walkhighlands

Lairig Ghru Take Two - Braeriach 3/4 traverse

Munros: Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine

Date walked: 27/04/2018

Time taken: 8.5 hours

Distance: 27km

You know when you've had a good day in the mountains when you get sun burnt nostrils :D

This was the second time I'd attempted Braeriach this year. My attempt in February was an absolute embarrassment - a terrible day lost on the Sron na Lairige, going round in circles, unable to find the summit ridge. Looking back, I've tried to work out what on earth went wrong. The problem was that I'd made a series of adjustments to my direction based on a vague sense of direction (misguided as it turned out :lol: ) rather than using the compass. When I finally did use my compass I had no idea where I was on the mountain.

So it felt like deja vu when I started to climb the Sron this time around, once again in poor visibility. There was a visible path early on, but after a short while it was buried under the snow.

Image
Sron na Lairige by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I reached a cairn, which presumably was one of the two high points of the Sron. I figured the best thing was to take a compass bearing and head due South. I would either come to the other high point, or the Southern extent of the shoulder which leads to the upper reaches of Braeriach. Happily, the visibility improved to a couple of hundred metres, revealing the final big ascent up to the summit :D. From then on, it was a straightforward plod to the top of Britain's third highest peak. Presumably the cairn was buried under deep snow. The highest point was right on the very edge:

Image
Braeriach summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

It was only 10.45, three hours after setting off. The visibility wasn't great, but it seemed a shame not to continue around to the other big Munros. As I was descending South from Braeriach, the clouds started to clear a little:

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SaLU from Braeriach by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

This was just a well - not a good place to be wondering around in a white-out :shock:

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Badass cornices by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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SaLU from Carn na Criche by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

After a while, the sun started to come out. Despite a few intermittent snow showers throughout the day, I still managed to get sun burnt :roll:

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Carn na Criche cornices by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The clouds were clearing, even from Braeriach:

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Braeriach from SaLU by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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SaLU ascent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Carn na Criche by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Beinn Bhrotain by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I reached the summit of Sgor an Lochan Uaine just after 12.00, around four and a quarter hours after starting 8). I was making such good time, I started to think about doing the whole traverse, taking in Devil's Point.

Looking down the NE ridge to the summit of Uaine:

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SaLU NE ridge by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Cairn Toul from SaLU by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Stob coire an t-Saighdeir by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

During the descent for Sgor an Lochan Uaine, the snow started again and visibility was decreased. Cairn Toul began to disappear behind clouds. Looking back though, Uaine was now back in the sun, so it looked like another passing snow shower:

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SaLU from Cairn Toul by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Would Cairn Toul be cloud-free by the time I reached the summit?

Yes it would! :D

Image
Cairn Toul summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Glen Dee from Cairn Toul by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

I was still thinking about possibly continuing to Devil's Point. This was certainly possible but would leave a huge long walk back up the glen. Plus, I had other plans. To Hell with Devil's Point :twisted:

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Devils point from Cairn Toul by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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SaLU from Cairn Toul descent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Other than returning the way I came, the only other realistic option was to descend the North face/ridge of Cairn Toul. I had no idea what this would be like as I was unable to find any route descriptions or other WH reports. It didn't look too steep, so I headed off, down into the clouds:

Image
Cairn Toul descent upper by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

After the snow slope at the top, it was mainly large, immobile granite rocks and snow. Further down, the rocks became much smaller and more unstable.

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Cairn Toul descent mid by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Cairn Toul descent lower by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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LG from Cairn Toul by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Looking back up the descent route:

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Cairn Toul from Lochan Uaine by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The one last concern was the final descent down into Garbh Choire from Lochan Uaine. Actually, it's not so bad, providing the crags directly North of the Lochan outlet are avoided. The slope is steep but manageable either side of these crags.

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Desent from Lochan Uaine by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The Garbh Choire bothy, apparently under redevelopment:

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Ben MacDui from Garbh Choire bothy by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Cairn Toul from LG by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Carn a mhaim by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Cairn Toul upper from LG by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Angel from LG by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Normally, the way back would be along the Lairig Ghru, but I really wasn't keen on this. The last time I was down here, it was just awful. I spent ages fighting through the boulder field in deep snow, injuring myself in the process. I'd noticed a possible alternative on the map, going up onto the plateau and heading directly back to the ski centre via the Northern Corries. From down below, this looked to be pretty straightforward:

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Ascent to plateau by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Cairn Toul from West by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Braeriach was now cloud free. Why couldn't it have been like this when I was up there? :lol:

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Braeriach SE ridge by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Braeriach from plateau by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Once up on the plateau, it was plain sailing back home. I saw a figure ascending Cairn Lochan, from the West. Until then, I had not seen a single person all day, except for a possible sighting near the Chalamain Gap.

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Ben MacDui by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Cairn Etchachan by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

What was the best way back to the ski centre? I was planning on taking the 'goat track' between Cairn Lochan and Stob Choire an t-Sneachda (a known accident black spot). From up above, I couldn't see an route at all, no tracks, just a huge bulge of concave snow. It could have been corniced for all I knew. Sod that. I climbed a little way up an t-Sneachda to get a better look. There was a possible way down but I didn't like the look of it. No, sod it. I decided to traverse the mispronounced one and descend the Fiacaill a' Choire Chas instead. There's no point in spoiling a great day by getting avalanched :wink:

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an T-Sneadchda from Lochan Buidhe by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

Towards the end of the traverse of Stob Choire an t-Sneachda, there was a line of footsteps extremely close to the edge of the cornices, within a metre or so. Who in their right mind gets as close as this? Poor visibility might offer some excuse, but if that was the case, you'd see the footsteps approach the edge then suddenly turn away. This prat had walked a considerable distance along the line of cornices. I wonder if it was the guy I saw on Cairn Lochan earlier? If so, he'd better not have tried this stunt up there :roll:

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Cairn Gorm by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

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Fiachaill a choire chais descent by the pointless parasite, on Flickr

The weather was starting to deteriorate as I made it back to the Ski Centre. Back down in Glenmore, there was a ferocious rain/hail shower. In fact it must have snowed a good deal overnight as the plateau was under a white blanket of snow the next morning.

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Pointless Parasite


User avatar
Location: Sunderland
Occupation: Medical physicist working in cancer epidemiology
Activity: Wanderer
Mountain: Breithorn

Munros: 44
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 1
Wainwrights: 111
Hewitts: 68
Sub 2000: 1



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Statistics

2018

Trips: 7
Distance: 69.9 km
Munros: 17
Grahams: 1
Hewitts: 7
Wainwrights 16

2017

Trips: 3
Distance: 52 km
Ascent: 1207m
Munros: 6
Hewitts: 11
Wainwrights 14


Joined: Apr 09, 2017
Last visited: Jun 14, 2018
Total posts: 18 | Search posts


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