Monday, August 20, 2007

39-40. Ben Macdhui (2), Cairn Gorm (6) 17/08/2007

After chatting to our friend John in the local shop and after hearing that the weather was going to be good, we chose the route up the Fiacail Buttress to the Cairngorm plateau aiming to take in Ben Macdhui, Britain's second highest hill. John had said that this was his wife's favourite walk and had named the route after her. We promptly forgot her name and so spent most of the climb (or at least I did) thinking of possible names for what we should call Sylvia's Scramble. We took the bus along the road for the first 200m of ascent (whether or not this was cheating remains a moot point, but I maintain that the walk up the road would have been a bit dull and pointless) and began the walk in the inevitable mist and rain. We were on Felicity's Finger in no time and it did turn out to be an excellent scramble, with some slightly exposed moments. The rain abated and the mist withdrew as we climbed, leaving clear weather. Once up on top, it was an easy few kilometres through magnificent views to the top of Ben Macdhui. We could clearly see the ascent on our first day and the spectacular An Garbh Choire. On the way back it was as easy as pi to take in Cairn Gorm, the north side of which is rather spoilt by the ski developments, which made our descent back to the youth hostel a bit bleak and featureless. These two only took us about 7 hours, despite a similar distance and ascent to our climb of Braeriach, so we made good time.

Scrambling along Nelly's Nobble
The edge of the Cairngorm plateau
The route up Cairn Gorm

Ben Macdhui from Cairn Gorm

38. Bynack More (54) 15/08/2007

Having heard that the weather wasn't to be as good, we decided to aim for a slightly more pointy hill, since getting bemisted on a plateau didn't really appeal. It turned out that we had good conditions for the duration of the ascent and by 11am we were standing on the windswept summit just below the mist (if the hill had been 5m higher, we wouldn't have seen a thing). Bynack More is quite different from its neighbours (and is indeed thought to have predated the glaciation which shaped the bulk of the Cairngorms, according to local wisdom) and it has a rocky apex more akin to the hills of the west coast. This provided a bit of a steep climb towards the end, which was nice. Following a tip-off, we went to check out the Barns of Bynack (not to be confused with the Little Barns of Bynack), which were indeed impressive, and we pondered to ourselves over how these huge triple-decker sandwiches of rock could possibly have ended up halfway down the mountainside. After this, hoping to catch a glimpse down into Glen A'an, we went to the southern subsidiary top, but the mist was beginning to descend, so our view was impeded. After this is was but a hop, skip and a jump down the scree into the rather damp Strath Nethy, from where we trapsed north through the mud (getting more and more irritated with it) until we picked up our original path back to the Youth Hostel.

Approaching the summit
(needs to be rotated) The barns of Bynack

37. Braeriach (3) 14/08/2007

An excellent hill walk. We got up early and walked up the road from the youth hostel before taking the splendid path to the Chalmain gap, where a bit of scrambling ensued. This v-shaped rocky cleft took us through to our first view of Braeriach, still somewhat enshrouded in mist. We crossed the impressive Lairig Ghru, the vast glaciated valley running the length of the Cairngorms, and began the long pull up the broad shoulder to the summit plateau. Just as we got to the edge of the corrie, the mists lifted to give us a magnificent view of Carn Toul and the rest of An Garbh Choire. From there it was only a gentle kilometer to the summit, with precipitous drops to our left and wide slopes to our right. In all, 1200m of ascent and 25km of walking, so a good energetic first munro for Chris and Aileen.

Looking down on the Lairig Ghru from the summit
Braeriach (right) from the ascent of Ben Macdhui

The summit plateau from Macdhui

36. Carn na Caim (232) 11/08/2007

There were fewer midge in the morning - perhaps they had an insight in to what was to come. There was a layer of mist at about 800m, but we were fairly confident that this might lift later in the day. We began climbing up on to the ridge (about 810m high) and didn't see the light again. It was a miserable day and without visibility progress was slow, since we had to follow the plateau edge. Eventually we got to the summit of Carn na Caim after 5 hours or so. I think this would have taken less than 3 in clear weather. By this time we were fed up and the drizzle, which had been constant all day, began to increase, so we decided to descend without visiting the other munro in the area. The local pub did serve a good venison burger, though.

The ridge which leads to the summit (1km to the right). Taken the previous day - no other photos were possible in the conditions.

35. Meall Chuaich (214) 10/08/2007

This was a jolly pleasant afternoon stroll. After being delayed for 3 hours on the train, we walked out of Dalwhinnie at 4ish and were looking for a campsite in the bealach at the back of the hill. We got to the top in the early evening, having left our packs at the campsite and had great views for miles around. We could see through to Ben Alder and north to the Cairngorms. We sighted our route south for the following day, before making our way down to camp, where we were plauged by midge. "That's not a rain shower outside the tent, Oliver, that's the midge."

View of Meall Chuaich from Dalwhinnie

The summit cairn, with the Cairngorms in the distance