Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

May Sunshine

The sunshine & light winds forecast for Scotland in May needs to be grabbed, chores complete, last minute stop off at the supermarket & over to the Linn of Dee for a late morning kick-off.
A very basic plan, 4 nights supplies, head east to high ground & then turn west making it up as I went along.
Day 1 – 18km, 1050m ascent.
Any easy start to the day, up Glen Lui turn right up & over Clais Fhearnaig, which was looking quite dry for the time of year.
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The water was low enough to hop across the Dubh Ghleann ford without even getting the socks wet then it was up the glen following the Quoich through scattered pines, not as pretty as Feshie but a very pleasant wander.
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The Quoich Water crossing wasn’t to be so obliging on the dry socks front.
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In the afternoon heat the paddle through the stream was quite refreshing & the shoes & socks soon dried off on the wander up the glen.
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I had thought to pitch up around the Sneck but it was still early & a few midge were proving annoying. I filled up the water bottle & a 2 ½ L platy then headed for the Ben Avon summit plateau in search of a breeze. The ideal pitch was soon found about 400m from summit of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe; flat, level, carpeted in thick dry moss & more important a light wind. I was pitched & all set-up for bed by 5pm, the first mountain pitch for the Durston X-Mid.
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After a clamber up the granite torr I retired to some rocks near the tent to enjoy the evening sun with a pot of tea & watch the world go by for an hour or so before retiring to the tent for dinner & podcasts.
Day 2 – 15km, 800m ascent.
Setting off around 8am the Beinn a’Bhuird plateau looked enticing.
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The route down, across the Sneck, up to Cnap a’Chleirich & across to North Top is a very familiar one but a different season, day or weather always brings ‘something’…..its hard to explain but there’s always ‘something’ different in every visit to familiar places, it may be the different season, weather, wildlife or just a smell…….something the once in a life time Munroe ticker rushing in & out from the nearest roadhead doesn’t get.
The crossing of Moine Bhealaidh gave plenty of opportunity to allow the mind to wander, as well as the feet.
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I mused route options for the westward journey, my first thought had been to head for Loch Avon & onward over Cairngorm but with the midge already putting in an appearance the thought of enduring a long evening by the loch didn’t exactly sound that enthralling. Plan B, head for Loch Etchachan which should provide a breeze. I abandoned the idea of going over Beinn a’Chaorainn to the Fords of Avon & headed directly west down into Glen Derry to join the path up to the Hutchie bothy
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The bothy thermometer (outside) read 23C, I thought it felt warm. There was plenty of midge around the stream by the bothy & at the Loch Etchachan outflow; with only a breath of wind I decided to forgo a loch side pitch in favour of stocking up on water & climbing the flank of Creagan a’Choire Etchachan. Climbing above the path I soon found a small terrace with a steady breeze, a bit of a bumpy pitch but a nice view from the window & a good jumping off point for a crossing to the Braeriach plateau tomorrow.
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Day 3 – 15km, 1000m ascent.
Another day of bright sunshine & light winds; I half expected to have to tromp up sections of soft snow to get up to Ben Macdui but by staying close to Coire Sputan Dearg the remaining snow fields were easily avoided.
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The plan was to ascend to the Braeriach plateau up ‘Dukes’ path that climbs steeply from close to the Pools of Dee up to the Sron na Lairige but viewed from the summit I could see that the upper reaches were still crowned with a belt of steep snow…….time for a rethink.
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I mused over options as I made my way down the ‘short-cut’ to the Lairig Ghru; the short cut starts about 1km north of the summit & follows the northern branch of the Allt Choire Mor straight down; steep but straight-forward.
I didn’t fancy walking to the north or south so decided to head up into Garbh Choire & take one of the many routes to the plateau I’ve explored before. After a short climb up the ‘Ghru I managed to cross the stream dry shod & joined the climbers’ path around into the coire.
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The path fades away as it approaches the main stream (but continues further than shown on the maps) & I even managed another dry shod stream crossing to gain the refuge for a late lunch stop in the shade.
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Most of the routes to the plateau looked still to be complicated by snow bar one, a steep direct ascent up Braeriach, starting about 200m above the refuge the route climbs a narrow grassy corridor through the boulder fields on a bee line for the summit. The climb is only about 400m but on a hot day with little breeze it felt like it was never going to end, in contrast emerging onto the plateau was like being blast frozen; on with the fleece & windproof for the traverse around the coire rim.
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Once around the coire & over Carn na Criche I decided against climbing to Angel’s Peak & headed off down the Clais Luineag towards Loch nan Stuirteag.
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Plan A was to continue to head west across to Sgor Gaoith tomorrow, then descend to Feshie before returning to the car the following day over the Geldie but a chance encounter with a TGO’er provided an up to date forecast; the weather was to break tomorrow night with rain & low cloud. Time for Plan B a short cut over Monadh Mor – Beinn Bhrotain tomorrow so an early camp was called for.
After a quick look around the loch I ended up pitched a short distance away alongside the Allt Luineag, on a calm day it would probably have been midge hell but with a 15 – 20 mph wind there was no danger of that.
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Day 4 – 19km, 500m ascent.
It had been a while since I’d crossed Monadh Mor, it didn’t take long to remember it as an unremarkable pile of granite boulders but with a nice view of Cairn Toul.
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Beinn Bhrotain is almost a twin boulder pile & I was glad to be finally descending the south-east slopes. I decided to vary my previous ascent/ descent lines by skirted north of Carn Cloich-mhuilinn to follow the Allt Garbh down, plenty of deer trails but nothing that could be described as a footpath. The highlight of the descent was a series of cascades down smooth granite slabs, they must look quite spectacular in full spring thaw, it made the heather slog worthwhile.
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Once down on the good path adjacent to the River Dee it seemed a positively easy 5km stroll down to White Bridge.
_DSC4468 (2) (Large)After a casual lunch stop hiding from the wind behind the bridge abutments & chatting with a few TGO’ers as they passed by it was an easy 5km back to the car.
Quite a successful short trip after a winter of ‘failures’, the good weather was particularly appreciated as it allowed more or less unrestricted pitch choice….not often I had 3 consecutive nights camped at 900m+ in Scotland.

2 comments on “May Sunshine

  1. Kirsten
    May 23, 2019

    Brilliant! You certainly got the best weather. I was in the Monadhliath at that time and it was very hot.

  2. Paul Atkinson
    May 23, 2019

    & I managed to run away before the good weather broke!

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This entry was posted on May 19, 2019 by in Trip Reports and tagged , .

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