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Know your limits - Consumed by the Cairngorms

Know your limits - Consumed by the Cairngorms

Postby Malmilne » Wed Sep 26, 2018 3:37 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Bhrotain, Cairn Toul, Monadh Mòr, The Devil's Point

Date walked: 12/05/2018

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My last post "Buffeted on Bhrotain" was back in May which described a walk that went slightly askew. Since then I have climbed seven Munros, four of which I bagged in a single days mammoth walk. I've also had knee surgery, a family death and since June a bloody big bag of "I can't be arsed."

"Buffeted" reminded me that no matter how experienced you may be or what equipment you have, it's easy for things to go wrong. This report is about that aforementioned mammoth walk and how easily I overestimated my own fitness level and underestimated the length of my planned diversion. When I turned back from Bhrotain because of the weather a week prior I had decided my next assault on the Cairngorms would be a return to that same slumbering giant so I could repeat the walk that I had originally planned. As luck would have it, the following weekend provided the perfect opportunity. I was free of chores on Saturday and the weather forecast was good. The plan was the same as before. Park at Linn O Dee, walk to the white bridge, follow the path along the south side of the Dee to the Allt Lanaidh, climb Beinn Bhrotain then continue onward to Monadh Mor. I would then return the same route.

My plan didn't quite go to plan.

The walk started off as any other walk. Early morning, birds singing, slight breeze in the air. The clouds were beginning to break to reveal blue skies. This time the climb up Bhrotain was enjoyable. I had my new compass but didn't need it. The mountain was sillouetted against an ever brightening blue sky which made the navigation up and over Carn Cloich-mhuilinn, across the bealach then up the southern slope of Bhrotain very straightforward. At 10.20am I was able to enjoy the views from the summit of Beinn Bhrotain. Trying not to get too comfy, I headed off towards Monadh Mor. The descent down the boulder field to the bealach at 975m was horrible. I struggled to find a route that wasn't so tough on my knees. The going was slow. I generally don't mind boulder fields. Sometimes I even find them fun to cross and bound over, but I found this one less than appealing. Within an hour I had reached the summit of Monadh Mor. Four hours of walking, two Munros and surprisingly, not another soul in sight. Saturday with clear summer skies and I didn't see anyone else on these Munros. Am I missing something?

I now found myself with a dilemma.

It was now around 11.30am-ish. The weather was fantastic. Enjoying the views, I didn't really want to head back - who would? Lost in contemplation I was starting to convince myself that rather than return the same route it would be better for me to descend off the mountains at the Devils Point. There is a path that leads to Corrour bothy and would take me past the outskirts of Carn a' Mhaim and onwards back to Derry Lodge. Taking this option would mean I could bag another two Munros on route; Cairn Toul and The Devils Point. There was also the opportunity to bag The Angels Peak, but I knew I would be returning to do the Braeriach traverse on another day so I decided to leave this one out. Feeling good I checked map and compass and plotted my route down Monadh Mor and up to Cairn Toul.

Beinn Bhrotain summit

The view towards Cairn Toul

The sun was out and the heat was extreme. Well, I guess it was extreme for the Cairngorms. An hour and a half later I was slowly ascending Cairn Toul. I now knew this route was the wrong decision and I should've just stuck to my original plan of returning from Monadh Mor by the same route as the ascent.

When I moved house the previous September, I also left the gym at the same time. Looking at ways to save money for a bit, a monthly gym fee was a luxury I could easily do without. However, with lack of exercise came an increase in my bulk. My frame was now about 17 stone, an increase of about 1 1/2 stone. With this increase in size, loss of cardio ability and heat from the sun, I was now struggling with the climb to climb Cairn Toul and not to mention the extra miles that lay ahead because of my route change.

It took me a couple of hours but eventullay I summited around 1400hrs. Honestly, by now I was knackered. I had not realised how unfit I had become. The good thing was that this was now the furthest point and from here on in I would be heading back. Taking summit selfies here that was just landscape and skies was proving difficult. I had left the solitude of two sprawling giants and joined what seemed to be the rat race. There were quite a lot of people up there, a stark contrast to the two Munros from which I just came. The return from here in these conditions was very straightforward. I just followed the path or in this case the stream of people coming from Corrour. I had reached the path to go down just after 3pm. Ignoring the desire to decend, I climbed The Devils Point - I had to, it was just there. Even in my fatigued condition it didn't take me long to summit.

As much as I hate to admit it, leaving this mountainous range to head back down was a welcome thought. I had spent all day up here. I had been suckered in by blue skies and beauty, boldness and bewitchery, bravado and blindness. Not that I was complaining but I had overestimated my current level of fitness and with the increase in fatigue came a decrease in enjoyment. My body was spent. The path down was difficult for me. My legs were now jelly and I could do nothing except take my time. Eventually I arrived back at Linn O Dee and funnily enough, for once, it wasn't my knee that was slowing me down.

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Re: Know your limits - Consumed by the Cairngorms

Postby Sack the Juggler » Wed Sep 26, 2018 4:33 pm

An epic adventure, and I felt your pain along the way. I'm sure that we've all overdone it on the hills, especially when coming back from a break. They are very seductive.

Can I suggest poles (in case you don't already use them)? I find that they really help spread the load and propel me forward.
Sack the Juggler
Posts: 377
Joined: Aug 8, 2018

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