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Winter in the Cairngorms: Sgor Gaoith

Winter in the Cairngorms: Sgor Gaoith

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:59 pm

Route description: Sgor Gaoith, from Glen Feshie

Munros included on this walk: Sgor Gaoith

Date walked: 05/12/2018

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 976m

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First proper winter walk this winter, and another Munro we always fancied repeating in winter conditions. That brings our total M count in 2018 to 41. We might pop in to one more hill before Christmas, just depends on how we deal with gift-shopping and festive preparations. It won't be anything new as we have very little new stuff to climb within reasonable drive time from home. But we enjoy returning to mountains we climbed once in summer conditions - it adds a totally new dimension to the experience, especially if conditions are not-so-perfect :lol:

Sgor Gaoith in Glen Feshie was one of my early Munros, climbed on a sunny summer day in combination with its neighbour Mullach Clach a'Bhlair (no TR from this route, it was before my WH days). The shortest route including the two, 24km in length, can be walked even in winter conditions if you're a fast walker. The area has a great network of well-worn paths and even tracks up to the plateau. We actually saw a 4wheel drive near the summit of Mullach Clach a'Bhlair the first time we were there, so if you can drive up there, you can definitely walk fast. But on Saturday, we didn't plan both mountains, just Sgor Gaoith. We hoped to do some kind of circular including Sgoran Dubh Mhor and this is what we ended up doing:

Track_SGOR GOAITH 01-12-18.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We left home and drove down our street in total darkness, too early for any other neighbours to be awake. It was Saturday morning, for heaven's sake, and every sane person was in bed snoring...
By the time we arrived in Glen Feshie, the brand new day was just coming do life. The car park in Auchlean was half-full already, walkers and cyclists of all shapes and sizes preparing for the day's adventure :D We wrapped up in extra layers as the morning was icy cold, gaitered up and started along the road to Auchlean, then up the path through the forest and into Coire Fhearnagan. The network of paths down in the glen has recently been upgraded and it's all easy, dry walking now.
Just above the line of trees, we stopped for first photos of the day. Still very grey:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 001.JPG

We decided to leave ice axes in the car as they would be an additional weight to carry. The route we had in mind was mostly on good paths and on relatively gentle, heathery slopes, so we didn't see the point of taking axes. We packed in crampons, in case we encountered iced up slopes in descent, but we didn't need them in the end.
We are going up there:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 007.JPG

The plateau was clouded over but the clag was patchy and we had high hopes for at least some views from the summit:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 012.JPG

We had been up this path a few times before, but never in winter conditions. Last time, when we approached Cairn Toul from this side, we started early and marched up from Auchlean to the top of the pass near Carn Ban Mor in 90 minutes. We had to be fast then as the planned route covered nearly 40km. Today, there was no such pressure, but we walked at a brisk pace, taking only short stops for a few snaps. What I usually call "trip report pictures".
The cloud was drifting away from the summits above us, slowly revealing the tops overlooking Glen Feshie. We caught a glimpse of Sgoran Dubh Mhor from the little gap about half way up:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 017.JPG

There was another group just in front of us, and as we neared the pleateau, they also turned towards Sgor Gaoith:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 023.JPG

We let the other group of walkers take the lead for the time being, and enjoyed the views, as limited as they were at the moment:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 024.JPG

We stopped for a quick snack on the top of the pass, then continued to Carn Ban Mor and across the flat plateau to the summit of Sgor Gaoith itself. Kevin checked his GPS: it took us 1hr40min to reach the plateau, only 10 min longer than in summer conditions. Well, we are not as old and as slow as we think we are :lol: :lol:
It felt quite cold and we wanted to move quickly to stay warm. We somehow managed to overtake the other group and ended up on the edge of the great drop to Gleann Eanaich, waiting for the clag to disperse. As good things usually come to those who wait, we were rewarded for our patience. Slowly, the massive face of Braeriach across the glen started to emerge from the mist:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 027.JPG

We caught a glimpse of Loch Eanaich below us:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 033.JPG

Kevin suggested I should swap my thin gloves for the thick ones, but I can't operate my camcorder properly in the ski gloves, so I decided to wait. Which was a small mistake, soon my hands turned into two icicles - frozen panther paws :lol:
Still warm at the moment, the other group approaching the summit behind me:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 036.JPG

We walked slowly along the edge of the cliffs, admiring the verglassed rocks:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 041.JPG

The summit was windy and there was nowhere to sit or to hide from the wind... From my previous visit, I remembered a cairn perched at the very edge of the cliffs on the top. It is now gone!
It was a repeat M for us both, but a new one for Lucy (her 97th). It was too windy to detach her from my rucksack, hence no lamb summit snap :wink:
The summit seen from the north - no cairn:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 061.JPG

Looking back towards Glen Feshie and the ridge we considered as our descent route:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 052.JPG

Loch Eanaich and Braeriach - different angles:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 047.JPG

2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 044.JPG

My hands were already in the state of half-frozen so I urged Kevin to keep moving. We decided to prolong the walk by visiting Sgoran Dubh Mhor, a Munro Top and a good viewpoint (seen here behind me):
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 062.JPG

I swapped my gloves and for the time being, managed to warm my hands somehow. The traverse was easy on gentle ground and weather was improving as we walked:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 066.JPG

Cloud lifting from Braeriach ridge:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 068.JPG

Sgoran Dubh Mhor has a substantial cairn, which we hoped, would give us some shelter from the nippy wind:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 096.JPG

...but before we got there, we had to traverse a short distance along the ridge, past some very interesting rocks, now covered in snow/ice, making the whole landscape look amazing. It reminded me of an ice-cream dessert of some sort :lol:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 076.JPG

With Braeriach in the background:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 078.JPG

This corrie (not named on maps but it has a small river called Allt Ruadh, so we can call it Coire Ruadh for the sake of this TR) is suggested as the main up-and-down route by Walkhighlands. We agreed, it looked like a good way to descend, just to make a circular rather than returning the same way:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 090.JPG

The cloud was starting to break very slowly, first rays of sunshine shining through above the summit of Sgor Gaoith:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 099.JPG

I was so fascinated with the winter wonderland around me, that I simply had to take more photos and videos. I took my gloves off, to take some panoramas...
Mighty Braeriach again:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 101.JPG

...and despite drinking hot tea from the flask, I ended up with a pair of cold paws again!
Time to go... My hands are frozen!
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 071.JPG

We descended from Sgoran Dubh Mhor to Meall Buidhe. There was more snow on this slope, in places quite deep:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 107.JPG

While I played with the snow, Kevin took more photos of the "sunshine games" over Sgor Gaoith:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 105.JPG

Looking back to the main ridge from Meall Buidhe: Sgoran Dubh Mhor to the left, Sgor Gaoith to the right:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 115.JPG

Panoramic view east along the ridge, towards Mullach Clach a'Bhlair:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 116.JPG

The WH route goes over Geal Charn, another Munro Top, but we fancied descending via Meall Tionail:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 118.JPG

Weather improving in the south-west:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 121.JPG

The shoulder of Meall Tionail has a small cairn:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 124.JPG

Panoramic view back to our descent route:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 132.JPG

From Meall Tionail, we could see the path in Coire Ruadh below, so simply descended on the soft, heathery ground into the glen. At some point, we picked a narrow path - obviously we were not the only walkers doing this wee detour.
Weather was now changing very quickly and the sun arrived at its full strength:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 133.JPG

We counted four gliders in the sky above us:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 134.JPG

The main path in Coire Ruadh is very good, though it has a couple of eroded sections (probably washed over by melting snow in spring), but we were more than happy to hop down the path into the forest:
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 145.JPG

With my paws finally defrosted, i enjoyed the return walk to the car, first through the pine woods...
2018-12-01 sgor gaoith 151.JPG

...then along the quiet Glen Feshie road back to the car park. This route, although it involves some road-walking, is really nice and allows for a full circular of Sgor Gaoith and its tops. We will definitely return here for more explorations - these are good tops for winter and they are only 1h drive from home :D
Hopefully, the coming weekend will be decent enough for more hillwalking and more frozen paws :lol: :lol: :lol:
Last edited by BlackPanther on Thu Oct 31, 2019 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Winter in the Cairngorms: Sgor Gaoith

Postby ere1 » Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:17 pm

Absolutly awsome! I'd love to visit the Cairngorms in perfect winter conditions like that. :thumbup:
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