Wednesday, 24 August 2005

3,4 and 5; 6, 35 and 1800

Final outing of 2005.  Read on to figure out the numbers!

Late summer, and Fiona (and her belongings) needed to be fetched home from Nethy Bridge.  With an eye on some big hills to the west of the Lairig Ghru, I set off a day early, and parked the Espace in the evening in the big lay-by just beyond Coylumbridge.  Hopes of a good sleep were dashed - a big wind blew up, and it rained pine cones all night!  At least that meant an early start!

The day (24th August 2005) looked unsettled - a mix of blue sky and big clouds, and still blowing quite hard.  Anyway, I drove down to Coylumbridge, unloaded the bike, and set off up the track as far as the Cairngorm Club footbridge.  I could have cycled on up the path, but was planning to return a different way, so left it there chained to a fence.

Now 8.25am, time to start walking - through the beautiful pines and up the Lairig Ghru path (left).  By 10am I was well up into the narrows, at the point where the Braeriach path branches off, but had to take shelter for 15 minutes under some boulders from a very heavy shower.

The shower passed on, and I struck off up the path gradually rising up the ridge of Sron na Lairige.  Hard work, being blown around by a strong wind, and pelted every now and then by a passing shower.   As the ridge levelled off, the wind dropped and the going got easier.  Enjoyed spectacular views down into the Lairig and across to Lurcher's Crag (right).

Passed over the tops of Sron na Lairige at 11.45, the dropped down into the dip, before striking more steeply up the ridge towards the summit of Braeriach (Braigh Riabhach).  Cloud coming and going, but good views into Coire Brochain.  Reached the top (Munro number 3 in rank of height) at 12.30, ate lunch and rested for half an hour or so in the lee of the cairn.  Not another soul to be seen anywhere around!  Blissful.  

The wind was lessening, and the cloud base lifting as I set off westward across the wide eery plateau (left) towards the 1235m point, then south to Einich Cairn, and on past the "wells o' Dee" to Carn na Criche (at 1265m, the highest Munro Top in the list).

Now the sun appeared, although it was still windy, as I continued easily down round the head of the coire, then up the rocky ridge to Sgor an Lochan Uaine (also known as the Angel's Peak).

(right) Sgor an Lochan Uaine and Cairn Toul from Carn na Criche:

What a viewpoint!  Promoted to Munro status in 1990, it now proudly stands as the 5th highest mountain in Scotland (1258m).  Some would argue it is just a top lying between Braeriach and Cairn Toul - but its position and remoteness (I was 18km from the car, and had been on the go for 6.5 hours) make it a worthy Munro, in my opinion!

(left) Braeriach from Angels' Peak

No time to linger long, though, as I headed on down the bouldery slope to the next col, and then up the next short ridge to Scotland's 4th highest mountain, Cairn Toul (more properly Carn an t-Sabhail,  hill of the barn).  Another superb viewpoint, looking across the 2000ft deep gash of the Lairig Ghru to Ben MacDui.  Click here to see the view from the other side!

Allowed myself a 5 minute stop here (now 3.15pm) before heading off south round the lip of Coire an t-Saighdeir to the final top of the day, Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir.   The furthest point of the day (20km out) deserved a slightly longer rest - I allowed myself 10 mins!  

(right) Cairn Toul from Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir

Now, if I were completely crazed by this Munro lark, I could have continued on a couple of miles to The Devil's "Point", but it's a big drop, and would mean a huge walk back, so decided to leave that for another day ...

Instead, I retraced my steps to the col, with the wind now dropped and the sun at my back, and the bike (and car) like a distant mirage, encouraging my tired legs on the homeward path.  By contouring across behind Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochan Uaine, I was able to save some climbing, although no saving in distance.  What a different scene on this side of these mountains - instead of the cliffs and coires of the Lairig Ghru, the backs of these hills drift away into the Moine Mor's miles of peat bogs to the west.  

Following various intermittent paths and sheep tracks, I gradually traversed across to find the path leading down through Coire Dondail into Glen Einich (left).  

Ah bliss - a real path again, and by 5.45pm, I was dropping down towards the outflow of Loch Einich.  Last time we were here, Anne and I were floundering through deep snowdrifts.  Today was a lovely warm evening.  

After 9.5 hours, I spotted the first other person I had seen all day - a solitary camper by the loch side!

I was now off the hill, but the road home was a long and wearisome 11km on foot.  At 8pm, my bike was a very welcome sight, waiting patiently to whisk me back to the car in 15 minutes downhill all the way!

A mega-day:  6km cycling, 35km walking and 1800m of ascent.

PS did you get all the numbers on the way through?

(written by D. Bethune, 19/02/10)

Sunday, 7 August 2005

tidying up in the central highlands

After our summer week on Mull, Anne and I got away for a few days camping at the start of August.  The target was a few Munros in the southern central highlands - nothing spectacular, but 3 good hill days, taking my Munro tally from 184 to 188.  Into the last 100!

This blog is supposed to be about the last 50, so I'll press on and just give a very brief description of these hills.

5th August 2005  
Beinn Bhuidhe (Loch Fyne)

Cycled 5km up the glen from the head of Loch Fyne, then walked to Inverchaorachan.  Steep but well made path up the side of a series of waterfalls.  One rather dodgy exposed step required high above the ravine.  Boggy coire above, then steep scramble to the ridge.  Cloud was down on the summit, so only occasional glimpses of the view.

6th August 2005
Meall Glas and Sgiath Chuil (Glen Dochart)

Camped at Luib in Glen Dochart.  Again, started by bike - 3km along the main road to the Auchessan road-end.  Fairly easy tramp across rising moorland, then a short steep grassy ascent to the top of Meall Glas.  Wide and pleasant high level walk along to Beinn Cheathaich (top).  Then down and up (very steeply) to Meall a' Churain, the northern top of Sgiath Chuil (left).  

I had unfinished business here:  I had been on this top back in 1983 on a Mountain Leadership Training expedition, but, unbelievably, had not bothered to stroll along the 1km almost level "ridge" (above) to the summit.  Today that omission was rectified!  

And a good summit it was too;  a small crag overlooking Glen Dochart, with views across to Ben More and Stob Binnein (right).  A place to linger on a summer afternoon!

7th August 2005    
Beinn Mhanach

Another warm sunny summer day.  Time to seek out the shy and retiring Beinn Mhanach, lurking behind its better known neighbour Beinn Dorain, at the head of Auch Glen.  We chose to climb it from Achallader Farm.  

Followed the good (but rather boggy in places) path up the glen behind the farm into the strangely bumpy Coire Daingean, then on up to the col between Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Achaladair.  

From the col, we followed the narrow path leading round behind Beinn Achaladair, and finally on to the rounded hump of Beinn Mhanach , but taking in the top Beinn a'Chuirn (left) at its west end first.  Rolling hills. 

Sunbathed on the summit and admired the views over to Beinn a' Chreachain (right) and down Loch Lyon before reluctantly heading back by the same route.

(written 17/02/10)