Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Highlands: Devil's Point, Cairn Toul and Angel's Peak - Day 3

Corrour BothyWe all woke up to a fairly chilly morning and with thick heads got breakfast on the go. We tidied up and packed up to get going, we were on our way home now and without needing to rush we did want to get back for a pint.

We left the Bothy and decided walk a hhiking trail on the way out in an attempt to avoid walking through the boggy mess that we came through 2 days earlier.

Once over the bridge the path forks (986955) pretty much immediately and we took the left fork where the hiking trail heads around the base of Carn a' Mhaim and towards Glen Luibeg. We'd looked on the map and this was a different route back which had two benefits. Firstly we didn't have to retrace our steps and secondly we could avoid the bog we'd trudged through on the way in which was a bonus.

River Dee Ford - Highlands WalkBefore long we arrived at Luibeg Burn which is a picturesque stream. On the map there is a ford marked. This really didn't exist however and as some of the group were in the mood for leaving the hiking trail and entertaining some wild walking so we followed the stream looking for a place to cross whilst the other guys walked upstream to cross on the Luibeg Bridge. I've got to be honest we chose the wrong option. We fought through heather for a few hundred yards when we came across a deer fence. The options were limited, either we cross the burn here or we backtrack all the way back to the bridge. I think it was the fact that we couldn't have the other guys see we'd conceded that made us cross. The odds weren't great and only seconds later Wellsy was in up to his knees. Harsh but ultimately fair.

The old feet were feeling a touch tenderised now and I was requiring refreshment in the way of the fizzy yellow fluid. We pushed on and had a spot of lunch just over the river from Derry Lodge, which is now all boarded up although at one time would have been a fairly impressive abode. That was the last stop before our final push back to the Linn and Dee and the cars back to the Hotel. A very rewarding few days walking in the mountains. Thanks to all that took part, it was an absolute pleasure. See you next year!
Crossing the river - Highlands Walk

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Highlands: Devil's Point, Cairn Toul and Angel's Peak - Day 2

We awoke and had a spot of breakfast, fuel for the days walking ahead. We left Corrour Bothy and took only day kit, which was a pleasure. It makes the walking far easier going, meaning you can cover more ground and with less weight on our back it is obviously far more enjoyable. I don't see leaving kit out here as much of a problem, I mean you have to be a pretty dedicated thief to walk 8 miles into the back and beyond to half inch a sleeping bag.

We walked the well marked hiking trail that leads from behind Corrour Bothy and ascends to the the northern side of Devils Point. There was still a fair bit of snow where shadows were cast from the sun but once we hit the plateau at the top (970955) you could see that whilst there were fairly large patches of snow it was only in places and would easily be avoided.

We rounded the stream at the top of the gulley where the ground was sodden and no doubt due to recent rain and snow melt was like a lake. It is pretty much a level hop skip and a jump to the top of Devils Point where you get the most amazing view of the Southern end Glen Dee. From here it truly feels as though you are stood on top of the world in some kind of prehistoric time with the river wending its way down the valley into the far distance.

You can't do anything but stop here for 10 minutes or so to soak it up, this is half the reason why anyone climbs these mountains - for the view.

Glen Dee from Devil's Point - Highlands Walk

Fed and watered we headed back the way we came for a slow but sure ascent of Cairn Toul. Crossing the path we came up from Corrour Bothy we headed north up the boulder field of Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir.

It was pretty slow going manouvering through the boulder field, there was no hiking trail here, so we stopped for a brew not a great time later. We looked up to the summit of Cairn Toul with the overhang of snow that had obviously developed with the adverse conditions they'd been having up here. So we drank tea and got underway, by this time we'd well and truly written off Braeriach, it was looking like time was gonna run short and that would have been a Munro too far. We backtracked slightly to stay away from the dicey edge and pushed up Cairn Toul. At this point we noticed a person making a similar ascent below us on skis all of a sudden our walk in seemed pretty easy. This wasn't a particularly tough climb by any means and before long we arrived at the summit to the breathtaking view up the northern part of the Lairig Ghru. You got an awesome panorama of Angel's Peak, Braeriach and the pass from here, we could even see as far as the Moray Firth which I think is about 30 miles from the point where we were stood - another view which had to be commited to cine-mem. We got chatting to a lady on the summit of Cairn Toul who said that we were lucky to be up here in these conditions, fair play it was sub-zero but the visibility was awesome.
Lairig Ghru from Angels Peak - Highlands Walk

Knowing that time was running a bit short and legs were starting to get tired, the group was split as to go for Angel's Peak or to head back in the end we all made the last push, it really wasn't that far and within about 45 mins we had gone from the summit of Cairn Toul to the summit of Sgor An Lochain Uaine (Angel's Peak). That was to be our third Munro and last Munro of the day. With time against us Braeriach was to elude us that day but I stood, contemplated and concluded that it wasn't going anywhere fast so in fact it would be there in a few months time for us to return.

We descended over the snow fields and contoured around Cairn Toul to arrive back at the gully below Devil's Point. After a quick breather it started to rain for the first time all day. This brought out a rainbow that could be seen from one end to the other and sat over Corrour Bothy. This walking in Scotland had proved to be a huge success as we returned down the hiking trail to camp, packed our things up from the previous night and moved into the Bothy to warm ourselves through. Corrour Bothy really is five star accommodation and is a great base or stopover for a long walk in Scotland's Cairngorm National Park, it is totally watertight with boarded floors and a window. It has a wood burner and chimney (which was the most welcome part of the bothy) it's also got a compost toilet built onto it which is useful, there were problems with the number of people passing through which led them to build the loo to alleviate the problem. I think the only problem (which really isn't a problem) is the mice - just got to ensure nothing is left on the floor. With hot food in our stomachs and cheap scotch in our heads we slept well ready for our trek out of the Cairngorm National Park the following day.
Inside Corrour Bothy

Monday, 21 December 2009

Highlands: Devil's Point, Cairn Toul and Angel's Peak - Day 1

We left the Duke of Gordon in the Highlands of Scotland after a hearty breakfast to drive right around the Cairngorm National Park to Braemar to get on with the Easter Munro Bagging session. It rained all the way over there - not the best prospects for three days in the hills and at times it felt that Noah's Ark would have been a more suitable vehicle than the Wells-Mobile. The rain did stop however before we arrived at the Linn of Dee (062897) and looked promising for our jaunt deep into the Cairngorm National Park and up the Devils Point, Cairn Toul and Angels Peak.

We saddled up with far more kit then we needed, in fact it was all that we needed but as usual more weight than was comfortable. The thing is at this time of year and in this location the weather can be very changeable so taking enough kit can be the difference between a pleasurable meander in those there hills or enduring the elements constantly looking forward to getting back to the car.

We followed the river along the hiking trail on the northern bank. After around 1.5 miles (033893) we took a discreet and smokey breather in the woods, the legs hadn't quite woken up yet so they needed a break, as did the mind.

We carried on along the riverside when the clouds went a paler shade of black and sure as anything it started spitting, this was no surprise to anyone especially after the apocalyptic deluge we drove through on the way over. The weather did turn from average to bad but was of no consequence once you're waterproofed.

When we reached the bridge (019884) and the southern end of the Glen Dee and the Lairig Ghru one of the guys recalled seeing a make-shift sign somewhere near the car park stating that the eastern path of the Lairig Ghru was unpassable due to errosion. Now this really buggered our plan as if we ascended into the Lairig Ghru via the western path of the River Dee it meant we had to contend with and Chest of Dee Waterfall - Cairngormssomehow cross a reasonable river prior to reaching the foot of the Devils Point. Fortunately at that moment a game keeper blazed up in a Landrover. We asked which path was intact and to our relief he advised the eastern path was the only way through the Lairig Ghru. Bonus, we would have entered ourselves into a world of pain by taking the western path.

The Lairig Ghru makes is a stunning hiking trail and has to be one of the most impressive walks in Scotland with it's steep valley walls it's ridges consist of some of the highest mountains in the UK. Benn Macdui is the second highest, Braeriach is the third, Carn Toul the fourth and Angels Peak the fifth, a stunning area to find yourself (although, I will add at this juncture that it is highly unlikely that you will just accidentally just stumble into this neck of the woods).

Before long the unmistakable sheerness of Devils Point rears it's head in the distance. It is a great guage as to the location of Corrour Bothy as the bothy sits right in the shadow of Devils Point. We came across one chap and quized him over the distance to Corrour Bothy and what it was like. He was full of praise for the bothy but did add that it was a shade boggy ahead. That was to be seen first hand and up close (very close) by the majority of our party - by rolling around in it. Boggy was not the word, the torrential rain had been, well err torrential, and was now making it's way down the valley sides and into the marshland in the valley bottom continuing into our boots. This made the walk real slow going and Devils Point and Lairig Ghruexhausting at the same time with the ground chewing your foot up to the ankle.

Sadly with the downpour we got low cloud and the visibility really wasn't the best and most of the tops were up in the clouds even Devils Point was at times. There had been concerns about the freezing altitude and whether it would be safe to walk along the ridge due to the amounts of snow up there, we couldn't make any decisions today as the cloud prevented us from taking in the full WOW factor of the Lairig Ghru and of course to weighing up the conditions up there, a bit dissapointing but the weather forecast was that this was to be the worst day - so fingers crossed the best was yet to come.

As we came over the last ridge we could just Corrour Bothymake out through the mist and haze of Highland precipitation the speck that was Courrour bothy and our home for the night which had other brightly coloured specks for tents dotted around it. The speck took some time to get any larger but in boggy time it did and as we crossed the footbridge it was only yards away.

We arrived at around 6:30 and there were a couple of guys already sleeping in the bothy so we left them too it and put up our basher. Sleeping under a tarp or basher gives you the feeling of sleeping in the heart of nature and under the stars as it were although you're kept dry when it rains - which did look inevitable at this point. Me, Dave and Lee concocted a construction that we thought and hoped would see us through the night. Wellsy and Ana did the same with the rest of the guys all putting tents up. Geoffrey did well not carrying tent equipment lest the weightless poles - his bag isn't big enough to carry any of those essentials so someone else had to carry it - he appeared gutted by this. In doing this we got a visit from a very tame and seemingly rather peckish local who wasn't afraid at all. So much so that our four legged friend almost went into the basher so snaffle our dinner.
deer by Corrour Bothy
We got into the bothy and got the fire going with the wood that we'd carried in, there really is no wood for miles around so if you don't carry it in you don't have a fire here. Our boots were all sodden after effectively walking through an ankle deep stream of sludge rather than along a hiking trail for the last mile of the day. Boy were we glad for the fire, after I poured the water out that had collected near the toes of my boots I started to dry them out. It was reasonably successful and with Scotched hazy eyes I climbed into my bivvy for an uneven nights doze.

Sleep was short lived as a gust of wind ripped open the poppers on the bashers and the rain started pelting in. Like a man possessed, with fire in his eyes and whisky in his head, Dave seemed to get out of his bivvy by osmosisising himself through his sleeping bag and bivvy and within seconds was resealing the basher. Soaked he returned seconds later to climb back into his bag. I don't remember going back to sleep after that, but I did as I didn't remember any more wind or rain.
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