Thursday 16 April 2009

Cairngorm return

Looking toward Braeriac

Thursday 9th April. Camped OS map Explorer 403 GR 929061.

Travelled up on the night coach trying to be ahead of the Easter rush. As it was things where still busy with the service I was travelling having two extra duplicate buses. Road works, accidents and diversions saw us arriving in Aviemore some three quarters of an hour late. Tired from lack of sleep, stiff from the long hours of travelling, I was not feeling my best. Medical problems probably where not helping either. Nipped in to the local chippy, (the half decent one) for a bite to eat and a cuppa or two. Not that I was hungry, it was more a case of needing to get some fluids and food in me before starting out; it sounds awful when eating and drinking is just a mechanical affair, out of necessity rather than enjoyment. The rucksack felt heavy and lumpen as I headed out of Aviemore. My route was an old familiar one and I was content to just shuffle along with the brain half in neutral. My goal was an easy one, Glen Eanaich; there are one or two lovely places among the trees which are splendid for wild camping. Pick the right spot and one can be discreetly hidden away out of sight of the track that heads up through glen. At the moment a strong wind is creating an almighty rumpus among the trees. There is a great roaring, trees bending and swaying, creaking and groaning; twigs and bits of debris being hurled in all directions; nature creating a right rumpus.. This meant I had to be a bit circumspect in where I pitched; it would not be good to have a lump of branch fall on top of me.
Friday 10th April. Same spot as previous night.
Strong winds and rain during the night, quite a few substantial sized branches brought down too. By morning all was calming down. Woke late and still felt off colour and therefore declared a rest day. Thick cloud was scudding across the higher tops and I was content to just to have a wander. heavy rain at one point drove me back to the tent but it was only passing showers.
Saturday11th April camped GR 930058
Sometimes the best laid plans go askew and things turn pear shape. My original intention had been to head up Glen Eanaich and then swing off up to Coire Dhondail.The morning was not too bad, chilly but dry. There are few suitable places to camp in the upper reaches of the glen; hence my intention of going higher. A stalkers path winds its way up through to the corry. In many places though it was deeply buried under substantial snow banks that remained on the steep hillside. Not really difficult to cross, just needing a bit of care and concentration. Just before the corry I suddenly realised that I was moving very slowly, really sluggish. Odd really, one moment I was plodding along fine and then suddenly I hit the wall, my legs just not wanting function. Following doctors orders I had been drinking plenty and had been snacking as normal but for whatever reasons my energy levels went through the floor. Finding a sheltered spot among the boulders that litter the whole of the corry, I settled down and had a twenty minute break. Coire Dhondail is an impressive place; a great glacial scoop gouged out of the side of the surrounding hills. Steep and stern rock walls, boulders littering the corry floor; a great tumbling waterfall. My original intention had been to camp up there and continue over the plateau and drop down to the Lairig the following day. What was not boulder covered was running with rivulets of melt water. Getting a place to put the tent would have been difficult. After getting myself together I explored among the boulder field and under the great head walls and inched up and across a massive snow bank towards the actual top. With no real option of keeping to my earlier plan there was little choice but to head down again; a very frustrating and difficult decision. The problem being acerbated by the fact that I would have to return a fair way back down Glen Eanaich to find a spot to camp. The walk down the glen track can be a long and wearisome plod of a few miles. By the time I found somewhere to camp and got myself sorted it was almost five and I felt exhausted.
Sunday, 12th April, camped same spot.
An easy day, a roe deer barking outside the tent woke me in the early hours of the morning. There is a regular series of deer tracks all around. Dozed off again and after yesterday I decided to do something easy today. Heading back up the glen I turned off and walked up to Carn a' Phris-ghiubhais. Ok, it is only a tiny little hill but it was pleasant walking; the sun was warm even if the breeze was cold. Saw some little lizards, possibly skinks, they scuttled off too quickly though to have a decent look at them. Sat for a while in a tiny little wall of rock on the top just admiring the surrounding views. Given the right weather conditions there is some lovely walking to be had up there.It also offers some great alternative ways up on to the Braeriach plateau and also a different way of walking over to the Lairig. Good too for some high level wild camping. Clouds drifting lazily across the sky, some a dirty grey but the majority great white fluffy balls of cotton wool type clouds. Dropping off the back of the hill I ambled over toward Coire Beanaidh and then followed the burn down. Much snow lingered in the high corries and drifts still clung to the sides of the burn. Heading back to the tent I saw a frog in the middle of the track; wanting a closer at her I got down on my hands and knees and attempted a couple of photos. it was as I was doing this that a couple came strolling along the track. Pointing the frog out to them they too where soon down on their hands and knees. Worried for the frogs welfare I removed it to a nice shady damp spot. A pleasant, lazy day. There was frost on the tent this morning and the temperature is dropping this evening.
Monday 13th April. Same camp.
A heavier frost this morning. It is surprising how quickly wildlife seem to accept your presence; the roe deer where once more grazing close to the tent early this morning. Instead of the barking and foot stamping of the previous morning there was just a half hearted bark. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. Whatever happened I was determined to get out there and something on the hill. Followed the broad shoulder up to Cadha Mor and on up to Creag Dhubh and across to the Argyle stone. The sun was shining but the wind was bitter; extra layers, hats and gloves. Not moving too badly I pushed on following the ridge line up toward Sgoran Dhubh Mor. Stunning views in all directions; a time to linger and soak it all in. Crossing a couple of wide snow banks not far from the top I knew my energy levels where starting to seriously flag. Just about by the summit cairn I called it quits and fled back down to the rocks by Sgorran Dhubh Beag. Out of the wind I stretched on a nice soft mossy patch for a break. A small group of people coming down came over to see if I was ok. They where a little non plussed that I was not going to push on and bag Sgor Gaoith, which is a munro. Why though? I had had a good day out, done a non too bad a walk, why push myself to extremes just to do a munro? As it was there was still a fairish walk back to the tent. As I was heading back I saw my second eagle of the day. Like the first one, this one was also quartering the high tops. They make their flight seem so effortless, riding gracefully on the air currents. Saw ptarmigan too, they where predominantly still in winter plumage. Once back by the Argyle stone I dropped off the ridge to head back down in to the glen. It is a long and fairly steep descent through tangled heather hidden boulders; made longer to me angling across the hill as I descended. That was quite deliberate, the floor of the glen is a wet and boggy place and my aim was to miss the worst of it. Today has been long and a tad difficult. What concerns me is my hill going ability; on this trip it has been sadly lacking. Tomorrow I shall be heading out to the flesh pots of Aviemore. At least there is a public loo where I can get a shower and change in to fresh, clean clothes. After that it will be the heady, exotic delight of a fish supper in the local chippy. In all probability I shall just potter about and then head out in the early afternoon.
Tuesday 14 April.
Well Aviemore has done it once more. As intended just pottered in the morning, allowing the ice on the tent to dry off. Packed up and took a gentle stroll out in the afternoon in glorious sunshine. Horrors, the one and only public loo in Aviemore was closed. This saw me heading in to Tesco and using the loo there to get cleaned up a wee bit and changed; it was just as well I had a few baby wipes with me. They are a poor substitute for a shower though.

Sunday 5 April 2009


With Easter looming large on the horizon my one aim is to decamp and head for the hills. With yet another hike in rail fares there was no way I could afford train travel. To my annoyance and surprise even coach fares have substantially risen. My coach ticket has cost me an extra four pounds in comparison to the same journey I did earlier in the year.
For convenience it will be the Cairngorms once more. My aim is to avoid the main routes and head in to some of the more obscure corries and explore some of the hidden gems of the Cairngorm area. April in those regions can still be in the grip of winter. Looking at the current mountain weather information, there is still snow high up with snow showers possible. Over the easter week thing are looking unsettled so I shall just have to play it by ear. My light ice axe will be taken, even if it looks daft carrying it. Also, rather than take full crampons, my little used Katoolas will be in the rucksack.
On a slightly different note, I have bookmarked an interesting website. Trail Testers, They actually have nothing to do with with trail magazine. They are a small, independant group of people who trial gear and film it in action, as it where, which is then posted out on U tube. From the information I have picked up they will be going live on the 20th of April. Currently I have heard they have been trialling the new SATMAP gps system, the New Zealand based Aarn Natural Balance pack, the spot system and several other goodies. One of the North Face tents is also featured. Http:// Outdoor Magic mentioned the Aarn pack a while back and then everything went silent. It is an intersting concept and I shall be watching with interest. It makes a change for a small independant group to be gear testing so all you gear freaks out there you have yet another slant on all those shiny goodies that we regularly drool over.