Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

Soggy days

11am saw me on autopilot heading up Glen Derry, the forecast was pretty mixed for the next few days (sunshine & gentle breeze for today, possible rain tomorrow then showers) but I was determined to get a short trip in. A simple enough plan had come to mind on the drive over; spend the night up at the Pools of Dee (good probability of a breeze & a midge free evening); over Braeriach then down the River Eidart on the following day, then wander around An Sgarcach & Fhidhleir the next.
Day 1: 23km +1110m
No matter how many times I walk the route up Glen Dee it never disappoints.
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Despite dawdling I arrived at my prospective pitch just south of the Pools of Dee (18km +630m) very early, ~3:30pm. I’d more or less decided to just pitch up anyway but the midge were being just a little more than annoying so I did what all sensible folk do & opted to run away (makes a change from being blown off your feet here).
A straight forward ascending traverse southwest led up into Coire Ruadh & Dukes Path (not a particularly highly trafficked route but occasionally used by folk completing the Cairntoul/ Braeriach ridge & heading back to Corrour), the line proved much easier than I remembered the direct assault being, no path but there was a couple of cairns.
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In Coire Ruadh parts of the wreckage of the Bristol Blenheim which crashed on the Sron na Lairige in 1945 killing 6, came into view; wreckage is strew down the steep slope almost to the Lairig Ghru. More importantly for the walker is the faint trace of the zigzag ‘Dukes’ path leading up the corrie head wall
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The top the of path is marked by a small cairn & engine cowl about 100m from the path along Sron na Lairige/ Braeriach path (NH965002)
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Once on the main path the remains of some of the Airspeed Oxford which crashed in 1943, with no losses, were encountered (there’s an extensive debris field stretching west down Coire Beanaidh) on the final 150m climb to Braeriach. Over the summit it was an easy downhill for a couple of kms to my chosen pitch on a level grass near the Wells of Dee; time to get a brew going & enjoy the evening sunshine with just enough breeze to keep the monsters at bay……definitely a bit different to the last time I was camped here earlier in the year when there was a 25mph wind, it was below zero & I was pitched on hard snow.
Day 2: >25km +400m
The weather had changed overnight the bright skies had become low clag cloaking the peaks around the bowl. After packing away the dripping tent I made my way over the summit of Carn na Criche to descend south-west down a blunt ridge towards the Moine.
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I somehow managed to cross the saturated boggy ground with dry feet & was soon on the summit of Tom Dubh.
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After studying the map & a bit of prevaricating I decide that lack of finesse was the best option; head straight down the steep southern slope & size up which bank of the River Eidart to follow downstream.
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The view downstream didn’t provide any inspiration over which bank to follow so I took the ‘keep the feet dry’ option, boulder hopping across the smaller Allt Sgairnich & continued down the right bank (west). It didn’t take long for the feet to get a dunking in the boggy ground adjacent to the river but there was fairly good sections of easy grass & shingle with lots of recent flood debris evident 1m above the current water level, only occasional short sections of heather bashing were necessary to avoid obstacles as the river tumbled down the glen.
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About 1km north of the Eidart footbridge the going became quite tedious, in the main knee-deep heather, a path is shown on the map but this turned out to be overgrown or a lot of the time a bog filled depression. To make matters even more fun a continuous rain had set in together with a 20- 25mph southerly wind; spot on the forecast.
It had turned into a miserable day, I found a sheltered spot on the bank of the River Feshie & sat under the umbrella for a late lunch & mulled options, it was only 1:00pm. I was 3hrs+ ahead of my notional schedule; having ‘stolen a march’ yesterday & the passage down the Eidart being quicker than anticipated. I could pitch up further up the Feshie to where I originally planned, <1hr away, & sit out the afternoon OR ????
Being confined in the tent for 18hrs, no matter how comfortable, didn’t appeal so I finally decided to head over to the Tarf Hotel (Feith Uaine). Around 9km in a straight line, so probably 12km+ on the ground & ~250m ascent; no path but following the streams it should be possible in ~4hrs.
Two hours fast forward I was still making my way up the banks of the Allt a’ Chaorainn towards the bealach between An Sgarcach & Fhidhleir. The rain was continuous & thanks to the sodden ground the streams were reacting much faster than expected, long gone was any thoughts of keeping the feet dry(ish) & it seemed like every 2 minutes I was wading the swollen stream to cut a bend.
The descent towards the Tarf water, down the Allt a’ Chaorainns, was even more tedious & wetter. The stream seemed to take many more twists & turns than I remembered (or than that shown on the map), the water level was rising fast & each crossing definitely became deeper & wider. By the time I reached the glen it felt like I made 100’s of stream crossings, the Tarf itself was brown & boiling. I’d normally boulder hop the river, dry shod, just to the north of the bothy (adjacent some islands), no chance of that today so I waded across the knee deep river just by the junction with the Feith Uaine without breaking stride.
The Tarf Hotel was very welcome shelter after the 5hr trudge (so much for my 4hr estimate). Auto pilot mode: off with the dripping stuff, brew on, make the bed, drink brew, see to ‘pickled’ feet (Gewhol Extra cream is brilliant!), get soup on, drink soup, get meal going, eat, settle down with another coffee & a dram, listen to the wind & rain.
Nature called about 9pm & venturing outside I was surprised to see that the Feith Uaine had risen a further 0.5m & was over the top of the footbridge; at least the rain had slackened significantly. Time to crawl into bed, don the Buff eye mask & sleep for 10hrs.
Day 3; 23km +400m
Overnight the spate down the Feith Uaine had abated significantly, the footbridge had reappeared but the water was still the colour of weak coffee.
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No chance of postponing getting wet feet this morning given the very soggy ground & swollen streams so it was straight across the Tarf & down the northern bank, hardly pausing at the intersecting streams, for an hour or so to the end of the ATV track. The map show a path leading onwards but I’ve long ago learnt not to bother trying to find it. Just head for the ruins of Ruigh Caochan nan Laogh where the path east becomes obvious.
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I follow the easy trail for around 2km to where I knew from experience it ‘disappears’ into a spider’s web of deer trails but it’s easy enough just to continue down east to join the main path up Glen Tilt a short way upstream of Bedford bridge.
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The 7km wander up the glen was pretty uneventful, the only niggle in the brain was the condition of the Geldie ford…..would it be still running high?
I needn’t have been concerned though as at the Allt an t-seilich ford I was presented with a crew levelling the vehicle ford……they reckoned the was a waist deep channel before they started.
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The digger had already done its work levelling the Geldie ford so it was another shallow paddle across & the easy LRT the 7km back to the car……the end of a soggy few days.

4 comments on “Soggy days

  1. Charles vigne
    September 1, 2019

    Very Soggy ! Bothy must have been a welcome respite after squelchy trudging .

    • Paul Atkinson
      September 1, 2019

      Despite being an active member of the MBA I tend not to use bothies a lot (usually preferring a tent close by) but after 6hrs+ of walking through heavy rain & trudging sodden ground the bothy takes on a different perspective, the Tarf Hotel is one of my favourites………..blatant advert……JOIN THE MBA.

  2. Kirsten
    September 1, 2019

    Full of useful information again Paul. Glad I was not on that trip but you still managed some good photos in the wet.

  3. Paul Atkinson
    September 2, 2019

    Thanks Kirsten, During the Feshie to Tarf section the camera stayed firmly in the dry, the amount of rain exceeded expectations.

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This entry was posted on August 31, 2019 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .

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