13 days in Cairngorms

Munros: An Socach (Braemar), Beinn a'Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Glas Tulaichean, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, The Devil's Point
Corbetts: Ben Vrackie, Ben Vuirich, Meall a'Bhuachaille, Morrone

Date walked: 02/07/2012

Distance: 169km

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Last July I visited Scotland with my girlfriend Agata and two of my friends: Marek and Ania. We're from Poland so visit in Scotland was kinda like an expedition. We did a lot of planning - big thanks to WH users, who helped us a lot. We wanted to spend 2.5 weeks in Scotland, as much as possible in the mountains. We decided that we'll head to Cairngorms and walk from Pitlochry to Braemar and then to Aviemore. On 30th June we came to Edinburgh and spent two days wandering around the city. On Monday we got into the bus and began our trip.

Day 1
The Real Mountain Trip (TM) begins on 2nd July in the late afternoon in Pitlochry. It's cloudy and windy, but it doesn't rain too much. We walk up to Loch a' Choire and pitch our tents nearby. Rain gets heavier, which makes me a bit worried - I know that in such weather we won't be able to walk for even two days.


Day 2
The weather gets slightly better in the morning. We head towards Ben Vrackie, meeting a lot of people. We're carrying heavy backpacks with food supply for the next 2 weeks so most people just pass us by. Everyone claims that according to weather forecasts this is supposed to be the best day of the week. Only later we will realize that weather forecasts are never accurate. Weather on top of Ben Vrackie is horrible - visibility arround 50 meters and a strong wind don't encourage us to stay long. We move to north east towards Meall Breac. Luckily, we get below the clouds, which makes navigation a lot easier. We cross Allt na Leacainn Moire (BTW. how the hell do you pronounce these names?!) and head towards Creag Chlacharnach. The weather gets worse. It starts to rain and after an hour or so we're completely wet. Our plan is to reach the pass between Ben Vuirich and Carn Dubh. Visibility is again reduced to 50m or less, which makes navigation hard. We think we should be reaching the pass, but the terrain is just not right... so we're lost. We decide to pitch our tents and wait until the morning. My winter climbing instructor told me that camping sites fall into two categories: good and very good. Good ones include a bog and railway tracks. All others are very good. That said, we found ourselves a good camping site :) I don't like being soaking wet, but I guess I still love sleeping in a tent in a middle of nowhere, with no people around and nothing but the wind whistling.


Day 3
Weather is still horrible - no visibility and strong wind. No rain though, so it wasn't that bad. We still not sure where exactly we are but we're certain we're not at the pass. We go north, following a crest that shouldn't be here. This makes things pretty clear - we camped just below the summit of Creag nan Gobhar and now are moving up to the pass. We reach the pass and just to be double sure we decide to climb the summit of Ben Vuirich. We reach the top, go back to the pass and head north east to Glen Loch. The lower we get the better the weather. Once we're in the valley it is sunny and warm, though the thick clouds still cover Carn Dubh and Ben Vuirich. We move up Gleean Fearnach, take a bath in the stream and go to the very end of the valley. We camp there.


Day 4
First sunny morning in Scotland! We pack our stuff and begin the day with steep ascent towards Carn an t-Sionnaich. We take a small rest there and then head towards our first Munro - Glas Tulaichean. We're going quite fast hoping for a long rest and enjoyable views at the top. There certainly is a view from the top, but not en enjoyable one - the storm is coming towards us from the East. We put our waterproof pants and jackets and get out of the summit ASAP. As we move north along the ridge we witness the most spectacular weather breakdown I've seen in my life - I wish I had taken pictures. We are lucky - the storm just disappears, there are only clouds. We go towards Loch nan Eun and then across the huge plain towards An Socach. It gets sunny, so we don't hurry, but spend some time talking and enjoying the views: a herd of about 100 deers and then military bombers and fighters manoeuvring over Cairngorms. We finally reach the summit of An Socach... and get away from there as soon as possible, because the storm is coming :/ We go north east towards Braemar and camp on a pass below Sgor Mor. Luckily, the storm passes us by. BTW. Does anyone have an idea what fighters have we seen? I thought they looked like F-15, but I don't think they operate in Scottish air forces.








Day 5
We head north towards Braemar. There's no rain and the clouds are high, but the very strong wind makes this a very unpleasant day. We reach Morrone, which we nick-named Moron, and head down towards Braemar. We resupply chocolate and Snickers, and go towards Invercauld Bridge visiting Braemar Castle on our way. After we cross the bridge we have our first encounter with the midges. I must say that their fame is well deserved. We move along the road and camp in Gleann an t-Slugain.

Day 6
Another windy day. We move up Gleann an t-Slugain with plans to reach Ben Avon. As we walk into the valley leading north towards the Ben, we realize that we might not reach the summit: it is very windy, cloudy and the rain gets heavier. We reach Clach a' Cleirich and decide there's no point in going further up. We pitch our tents - it's 2.30PM - and decide to wait until the morning to see if it gets better.


Day 7
This was a long night. I never tested my tent in such a strong wind and I wasn't sure if it will hold against the wind. Luckily for us it did, but it still count as one of the most extreme mountain experiences I had in my life. The weather isn't any better so pack our tents and go down the valley. We decide to move through the valleys and reach Bob Scott Memorial Hut. We're in the hut quite early, so we decide to head up to Hutchinson Memorial Hut. We're hoping for a better weather and possibility of climbing some Munros: we've already given up on Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird. We're a bit disappointed about the Hutchinson Hut and there's some discussion whether we should pitch our tents or not. In the end we sleep on the floor.

Day 8
Better weather my ***. I'm happy others persuaded me not to pitch the tents. It doesn't rain but it's cloudy and windy. So much for climbing Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Beann Mheadhoin. As usual, we go for Plan B: up towards Loch Etchachan and down to Loch Avon (splendid views!). Then we traverse the lake towards Loch Avon and Fords of Avon. The refuge is taken so we head south towards Lairig an Laoigh. We camp near Dubh Lochan. BTW/ the path along the shore of Loch Avon and then towards the Refuge is one huge bog.





Day 9
We continue south towards Lairig an Laoigh. On the pass we decide that the weather isn't that bad (i.e. it doesn't rain that much) and we can go up to Beinn a' Chaorainn and then possibly south towards Bob Scott. When we reach the top we reassess the situation - the weather IS bad. We go back to Lairig an Laoigh and continue through the valley towards Bob Scott. On this memorable day I take my second, and last, bath on this trip - next one will be in Edinburgh.

Day 10
Seriously, how long can it rain? We decide there's no point in going anywhere. Around noon weather gets better. At 2PM some people arrive from Corrour Bothy and tell us that Devil's Point was not in the clouds this morning. The motivates us - we pack all our stuff in 30 minutes and we're off. We reach Corrour Bothy around 6PM and in fact Devil's Point is not in the clouds - a rare view for us. I try to persuade others to go the top today, but nobody seems to like this idea. After all "we can go there tomorrow".

Day 11
Surprisingly the weather isn't that bad (yet). We reach Devil's Point, but by the time we get to Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir everything is in clouds. Wind gets very strong which makes walking not enjoyable. At least we're not in the valley - there's no backing up now. We climb four Munros this day, a pity we can't really enjoy any of them. Luckily there's a cliff on our right side. This at least makes the navigation easy. We move north from Sron na Lairige, walk down to Lairig Ghru and pitch our tents there.




Day 12
I guess we're a bit tired after the previous day, so we decide to take it easy and head to Ryvoan Bothy. We reach the bothy in the afternoon and pitch our tents nearby. I guess we could call it a resting day.

Day 13
We begin the day with ascent to Meall a'Bhuachaille. This is the first summit where we can actually sit and enjoy the fact that we climbed the mountain. No running from the rain or storms. Then we head north west to Craiggowrie. We plan to camp somewhere near Aviemore so we can go to town on the next day and catch our bus to Edinburgh. Navigating through a maze of fences turns out to be quite troublesome but in the end we manage to find a camp site a few hundred meters from the road.



Day 14
Last day in Scottish mountains - just a walk towards Aviemore, shopping and going back to Edinburgh.

13 days, 169 kilometres, 7 Munros and 4 Corbetts. That's not much considering the time we had for our trip. I guess the weather took away most of the pleasure we could have had. Probably the worst thing is that it wasn't the worst possible weather. I wish we could have enjoyed the views and spent some time sitting on the summits, but I still enjoyed Scotland. I think I fell in love with it so I hope this wasn't my last journey to the Highlands. I loved vast empty spaces, lack of people but most of all freedom to roam and camp wherever I want. I wish I could see the North and I guess I'll be thinking of a way to come back to Scotland. This might not be that easy since this turned out to be a bit expensive holiday, but I hope this is a problem that can be overcome.

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Comments: 19


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Location: Edinburgh
Occupation: Research Assistant at University of Edinburgh
Activity: Scrambler
Camera: Canon S95

Munros: 16
Corbetts: 6
Sub 2000: 1

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Trips: 1
Distance: 169 km
Munros: 7
Corbetts: 4

Joined: May 09, 2012
Last visited: Jul 03, 2018
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