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Glasgow - Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Glasgow - Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Postby skullhead » Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:15 pm

Route description: Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Munros included on this walk: Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine, The Devil's Point

Date walked: 21/09/2020

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 37.35 km

Ascent: 2162m

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This is my first walk report since joining the site which I've been using for a while and thought it was time to contribute.

This involved a 4am start as I was hoping to get on the road sharpish and booted up by first light. Despite best laid plans of organising stuff the night before I got about ten miles along the road and realised that I'd forgotten the fridge food. I really did consider abandoning the pasta and ham and mustard roll but figured I might not be able to get anything suitable on the road so back I went. I managed to sneak in without waking anyone up and out again.

The drive to the A9 from Glasgow was pretty misty but as soon as I started to gain some height the mist cleared for what was to be a cracking day weather wise.

On arrival at the Sugar Bowl car park I could see signs that the car park was closed between 21-25 September - just my luck I thought or was this an omen? There was a suitable layby across from the car park which made a good home for the civic for the day. It was now quickly approaching 8am so I got ready quickly and after the usual shenanigans finding the start of the route I was off. I was hoping to be back at the car by 4pm at the latest.

The track was surprisingly good going underfoot which is always handy when running.
A clear path to start!
I made good progress along the path for about 5km or so before I caught a glimpse of where the the start of the Lairig Ghru was (or the Chalamain Gap).
First peak of the valley
The Gap
The conditions were great, dry and no wind so I actually enjoyed hopping from boulder to boulder. It was easy to see how in bad weather this could be pretty nasty.

Good progress was being made down the valley, there is a bit of up and down and the path fades here and there but there is a pretty clear navigational aid in the form of the valley which sort of funnels you in the right direction. The views were to die for!
More clear path
Not so clear path
What lies ahead
Fancy a splash?

I wasn't 100% sure at the time but I could see Braeriach on the right - surprised to still see some snow and then Cairn Toul looking magnificent a little further along the valley. By this point I was totally immersed in the experience and was gobbling up the kilometres on a surprisingly good path.
Angel's Peak and the Brae
Cairn Toul (or one of the pyramids)

After about 2 hours 40 mins I reached the Corrour Bothy and the magnificent Devil's Point
Devil's Point
which looks almost impossible from the foot. The path is again very good albeit that it was a bit of a shock to the system to be going uphill so steeply again. I eventually made it onto the ridge and the short walk to the summit cairn. This was probably the best part of the day weather wise so I decided to have lunch in the summit shelter. The 360 degree panorama was breathtaking. It was brilliant being able to see where I'd come from and where I was going at the same time.
Doon the valley from Devil's Point
Lunch with the devil

From Devil's Point you can see a clear path along the ridge for the rest of this walk.
The way ahead
Ridge to Cairn Toul
What this doesn't reveal is that what looks like a nice flat path is quite rocky and rough. This would lead to my feet taking quite a battering over the course of the day! I think perhaps from an accumulation of getting to this point and seeing what lay ahead I definitely was starting to feel it by this point. I found the first 2km toward Cairn Toul tough going. A few energy gels later and I was feeling ready to tackle the boulder field on the approach to Cairn Toul.

I though this section of the walk was similar to the Gap at the beginning but with better views. I met a few other people on the way up Cairn Toul who had asked me about the weather forecast which I confirmed was good for the rest of the day. That being said the wind was beginning to pick up or perhaps that was just the added height and exposure.

Eventually I arrived at the fairly small summit of Cairn Toul. I met a guy who had scrambled up from the Lairig and we exchanged a few words and he mentioned that he'd seen me (or my very bright top) on the valley floor as he was ascending. I was just happy to be at the top the easyish way!

I was definitely feeling it by the time I headed off in the direction of the one that is difficult to pronounce (Sgor an Lochain Uaine). Munro number three was reached without too much difficulty and some great snaps were taken from this vantage point.

The route to Braeriach opened up in front of me. I can see now that it was a good 6km or so from where I was. Some of this terrain was quite runnable. Particularly where the Falls of Dee are crossed. There is a very flat section and I could see that it would be easy to get lost here in poor weather. In good weather however it is a simple enough affair to follow the rough path. I decided to wander off a little to the west and got some cracking views of what I think was Sgor Gaoith.
Sgor Gaoith?
I've just come from there
Wouldn't fancy going over there in a dinghy!
Braeriach summit

I arrived at the summit of Braeriach without too much difficulty and what a viewpoint this was. The cliffs are spectacular and you get a great view back down the valley. I started to see more people who were going in the opposite direction to me tackling Braeriach first. There was clearly quite a bit of height to descend and I made steady progress back down the somewhat awkward in parts path. My enthusiasm for the Gap at this point was low!

I figured that I didn't have too long left until I was back at the car and I'd had pretty trouble free progress. This came to an end where I missed the path and ended up going down a scree slope on my backside grasping clumps of heather. I could see fellow bright clothing enthusiasts on the other side of the valley. By the time I climbed up to them they were still there and said they'd thought to shout over to me that the path was only 10 metres to the side but hadn't. Apparently my descent was better than TV! I stand by my decision making that it was a direct line and I might have saved about two or three minutes. This minutes were quickly lost emptying tiny stones out of my boots.
The other side of the valley

From there I made good progress to the Gap and through it
The Gap again!
. I followed the same line as I had on the way (off to the left on the way and reversed on way back). After that it was a pretty good run out and I was back at the car before 4pm. Moving time was 6:46 but adding in photo time and breaks it was more like 7:25.

An absolutely cracking route in great conditions. I am looking forward to trying it in reverse. To my astonishment I had the same socks on that I'd started the day with! The week before on Ben Cruachan I was on my third pair of socks after 90 minutes.
First look at Cairn Toul
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Re: Glasgow - Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:39 pm

A lot of ground covered in a relatively short time, there. Glad you had good weather for it. It's a fine place.
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Re: Glasgow - Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Postby mamoset » Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:45 pm

Enjoyed that mate,great pics also. what did you use for the pics
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Re: Glasgow - Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Postby skullhead » Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:55 pm

Re: Glasgow - Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Post by mamoset » Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:45 pm

Enjoyed that mate,great pics also. what did you use for the pics

Thanks mamoset. Just an iPhone nothing fancy.
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Re: Glasgow - Cairn Toul - Braeriach traverse

Postby jmarkb » Tue Sep 29, 2020 10:08 am

Nice one!

There is a faint path that bypasses the Chalamain Gap on the the NW (Creag a' Chalamain) side - it maybe involves an extra 20-30m of ascent, but it can be useful in poor conditions (e.g. wet, ice, or unconsolidated snow).
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