DAY 2 Loch Einich to Rothiemurchus lodge (15 km 920m Ascent)
After the hike from Aviemore to Loch Einich the previous day, our initial plan was to climb the Braeriach, descend the Sron na Lairige and then set up camp somewhere around Lochan Odhar and to go through the Chalamain Gap the following day. That turned out a bit different.
We began by ascending the slope to Coire Dhondail. The path was decent but also a bit on the steeper side and we had to jump over a lot of fords. Although the path doesn't look very steep on the map in our experience it was pretty slow going and we had to take some breaks while ascending. Arriving in the Coire Dhondail there was a nice view on Loch Einich and I think I saw a ptarmigan flying away. Our view on the route we had to take to climb out of the Coire didn't look very good from there. On the map there is a path right next to the fall but we didn't see that from where we were standing. Instead it looked like a solid wall of rocks. Luckily we decided to go closer and saw that the path was there after all. It involved some scrambling on slippery stones but it was very doable.
walking up the Coire
View to the path right next to the fall
The scrambling part
After that fun bit we were standing on the south side of the slope of Carn na Ciche. Our fellowship then headed up the slope to the 1227 m point on the map. There wasn't a path but it was a grassy slope so it wasn't too difficult although the map bearer (myself) still didn't move very quickly. The slope was still steep (ish) and we were all a bit tired of the ascend that was already done.
View from the grassy slope, Sgor Gaoith in the background
It seemed an age later that our party arrived at the wells of dee. After filling our bottles and stomachs with the best water I ever drank, the journey continued on this massive stony plateau to the Braeriach.
The stony plateau; Braeriach in the far back, wells of Dee in the front
This is a wee part of the walk where having and knowing how to use a compass could be very useful. We were lucky with the weather and didn't really had to use our compass because we could see the Braeriach clearly. We also used the GPS on our phone but you should still take your compass with you if you're planning to do this.
View from the plateau on the Dee; Ben Macdui left, Cairn Toul right
Succeeding our lunch break with some cheddar and polish sausages (why does the Tesco in Aviemore only sell polish sausages?) we started the last part to the summit of the third highest mountain in the UK. The last slope was easier than expected and at last those six Belgians were standing on the summit.
Nearing the summit
The views from the summit were breathtaking
View to the south
View to the north
At this point it was decided that we would go to the closest by area with some forest due to our failure to cook some decent food the night before because of the wind. From our summit view the area around Rothiemurchus lodge looked quite alright. The descent and ascent to Sron na Lairige was easier than expected and didn't take a lot of time. The path remained grassy until the final descent from around the 1100 m contour. The track disappeared for some time and turned in a boulder field which was quite fun (and maybe dangerous) to descent since you could jump from the rocks like a mountain goat. However i wouldn't want to ascend this. While some of us were faster in descending than others we all made it across without a scratch. The final part turned out good with a very decent part to the Allt Druidh and some very nice views into the Lairig Ghru.
View into the Lairig Ghru
Allt Druidh to the north
Our very well thought through plan to take a break at the riverside was then interrupted by a pleasant introduction to some small animals we didn't encounter before. The fearsome highland midge!
So we ran away.
Our course ahead was through the realm of the mighty midge thus we used our insect spray. The insect spray didn't work and later on we bought some smidge in Glenmore which did work. The path to the north took us to the lochan south of Rothiemurchus lodge with some very enjoyable parts through the old scottish pines and heather with pine regeneration on the way. However the area around the lochan wasn't very good for camping because of the wet peatbog and we didn't want to go too close to the lodge, there were also less trees than expected. After some exploring we found a semi sheltered spot that wasn't too wet with some trees around and still close to the lochan. The tents were pitched up and I started to think it was bad idea yet it did look like our best option in the area.
The lochan at the lodge
Our evening meal didn't cook itself and we headed down to the lochan to cook at the little dam. There was someone swimming in the ice cold lochan and we were surprised to learn it was one of our English friends we met the day before. It was quite weird seeing them there because neither of our parties knew they would end up in this place. After a small chat he headed back to his camping place which they had chosen better than we did. They had gone a bit further than we did and pitched up their tents in the forest closer to the lodge. The dam sheltered our stoves and this time we could get our water to boil.
DAY 3 Rothiemurchus Lodge to Glenmore (7 km 60 m ascent)
In the morning we immediately saw why we made a mistake camping here, there were midges everywhere. The evening before they hadn't bothered us too much because there was a gently breeze but in the morning there was no wind at all. It was really like they say on the midge forecast: "That's no mist , that's midges!" And this was only level four according to them, I can not imagine what level 5 looks like. We had to put our tents down by taking away a pole and then running away so the midges couldn't follow us and then running back to take the next thing. After our newly founded championship running away from midges we headed back to the dam to have our breakfast there in the hope it would be better.
We briefly saw our English friends before they ran away from the midges to an for us unknown destination. Eating our breakfast here wasn't a good idea so we headed to the lodge to find the path leading to Eag a' Chait. The beginning of the path was easily found but it quickly disappeared in the peaty moors. None of us wanted to hike on a non-existent path in a moor full of midges therefore the forest track to Glenmore looked like an easy and safe option.
Where the path disappeared..
The track leaving the lodge
We had a pleasant and easy walk through the forest. It was quite relaxing. When we passed Lochan nan Craobh Loisgte we still hadn't had our breakfast and decided to have it there. It appeared that there were less midges than at the dam. After unpacking our cooking stuff and refilling our bottles the midges attacked so we moved on to cook a bit further away from the stream. We enjoyed our late breakfast while being a harassed by the midges but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
Breakfast in the forest
The walk continued to Loch Morlich and afterwards we followed the track on the south side of the Loch. We took our time by taking enough breaks because it was a short walk and there was plenty of time.
A rescue helicopter above Creagan Gorm
Arriving at the river south of Glenmore we decided to have our lunch break and relax a bit in the sun. Four other walkers appeared from the north. We were surprised (again) to see that the walkers were the English boys we had met earlier and who we had seen in the morning. We learned that they had had the same plan we had to take the path via Eag a' Chait to the sugarbowl car park but in opposition to us they continued where the track had disappeared. They told us it was horrible because there was never a path, the ground was very boggy and there were loads and loads of midges of course. One of them had his face and arms full of midgy bites which was quite weird because none of the others (and us) had as many as he had.
After saying goodbye (again) we headed north and they headed south for some reason. We found our way through the camping and arrived at the beautiful Glenmore beach. The hostel where we would spend the night was still closed for the check-in so we went to the visitor center and the tearoom. While enjoying our scones two of the four English came in, they were tired of their hike and the harassing of the midges and had decided to go home early on without the others.
Glenmore beach in the evening
What happened after the walk:
We spent the next day on the beach where we saw the other two English guys again while we were building sandcastles. It is strange you can see the same people again and again in such a large area as the Cairngorms especially because none of our parties had told the other what our plans were. In the evening we had a meal in the hostel and we watched Lord Of The Rings. The next day we went with them to the green Loch where we relaxed a bit and we went to the pub in the evening. However our original plan was to do a hike to the Ben Macdui. In the mean time we had also met a Swiss and German guy that were about ten years older than we are. The Swiss one was a physician working at CERN and mountain guide. After treating all of us on a pint he went away because they would go to a whiskey distillery the day after. We in turn had to say goodbye to our English friends the day after because they went home. We invited them to come to Belgium one day and they gave us a lot of canned mackerel. One of them actually came to our home city Leuven in December. The rest of the day was spent on the beach and playing cards. The weather had been fantastic for those three days and we all thought they were well spent with our new friends.
The green lake
Probably there will be two more reports of our holiday. I still think it is incredible you can meet such nice people on a hiking holiday in Scotland. We also learned some other things: the cheddar from Orkney in the Tesco is quite good; some people in our party like to eat rice with beans and canned bacon; the meals from the hostel are very tasty; the Pine Marten bar is a very nice bar especially when Gilly is there to play music; Peatbog Fairies is a good band, we listened to it in the bar and I'm listening to it while I'm writing this report. And more importantly have fun while hiking and don't try to stick too much to the plan. And talk to people
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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.