Tuesday, July 29, 2014

169, 170. Carn Bhac (221), Beinn Iutharn Mhor (88). 28/07/2014

It may have taken the midgies most of the night to find us, but they were there to wish us good morning when we opened the tent. Not the swarms of the valley, but enough to be a pest when putting the tent away. The other slight problem we had was being a little low on water (due to losing a bottle cap the previous day), so we opted for malt loaf rather than porridge to break our fast. Of course the weather chose to be hot and sunny to make us appreciate our lack of water all the more, still we managed to ration our remaining 1.5l fairly well.
Perhaps midgies like orange...

Our campsite (middleground, right of picture), with the Cairngorm massif behind

Setting off from the tent at 7am, it was a fairly easy walk to the top of Carn Bhac amid stunning views. We also shared the hills with a herd of deer and many sheep - no doubt also trying to avoid the worst of the midgies by being up high. We were able to spend half an hour without the packs as we climbed to the summit, before tackling the route across to Beinn Iutharn Mhor. We were well aware that this part would be tough, but all things considered it perhaps turned out a bit less than expected. First we had to cross a mile of peat bogs, but fortunately the relatively dry weather had meant that this was pretty easy. We could see that in wet weather it would have been horrendous. Then we had to ascend the 200m wall on the side of the 'Big Sharp Edged One'. It was sweaty work with packs no doubt and at first looked almost impenetrable, but tiny paths helped us find the least steep contours and we knew once at the top things would be much easier.

Reaching the summit was a good feeling and the views in every direction were splendid, but since it was after 10.30, we decided it would be too much to include Carn an Righ today (which proved a wise decision) and instead we headed west for the path to Glen Tilt.
The clearly marked Glen Tilt from Carn Bhac

The walk down to Glen Tilt was easy going and we picked up some splendid water along the way, but it took a little longer than hoped due to the windiness of the path. Once in Glen Tilt, we knew we just had to plod along to Blair Atholl and progress began well. After passing the Falls of Tarf, we were glad to see the path became a hard track, but this was a mixed blessing. After a few miles it became quite punishing on the soles of the feet and by the time we reached the town, I had slowed considerably - the 13 or so miles ended up taking us over 5 hours. We were both very glad to see the hotel (with a 'bothy bar') by the station and we hobbled in for some well earned refreshment.

A successful trip through the Cairngorms, but with a little too much left to do on the final day.

165-168. Cairn Toul (4), Sgor an Lochan Uaine (5), Monadh Mor (40), Beinn Bhrotain (19). 27/07/2014

We were up super early to avoid feeding time at the zoo. We had finished our porridge and were out the door by 7.15am. We hiked to the top of Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochan Uaine whilst they were still shrouded in mist and enjoyed some light rain between the two. I say enjoyed - I believe Chris enjoyed it less without his waterproof trousers. We were able to get some idea of the vast deep corrie to the north which separates these two from Braeriach, although Chris remarked that it may be best not to be able to see all the way to the bottom.
The two big ones from the top of the Lairig Ghru the previous day

We headed cross-country to the south in gradually clearing conditions to Monadh Mor, which although the smallest of the four, is still well over 1100m. There was some discussion as to where the top was, but we visited all the cairns to be sure and then made our way over easy ground to Beinn Bhrotain, which was by then completely cloud-free. We reached this before midday, metaphorically patted ourselves on the back, had some trailmix (the almond/sunblush raisin/pineapple blend) and headed for the gully between the last two hills to take us back to the valley and the bothy. This gully was steep at first, before becoming a traditionally Scottish, heather-clad, heavily contoured, energy-sapping trudge. We got there in the end and did see an adder on the way, which was pretty exciting.
Beinn Bhrotain from Monadh Mor

After a decent rest in the bothy, where we somehow managed to lose the cap to one of our waterbottles, we decided to continue with our original plan of heading out to Blair Atholl, despite being a bit behind schedule. We loaded ourselves up with our packs and began with the pretty easy yomp down to White Bridge (which avid readers will remember is actually red). Then we encountered a small problem - the footbridge marked on the map leading south from White Bridge was no longer in existence. And we were beset by midge. These situations lead to hasty decisions, but fording the river seemed like our best course of action. Unfortunately at least one of Chris' feet entered the river up to the knee, which was to cause him some discomfort for the rest of the day. Still we were across largely unscathed and just had to climb high enough to avoid the worst of the midgies. It was hard going with full packs and took us a good hour to climb to the safety of 800m. Here we did find a beautiful campsite on soft ground with a breeze, although we were perhaps a little too tired to fully appreciate it. There were virtually no midgies in the evening, so we were able to cook our couscous outside before enjoying a much better night's sleep in blissful solitude.

164. Bod an Deamhain (130). 26/07/2014

We had grand plans for a three-day yomp across the Cairngorms, but the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. The idea was Blair Atholl to Aviemore, with a night in the tent followed by a night in corrour bothy, taking in up to 11 munros along the way. Forecast for thunderstorms on the first night made us switch it around, so we soon found ourselves on the bus from Aviemore to Cairngorm Mountain.

After an erudite discussion as to the origin of the name 'Sugar Bowl car park' with the bus driver, we alighted and began our walk through the Chalamain gap and on to the Lairig Ghru in hot sunny weather. Along the way we helped some reindeer herders build some wooden platforms - all in a day's work. The going was good through the gap and into the deep glaciated valley of the Lairig Ghru. The cake was good too.
Helping the herders...

Devil's Point from the west

We reached Corrour bothy around 4pm, from where we had hoped to nip up to Cairn Toul before dinner. There was time to do so, but when we were approaching Devil's Point there was thunder all around, so we decided it would be safest to leave the taller hills for the morning. There was indeed a heavy shower after we returned to the bothy. Ah yes, the bothy... that quite place of refuge, perhaps shared with one or two like-minded walkers. The people sleeping in the bothy were nice enough - a family of three taking their 12yr old to his first munro and a solitary walker on a munroing mission. The problem was the thirty or more campers outside the bothy who made a mess and turned the bothy into a fume-filled sauna with their cooking. They were well organised and meant well, but thirty people are bound to leave a footprint of some sort. Needless to say, we didn't sleep much. There were also a gazillion midgies.
The peaceful, isolated bothy