Friday 26 June 2009

Night on a bare plateau

upper glen Feshie
Lochan nam Bo


hare, is there somewhere

above river Eidart

view from camp, river Eidart

cloud inversion
promise of a hot day


plateau weather

high level camp

mist on the plateau

A stony place

Cairngorm plateau

Looking toward Braeriach
Looking down from Sgor Gaoith

Glen Mharcaidh
Thursday 18th June. Camped GR OS explorer map 403 884043, roughly.

Well, what a day, managed to excel myself totally. After the normal night run up and getting off at Aviemore feeling a Little green around the gills; nipped in to the public loo and did a quick change in to my hill going gear. Needing fluids, it was a case of a cup of coffee and a scone, which was a rip off at some £4. Picked up a few nibbles in Tesco and headed out. Before I started I had been feeling sick and had a pounding headache; just to cap things off an on going bladder problem also flared up. Walked up to Inverdruie in a very heavy rain squall which eased for a short time as I entered the woods. Managed to be sick as I headed over to Loch an Eilein and then got severe stomach cramps as well. By the time I reached the tiny Inshriach bothy I had had to dive in to the woods twice; not a pleasant or easy experience in waterproofs. Took some medication at the bothy and downed plenty of fluids and carried on. My goal was upper Glen Mharcaidh. In theory there is a path all the way up, however, when I have attempted it before I find the first and upper sections but never the bit that cuts around the lower rough ground. This was the case once more and I pushed on more or less direct through thick heather, occasionally following meandering deer tracks and avoiding the worst of the boggy bits. Once up by the bridge I kept to the left hand path knowing of a spot that would give me enough space to camp just before the last of the trees. However, that plan was dashed when I found the spot was now dominated by large a fallen tree. There is little in the way of places to camp on that side of the glen. Finally, needing to stop and knowing that the path is not that often used I pitched on a more or less level, grassy spot right on the path itself. Being tired it will suffice for the night, I am sure no one will fall over me! As yet it is steadily raining; although not the heavy, driving squalls experienced earlier and I am much wearied.

Friday 19th June. Same map. GR 886037.
Today turned out to be a mixed sort of day. The overnight rain eased off early this morning. It was not the earliest of starts but I was in no rush. The ongoing path can be a tad indistinct in one or two places. There are two that head off up the hill, the one that continues on across the hill needs a careful eye kept on it. There is in fact a couple of paths and the lower of the two leads in to bog which I found out the first time I ever came this way. The path proper is in fact higher up the hill. Coming across one of the burns which was fairly high with all the earlier rain, I managed to slip and fall in. No injuries except for scrapes and bruises; however, I did lose my glasses, fortunately I carry spares. Higher up I crossed over to join the other path which leads up to the bealach below Meall Buidhe. Wandered up towards the top but showers of sleet and hail harried me and rather than press on I turned back although there are a few spots to camp once over the hill and down to the next bealach. However, having run out of steam and feeling a little chilly my footsteps led me back down the hill. There is place by the remains of the old hut just below the bealach that offers a nice spot but water is only available further down the hill. Another spot a bit lower is by a small pool, however the area is tiny and the ground was saturated. Following the other, more defined path, I came down lower to the spot where I am now camped. A lovely place for a wild camp with a few old pine trees for company; who could ask for more? The wind has picked up a bit and is driving showers from the west before it. To be honest I am a little concerned, much of last night was spent popping in out of the tent answering the call of nature; tedious and annoying. As yet the problem continues despite of the fact that I am continually drinking water, which is a necessity.
Saturday 20th June. Same place.
woke early to the gentle patter of light rain on the tent; when I nipped out thick, dark blue/black clouds where covering the tops. It was an easy call really and I snuggled back down in the sleeping bag deciding to rest up for a day. Most of the day was spent pottering. By early afternoon the sun had come out and a breeze was keeping the midges at bay. It was an opportunity to get things dry as well; even my boots are almost dry, yeeha!

Sunday. 21stJune. Same map, camped GR 910959.
A much better day, what little cloud there was brushed only the highest tops. The early hours of the morning had been chilly enough for me to throw my jacket over the sleeping bag. There was promise of a good day though and I was eager to be on my way. One more following the path up to Meall Buidhe the initial pull up the path up was warm enough to see me walking in just my light thermal base layer. This time I carried on over the two bare, rocky tops, dropped to the bealach and then climbed directly up to the main ridge. That was a fairly hard push up and I took it slow. One on the ridge though, it is an easy stroll up to Sgor Gaoith with spectacular views down into Loch Eanaich.. There is little to hinder the wind on the high tops and it sweeps across unchecked, making things feel distinctly chilly. My maternity smock in the guise of light windproof was rapidly donned. Lunch was a hurried affair, huddled low behind a small rock for a smidgen of shelter. Passing over Carn Ban Mor, I barely paused, the top has little to offer as such, a cairn and a vista of rock. Although still quite early, my intention was not to camp late, having it in mind to take things fairly easy. Also, the plateau is not a place to be hurried through, it needs to savoured and explored, time is required to get the full flavour of these high places. Showers of rain, wet enough to warrant the waterproofs, scudded across in the afternoon. Coming down to the track I swung left and followed it to its end and then wandered a bit further up the hill. Finding a pleasant little spot with panoramic views and a busy, bustling burn what more could a body ask for?

Monday 22nd June. Camped.same map, GR 908929
As normal I woke early and had to nip out which was chilly and damp; Thick cloud and drizzle swirled around the tent. Took the hill walkers normal and standard procedure of making a brew and returning to the sleeping bag for another hour's doze. Gradually the clag lifted, originally I had been considering nipping over to Beinn Bhrottain, but I dithered a bit and eventually decided on an easier option. Mullach Clach a Bhlair was a Munro that I had never bothered with before and so I opted for a wander in that direction. Walked over to a small top only marked as 937 on the map and then back to the track for a short spell and then back on to the moss. Keeping to a general direction and avoiding the boggy bits and gullies where possible I fetched up on Mullach Clach a Bhlair. It was an uninspiring little lump although I suppose for the ardent Munro bagger it must be one of the easiest. Heading easterly and generally following the line of the track I meandered over Diollaid Coire Eindert and back across a cairn only marked as such on the map and a spot height of 974. On the plateau height has little significance as such; it is a wide open place riven in places by deep gullies and corries. Bands of thick clouds had been moving across all day; occasionally they had brought a smattering of rain but had posed no real problem. Coming over to Cluas na Creige I found the most awesome place for a wild camp. Rain was falling heavy enough for me to need the waterproofs as I put the tent up, but I did not care, the views where stunning , the pitch was comfy and I was content to laze in the front of the tent in peace and quiet. The showers that where passing through where not heavy driving rain and it was fine to leave the whole of the front of the tent open. One thing that strikes me and that is the clarity of the water, normally the water from burns up on the hill is often brown with peat, high up here though there is no peat and the water filters through the granite leaving it clear.

Tuesday June 24th. Ruig Aiteachain Bothy in upper Glen Feshie.
Something woke me during the night, it took a moment to realise what had made me wake with a start. Silence, utter quietude, there was not a sound accept for the pounding of my own heartbeat. No deer talk, no wind or breeze, no tinkling of water, absolutely nothing and I lay still hardly daring to breath; it may sound strange but there was something that was near deafening in that silence, it almost spooked me and I lay still rather awestruck and feeling quite emotional, eventually I drifted back in to sleep.When I woke again, the early dawn light was just brushing the eastern horizon and it was something special to to lay in the sleeping bag with the whole of the tent wide open and watch the birth of a new day. Reaching for the camera I attempted to photo the fiery sunrise as the sun rose framed beautifully by two tops over towards Cairn Toul; photos though do very little justice to the beauty of that moment. A cloud inversion had me reaching for the camera yet again. Unable to settle back to sleep, I stretched out in front of the tent for a mug of tea and an early breakfast. One advantage of being up high is that it appears to be above the midge line. There was a strong temptation to remain up there for another night, however, it would entail a long push out tomorrow. Taking my time I wandered around the rocks of Cluas na Creige, gazing down at the river Eidart far below; even from up high the noise of the river was quite audible. Packing up I walked around the rim of Coire Mharconaich, a great scoop out of the hillside. Went as far as Cnap nan Laogh and then turned west once more. Deer grazed all around, moving off in a that brown, fluid, flowing movement that deer have when on the move. Coming by a small rocky outcrop, I was content to sit down for a while and just gaze about me. Yet another group of hinds had seen me, the matriarch giving her warning bark; heads came up, wary, however, as I settled back against a rock they cautiously began grazing once more, content to allow me to remain close by. Although the day was still quite early, already a heat haze was shimmering off the ground; it was obvious that the day was going to be hot. The chink of stones being disturbed on the other side of the rocks alerted me to the presence of something. Freezing, I tried to just swivel my head to see what it was, at the same moment a hind peered around the corner. She gave a startled bark as our eyes met and then sprang away, pausing for a moment to look back at me. Sitting absolutely still I waited to see what she would do. Obviously curious, she took a few tentative steps back toward me and then ambled off. Surprisingly the group of deer close by had observed this interchange but remained unfazed. With the heat of the day steadily building I knew I had to move on and reluctantly got to my feet and once more made my way across the plateau. There is no heather up in those regions, only mosses, tundra and rock. Ptarmigan where numerous , scuttling off whenever I approached too close; their long necks give them an almost reptilian look. Large numbers of dotterel where present too and snow buntings; very trusting busy hopping around my feet when I stopped for a quick break. Coming back over Bhlair I headed down over Druim nam Bo. A slight movement by a cairn caught my eye, a rock with pointy ears? It was a hare and I was surprised to to see how close it allowed me to approach. Black grouse startled me as they exploded from almost under my feet; taking off with their mad cackling and cries of 'go back, go back', crazy birds. The surrounding scenery was stunning but by the time I reached Lochan nam Bo I was feeling a tad dwam and was glad to rest for a few moments and replenish much needed water. A lovely spot for a wild camp, something I have filed away in the back of my mind. According to the map there is a regular stalkers path a little further down. My advice would be to forget it and stick to a track made by the estate's all terrain buggies. The zig zags where obscure in places and once in the trees it was a wearisome task attempting to find the faint semblance of any path. It was still quite early in the afternoon when I reached the bothy but I was glad to stop. Wandering over to the river, I slipped my boots off and still dressed in shorts and top, sat down in the cool water; the heat of the sun soon had me dry again.The upper glen is showing signs of good regeneration many young trees, especially Scots pine and juniper are much in evidence. Bird life is much more prominent, crested tit, wrens, finches and so on. Bumble bees droned their way from plant to plant, ants scurried in frenetic haste among the fallen needles. There was no one else in the bothy, my worry was that it may have been taken over by one of the many groups that frequent the area. My preference would have been for the tent but because I am heading out in the morning I opted for the bothy for convenience.

Wednesday 25th June.
Woke this morning to some thick cloud drifting over the tops but it was still warm. Someone had come in late yesterday evening and had slept in the other room. Sleep had been difficult for me, I had felt shut in by the bothy and the hard platform was not that comfortable. Managed to make a pint of tea and cook a bit of porridge on the last of the gas, also made sure I drank a couple pints of water before starting out. It was a case of having to head for Aviemore to catch the night bus back south. As I headed down the glen the cloud cleared and it was obvious the day was going to become a hot one. With a good few miles to cover and the heat it was a case of picking the simplest route. Thus I headed down toward Achlean and continued on toward Feshie Bridge before heading off through the forestry to Loch Gamhna. The heat was relentless and there was little shade from it on my route. Wherever possible I continually topped up my water supply and kept drinking. Stopping for a break on the way under a nice shady tree, I found that a kit kat I had been carrying had totally melted. Do not carry chocolate in hot weather, it is messy, very. By the time I was over by Loch an Eilein I was running on auto pilot metronome like, placing one foot in front of the other and keeping on the move. Nipping in to the visitor centre at Inverdruie for a couple of cold drinks,tired, sweaty and a tad dishevelled, I overheard a small girl saying to her mum, "Wow mummy, look at that lady, she looks like a really wild woman!" Yep, that is me, mad, bad and dangerous. It was noticeable as I walked in to Aviemore that the tarmac on the road was very soft from the heat. The day had not been the easiest with a distance covered of some fifteen miles. A few more cold drinks in Aviemore and deep joy, the shower in the public loo was open. Utter bliss, a refreshing shower and clean clothes to put on. Once I had recovered a bit I wandered in to the local chippie for fish and chips. Noticing someone buying a a glass of something very cold looking I asked the chap serving me, "What is that?" He grinned, "Ice crush ma'am." So I asked him for one. "Blue or red?" "Oh I'll have one of each please." it is now the long haul back south.
Gear carried. Osprey Atmos 50 ltre. Tent Golite Shangri 1 and inner nest and tent pegs. Western mountaineering light sleeping bag and a four and half ounce Bozeman bivi bag.. Thermarest prolite three. trekking poles Varga gas stove and primus windshield. One 350 gas cylinder, it was enough, just. Food for six days, heat in the bag main meals. Some where awful, especially a chicken and veg mix. Tea bags, powdered milk, drinking chocolate sachets and cup a soups, porridge mix, mainly the sachet type, all thrown in to one poly bag, a spoon and pot grab. A one pint titanium mug which I used as my main mug for boiling water in, a titanium dish for cooking porridge and occasionally washing in. Matches and in my emergency kit I carry a striker in case the matches get damp. Nibbles, kit kats, a block of cheese, I should have grabbed some pitta bread but for reasons unknown I picked up tortilla wraps, they are non too good uncooked. Water, picked up when I stopped for the day was in a 3ltre ortleb water bag. Slightly heavier than the platty but have a couple of them leak I prefer the ruggedness of the ortleb. First aid kit and small emergency kit, which includes the striker and 2 tampons which make excellent fire starters, saftey pins, button compass and some basic sewing stuff and duct tape and spare dyneema cord. Clothing wise, I travel in summer in a very light travel skirt, for on the hill I have an old pair of craghoppers very trousers, they are now becoming a little frayed at the edges and travel stained. Also carried are my shorts. A very light smartwool t shirt, a tank top and light t shirt for travelling back in. Spare pair of socks and light travel shoes, boots where my old scarpa midis, they need to be replaced but it a question of cost, smart wool socks on my feet. 2 sets of underwear, in winter I use a couple of sports bras but find them too warm in summer. This time I used 2 Sloggi very light, non wired bras. Undies, 2 pairs of light Rohans, easy to rinse out and rapidly drying. Wash kit and another kit of personal bits I need to carry, which, because I need to spend the best part of an hour doing nothing, warrants carrying a book. Camera, Nikon Coolpix, I want to upgrade but it is cost. Map, compass and whistle, knife, my old Opinel, slightly heavier than some but it has travelled many miles with me over the years. jacket, a paramo soft shell reversible,a Montane wind shirt which I liken to a maternity top, it is too big for me but tucks in nicely under the hip belt, also carried a light mountain Hardware fleece waistcoat, not really needed. Waterproofs, Berghaus paclite trousers, excellent, they have been much used and abused, Rab Neutrino jacket, and ankle gaiters to keep trouser bottoms from the mud etc. Buff and sun hat. Spare gloves and glasses, petzel head torch.Small toilet kit, trowel, plastic, cut down, hand gel, paper and lighter All the usual assortment of poli bags, essential equipment. An intial overall weight of roughly 27/28lb, 11 kilo