Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

Spring dawdle

10 – 14 Mar 2014

A seemly rare event, high pressure in charge, prompted a hasty departure on the train to Corrour (another ‘55 Club’ special), it’s a 7 hour ride from Aberdeen but strolling off the platform at 3:30 into a beautiful spring like afternoon it felt worth it.

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I’d 5 day’s food (4 nights) and no fixed route plan, other than head east via the An Lairig and end up in Braemar/ Ballater sometime.  I had thought of pitching up for my first night somewhere in the trees along the northern shore of Loch Ossian.  I soon located a good spot amongst the pines at ~NN 383679 but it was still early and the sun was shining so I decided to push on a little.  That ‘little’ turned out to be nearly another 10km to the north end of Loch Ghuilbinn.

10 Mar route

I pitched up a little after 6:00, not the best of spots as a stiff chilly wind was blowing unimpeded across the loch but as always once inside the Trailstar all was calm.

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The clear sky with millions of stars foretold a frosty start to the next day.

Day 2

I awoke at around 04:00 feeling quite a chilled, the Exped had partly deflated through the night leaving me lying on the ground.  The problem was soon located, operator malfunction, I’d failed to push the inflation plug fully home!  I donned a fleece and down jacket in an effort to warm up and get back to sleep but probably only dozed for the next couple of hours.

11 Mar route

I was up and away by 08:00 following an ATV track east towards the bealach over to the Allt Cam, the track soon ended but it was reasonable straight foreword going following the Allt Gualainn a’Charra Mhor up to the bealach, ahead the west ridge of Beinn a’Chlachair was surprisingly clear of snow.

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I did notice the remains of a tiny sheiling and good some camp spots at ~ NN 434756, always worth noting for future use.

Once down to the Allt Cam and making my way upstream I decided upon a change of plan, the crossing of the Beinn a’Chlachair ridge looked too good an opportunity to miss.  I forded the Allt Cam the dry shod at ~NN 452765, noting more good camping spots just downstream.

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The climb directly up to the ridge was quite steep and rough going but the views from Ceann Caol Beinn a’Chlachair were stunning.

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The walk across the ridge to the summit of Beinn a’Chlachair was a delight, what snow fields that had to be crossed were well compacted with a crunchy surface providing good traction without spiky things.  All was no so good on the descent, heading directly east the snow covered slopes provided easy going down to around 700m elevation where it became increasingly deep post holing, sometimes up to the thighs, until across the outfall of Loch a’Bhealaich Leamhain and the path downhill was gained.

The crossing of the Allt Cam was the next obstacle.

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I’d fully expected to have to wade a river at some point during the trip and had brought along the Crocs just in case but 5 minutes study and a lot of zigzagging saw me across dry shod.

For the last couple of hours I’d been postulating various plans for the coming days, from the forecast the weather would be turning nasty by Friday; a lot of options.  I decided to head for the Culra Bothy and mull it over.

The bothy turned out to be unexpectedly closed; a notice nailed to all the doors warned of asbestos dust, I pitched up the Trailstar by the river and aired out the sleeping bag.

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Day 3

Brilliant sunshine saw in a new day.

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And a new plan; over the Fara (Corbett, 911m) to Dalwhinnie, bus/ train to Aviemore and then over the Lairig Ghru to Breamar.

12 Mar route

Once up the boggy slopes above Ben Alder Lodge the long broad ridge of the Fara beckons.

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While not as dramatic as the Aonach Eagach the broad ridge offers easy walking with 360 degree spectacular views and offers a much better route alternative than the road walk alongside Loch Ericht if you’re not in a hurry.

Once down to the loch side it was a quick 45min yomp to the bus stop on the A9, a 20min wait and then a 40min ride into Aviemore.  I didn’t stay long, just long enough to enjoy a tray of chips and a cold coke, then it was off along the ‘Logging trail’ to Coylumbridge and off up the Lairig Ghru.  I pitched up around 1km upstream from the Cairngorm footbridge, a pleasant spot by the river amongst the pines and really the last good camping spot before heading over the pass.  Despite having walked around 27km with 900m ascent I was feeling quite good, perhaps it was the chips!

Day 4  

The weather had definitely changed, continuous cloud cover and a blustery wind.

I hit the snowline at the junction with the footpath over to the Chalamain Gap (~600m).

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The snow cover was generally well consolidated, but not requiring spikes, and it was a mechanical plod up to the bealach occasionally being blown this way or that by random gusts.

Somewhere below lurks the Pools of Dee, at least the majority of the boulder fields were well covered making for an easier passage down than in summer.

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I’d expected the ‘pools’ to be covered in metres of snow but unexpectedly the recent rain and warm weather had done its work.

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The snow became increasing soft and unpredictable with the descent south, but this was only short lived and I was soon on a clear path down the glen.  I called into the Culra Bothy and enjoying a slightly late lunch out of the blustery wind.

The walk over to ‘Bob Scotts’ was uneventful and even the boggy ground west of Derry Lodge was surprisingly quite dry underfoot.  I decided not to stay at the bothy, despite the smell of a fire in the hearth, and continued down the track to camp somewhere down close to the Linn of Dee.  I soon found a pleasant spot right on the river bank, around 0.5km from the road. It certainly was a snug fit for the Trailstar with one stake down in the river bank and two others amongst the heather but it worked.

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Day 5

Another blustery day with occasional rain showers but with only a 10km amble into Braemar I enjoyed a more leisurely start and an extra cup of coffee.  Just downstream from where I camped there’s some really nice cascades/ waterfall.

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The falls are probably overlooked my many Munroe baggers and backpackers as they’re hidden from the main trail by a section of forestry, they only need a 5 minute route deviation so it’s worth taking the time to have a look.

It didn’t take long to get into Braemar, less than a couple of hours via Marr Lodge, but was heartily disappointed to find Gordan’s Tearoom closed for renovations.  I’d been looking forward to a second breakfast before catching the bus but had to make do with a couple of pies from the Co-op, probably the low point of a few days.

Gear – some equipment performance observations.

My MYO bivi bag performed very well, the fit was good and the configuration of the head end provided good protection against drafts.  However I did find a design flaw, the silnylon footbox gave a little condensation around the foot of the sleeping bag, the rest was bone dry, and I think a modification is warranted.

9 MYO foot box

The LED tea lights have performed above expectations. I’d initially tried using with an aluminium foil reflector with limited success (still better than a candle) but on this trip I’d added a loop of copper wire though holes drilled through the edge of the lower case. Simply duct taping to the centre pole of the Trailstar and you have a directional light than gives ample illumination for cooking etc.

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The Kovea Spider stove continues to impress, the inverted canister operation on cold frosty mornings is a real boon and I really like the stove’s stability (I’ll still revert to meths when the weather warms up a little)

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4 comments on “Spring dawdle

  1. Robin
    March 16, 2014

    Enjoyed reading that 🙂

  2. RobP
    March 16, 2014

    An excellent trip report! Very scenic place – must make it to Scotland this year!

  3. ness64
    March 16, 2014

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the great report and photos! Our paths almost crossed – on Wednesday I cycled in from Loch Laggan, and around Loch Ossian, to suss out potential campsites on the north bank for this year’s TGO Challenge :mrgreen:

    • Paul Atkinson
      March 17, 2014

      Hi Nicole, seemed like there’s plenty of opportunity for pitching up the Laser Comp in the shore side forest. Have fun.

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2014 by in Trip Reports and tagged , .
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