?! So when Ewen agreed to give it another go this week, with all the forecasts promising decent things, I was psyched up!!
What a difference it makes when you follow the right path. It was a genuinely beautiful sight, walking along the path, being able to see it snaking ahead into the distance. Honestly, fantastic feeling!! We were so focused on our target, and looking across at where we were last week, that by the time we looked behind us, it was quite a striking view.

Looking back towards Glen Feshie

The track meanders along the north-easterly side of the valley, and is very straightforward, until it reaches the base of what is the real climb. It becomes slightly boggy in places, but in truth this too felt beautiful at times, and occasionally reminding us of a summer day at the Faerie Pools in Skye.

The Glen Feshie Faerie Pools?!

This is where the real climb starts. Honestly, it's the steepest, most difficult section of the day. In reality it perhaps only takes about 20-30 minutes, but it's a slog. Afterwards, the climb plateau's out slightly, before increasing again toward the target ridge. It was on the plateau we both sat down to catch our breath, and replenish ourselves.
On our last trip here, we had caught sight of a glider, and it's tug plane far above us. We wondered if they had spotted us and were laughing as we beat our way through the heather. Today though, it felt like we could reach out and touch the aircraft. What an experience, and not for the last time I'll stress, photos don't do it justice. We watched as the tug plane seperated from the glider and made it's way back to HQ, as the glider banked and twisted and turned above us. It felt unearthly, watching this aircraft which looks huge due to it's giant wingspan, silently performing such aerobatics with ease. A private airshow just for the 2 of us.

Tug plane and glider behind

The glider going solo

After sitting marveling at the air show for a good while, we felt fully recharged, and our spirits were soaring. The next, steep looking, ascent felt like a stroll through a flat field (albeit with a fantastic view behind us).

Looking north-west, as the ridge looms closer

The path here was just superb, and before we knew it we could see the other cairngorms off in the distance, as we levelled out between Sgor Gaoith and Carn Ban Mor. The weather up here was great, and only a slight gust at times. We joked that it would be very easy to camp up here, as we made our way towards out target, which finally burst into view.

Our first proper glimpse of Sgor Gaoith

As we got closer, we admired the hills we could see off to the west, as you could almost point out exactly the glacial striation marks from where we were. It was beautiful. As we got closer to the summit, the path eases it's way to the easterly side of the ridge, and eventually you get to see the most incredible view in all it's glory. We had to pick our jaws up off the floor.


Sgor Gaoith summit to the left, Loch Einich waaaaaay down there!

The apparent pile of stacked up rocks that make Sgor Gaoith's summit

There was just so many beautiful aspects of the view! Truly breathtaking.
What we found almost as staggering was that there was no sign of anyone else. We hadn't passed, or seen sign of anyone for the whole ascent, and here we were able to marvel at one of the most spectacular sights we'd ever seen, in peace. We took as many photos as we felt we needed, to be able to convince ourselves, it was that beautiful, and enjoyed some well earned lunch.

The view from the actual summit. Yes, I am crouched down whilst taking this. I didn't trust my own 2 feet

I managed to stand up for about 30 seconds

Eventually we noticed a group of 4 heading towards us from Carn Ban Mor, and another couple from Meall Buidhe. We decided to get going. It's not that we're antisocial, but we just didn't really want to share this view with anyone, and in a way, we were probably doing them a favour, enabling them to experience the views as we did.
We had decided we would keep our options open about getting to Mullach Clach a'Bhlair, but we were aware time was marching on. Our aim was to descend on the same path we had the previous week. We felt it would mean we weren't doing a dull "walk up, walk down", and more of a loop which included Carn Ban Mor, and possibly the a second munro. Upon getting to the cairn for Carn Ban Mor however, we decided just to start descending. Mullach Clach a'Bhlair just felt like it was a bit of a trek, for little reward, and honestly, we were just delighted that the day had gone as planned thus far!
So we headed down the path, where we passed a father and young daughter, and a young family of 4 and a dog. We were both distinctly impressed at the young kids that had made it up here (albeit, quite apparent that it was somewhat against their will). But it also made us glad we had chosen to ascend on the other path, as this, obviously recently renovated path, seemed to be the more "touristy" path.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for people enjoying the outdoors. It's just nice when it feels like it's just you and nature. In all seriousness, after all the steps going up Ben Wyvis a few weeks ago, and coming down this path which also features some pretty high steps, I was doubly relieved at our choice!

The path down snakes into the distance

What a difference a week makes. Sgor Gaoith gave me such a buzz. Even back at work on monday I was grinning away. The walk back along the road to the car felt like it took 10 minutes this time round.
Seriously though, I know I've titled this post with regards to the luck we had with the weather, but I think it's worth stressing how important it is to do your homework on any route you're unfamiliar with. We certainly learned a lesson, and I think in the end, we were wise and played it safe. We initially only decided to attempt Sgor Gaoith the night before, and any research was blatantly lacking in key points. We joked about firing off a flare gun at one point, if we'd had one. Please make sure that isn't you!
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Re: 2nd Time Lucky at Sgor Gaoith

Postby rockhopper » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:01 pm

Glad to see you made it on the second attempt - looked well worth the wait. Loch Einich - one of my favourite spots and you saw far more than I did up there in the mist :roll: - cheers :)
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Re: 2nd Time Lucky at Sgor Gaoith

Postby Silverhill » Wed Oct 21, 2015 9:52 pm

Ah yes, been there done that got the t-shirt too :lol:
What an amazing view you got from the summit! I need to return to Sgor Gaoith for this.
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