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Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular


Postby Graeme D » Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:20 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Sgor Mor

Grahams included on this walk: Creag Bhalg

Date walked: 22/01/2011

Time taken: 20 hours

Distance: 30 km

Ascent: 1400m

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Actual walking time - 11 hours
Time spent in bothy - 9 hours

This date had been in the diary for a few weeks. Initially I had hoped to do the Ben via the CMD arête, therefore hitting 100 Munros. A few others had expressed an interest in tagging along but for one reason or another, they dropped out. I had also (for various reasons) decided not to do the Ben and it’s little neighbour, but was not sure whether I would settle on another couple of Munros or leave the magic number for another day.

With the Ben and CMD combo ruled out for this weekend, my attention turned to the possibility of Derry Cairngorm and Beinn Mheadhoin from the Linn of Dee. Things had been a bit hairy at work during the week as well, and I fancied getting into the car after work on the Friday and leaving it all behind by heading to bothyland. I’d never stayed in Bob Scott’s before and it would offer a straightforward enough walk in under cover of darkness and put me well and truly “in the field” by Saturday morning.

In the end I decided to leave these two Munros (possibly to be undertaken in conjunction with a Loch Etchachan wild camp at a more clement time of year) and to grab the Corbett of Sgor Mor and the Graham of Creag Bhalg. I therefore decided to leave the car at the Linn of Quoich (as I’d be coming down off Creag Bhalg to here rather than the Linn of Dee) and walk in on the Friday evening up Glen Quoich, across the Clais Fhearnaig and down into Glen Lui. This is a route I know very well, doing it annually (or even more frequently) as part of our school Duke of Edinburgh programme, but I’d never done it on a dark Friday night in January with a good pasting of sheet ice on the ground! It was the walk up and over the Clais Fhearnaig that I was most keen on, especially as it was a good clear, starry night (although surprisingly mild for such conditions) and I wanted to stand alone with Lucy in the vast darkness at the high point, with the light of my headtorch and the stars illuminating the descent down into wide Glen Lui.

It was almost 6pm when I set off from Perth and as I drove along the A93 towards Blairgowrie, a self-burned compilation CD blasting sound at ludicrously high volume, I felt liberated. The sense of excitement was palpable. Work and its associated trials and tribulations were quickly erased from memory – Monday was but a far distant and vague prospect. Squeeze the gas, loosen my shoulder muscles, climb higher, head north – Cairngorms calling……

Running a bit later than planned, I decided to stop off at the Chippie in Braemar for an enormous cod supper (a good part of which went the way of Lucy!), rather than cooking dinner when I got to Bob’s place.

It was gone 8 o’clock when I pulled into the empty parking space at the Linn of Quoich and 8.15 before I was up onto the track and heading north into Glen Quoich. It didn’t take long before I realised what I was up against – huge tracts of solid, polished ice covering the whole width of the track. Piling into the heather at the sides slowed progress significantly – sticking to the ice and shuffling along using the poles for support was not much quicker. Crampons were not an option – huge stretches of ice-free track existed in between the ice caps. Maybe microspikes would have been good here???

Anyway, I proceeded cautiously, but half an hour in I still managed to hit the deck in a flailing tangle of poles and limbs. I didn’t appear to be hurt although my left thumb did get pinched between a pole and the ice and later turned a rather strange shade of purple! This slowed my progress even further, as I proceeded even more cautiously. The last downhill section before the Clais Fhearnaig turn-off was a nightmare. Only word for it. I really did have to start questioning my sanity at this stage! I was also a bit concerned about the state of the path over the Clais Fhearnaig. It can be a bit narrow and awkward in places at the best of times, never mind in these conditions. However, as I turned up onto the moorland which gradually gets filtered into the narrow glacial cleft, my fears were allayed. In saying that, there were still a few dodgy patches, most notably between the last little lochan and the start of the descent down into Glen Lui. And yes, I ended up on my arse again. Thank the lord for cover of darkness and the fact that all sane people would be far away in the safety of a pub or their own home!

Once into Glen Lui, it was like walking on a pavement in August, all the way to the bothy. There was light coming from the window and inside I found six guys from a north-east climbing club and two dogs. They’d got in earlier in the evening and were talking about spending a few nights. In any case, they had already made decent inroads into their substantial stash of beer and wine. I pulled a chair up and cracked open a couple of cans of my own, while Lucy made the acquaintance of the other two canine residents and took part in a fair bit of growling.

I'd popped into Bob Scott's a couple of times, really just to shelter from dodgy weather in passing, but I'd never overnighted in the place. Definitely a des-res in bothy terms, if a little on the small side.

Despite my sleeping bag suffering a red wine spillage incident, I enjoyed a good night’s sleep (very cosy for a bothy night in January) and even managed to sleep through my 7 o’clock alarm by half an hour. With two of the other guys away for a stroll with their dogs, two still in their scratchers and the other two sorting through an assortment of hardcore looking climbing hardware, I made a quick brew and scoffed a few cereal bars before packing up and bidding them farewell.

I headed around the left side of the trees and out at the bridge beyond Derry Lodge before bearing west along Glen Luibeg.

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Carn 'a Mhaim from near Bob Scott's


The going was pretty easy, with only isolated patches of ice on the track along the north side of the Luibeg Burn.
When it came to the river crossing, it looked doable, although I decided against taking the risk and opted instead for the bridge option a short distance upstream. From the bridge, there were fantastic views upstream to the north towards the cliffs of Coire Sputain Dearg.

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Looking up the Luibeg Burn towards the bridge

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North towards Coire Sputain Dearg from just over the bridge


The last time I had crossed this bridge a couple of years ago, on the way to an ascent of Carn a’ Mhaim and Ben Macdui, the path on the other side which connects back up with the main Glen Luibeg path had been a hideous bog. Today it was a solid sheet of ice with absolutely no possibility of traction whatsoever. I had to resort to holding onto the fence until I got back to the main path.

From here the going became a bit tricky again and I had to make numerous little detours around ice sheets or else shimmy very gingerly across them.

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Beinn Bhrotain ahead

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Glen Geusechan and first sighting of the Devil's Point


At the point where the path draws level with the little lochan and just as it begins it’s full sweep around into the jaws of the Lairig Ghru, I cut off and headed due south up the slopes towards the summit of Creagan nan Gabhar.

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The Devil's Point from across the frozen lochan

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Looking right up the Lairig Ghru


I managed to find a long, wide, meandering ribbon of solid ice that also offered decent traction and followed this most of the way up to the 722 metre summit.

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Creagan nan Gabhar summit - Beinn a' Bhuird in the far distance


From here there are even more expansive views up into the Lairig Ghru and across the wider bulk of the Southern Cairngorm massif. After taking a few pictures, I wandered over to investigate some interesting looking slabs of rock and found a brilliant little spot behind one of them which offered excellent shelter from the wind and a view south to Beinn a’ Ghlo. I sat here for a good twenty minutes or so and had a brew while I enjoyed the solitude.

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View south - Beinn a' Ghlo standing out


From here I took a looping route to the Corbett summit, heading over Sgor an Eoin for the views down into Glen Dee.

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Interesting looking hole en route to Sgor an Eoin

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Glen Dee from Sgor an Eoin


The summit shelter cairn of Sgor Mor offered scant protection from the biting wind but the even more expansive views more than made up for this. As I sat and ate lunch, a young woman and an older couple whom I took to be her parents showed up from an easterly direction and a short while later, a large group of half a dozen or so materialised behind me, having come up from White Bridge.

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The Mounth Munros from Sgor Mor summit

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North to the main bulk of the Cairngorm massif


The walk along the broad gravely ridge to the trig point on Sgor Dubh was a joy but from here, it became a tougher undertaking through increasingly thick heather as I descended towards the bridge below Creag an Diuchd.

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Heading along the broad ridge to Sgor Dubh

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Carn 'a Mhaim, Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm

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Sgor Mor from Sgor Dubh trig pillar

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Derry Cairngorm, Beinn Mheadhoin and Beinn a' Chaorainn from Sgor Dubh

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Carn na Drochaide and Creag Bhalg from Sgor Dubh - Lochnagar in the far distance on the right

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Derry Cairngorm beyond the trees from near the bridge


It then only remained to pick my way along an icy track and then over a huge swathe of ice and up onto the twin cairned summit of Creag Bhalg.

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Icy approach to the bridge

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Closing in on Creag Bhalg

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Twin cairns of Creag Bhalg with Morrone as a backdrop


The setting sun was casting a glorious reddish glow across the broad descent ridge as I headed back down to the car and my start point by the Linn of Quoich.

IMG_5925.JPG
Heading for home

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Braemar from the descent towards the Linn of Quoich


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Graeme D
 
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby monty » Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:32 pm

Nice report Graeme.
Lovely photos on what is quite a long journey in the conditions. That ice on the path looks unreal. :lol: Microspike territory if ever I seen territory :lol: And a night in a bothy to boot. :D
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby Left Behind » Fri Jan 28, 2011 11:33 pm

I can't believe this was just a day before my jaunt to that neck of the woods. Such a difference in weather!

Great pics. :)
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby rockhopper » Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:41 am

You're off your rocker.........either that or you have a very understanding better half !

Seriously though, it's a cracking report on what looks like a fair old adventure at this time of year especially setting off so late on the Friday. As monty says, definitely microspikes territory with all that ice. Hope Lucy didn't go too near that odd looking hole ! :lol:
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby Alastair S » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:59 am

Fabulous trip & report there Graeme. Weather looked decent if nippy. You must have a decent sleeping bag. BTW just where is this Bob Scott's? Is it at Derry Lodge?

I've still to do all the hills from the two Linns & the only plans I have for this year are to get lots of these done - so good to have up to date info. Still tons of ice about. Do you reckon the track to Derry Lodge from Linn of Dee is mountain bike-able? If it wasn't for the fact that I don't have boots at the moment (don't ask!) I would probably be on my way to Ben Macdui by now.
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby Paul Webster » Sat Jan 29, 2011 11:20 am

Looks a great trip - I've heard it said somewhere that Sgor Mor has the best view for looking in towards the Cairngorms.
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby Graeme D » Sat Jan 29, 2011 11:56 am

monty wrote:Nice report Graeme.
Lovely photos on what is quite a long journey in the conditions. That ice on the path looks unreal. :lol: Microspike territory if ever I seen territory :lol: And a night in a bothy to boot. :D


Aye Monty, definitely have to invest in some I think. The pics don't even come close to doing justice to just how icy the tracks could be in places. The worst bit was definitely along Glen Quoich on the Friday evening, but in the pitch dark my camera really wasnae up to the job of capturing it! :(

Left Behind wrote:I can't believe this was just a day before my jaunt to that neck of the woods. Such a difference in weather!

Great pics. :)


Cheers Left Behind - amazing what a difference 24 little hours can make to the feel of the mountains! :shock:

rockhopper wrote:You're off your rocker.........either that or you have a very understanding better half !

Seriously though, it's a cracking report on what looks like a fair old adventure at this time of year especially setting off so late on the Friday. As monty says, definitely microspikes territory with all that ice. Hope Lucy didn't go too near that odd looking hole ! :lol:


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: Bit of both rockhopper - it has been said that I am a bit unhinged (and as I said, I was beginning to doubt my own sanity at points on the walk in to the bothy. As for my wife - she has her moments but she's usually a star about these sort of things. :D

Alastair S wrote:Fabulous trip & report there Graeme. Weather looked decent if nippy. You must have a decent sleeping bag. BTW just where is this Bob Scott's? Is it at Derry Lodge?

I've still to do all the hills from the two Linns & the only plans I have for this year are to get lots of these done - so good to have up to date info. Still tons of ice about. Do you reckon the track to Derry Lodge from Linn of Dee is mountain bike-able? If it wasn't for the fact that I don't have boots at the moment (don't ask!) I would probably be on my way to Ben Macdui by now.


Cheers Alasatair - sleeping bag is actually rubbish - I think the decent windows (not the usual bothy windows, put it that way!) and the 6 other humans and three dogs contributed to the tropical feel of the place. :lol:

The bothy is just tucked down by the side of the river a short distance before you reach the lodge - there is a clear path branching off which leads right to it. The guys in the bothy said that there were really dodgy bits between Linn of Dee and the bridge (Black Brig I think it's called). After that it was fine and very bikable at the moment. Other thing is that between the carpark and the bridge, there are a lot of sections of wooden boardwalk to be negotiated. As for the Glen Quoich approach - could be good for curling at the moment but difinitely not biking. :lol:

Paul Webster wrote:Looks a great trip - I've heard it said somewhere that Sgor Mor has the best view for looking in towards the Cairngorms.


I can believe it Paul! 8) Cheers.
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby Stretch » Sat Jan 29, 2011 2:15 pm

Hi Graeme, nicely done! I still have the two lumpy munros on the right side of Glen Derry to do and I would rather do them on a nice winter's day. Never thought about heading to Bob Scott's so that I could get up early the following day and hit the hills so thanks for putting that notion in my head. Let the planning commence.
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby gammy leg walker » Sat Jan 29, 2011 3:00 pm

Another fine report there Graeme,you must spend a fair amount of time planing your routes,how does Lucy fair with all the ice on the paths.
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby Graeme D » Sat Jan 29, 2011 6:04 pm

Stretch wrote: Let the planning commence.


:D :D :D :D :D :D Cheers for the comments Stretch. Isn't the planning a good part of the fun of it all? The two Munros you refer to are not too bad actually.Beinn Bhreac was a bit of a lump but on a fine day, it's a nice walk across the Moine Bealach to Beinn a' Chaorainn. It would be great on a nice, crisp, frozen day as it can be a bit boggy up there. There are also great close up views of the torrs on Beinn Mheadhoin from that summit.

gammy leg walker wrote:Another fine report there Graeme,you must spend a fair amount of time planing your routes,how does Lucy fair with all the ice on the paths.


Cheers gammy - let's just say that when I'm out walking Lucy in the cold dark weekday mornings before going to work, I do a fair bit of musing over possible routes. 8) As for Lucy on the ice, she manages fine. Built in crampons. She certainly fared better that me going up Glen Quoich, given that she never ended up on her erse like I did. :lol:
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby ChrisW » Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:38 pm

Great report, really enjoyed reading it, some stunning pics too. I thought I had spotted the hound of the baskervilles in that first shot but then I realised who Lucy was :lol:
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby kinley » Sun Jan 30, 2011 3:19 pm

Very fine looking trip 8)

And, for me, the best way to explore Sgor Mor via the glen to the north and the full ridge - far better than the SMC route approaching from the south.

Cracking pair of hills really.

Cheers - a detailed report there 8)
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby CheeseHat » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:37 pm

Fantastic report, including all the photo's, that's such a lovely part of the world to be in.

Graeme Dewar wrote:Running a bit later than planned, I decided to stop off at the Chippie in Braemar for an enormous cod supper (a good part of which went the way of Lucy!), rather than cooking dinner when I got to Bob’s place.


After spending a few days in Braemar during last summer, I did get acquainted with this very fine chippie. Nice burgers and king ribs in there... :D
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby Tomsie » Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:07 pm

This is a great post and the reason why I'm getting into this sport, cant wait till I have the know how to finish work on Friday and just head off in the car and not return till Sunday, and reading posts like this makes me want it even more. Thanks John
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Re: Grandstand seats for the Cairngorms Spectacular

Postby dooterbang » Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:19 pm

Great report Graeme. 30k is a big walk - that doggy must be super fit :)

Nice to see your hanging on for perfect weather to grab that ton - better be quick though.
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