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Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby old danensian » Tue Jun 07, 2016 12:41 pm

Route description: An Sgarsoch and Càrn an Fhidhleir

Munros included on this walk: An Sgarsoch, Càrn an Fhìdhleir (Càrn Ealar)

Date walked: 24/05/2016

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 44 km

Ascent: 982m

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During every walk I spend time wondering what the theme of my trip report will be. Stunning views, lasting memories or peculiar incidents prompt ideas, while atmosphere, weather or company stimulate creative juices. I try to avoid the "he-said-she-said-and-we-all-stepped-in-a-puddle" style.

Early morning promise on Royal Deeside

However, on my second cycle out of the Linn of Dee in a fortnight, Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch almost left me bereft. I wasn't expecting towering pinnacles, swooping ridges or plunging chasms: after all, it was the Cairngorms. I knew there'd be no technical challenges to overcome, and if the weather kept its side of the bargain, there'd be little chance of a navigational epic.

So, apart from the pummelling my bum would get on the lengthy cycle in and out, I was curious to know what would emerge: a sense of achievement, exhaustion or curiosity about why on earth I set out in the first place?

An Sgarsoch lurks in the distance - an awfully long way to ride

The last time I was here, snowmelt was cascading off the mountains in torrents. As a result, I suspected the Geldie, and the burns flowing into it, were likely to be high. The possibility of ending the day with wet feet meant that discomfort could feature in whatever I wrote. While thin streaks of snow marked the flat summits far in the distance, my surroundings gave no clues or prompts for a theme.

Dilapidated cottage on the Geldie Burn - Cnapan Garbh behind

In the end, the cycle to the White Bridge and beyond was lengthy if uneventful: a couple of passing conversations, plenty of gravel-bound rattling and two streams that were low enough to cross without getting wet. The final crossing, to reach the rubble and crumbling gables of Geldie Lodge, proved to be a paddle waiting to happen. Old trainers on; deep breath; take the plunge: still, nothing untoward or remarkable.

Dry feet finally defeated at Geldie Lodge

The ruined gables of Geldie Lodge with An Sgarsoch rising up in the background

The forecast brightening failed to materialise. The sky was grey and skeins of cloud kept drifting across the top of Carn an Fhidhleir. The dark browns and washed-out greens of the hillsides were dull and lacked the shadowy contrasts that early morning sun can bring. Inspiration and motivation remained in short supply.

With dry boots on, I set off westwards past the remains of the lodge across the lower slopes of Scarsoch Bheag. The eastern flank of Carn an Fhidhleir gradually filled the horizon as the path approached the Allt.a Chaorainn - and then began to descend. Before getting lured too far down, I struck off across the rising ground. There was nothing to suggest a defined route except the vestige of a path here and there: just pick a spot on the northern spur of Carn an Fhidhleir, and aim for it.

Carn an Fhidhleir - don't drop to far to the north and go for it

A quick burst of step kicking through a thin band of snow and the top was in reach. About five hundred metres further south, shattered rocks around the cairn marked the high point on the expansive dome of grass, gravel and stones. Like many tops roundabout, the benefits are derived from the 360 degree panorama of surrounding hills, rather than an airy perch attained by result of a challenging strenuous struggle. One striking feature in the distant north west fixed my identification progress: The Window on Creag Megaidh.

The Beinn a Ghlo group from the summit of Carn an Fhidhleir

The Window on Creag Megaidh in the distance from Carn an Fhidhleir

The inevitably dispiriting descent to a bealach followed: a thousand feet down and then back up - and some. Like the earlier paddle, it was simply a case of head down and get on with it for forty minutes. By now this had all the hallmarks of a boring report.

An Sgarsoch from Carn an Fhidhleir - from 994m down to 710m then back up all the way, plus another six metres

Another field of shattered stones greeted me in the middle of which stood the cairn and the welcoming arms of a shelter. I enjoyed yet more summit spotting as the sun began to appear and patches of blue sky began to outdo the clouds.

Wrapped warm against the northerly wind I headed north from the top, towards the scratch of a path to the west of Scarsoch Bheag. As height and wind dropped, temperatures went in the opposite direction, triggering a thought that then lodged in my mind for the remainder of the day.

Summit cairn of An Sgarsoch

Across the upper reaches of Glen Feshie - and is that Sgor Gaoith in the distance?

Shedding layers as the path gently descended and swept towards Geldie Lodge, I remained above the outward path: but then it just stopped. Left suspended, I dropped to the original path rather than risk wading through an unexpected boggy patch before reaching the lodge.

With heat rising that thought and prospect began to burrow deeper.

Patches of blue sky now outnumbered cloud. The view across to Beinn a Bhuird gradually sank below the horizon as I descended: after today it would be my only remaining red balloon this side of the Great Glen. As I began to warm, that thought became a craving. It conjured an image that lured me, and gave a tantalizing hope that the end would elevate the day above the mere mundane.

Back at the Geldie Burn I retrieved the trainers: still sadly damp. Persistence or a perceptible drop in level of water meant I managed to cross back to the bike without getting wet feet. The remainder of the day was no longer an unknown chapter, rather a reverse of the outbound bone-shake, but with a reward as concluding compensation.

Back at the Geldie Burn - the final watery barrier between me and my craving

While pedaling back I felt no nearer finding an angle for a trip report. The walk not been spectacular, there had been no stirring sense of achievement on touching two new cairns on my Munro journey, and I’m sorry to admit that this corner of the Cairngorms had left me cold.

Nevertheless, I’d still enjoyed the day. Hills always have an invigorating effect, and I guess I’m an endorphin junkie who simply thrives on the exercise.

Retreating alongside the Geldie Burn as the heat rises

Faced with the final cycle, tiring legs were spurred on by the tantalising prospect that formed on the descent from An Sgarsoch. What had taken seventy five minutes on the way out, now took only fifty on the return to the Linn of Dee. After eight hours on the go I was grateful that the car took the strain on the last leg to what had become my final objective.

The lure of a Magnum from the Co-op in Braemar.

Some might say that they are ludicrously priced at £1.80 – especially when, for another twenty pence, you can get a whole box of six Mini Magnums (or should that be Magna?) when they are on offer at Sainsbury’s or Morrisons - but when the thought of one has grown into the driving force of your day it’s money well-spent on nectar.

Suffice to say, I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to revisit these two Munros, but I will be back at the Co-op’s freezer for another magnum in Braemar.
Last edited by old danensian on Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby portinscale » Tue Jun 07, 2016 1:27 pm

A nice bit of writing. These two are on my radar and I'm quite looking forward to going to the back of beyond.
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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby Borderhugh » Tue Jun 07, 2016 2:40 pm

Well done Nigel. Definitely one for the bike. That you could see the Window on CM is amazing. I bet that river crossing is looking a lot different now given the recent great dry, hot spell. I did these with Martin last year and quite enjoyed it. Sadly we didnt stop for ice creams!
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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby pollyh33 » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:43 pm

Easily one of my least favourite adventures on the hills!

And strangely enough it was only the thought of a Cornetto in Braemar that kept me going too!
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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby Tinman » Tue Jun 07, 2016 4:53 pm

I am with you on this one.

I did the exact same thing (buy a Magnum) as soon as I returned to civilisation on Sunday after completing the Fisherfield Six. To be fair it was probably the thought of an ice cream that kept me going towards the end.

You may well have got a bargain as I am sure mine was over the £2.00 mark but, the way I felt, I would have paid anything.

The rest of your report was good as well!
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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby Fife Flyer » Tue Jun 07, 2016 6:51 pm

Hats off to you Nigel for trying to make those two hills interesting - not an easy job :( :clap: :clap:

I still remember trying to keep up with Hugh on my bike that was literally shaking me to bits, the walking was actually enjoyable after the suffering :lol:
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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby jepsonscotland » Tue Jun 07, 2016 7:17 pm

Nice one, Nigel :clap: :clap:
A great effort in 8 hours :shock:

We did it in November and got similar weather, a great day out, loved every minute.
The feeling of remoteness was amazing! Your pics were far better than mine. :wink:

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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby PeteR » Tue Jun 07, 2016 8:13 pm

I quite enjoyed these two hills :roll:

My ice cream of choice has to be the Irn Bru :D
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Re: Fhidhleir, Sgarsoch and the lure of the Co-op

Postby simon-b » Tue Jun 07, 2016 9:19 pm

You've been knocking off a few remote ones lately, Nigel. I did enjoy these two, quite a wild feel about the place.
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