Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Sunny Cairngorms

Having seen the weather forecast, I was intent on some climbing this weekend. So all my gear went with me, but when we got to the Coire Cas carpark we decided there was still too much snow and that Hell's Lum was probably either covered in snow or at very best running with snowmelt. Judging by he size of the cornices, we were right!

Instead of Auld Nick, we decided to head for Braeriach....and then to the Angel's Peak (with the unspellable, unpronounceable Gaelic name)....and Cairn Toul.... then down to the Corrour Bothy, and home through the Lairig Ghru.... 21 miles and 12 1/2 hours later...!! It was a beautiful day, but there were moments when I wondered whether we'd had ideas above our station in taking on such an epic walk. The Lairig Ghru alone is 6 1/2 miles long, and that was only part of the long walk back to the car. We managed without the one headtorch for all but the last 200 yards or so, but by 21.50hrs it was too dark to cross the river without it.

It wasn't a great day for photographs, since the air was very hazy. This was my first trek through the Lairig Ghru; it wasn't quite as I expected, but certainly a desolate, lonely, eerie and impressive place. I was glad we were through it before it was really dark.

The Lairig Ghru

The northern end of the Lairig Ghru at about 7pm

Looking into the Lairig Ghru from the Braeriach plateau

The Chalamain gap was freaky enough in the dusk... imaginings of goblins and elves and Jacobite rebels were running through my head while I tried to concentrate on not tripping over my very tired feet. Despite being very close to the lights of Aviemore, there is something very wild about being out on the hill in the dark. But then again, I still have to run down the corridor at home in the dark, convinced that there are monsters chasing me....
Chalamain Gap earlier in the day...the northern corries of Braeriach just visible through the Gap; an exciting view of the day's prospects.

I found some interesting lichens on the plateau. It's easy to see why the area is so heavily protected.

We got back to Mill Cottage at about 10.30pm, feeling somewhat hysterical with exhaustion. Driving back from Coire Cas in the dark was almost trippy. It felt as though we were whizzing through space, and the lights on the bridge at Kincraig (spaced about every 10 feet down the length of one side of the parapet) made for a vision akin to the trippy scenes in The Big Lebowski!

Needless to say, Sunday wasn't good for much. I felt as though everything below my knees had been beaten with a cricket bat. So I drove to Inverness and spent a lovely day in the garden with friends. On Monday I headed home, via Cairngorm again, this time with Emily (20 months), Gordon (3 1/2) and Mummy, for a short walk towards the Ptarmigan Restaurant. We had lunch behind a shed and Gordon learned how difficult it is to walk up spring snow slopes. Quite an adventure for a little person, as was walking across heather.

Further down the road I stopped north of Dalwhinnie at a place called Glen Truim.
There was a short but lovely walk along the river and back past a couple of beautiful highland cottages, one new, one old, both well kept and very welcoming (from the outside, at least).
Further down the river I saw a Dipper. It seems like a long time since I saw one of those. Amazingly, one couldn't hear the traffic from the A9, despite the road being only about 100 yards away. As I drove the rest of the way home it struck me how beautiful Scotland is at this time of year, with the last of the snow outlining the hills and the sun streaming between dark clouds. Why would I want to live anywhere else?

1 comment:

Ian said...

Phew, I knackered after reading all that! A /long/ walk!