Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
9th & 10th April 2011
Sgor Gaoith by way of Glen Einich with a high camp on Braeriach
The North West Cairngorms was the destination for a first wild camp of the year. After a brief stop in Aviemore for some last minute provisions, Milk and Macaroni pies we headed over to Whitewell. While at the parking area we had a chat with a couple of young ladies also preparing for a long walk and wild camp. Our plan was initially to walk up Glen Einich and set camp at the Loch before a climb up Sgor Gaoith, leaving options open for Sunday. Their plan was to also head up the Glen before crossing over Braeriach to camp on the Plateau at the head of Loch Einich before returning over Sgor Gaoith. We wished them a safe journey as they headed out while we finished off Stephan’s coffee. It was a joy traveling through the pines of Rothiemurchus before heading up Glen Einich, there was a definite spring like feeling in the air, although the high peaks of the Cairngorms were still sporting snowy whites caps. Am Beanaidh is the river that emanates from Loch Einich and our track would follow its course right up to the Loch shore.
It was quite a warm day and this certainly seemed to have raised the river levels by melting some of the remaining snow. As we approached the position of Loch Mhic Ghille-chaoil were the Beanaidh Bheag burn joins the river we re-joined our fellow campers as they enjoyed a snack. The burn was swollen and the stepping stones that normally provide the means of crossing to the opposite bank were well submerged. We debated wading across but the strong flow may have dissuaded Enzo from following so we thought we would head upstream to find an alternative fording point. Although the burn narrowed in places it also tended to deepen resulting in an even stronger flow. So a change of plan was in order and seeing as were effectively on our way up toward Braeriach we adopted the same plan as our fellow campers. We would however pitch our tents high up around the wells of Dee if snow conditions would allow. After a while the burn passed into a narrowing ravine so we headed up the heathery slopes onto the ridge south of Coire Gorm. It was becoming hot work as we made our way up the ridge but any stop was greeted with a chill wind blowing off the upper snowy slopes. Mist was continuing to roll over the upper reaches of Braerich and could be seen folding into the recesses of Coire Ruadh.
Mist over Braeriach
After making the top of Sron na Lairige we had a break and a few nibbles enjoying the shelter of one or two larger boulders. A short way south the ridge became rockier as it dropped to a col before we started up the snow covered rim lining the top of Braeriach's corries. As we passed around the edge of Coire Bhrochain the mist was passing through in waves giving occasional views over the chasm that lies between Braeriach and Cairn Toul.
Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine from Braeriach
While skirting the corrie edges just after the Braeriach summit we joked with some guys on skis that they should be careful or they might find the quick way down! We then watched in slight disbelief as they did indeed take the most direct of descents.
Skier dropping off Braeriach
After they disappeared down the precipitous slopes we continued over to the Wells of Dee via the snow fields above the Falls of Dee.
Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine from above the Falls of Dee
The few patches of ground not covered by snow were sodden wet and not really suitable for camp. We eventually pitched high on Braeriach's south west shoulder above Coire nan Clach at about 1080m and not so far from the girls camp spot. A bit of concentration was required while pitching so as not to lose anything in the strong wind. We had managed to find a reasonable patch of grass on what was quite a rocky hillside. The gently angled slope was however just sufficient to mean that sleeping mats did tend to slide into the corner of the tent during the night. All pitched and settled in it was time for some food and a wee dram before calling it a night.
Camp on Braeriach
The wind remained strong all night flapping the tent as it drove the increasingly damp air across the hillside. The wind died a little near dawn that appeared under a bluish haze but provided promise for a good day ahead.
Sgor Gaoith from Camp on Braeriach
After packing and topping up water from the nearby icy burn we headed toward Loch nan Cnapan. The day soon warmed and the wind settled into a steady breeze while the morning haze gave way to a clearer blue. We had not been walking long but the loch seemed a nice place to stop for a brew and would have made for an ideal camp.
Loch nan Cnapan and Sgor Gaoith
After starting up the slopes of Carn Ban Mor we headed over to the edge of Coire Odhar to enjoy the views down the length of Loch Einich. The loch sits in a deep trench that lays between the brindled upland slopes of Braeriach and the steep eastern rocky walls of Sgor Gaoith.
Our original planned route would have taken us along the eastern shore of the loch before picking up an old Stalkers path into Coire Odhar. We picked up this Stalkers path above 'A' Phocaid and followed as it traced the edge of the cliffs all the way to the summit of Sgor Gaoith.
Braeriach from above 'A' Phocaid
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the sunshine at the top, resting on the very edge of Coire na Caillich with its now sagging cornices.
The Top of Sgor Gaoith
Loch Einich and Braeriach from Sgor Gaoith
Starting the final leg of our trip we headed north along the airy ridge onto Sgoran Dubh Mor before descending to Sgoran Dubh Beag.
The ridge down from Sgoran Dubh Mor
The ridge narrowed a bit as we lost height to reach point 803 before crossing a small section of peat bog to start the traverse of Creag Dhubh. There are a number of small granite tours along this section with one striking mushroom shaped Tor on Clach Choutsaich. A little furher on we reached Clach Mhic Cailean known as The Argyll Stone.
Granite Tor on Clach Choutsaich
After continuing along the ridge to Cadha Mor we followed it round as it turned eastward falling away to the track alongside Am Beanaidh. The way out back through Rothiemurchus forest as usual appeared longer than on the way in. It was a joy to extract hot feet from the confines of walking boots and give them a swill when back at the van. We stopped in Aviemore for a bite to eat on the way back; Nat went for a selection of Sushi while Stephan and I decided on Haddock and chips. The chip shop had the option of breaded Haddock which proved a nice alternative to the standard battered offering.
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