Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

Around Loch Eanaich

The 8am BBC TV weather forecast looked reasonable for the next few days so by 9:30 I had bag packed with 3 nights food & was on the road. It helps with the speedy packing having the luxury of a gear store where everything is at hand, once the brain has conjured up a ‘pick list’ stuffing the pack can be a fairly quick affair. I’d decided to go fairly light, the pack probably only weighed in at ~5kg before adding food. Deciding on food always seems to take me far too long; breakfasts & dinners are easy, my standard fare; granola + Nido & DIY dehydrated meals, I always seem to end up prevaricating over day food spending time staring into kitchen cupboards & the fridge; after throwing in the obligatory Snickers, granola bars, shortbread & trail mix I decided to hit the supermarket on route & pickup the boring standbys of oat cakes, Primula & pork pies; probably another 3kg to the pack.
I’d not a clue where I was heading, apart from the carpark at Linn of Dee, but the 2hrs+ drive gave time to mull over options; where hadn’t I visited recently?
Day 1; 19km +300m
After an early lunch I was heading west along the LRT towards Glen Feshie, the 12km to the end of the track is not one of the most enjoyable of strolls & I seem to have done it many times; just a case of clicking on cruise control & letting the mind wander as the miles roll by.
The ‘nice bit’ (apart from the mud wallows created by mountain bikes) finally arrives after leaving the LRT onto the footpath leading towards the Feshie/ Geldie watershed.
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The footbridge over the River Eidart couldn’t have been put in a more picturesque spot.
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After a short wander up the River Eidart in the vain search of a decent pitch I retired to a known good pitch about 1km west of the footbridge (by the old pony hut). Despite it being early I was grateful to get the X-mid pitched, get out of the wind & frequent heavy showers, I was even more thankful for the down gilet that I’d packed at the last minute as it had turned decidedly chilly.
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The long evening gave plenty of time to mull over the map & sort out tomorrows route.
Day 2; 23km 1000m
After a chilly night with frequent heavy showers I got underway before 8am, the plan I’d hatched was to head directly north cross over Sgor Gaoith, descend into Gleann Eanaich to end up at a good pitch I knew in the Rothiemurchus forest.
Einach
I made my way north trudging up the heather covered slopes above the narrow cleft of the Allt Eindart, after about 1km the going eased & I dropped alongside the stream & followed its meandering path steadily towards Corrie Eindart, as always the gauged distance on the map underestimates that underfoot when following a stream with all its twists & turns.
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After 2 – 3km winding along the streams grassy banks the tough part loomed a steep 200m climb to the LRT that winds its way across the plateau, a bit of an incongruous eye sore IMO.
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A deft short cut across the grassland soon gained the summit of Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair, not a magnificent peak by any standards but a fine vantage point to take a short snack break & admire the expansive of the Moine Mhor.
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I thought I noticed some sheep in the distance as I crossing the Moine, unusual for here, but as I got closer they turned out to be a small reindeer herd grazing on the slopes of Carn Ban Mor; I’ve often seen them on Cairngorm but this is the furthest I’ve seen them away from their home at Glenmore.
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Sgor Gaoith is a fine place to admire the views over Loch Einach to the Carntoul/ Braeriach massif but not today, a cold 25-30 mph wind & heavy rain showers didn’t really make me feel like being tardy; my path lay north over Sgoran Dubh Mor.
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From the summit the rest of the ridge line appeared; as well as Aviemore & Loch Morlich in the distance.
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Easy walking down the ridge & up the other side, Clach Choutsaich was reached at a very opportune time as a heavy hail storm hit which stung a bit until I managed to take shelter in the lee for about 10mins
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I must be getting lucky 5mins further onward another bad hail flurry hit but Clach Mhic Cailein was right at hand to hide under.
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All downhill from here, at least the heavy clouds seemed to have passed & the wind had dropped to a breeze.
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After about 1km I turned east & headed down into Coire na Leacainn/ Gleann Einach, as anticipated the easy moss/ grassy slopes turned into increasingly deep heather hiding bog but it didn’t last long & I was soon on the LRT alongside the river.
Down in the glen there was only a gentle breeze, just sufficient to keep the dreaded midge at bay. I’d still around 6km to go to my planned campsite but the lack of wind & a pitch in the forest really started to fill me with dread……I decided the intelligent option was to run away. I made my way in the opposite direction up the glen & pitched up on the first bit of flat grass alongside the river that I found. A long evening spent drinking tea, listening to podcasts, greeting the odd weekend wild campers heading up the glen & diving into the tent every time the breeze died before an early bed.
Day 3; 33km 860m
3:45am, bleary eyed but awake……not because I wanted to see the summer solstice sunrise but because I was cold & uncomfortable…..the Xlite had deflated. The valve was tight so I re-inflated & searched unsuccessfully for a puncture. The mat wasn’t deflating noticeably so I tried to settle back down for another 2 – 3hrs sleep but no despite adding some clothes I couldn’t settle……4:30am I gave up & put the stove on for the morning coffee & started to pack.
5:25 I was heading down the glen, my ‘planned’ route was to head around over the Cairngorm/ Macdui plateau to probably camp up at Loch Etchachan but the thought of potentially another cold night with a deflating airmat was niggling in the back of the mind. By the Cairngorm footbridge the nagging doubt had turned into the decision to abort. I was now more than a bit annoyed with myself having not assessed the situation over another cup of coffee at breakfast; a far shorter bailout route would have been directly south up Coire Dhondail, over the flank of Cairntoul & descent to Corrour, probably would have saved a couple of hours.
A traverse of the Lairig Ghru beckoned, click on the cruise control & a plod; at least it was good weather not a howling gale & rain.

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I arrived back at the car a bit deflated & little foot sore after 9hrs on the hoof (including a couple of stops), not the end of a trip that I would have liked but being philosophical probably far better to experience an airmat failure on a short trip than on one of my longer trek.
Postscript
No visible damage to the Xlite but when soap bubble tested I found a series of tiny holes along the ‘seams’ (where the internal baffles attach) at the head end.
x-lite leaks 1
The mat is 5yrs old & probably seen as least 300 nights use (I guess a lot more than most folk) so I guess it’s done pretty well, ~25 pence / night. I cured the leaks by coating the areas with thinned down Seamgrip (xylene thinner) but I figure I can’t really trust it anymore for extended trips……I ended up buying a Thermarest Xlite Womens model, 1.68m long Vs the 1.2m for my X-lite short……110g heavier but more or less full length for my stature & maybe it’ll give the old bones some additional comfort.

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4 comments on “Around Loch Eanaich

  1. Andrew TAYLOR
    July 1, 2019

    Hi Paul, nice blog post as always. I like meandering around that same area, always different. Can you please remind me where you got the X-Mid from and how much it was? Was it direct from the main website (Drop?)

    • Paul Atkinson
      July 1, 2019

      X-mid was direct from Mass Drop, think they’re organising another batch later in the year as well as looking at a 2P version.
      From memory cost was around $240 inc postage but did get hit with £62 bill for customs duty & VAT

  2. Kirsten
    July 1, 2019

    Thanks for your report and photos – always good to read and especially your honesty when things go wrong. Interesting about the Xlite. I use the 3/4 length insulated version which weighs in at 268g and I find it very good, also less noisy than the original. The length is supplemented by my Thermorest sit mat and a Sea to Summit pillow.

    • Paul Atkinson
      July 1, 2019

      To only time someone can say they haven’t had “things go wrong” is when they sit at home. I would normally carry 1/2 length CCF mat as back up on longer trips just for this eventuality, especially in winter.

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2019 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .
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