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A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

A day of sun and moon on the windy hill


Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:36 am

Munros included on this walk: Sgor Gaoith

Date walked: 13/02/2016

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Under pink tinged clouds contained in a pale blue February sky Moira, Ramsay and I drove south from Feshiebridge towards the road end at Achlean Farm on an icy road made more treacherous by an overnight fall of snow. We passed the Cairngorm Gliding Club, which celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year and offers members and visitors unlimited gliding and soaring opportunities above the nearby Feshie hills and the Cairngorms, further east, throughout the year. On our left heather slopes and forests of native firs rose to the Feshie Hills, high rounded snow covered hills which form the western boundary of the Cairngorm Massif and are contained within the Cairngorm National Park. We were staying at the RAF Highland Activities Centre at Feshiebridge Lodge 8 miles from Aviemore for the Argyll Mountaineering Club weekend meet and we planned to climb the Munro Sgor Gaoith.

Since the early 19th Century Glenfeshie has been one of Scotlands most important areas for deer stalking, apt, that Edwin Landseer spent much time painting here and gained inspiration for painting his famous “Monarch of the Glen” in this beautiful glen. The cottage Landseer stayed in when in the glen sadly, all but a ruin, is located close to the MBA bothy at Ruigh Aiteachan. When Munro visited the area in 1892 it was still an important area for stalking exemplified by mountain writer Richard Gilbert in his fine book “Memorable Munros” when he tells of Munro noting that estate workers high on the Sgoran Dubh ridge indicated deer numbers by semaphore to stalkers located in a bothy by Loch Einich, far below. In his tables Munro afforded the Feshie hills a generous 5 Munros with 3 additional tops, however, later tinkering resulted in Geal Charn, Meall Dubhag and Carn Ban Mor being demoted to tops leaving only Sgor Gaoith and Mullach Clach a Blair as Munros.

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Ready to leave Achlean car park.


Moira, Ramsay and I left the car park and took a snow covered path across heather which rose gently towards a forest of native firs which hugs the lower slopes of the Feshie hills. A new understanding and cooperation between the controversial Danish owner and the Cairngorms National Park Authority and conservation groups, notably the charity Rewilding Scotland, has resulted in a remarkable transformation of the ecosystem of Glen Feshie. Since 2004 a concerted cull of deer numbers has enabled Scots Pine, Birch and Juniper, in retreat for centuries, to thrive. The woodland is now established and slowly creeping up the hillside providing habitat for our native mammals and birds like the rare black grouse and capercaillie.

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Entering Forest


In the shelter of the forest we gained height with little effort but soon the trees began to thin and we began to feel the full force of the eastern wind blowing down the bare hillside. Further on, we enjoyed a short stop and looking back beyond Glen Feshie picked out Meall Chuaich, most northerly of the Eastern Drumochter hills. All around the higher hills looked magnificent, their covering of pristine snow glistening in the glorious winter sun below an azure sky.

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Carn Ban Mor


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Looking up to Carn Ban Mor


Higher up without shelter the journey was made more difficult as dry soft windblown snow settled on the path making it almost impossible, in places, to make easy progress. Where possible we found easier walking at the side of the path, often, however, we were forced to struggle through the snow, sometimes knee deep, which sapped our energy but not our morale.

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Hard work on snow filled path


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We struggled on slowly to the bealach separating Car Ban Mor and Carn Ban Beag but there was little shelter from the keen wind to allow a comfortable stop for food and a hot drink so we continued on towards the top of Carn Ban Mor.

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On the steeper slopes the underfoot conditions were better, however, we now bore the full force of the wind which assaulted us with such force it blew the snow across the mountainside, as Moira observed, like a furious waterfall.

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We continued the slow tortuous climb on the exposed slope which seemed to go on for an eternity. Thankfully, it began to ease and we saw the summit cairn ahead, completely covered in snow, with a snow covered Braeriach, behind, separated by the deep trench formed by the southern edge of the Sgoran Dubh cliffs.

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Approaching Carn Ban Mor


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Carn Ban Mor with Braeriach behind


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Moira and Ramsay at summit of Carn Ban Mor


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Martin at summit of Carn Ban Mor


Moira and Ramsay decided to leave the walk to the Munro Sgor Gaoith and looked forward to a speedy tail wind return to the car park with, hopefully, bum slides down the snow fields we had struggled to climb. I said my goodbyes and walked north east on the arctic like plateau descending to a shallow bealach which seperates Carn Ban Mor from Sgor Gaoith, at 1118 metres, highest point on the massif. I had the wide plateau to myself and enjoyed the walk, though it was hard work on soft snow which rarely took my weight and despite the strong bitter wind blowing in from the east which buffeted me as I negotiated the exposed plateau. From the bealach I followed the distinctive lines of a skier towards the distant summit of Sgor Gaoith, which rose above the gently sloping plateau, its steep eastern slopes lit by the late morning sun.

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Looking towards Sgor Gaoith from plateau


Nearing the summit a numbing wind blowing from the east raged across the exposed slopes rising to the “peak of wind” and I walked through swirling spindrift which spiralled high to the heavens. Wary of the drop, but wanting a summit photograph which featured the cliffs, I walked across to the cliffs.

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Summit of Sgor Gaoith


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Summit of Sgor Gaoith


Thankfully, the wind blew towards me but happy with my photos I didn’t linger close to the edge and walked back to a safer line. I continued up the slopes through deep soft snow which caused me to stumble and flounder but reached the summit, bathed in winter sun. Although it was my first visit to the top, from reading accounts in this site and in various guide books I was aware that cliffs fell steeply from the summit, however, I wasn’t prepared for the scene that confronted me as I tentatively touched the snow covered cairn perched on the edge of the cliffs. Buffeted by gusts of wind which battered the cliffs and blasted by clouds of spindrift, I stood as close to the edge of the cliffs as I dared and peered down to the inky black waters of Loch Einich, 2000 feet below, which drew me like a magnet would draw metal shavings. For some Sgor Gaoith is one of the finest of the Cairngorm peaks and Gleann Einach provides a great view of the summit perched high on dark cliffs which form a formidable 2 mile long barrier of steep corries and granite buttresses. For me, this stunning and beautiful airy summit must be one of the scariest of Scotland’s mountains. In whiteout conditions it's proximity to the cliffs would test the navigational skills of even the most experienced and capable walker. Spooked, I stood back from the edge and slowly took in the stunning view. Far below, the waters of Loch Einich lazily flowed north down Gleann Einach on its long journey to the distant River Spey. Across from me a snowy Braeriach towered above Loch Einich, its triple western corries in shadow protected on the north and south by sharp ridges which seemed to hug the heart of the mountain in a protective embrace.

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Braeriach from Sgor Gaoith


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From Sgor Gaoith to Carn Ban Mor


I found a sheltered spot just below the top and enjoyed a cup of hot coffee and sandwich. As I sat I watched a group in file silently climbing towards me their red jackets contrasting with the bright sunlit snow. Before they reached me I left the summit and began my journey back to Achlean and my car. On returning to the path I dropped back down Coire Fhearagan passing several groups slowly fighting the slope and wind as they climbed towards Carn Ban Mor. Before reaching Achlean I took a last look back beyond the woods to Carn Ban Mor, its snowy slopes spectacular below a pale crescent moon, visible in the afternoon sky.
Attachments
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Above forest
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Last edited by Jeremiah Johnson on Wed Feb 24, 2016 9:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Jeremiah Johnson
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby Yorjick » Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:43 am

Great photos and interesting to see the ski tracks. You all look so dynamic! :clap:
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby The Rodmiester » Fri Feb 19, 2016 10:46 am

Nice report there Martin, glad we went West though although on the Saturday like you the wind gusts were something else. Good effort under these conditions though, soft deep snow is an absolute killer for sapping strength. Great photos by the way, catch up at the next meet and then the great WH Gairloch Meet awaits :D
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:32 am

The Rodmiester wrote:Nice report there Martin, glad we went West though although on the Saturday like you the wind gusts were something else. Good effort under these conditions though, soft deep snow is an absolute killer for sapping strength. Great photos by the way, catch up at the next meet and then the great WH Gairloch Meet awaits :D

Thanks Rod Saturday was a great day except for the wind. See you next month.
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:35 am

Yorjick wrote:Great photos and interesting to see the ski tracks. You all look so dynamic! :clap:

Thanks Yorjick. Snow and blue skies help enhance photographs :D The ski tracks gave a nice line to follow to the summit.
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby katyhills » Fri Feb 19, 2016 5:05 pm

What a terrific report. That photo from Gaoich towards Braeriach actually made me gasp. Beautiful summit pic too. :D
You had a great day by the look of it - hard work through the snow though!
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Fri Feb 19, 2016 10:08 pm

katyhills wrote:What a terrific report. That photo from Gaoich towards Braeriach actually made me gasp. Beautiful summit pic too. :D
You had a great day by the look of it - hard work through the snow though!

Many thanks Katy. It was a great day and worth the effort climbing up to Carn Ban Mor......which was torture at times :D I couldn't believe how good the view was from the summit to Braeriach. I think the contrast of the black water of the loch with the snow on Braeriach made it so special. Can't remember enjoying a better summit view!!
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby katyhills » Sat Feb 20, 2016 2:17 pm

Really stunning pic JJ - hope you're entering some of those ones in the competition! :wink:
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby brocoli » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:41 pm

Cracking photos! It seems like a winter dream in the Cairngorms :) I climbed Sgor Gaoith in early October (the described WH route) in a sort of afternoon stroll ;) the weather was brilliant, even the temperature was about 15°C. But the WIND on the summit... :D It truly is the windy peak!
The views over Loch Einich towards Braeriach were really amazing - it looks even better with the snow!

2 photos from October 8th
Image

Image
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby brocoli » Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:38 pm

Here are some more photos of my trip: http://brocoli.sirius.uberspace.de/blog/14e-wanderung-sgor-gaoith.php - Sorry, ist auf Deutsch...
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby dooterbang » Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:06 pm

Brilliant photos :)

Looked a fund day out 8)
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Sun Feb 21, 2016 11:24 pm

katyhills wrote:Really stunning pic JJ - hope you're entering some of those ones in the competition! :wink:

Thanks Kate. Yes I will need to think about entering the photo of Braeriach! That's my favourite :D
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby katyhills » Sun Feb 21, 2016 11:27 pm

It's a beauty JJ

I'd certainly vote for it :D
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Sun Feb 21, 2016 11:41 pm

brocoli wrote:Here are some more photos of my trip: http://brocoli.sirius.uberspace.de/blog/14e-wanderung-sgor-gaoith.php - Sorry, ist auf Deutsch...

Yes the name is very apt. Must be how the wind is channelled up the cliffs to the summit. The snow and sun helped make the day a bit special. But a great one to climb on any day as your photos show!!
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Re: A day of sun and moon on the windy hill

Postby Jeremiah Johnson » Mon Feb 22, 2016 12:28 am

dooterbang wrote:Brilliant photos :)

Looked a fund day out 8)

Many thanks D. It was a great day. Nice to be out in the sun on snow. Even though it was soft as sugar and blowing a hoolie :) :)
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