Mayar & Driesh - 23/06/18

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Munros: Driesh, Mayar
Date walked: 15/11/2018
Distance: 14.5km
Ascent: 835m
Views: 512

"Sorry we missed the quiz, but Geez a Braeriach" - 14/04/18

Munros: Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine, The Devil's Point

Date walked: 14/04/2018

Time taken: 14.5 hours

Distance: 45km

Ascent: 1870m

It's been some time since I was last out on the hills (the November Great Glen Meet, to be precise), and the less said about that weekend the better. On the run up to this meet, I found myself feeling a little anxious. How fit would I be, would I manage the routes, would I hold the guys back, and (most of all) would I mange to keep a hold of my car keys this time. All the good stuff, besides looking forward to seeing old friends and getting away from the office.

The plan had been to drive up on the Thursday night, to join Martin, George & Parminder for a couple of Munros on the Friday, before the main event of the Braeriach 4 on the Saturday. As things turned out with work schedules, I stayed in York until Friday morning, giving myself an easier day-time drive to Braemar. An extra night's rest was well worth the sacrifice of those two additional blue balloons. I still managed to be part of the guy's day in a way; they knew they would be arriving at the hostel to find their dinner on the table waiting for them. I think they enjoyed it, as their plates were cleared pretty quickly. George even forced down the dessert, and apparently he's not really a fan of puddings.

So, with the pre-amble over, on to the main event of the weekend.
How best do you catalogue this particular group of hills into your Munro-bagging annuls.
A short version with just the the stats, or a more memorable record of a day spent in nature's majestic beauty.

The short Version - "We walked a long way, and it took a long time."

Myself, Martin (Fife Flyer), George (dibs) & Parminder
Linn of Dee, Derry Lodge, Lairig Ghru, Braeriach, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Cairn Toul, The Devil's Point, Corrour Bothy, Derry Lodge, Linn of Dee.
45km, 1870m, 14.5hrs
The End

Not sure that really does the day justice, so I might just start over...

We knew Saturday was going to be a long day. We were up at 0600 and, after a bit of breakfast, we set off for the Linn of Dee car park. I wasn't taking any chances this time, and George had already agreed to take my bike in his car, negating the need for me (or anyone else) to worry about the location of my car keys. We arrived at the parking area shortly after 0700 and, by the time we had unloaded the bikes, donned our boots, and realised that the parking machine was taking money but not giving out tickets, we saddled up and set off through the trees around 0730.

It was a quiet and peaceful morning; aside from the noise of our mechanical ponies talking to the gravel beneath them, and the occasional enquiry from the ever eager frontrunner Blue Beswick, keen to know the whereabouts of "Tinkerbell", bringing up the rear.
I decided (as I started writing this) that it probably wouldn't be very nice to mention that George managed to fall off his bike less that 10 minutes in, on the boardwalk section before the main track, so I'm gonna try to leave that part out of the report; much in the same way that Darren's bike tyre antics the night before (ask him, next time you see him), were kept solely between myself and half the dinning room. :wink:
What goes on at a Meet, gets shared with anyone who'll listen !

It really felt, as we made our way long the track, that the day was going to be a good one. The occasional halt allowed our cameras to capture the beauty of the landscape ahead of us, but more importantly, offered an opportunity to just pause "everything", and appreciate the feeling of getting away from it all.
It felt good to be out on the hills again.

Braeriach 4_001.jpg
The morning view, the distance to be covered becoming clear.

Derry Lodge is reached in about 30 minutes by bike, if your trundle along as we did. This being my 1st venture into these parts, it was a little sad to see a building, no doubt once full of life, sitting quietly with it's eyes to the mountains blinkered by sheets of hardboard.

Braemar Mountain Rescue's base, Derry Lodge's next door neighbour, provided some reassurance that not everyone had left this place, and the sight of their Defenders was a welcome reminder of the willingness of those prepared to be there, if and when things on the hills go wrong.
We decided to take our bikes across the bridge, hopeful of finding dry passage through the section of marshland beyond, in order to gain a few extra kilometres on the bikes. As it turned out, the anticipated bog wasn't too bad; which gave George the opportunity to show us that he wasn't merely a one-trick pony.

Braeriach 4_002.jpg
The marshland, which turned out to be drier than expected.

Braeriach 4_003.jpg
After his earlier Horizontal Horseplay, George now showing off Perpendicular Prowess. (C) MB

The second section of track is less civilised than that between Linn of Dee & Derry Lodge, and is only really good for about a kilometre or so, unless you enjoy a more technical riding challenge. As it was, we ditched the bikes about halfway between the marshland exit & Luibeg Bridge.

The path winds it's way through light woodland before the bridge, after which it rises onto the open hillside beneath Carn a'Mhaim, marking the start of the long walk up the famous Lairig Ghru.

Braeriach 4_004.jpg
George & Parminder crossing Luibeg Bridge. (C) MB

Braeriach 4_005.jpg
Rounding the shoulder of Carn a'Mhaim; The Devil's Point trying to intimidate.

Braeriach 4_006.jpg
All 4 of the day's targets now in sight. 6 months of nothing, then I agree to tackle this lot?

Our progress up this famous mountain pass was an enjoyable start to our day's many miles of walking. A easy path underfoot and, with no wind to speak of, conditions couldn't have been much better. There was little snow on the valley floor, although the same could not be said of the intimidating walls on our flanks. The Devil's Point reminded us that winter still had cards to play, sending a section of ice avalanching down it's face as we passed. The headwall of Coire Odhar, which forms the backdrop to Corrour Bothy, was still holding plenty of snow, giving us a preview of our exit route much later in the day. We passed the bothy about 0930.

Braeriach 4_007.jpg
Corrour Bothy, nestling discreetly beneath Coire Odhar.

As we were nearing Braeriach's eastern shoulder, we decided to stop for lunch. Our walking, from the point we had passed the bothy until now, had involved several sections where snow was covering both our path and the many streams running off the slopes of Ben Macdui's considerable bulk. This had provided much humour amongst us, as we took it in turns to be the one who lost our footing, or dropped into a hole, giving the rest of our quartet the opportunity to point and laugh.

Braeriach 4_008.jpg
Mr. Beswick's camera always seems to be ready, when calamity may occur. (C) MB

As we fuelled ourselves for the ascent ahead, we could see that sections of boulders and snow patches would be requiring our focus all the way to the top. We had been on the go for over 4 hours at this point, and only now was the hard work about to begin. Reassuringly, or as an ominous sign; the Mountain Rescue boys (who had been out training all morning) gave us a fly past, as we finished off our rations.

Braeriach 4_009.jpg
Mountain Rescue, honing their skills above The Devil's Point.

Fed and watered, we set off again; our immediate challenge being how to cross the Allt na Lairig Ghru. I'm sure, in summer, this crossing requires minimal thought, but a little ingenuity was going to be required today. There were several points where boulders provided reasonable opportunities to cross the water, but steep snow banks on either side of these made them all non-starters. Another way across would need to be found.
I spotted what looked to be a relatively narrow (bank to bank) snow bridge, that might be willing to offer safe passage.
It was at the mention of this, that I was reminded why I enjoy walking with my companions so much.
No Egos, No Pecking Order, No Selfishness, Start Together End Together, We're In This Together, All for 1 and 1 for....

"Aye, on you go, Martin"
"We'll wait here, and see how you go".

And so I did.
And, as expected, the boys got their cameras out.

Braeriach 4_010.jpg
I had the "privilege" of going 1st. Tread lightly, snow whisperer. (C) MB

The snow held, the boys followed, and we were across.
Let the lung bursting commence.
We opted to swing just left of the shoulder. Either side looked equally tough, but we thought we could see an easier route through the various sections of boulders and snow patches. We took it in turns leading the line, weaving our way over and around the weather worn maze of stonework.

The snow patches provided only light relief from the constant guessing game of "Which Rock Next", as the gradient was such that a heavy planting of each boot was required, to ensure we didn't go sledging.

Braeriach 4_011.jpg
Martin & Parminder providing some scale of the distance already covered.

Braeriach 4_012.jpg
Martin making me pose, as ever. A good excuse for the calf muscles to relax a little. (C) MB

Braeriach 4_013.jpg
George, taking on the role of Health & Safety Officer.

Arriving on the summit of Braeriach about 1415, the warming sun (we had enjoyed on the ascent) decided to abandon us without notice. How rude. Our hopes of views down the Lairig Ghru were crushed; even summit pictures were dismissed as pointless. Instead we just followed our waypoints, trudging right over the snow capped summit, hoping for better views on hills 2, 3 & 4.

Braeriach 4_014.jpg
Summit Picture? Not much point in these conditions. Pretty gloomy for 2:15 in the afternoon.

Still having many miles to cover, we tried to not let the current lack of views dampen our spirits. On a route as big as this, the long game had to be our focus. Things, after all, can change very quickly on the hills, and today was no exception. Shortly after leaving the summit, a brief clearing of the sky gifted us with some great views of the amount of snow and cornicing, that looked to be going nowhere fast.

Braeriach 4_015.jpg
It's not Spring yet, on Braeriach upper reaches.

Braeriach 4_016.jpg
Still plenty of cornicing, defying gravity.

The route form Braeriach to Cairn Toul, via Sgor an Lochain Uaine (of course), didn't feel too technically challenging. Plenty of GPS gadgets between us, radios for any wandering-off stragglers, and with the back to basics Map & Compass on-hand, we settled into a pretty good rhythm. The cameras didn't make much of an appearance between the hills, mainly because there wasn't much to see beyond the snow & the white fluffy sky. Summits shots would be suffice.

The only contrast to the sea of white, apart from ourselves, came in the form of two skiers from the Lake District. By that, I mean they lived there, they hadn't skied from home. We had passed them on the Lairig Ghru, earlier in the day, and their progress had been good. They were following a similar version of our route in reverse, albeit without the need to bag the actual summits. With mirrored goggles, and outfits to rival a messy artist's palate, they looked like they were paying homage to a late-80's, early-90's re-run of Ski Sunday.

Little did I know, but the boys had a surprise in store for me, when we reached our 2nd summit of the day, at 1600.
I guess my Size 11 boots had been appreciated more that I had realised.

Braeriach 4_017.jpg
Receiving my knighthood from Parminder, on Sgor an Lochain Uaine. Services to Step-Kicking.

By the time we had reached the 3rd summit of the day, the skies had cleared. We took a few minutes to enjoy the glorious views, and to congratulates ourselves on our efforts thus far. We had certainly worked hard for these ones.

Braeriach 4_018.jpg
"Oh, those ones behind me? Yeah, we've already done them." shot, on Cairn Toul.

Braeriach 4_019.jpg
Three "stand-up" blokes. Martin, George & Parminder, on Cairn Toul.

We didn't hang around for too long on any of the summits, as time was always going to be against us today.
Our calorie burn rate was now starting to drain us, so addition intakes were now being taken on the hoof.

Braeriach 4_020.jpg
3 down, 1 to go. The Devil's Point (left shoulder) looking rather small from up here.

Heading down from Cairn Toul (summited at 1715), we were again faced with the delights of snow covered boulders. They weren't as tricky as the ones we had dealt with earlier in the day, but that didn't stop George using them to orchestrate yet another Health & Safety master class. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill (or small patch of snowy stones). You'd have thought 4 mountain was enough for one day, but I guess he wanted 5. :wink:

Braeriach 4_021.jpg
Health & Safety 101 - Don't follow George's footsteps. We did help him up, AFTER the picture.

After clearing the boulders, the descent to the bealach was just a long drag. On a shorter route, it would have been easy, but with our legs now starting to feel heavy, it felt like harder work than it needed to be. The occasional pocket of "deepness" would have us all sinking unexpectedly; George (of course) stealing the award for the most pockets found.
We had passed another group of skiers, somewhere on route to Cairn Toul (I can't really remember), but this had been a brief "hello" at best, as they had obviously started later in the day, and still had some ways to go.

The only other walkers we saw, were a group of 4 (plus 1 dog), who were some way off to our right, and looked to be descending from Sgor an Lochain Uaine, on a line that would have had them missing out Cairn Toul, heading directly for the bealach beneath The Devils Point. We wondered what their plans were, as we estimated them to be at least half an hour behind us, if we had guessed their plans correctly.

We reached the bealach about 1800, which gave us an chance to see the exit slope up close, which we would be returning to an hour later, to begin our long road home.

Braeriach 4_022.jpg
Crossing the bealach, checking the condition of the exit slope. (C) MB

Tiredness was showing now, and our pace had slowed somewhat; Parminder was really feeling it.
I hadn't been out the day before, so only respect for my colleagues (from me), for their levels of hill fitness.
To be able to take on this lot, after 30km the day before, is quite a feat.
Remember the "we're in this together" from earlier at the snow bridge, well don't let it be said that I'm not willing to sit down and wait for my mates. It had nothing to do with me being "gubbed", in the slightest.

Braeriach 4_023.jpg
Waiting for weary legs; the final ascent of the day. (They had had a big day yesterday) (C) MB

We reached the last summit about 1830, gasped for air, congratulated each other on an tremendous day's effort, got the essential summit shot, then headed for that bealach as quickly as our jelly legs would carry us.

Braeriach 4_024.jpg
Looking, and feeling weary; 4th summit of the day - The Devil's Point.

Leaving the summit , we spotted that the group of 4 walkers we had seen earlier, hadn't headed down as we have initially thought, and they were in fact, heading up Cairn Toul. No experts in our group, and nothing other than concern, but it definitely felt that they were a little late in the day to still be going "up".
Maybe they were staying in the bothy, and wouldn't have the walk out to worry about. So we hoped, anyway.

It was 1900 when we started down the snowy slope of Coire Odhar, the initial descent being pretty steep. As much as we were all eager to back on valley floor, care had to be taken not to lose our footings. An unexpected bum slide, or worse still, a head-first tumble, would have been far from ideal. As it was, we managed to make it the bothy by 1930, without any incidents to speak of. Not one. Nothing at all. :wink:

Braeriach 4_025.jpg
Myself & Parminder, descending to Corrour Bothy; daylight starting to fade. (C) MB

We had a quick look in the bothy, which was empty. If those other walkers didn't have their packs with them, they were gonna be walking in the dark a lot longer than ourselves. There is a path from the bothy, across (I was very happy to see) a metal bridge, that brings you back onto the main path we had travelled up, many, many hours ago.

Our work was done, and all we had to do was get home. Nothing exciting about the rest of the day (or night). We made it back across Luibeg bridge around 8pm, and were back at our bikes just as it was getting to head torches required time.

Setting off on our ponies once more, the rougher track made for "interesting" riding. A small issue with one our head torches (dead batteries) meant I had the fun of trying to light up the track for two of us at once. That was fun for all of 5 minutes. We managed to pull together some spare batteries, and Parminder was able to see what he was doing again. A bit of a trudge through the marshland just before the Mountain Rescue base, followed by someone (MR. B) having a small issue with forgetting that the bridge span had steps on it, and we were finally safe at 2115.

We had a quick chat with MR boys, who's cabin looked warm and cosy, and who's food smelled great.
We weren't finished yet, so we said our goodnights and set off back to the car park.

We arrive back at the cars at 2200 (George managing to stay on his horse across the boardwalk this time), and our gear was loaded into the cars with short shrift. Martin wasn't staying another night, so we wished him well for his long drive home, while the rest of us had just the short drive back to the hostel. We had realised many hours before, that we were probably going to miss taking part in Gill's Saturday Night Quiz.

Arriving at the hostel, we were greeted by a lot of very relieved faces. Our plans for the day were known, but we had been gone since the crack of dawn. A few calls had been made, by various people who happened to have our mobile numbers, to see where we were. Unfortunately, due to lack of signal, our phones had only sprung into life, as we got back into Braemar village.

I am sure I speak for the 4 of us, when I say that it was genuinely appreciated that Saturday Night's legendary shenanigans hadn't allowed the fact that some of the group were still not back, to go unnoticed. Everyone's concern, and happy-to-see-us faces, really meant a lot. :clap:

Gill, Sorry we missed your quiz. :(

Martin, George & Parminder,
Thank you for a magnificent day. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it will be remembered fondly. :D
You guys are all top notch, in my book. :clap: :clap: :clap:

And, for the statisticians...

With Who:
Martin (Fife Flyer)
George (dibs)
Parminder (parminder)

0730: Start (Linn of Dee car park)
0800: Derry Lodge
1130-1145: Lunch (Lairig Ghru)
1415: Braeriach Summit
1600: Sgor an Lochain Uaine Summit
1715: Cairn Toul Summit
1800: bealach
1830: The Devil's Point Summit
1900: bealach
1930: Corrour Bothy
2115: Derry Lodge
2200: Finish (Linn of Dee car park)
Total: 14hrs 30mins



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Comments: 14

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