For my first entry, out of the 46 Munros I have bagged to date, I thought it would be fitting to write about debatably my worst adventure. No one got hurt or anything like that, and I will get round to writing the good ones, but this story needs told. Don't get me wrong, I have been exceptionally lucky in my trips to date and Sgor Gaoith is a great hill, but this trip was just bloomin ridiculous.
I often turn to the Cairngorms when I want to do a Munro and the weather isn't the best, predominantly due to the fact they are not too far from where I live and they have been usually hassle free. Conditions looked OK, great visibility and reasonably dry and warm until about 800m. Yet this was deceiving - it was just going to be one of the days where everything went awrang.
The day started surprisingly well in hindsight, in that we actually found the hill relatively easily. Usually I find the hardest part getting to the f*cking starting point. Myself and my good friend Nicky Stooge had brought our mountain bikes with us to practice our wheelies, but within only ten minutes when we reached the boulder at the Cairngorms National Nature Reserve sign my chain decided to snap. I don't tend to have good luck with bikes on hills, whether it's the fact my 17 stone frame doesn't bode well for cycling, or the fact I am simply useless with bikes. Previously this year I had my free wheel snap, brakes jam and both wheels fall off on a trip up Bynack More, but even with my old man best repair jobs, you just can't prevent the inevitable.
So we decided to cart the bikes up to the split in the path shortly beforethe Allt nam Bo. From there, we stormed to the summit of Sgor Gaoith in about 2 hours, in the usual miserable July wind and rain. Visibility on the bealach was about zero until the summit when the skies opened up to the gnarly views. We planned to descent in about 1 - 1.5 hours and then back to Aviemore to drown in coffee.
Unfortunately, it seems that whenever Nicky Softtouch and I attempt a Munro, we just can't do it the easy way. Regrettably, we decided to spice up what had been a pretty comfortable hill so far by heading to Sgoran Dubh Mor. Then, for some reason, instead of following the map (albeit the wind was trying to steal it off me) we headed down the valley of following a path descending through pine treeswhere we actually passed walkers, assuming it would lead as back to the original route. Do the day I die I will not know why - I learned something, never assume in the Cairngorms. Everything looks the f*cking same.
Whilst descending, we were confident that the path would take us out at the same fork where we had ditched the bikes. But obviously, we were reallllllly wrong. Upon reaching the Inschriach bothy, it became apparent we had overshot the descent by about 3 miles as the crow flies. Absolutely classic.
Somewhat naively, our spirits were undeterred and we walked south as the crow flies assuming we would eventually come to that path. After about 1 hour of walking through heather and f*cking gorse, we arrived a big f*cking lump, Meall Buidhe, and realised we had to get over it to reach our original path. After some swearing, it took about another 1 hour of soul destroying climbing up heather and I simply never thought it would end. The first time in my life that death almost seemed like a better option than carrying on. I simply had no power in my legs, - it felt like someone was giving my hammys a Chinese burn. I have definitely had harder excursions but this was just so f*cking disheartening, particularly on my day off work. We scoffed the last of our scran before reaching the top, where we could see the original path. Thank f*ck.
A second wind caught as both and we stormed down the steep heather slopes. Yet, obviously we had come down to a random point on the path and had absolute no idea where the bikes were. So we headed Kanye West for about half a mile until we realised that we had reached that same f*cking boulder my chain snapped !!!!! Oh my goodness. Absolutely classic. So we headed back up that f*cking path to the fork where we reached our bikes, and I had to free wheel back to the car.
Overall, we walked 16 miles (8 miles more than we had to) and after leaving at 10.20, we arrived at the car 5.30 missing the closing time of the Mountain Café in Aviemore (heartbreaking). We were soaked, miserable and our thighs we rubbing together leaving us red raw, but at least we had menthol cigarettes to look forward to upon return to the car. But, of course, to run with the nature of the day, I had, for some unknown reason, them in the front pocket of my bag - meaning they were soggy as f*ck. Absolutely classic.
Thankfully I had good company, and it was actually pretty funny most of the time, yet was the first time in 47 Munros that I haven't wanted to be there. Nevertheless, if you do take the correct route, it is a really good hill and one I would definitely recommend. We didn't necessarily underestimate the Cairngorms, we weren't underprepared for bad weather and we didn't feel at danger - it just sucked.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.