Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

A dry 7 days

It’d been a while since I’d gone out for a decent wander having been spent most of my free time up at the Garbh Choire Refuge over the last couple of months in preparation for the successful rebuild at the end of June. I’d not much of a plan really, train/ bus over to Fort Augustus then take a stroll across the Monadhliath/ Cairngorms for a week.
I finally arrived in Ft Augustus at 4pm to emerge into +25C & wall to wall sunshine ……….too hot for me….. after weaving as quickly as possible through the tourist hoards around the canal to exit town I settled down into a sloth like pace & joined General Wade’s road up towards the Corrieyairack.

Mona 1 (Large)
It took me around 2 ½hrs & a couple of litres of water to shuffle the 9km up to the Blackburn bothy, perhaps the large lunch/ beers in Inverness had something to do with it, I was definitely glad to finally get a seat in the shade & get a brew going.
Day 2
Even with the bothy door propped open I had a fitful night despite sleeping only in a silk sleeping bag liner…..tooooo hot. I was up at 6:30am but despite this the brain failed to get into gear & it was after 8am before finally getting set off continuing up towards the Corrieyairack pass. Despite the presence of the huge new electricity pylons there are still some sections that are quite pleasant.
Mona 2 (Large)
The full impact of the damage to the landscape in the name of renewable energy is not really apparent until the pass & one looks north, marching pylons & fields of turbines across the horizon; all carefully sited to not impact the views from the tour buses along Loch Ness but in plain sight to any hill goer.
Mona 3 (Large)
I turned north & trudged up to Corrieyairack Hill before turning south-east, over Geal Charn to the Corbett Gairbeinn with its stunning panorama over the upper Spey.
Mona 4 (Large)
And the not so stunning view to the north & the ongoing construction of the Stronelairig windfarm adjacent to the Glendoe Reservoir.
Mona 5 (Large)
I made my way across the normally boggy ground, today bone dry & dusty, to the Corbett Meall na h-Airse really suffering in the afternoon heat. Up & over Creag an Dearg to finally pull up near Dubh lochan (NH546009). I guess normally the ground would be a bit boggy but today it was ideal, soft grass with a stream running by; the only down side was the view of the turbine mast & crane about a mile north close to Chalybeate Spring (a favourite camping TGO Challenge camping spot, though perhaps no longer as the place will be surrounded by turbines).
Mona 6 (Large)
After a much-appreciated brew I enjoyed the luxury of soaking the dusty feet & a wipe down with a wet cloth as the dinner ‘cooked’ in the cosy before just relaxing in the evening shade trying to ignore the construction site a short distance away. It had felt a very long day despite have only covering around 24km……it felt more like 40, a least there were no midges & only the occasion annoying cleg.
Day 3
I’d another restless nights’ sleep but I managed to get underway by 8am heading east across the flank of Carn Fraoich to Loch na Lairige before heading up the March burn (which was still flowing well & I noted some good camping spots) to the summit of Carn na Criche & the border of the Cairngorms NP. The summit provided a good point to take a break & the survey the Stronelairig vandalism, by my count less than half the structures have been lifted into place (final count will be 66), this & the other wind factories further north-east together with the miles & miles of access roads will undoubtably change the Monadhliath for ever.
Stronelairig July 18 (Large)
I finally turned by back on the devastation & headed off north-east following the NP boundary; the rolling crest proved very pleasant walking.
Mona 7 (Large)
Underfoot was tinder dry even the normally very soggy bealachs were just dusty peat, despite the broken cloud cover it was still hotter than I like & very little wind. The clegs were out in force so after a few painful nips it was on with the head net & cotton gloves; full cover up works better than any insect repellent in my experience.
On the summit of Carn an Fhreiceadain I sat down & pondered, time to think of a camp site; continue NE towards the Burma road & an Aviemore resupply OR head south for Kingussie. I decided on heading through Kingussie in the morning…..first find a camping spot. The valley above Pitmain Lodge didn’t look too promising from the map or from what I could see on the ground so I headed for a lunch hut alongside the upper Allt Mor at around 600m. Staying in the hut itself proved less enticing than a nice are of level grass about 100m downstream, the end of another 25km day. Duomid pitched, dinner prepped, wash, laundry, eat, then lounge about plotting the next few days route.
Mona 9 (Large)
Day 4
Up & away by 8am having only enjoyed a slightly better nights’ sleep the previous two, a 7km stroll down to Kingussie. My ‘intuition’ regarding the camping possibilities further proved correct, little opportunity with only heather covered slopes or a boulder filled stream course.
Mona 10 (Large)
The Co-op supermarket wasn’t any better than I remembered, one can always hope, it took 3 circuits of the aisles scanning the shelves before finally deciding on the shopping list.
Then the familiar road trudge past Ruthven Barracks around to Tromie Bridge, up through the forestry over to Auchleum Bridge, turn south & end up at the Ruigh Aiteachain bothy. I’d covered around 24km, mostly on auto pilot along the easy trails, it was still only mid-afternoon. After choosing my bed space & a having brew it was time to do some serious relaxing; I found a shady spot, settled down with a bottle of red (which had been decanted into a platy) & watched the world go by.
Day 5
On the hoof again around 8am, it seemed that most of the others in the bothy & camping nearby were later risers. I was feeling quite weary after yet another restless nights’ sleep but wanted to get up the relentless 600m climb across the flank of Meall nan Sleac to the Moine Mhor plateau before it was too hot.
Mona 11 (Large)
From the end of the LRT the ‘real’ Moine Mhor beckons towards Cairntoul, easy going today with little in the way of wet ground.
Mona 12 (Large)
I decided to bypass Cairntoul & from the bealach overlooking Loch nan Stuirteag I contoured around to meet the Allt Clais an t- Saighdeir; a good place to stop for lunch. I then turned south & nipped over the shoulder of Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir to Coire Odhar & the descent to Corrour, arriving before 3pm. Too early to contemplate staying the night but plenty of time to sit in the shade for an hour.
Was after 4pm before I headed off over the hill to Bob Scott’s to be reunited with a couple of cans of beer that I’d buried in the woods on a previous trip & to meet up with few MBA buddies; a pleasant end to another 25km day. The bothy was too hot for me so after dinner & very welcome beers I pitched a short distance away in the hope of a cooler night’s sleep.
Day 6
A very lackadaisical start to the day, slept until 8am, 10hrs sleep but I still felt tired & distinctly lacking in enthusiasm; after packing I adjourned to Scotties for leisurely breakfast & a natter.
I was finally on my way around 10am, I headed down the track towards the Linn of Dee then turned east climbing the path to Clais Fhearnaig. The lochan very dry looking  but it was a really nice spot to sit for a few minutes & watch the huge dragonflies buzz around.
Mona 13 (Large)
Dropping down to the Quoich Water I turned upstream & crossing the Alt an Dubh-ghlinne ford, this proved exceptional low & I managed to cross without even getting the socks wet. Turning east again I headed towards the remnants of the old Pine forest noting that there was significantly less natural regeneration here than in Glen Derry; more deer on the Invercauld estate?
Mona 14 (Large)
The old pines provided some welcome shade to sit for a while & have long lunch, I was definitely in dawdle mode. Plan A was to continue east down Glen Gairn to end up in Crathie but indolence was definitely in the air. Plan B; I had a leisurely peregrination around the forest & river bank for an hour or so then strolled up to the Quioch ford; another dry-shod crossing. The bealach above Gleann Slugain provided another opportunity to sit a while…& enjoy the view of Beinn a’Bhuird.
Mona 15 (Large)
I took in a short visit to the Secret Howff, staying there wasn’t an option as apart from there being no water nearby it was baking hot thanks to the sun on the tin roof, I ended up in the glen below, a fine grassy spot alongside to the infant Slugain.
Mona 16 (Large)
Nothing to do but have a brew & put the feet up in the evening shade until bed time.
Day 7
Up & away for around 8am, an 8km leisurely stroll down the LRT to Keiloch & the 10:30 Aberdeen bus.
Mona 17 (Large)
It was only after I hopped across the Allt Tarsuinn ford that it came to mind than I had managed 7 days backpacking without midge’s, donning waterproofs & despite wearing trail shoes & covering so much ground off trail I’d had dry feet……amazing!

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4 comments on “A dry 7 days

  1. Kirsten
    July 17, 2018

    Nice one,Paul! Love the photos. I think we’ve all been suffering with the heat when backpacking this summer. Even northern Sweden was too hot for me.

    • Paul Atkinson
      July 17, 2018

      The heat wasn’t as bad as I experienced on the GR10 last year, borderline heat stroke, I can’t remember such a prolonged dry/ hot spell (at least in the east of Scotland).

  2. Richard Hacker
    July 17, 2018

    What a week you had. Same here on Dartmoor. Dry Feet!!

    • Paul Atkinson
      July 18, 2018

      And the dry weather seems to be set to continue, across the east of Scotland at least, throughout July……remarkable.

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This entry was posted on July 17, 2018 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , , .
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