22 – 24 September 2017
Lairig Ghru walk report
As the Carrbridge meet neared, participants seemed to be dropping out like flies, for some reason! Luckily, some others took the spare spaces and in the end the meet had several parties carrying out their own objectives, with Greg arriving in the middle of the night having bagged on the way up already (!) and Allan and Richard off to places after the meet too.
Myself, sadly, was working on Friday evening and Sunday, so Andy’s idea of doing a 10 hour walk starting at 7am, where I would have to drive to Cairngorm from Aberdeen that morning, was a rather unappealing notion. So off I went, of course, having wangled an early finish the night before from the unimpressed Consultant (apparently doing unjustified and frankly ridiculous physical activity is a valid reason to leave work early in Anaesthetics…). I negotiated with Andy and Jim to meet at 7.30, and arrived bang on time, with the boys already eagerly waiting since 7.15, just in case….
We set off with the vision of scrambling up the Angel’s Ridge, as the name suggests, the shoulder ridge leading to Angel’s Peak, of the infamous Devil’s Point to Braeriach traverse. We walked in via the Chalamain Gap and then took the low path via Lairig Ghru due to relentless buffeting wind, in the morning around 40mph on lower ground. Despite sunshine in Aviemore, the Lairig Ghru met us with low cloud, with our heads nearly scratching the cloud base, and a nearly constant wind in our faces. However, there was enough to see for me to appreciate the beauty of this stunning valley crossing the mountains, which I had never before been to. We walked past the high point and descended into the vast opening, where the River Dee meets its tributaries coming from the craggy amphitheatre of Braeriach and the neighbouring peaks. This was a large area and we crossed the boggy terrain slowly, eventually reaching the shelter at the foot of a steep climb between cliffs, leading to Lochan Uaine (famously visible from the summit of Braeriach) and eventually to our ridge.
Due to the weather neither of us actually anticipated doing the ridge and there was even a suggestion we don’t climb to the loch, but I insisted, and off we went. The going is tough as there is only a very small area allowing safe passage between the vertical and soggy rocks forming wide waterfalls on either side. We got to the Lochan just as the sun was coming out, revealing the summit of Carn Toul and the majestic ridge leading to it. As it was my turnaround time (allowing the drive to Aberdeen and 6.45am start the next morning), I didn’t join Andy and Jim and cautiously started my descent solo. I made the mistake of not navigating properly to find a safe descent point, and instead just went for it which resulted in becoming nearly cragfast, but luckily I realised this and traversed early enough to find a safe descent. Adrenaline ran high thought, and my difficulties weren’t over as I struggled to find a river crossing without the aid of Andy’s walking poles. Eventually succeeding, I got on the way back through the Lairig Ghru, which with the wind behind me was a multitude faster, and I actually made it back to the car in far less time than I had planned. I met some characters on the way and had plenty of chat. One guy was walking (at 3pm at Chalamain) to Corrour bothy, and two young boys had descended from Braeriach and had to walk all the way to Linn of Dee for the night. They looked like they’d just come back from a polar expedition.
But it was one of those days where in the mountains in these conditions you only really bump into the toughest and most determined cookies! As I walked back, I felt rain hitting my back, but not my front, as I was out-walking a major downpour the whole way. Looking back on where I was, visibility was now zero down to the lowest ground and the shelter had disappeared. I thought about Andy and Jim finding their way down but only later found out that the two experienced buggers were absolutely grand and loving it.
So I wish I had been able to do the whole thing, but at least now I still have an objective in the Cairngorms as I plan to come back from the Linn of Dee and do the ridge and then repeat the traverse sometime soon.
Well recommended and poorly known route for any other DMC fans!