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West of the Lairig Ghru
by jigglybones » Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:34 pm
Route description: Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Bhrotain, Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Monadh Mor, Mullach Clach a'Bhlair, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Sgor Gaoith, The Devil's Point
Date walked: 21/08/2019
Time taken: 18 hours
Distance: 56 km
Ascent: 2700mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Having read and enjoyed many WH reports, but perhaps more importantly gained inspiration for some cracking walks, I thought it was about time I completed my first report.
It was my first vist to the Cairngorms and I thought I'd stay overnight, perhaps using Corrour Bothy. Whilst I couldn't guarantee that I'd reach the bothy with the time I had available, I decided to carry a tent, but kept weight to a minimum and didn't carry a stove. My plan was to start in Glen Feshie and head over the plateau via Sgor Gaoith to take in Braeriach and Cairn Toul.on Day 1, with Beinn Bhrotain/Monadh Mor and Mullach Clach a Blair on Day 2. This would allow me to complete all of the Munros west of the Lairig Ghru.
The forecast wasn't bad, but I didn't set off as early as planned from my home in Dumfries and Galloway.I often have 2/3 days to play with and sometimes I have to work out how best to use the time available. After the best part of a five hour journey,I parked up at Achlean and then I was on my way and made good progress up to Carn Ban Mor.
From here, it was just a short trek up to Sgor Gaoith - a fine Munro to get me started. A splendid view could be had of Braeriach which just looked immense. The weather had been showery, but this meant I benefited from lovely rainbows above Loch Eanaich below.
From Sgor Gaoith, I picked up a path which hugged the rim of the corrie initially but then disappeared as the ground became rougher.Braeriach was a peak that I had considered leaving for another day, but thought I had enough time to 'squeeze it in'. It was the trickiest part of the day and the slog up Carn na Criche was relentless.On reaching the summit plateau, I tried to keep to the highest (and driest) ground before climbing over boulders to eventually reach Braeriach. Now I have learnt Braeriach is certainly not a mountain you can 'just squeeze in'!
It was nearly 7pm when I reached the summit. but what a spot. There were views and significant drops all around. The Lairig Gru was miles below but Sgurr Nan Lochan Uaine, my next peak was also a long way away.
Whilst I could have spent longer at the top absorbing what was around, with limited daylight left, I knew I must crack on. A walker was pitching his tent near the Wells of Dee. A fantastic spot - it's not often you could camp above 4000ft. Although tempted, I knew this would leave me with a huge day's walk the next day.
I made good ground along the rim of the corrie to The Angel's Peak which had sadly misted over when I got there, just offering occasional glimpses to the valley below. It was then down and up to Cairn Toul as darkness approached. The decision had to be made - Did I race down to Corrour Bothy, arriving after 10.30 waking everyone and then have to do The Devil's Point the next day? Did I have time to take in the Devil's Point? Should I camp at the col at the top of Coire Odhar? I opted for the latter and plodded over Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir before descending down tothe col in pretty much darkness. With the torch now necessary, I started to try and find a suitable camping spot, but the ground was pretty wet. I could see the refelection of a herd of deer's eyes at the col, which was quite surreal. I ended up pitching my tent, on a bit of a slope which is never a good idea. However, within 15 minutes of zipping up the tent, I was probably asleep.
During the night, the wind picked up and the rain came, but my little tent stood firm, it meant that I was in no hurry to get going, plus the previous day's exertions had taken a bit out of me.
The next morning, I was able to go for a quick warm up to the top of The Devil's Point before striking camp and this was great as the clouds appeared to be clearing. It also gave me a good idea of where I was - and where I had to go.
Beinn Bhrotain looked only a ston'es throw away, but there was an enormous drop to Glen Geusachan below, and an equally big climb back up. I opted, rightly or wrongly, to traverse around to Loch nan Stuirteag which initially was fine, but then I found myself negotiating boulder fields. From the lochan, it was a plod up a pathless slope to Monadh Mor. Here I was able to pick up a path which headed south with just a 400 ft drop and a 600 ft climb. Although my rucksac was relatively light, (no stove or pans as I'd just got what could be described as an enormous packed lunch which was dwindling rapidly!), I decided to leave it which meaant the downs and ups were somewhat easier.
I re-ascended Monadh Mor almost to the summit and then headed north west towards Tom Dubh. This marked a change in the walk. The exhilarating tops and deep corries had gone and the featureless moorland of the Moine had begun. It had also started to rain - hard!
Now Mullach Clach a Blair will not feature in my top ten hills, especially when ascended in thick mist and rain. I was pleased there was a huge land rover track which made navigation very easy and that it is pretty flat on the 4km trek to get there. However, once ascended, it is quite a rapid descent to Glen Feshie, albeit a long way fromn the starting point at Achlean.
I had to decide on accommodation for the night. I was wet and had more or less run out of food. The bothy was a possibility, but I decided to head back to the car which would give me the possibility of finding a hostel or bunkhouse to saty in. The walk along the glen was delightful, but there are a surprising number of uphill bits and a very eroded strtetch where it crosses a river. I arrived at the car at about 7.30pm and headed for Cairngorm Lodge which allowed me to have some food, a good sleep before tackiling Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui the next day.
So that was it. My first taste of the Cairngorms, although I'd marvelled at them from all angles in the past. I look forwadr to a similar expedition of those peaks to the east of the Lairig Ghru soon...!
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