Author Topic: TR - Braeriach wild camp  (Read 4105 times)

richardh1905

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TR - Braeriach wild camp
« on: 16:01:48, 03/07/19 »
Braeriach wild camp

29-30 June 2019

‘Dad’s Removals’ was in demand yet again, delivering stuff to my daughter and picking up my son from college. These trips are not to be wasted, and I started to plan an overnight escape into the hills. Glen Tilt and Bynack More were two options that tempted me, but I eventually decided upon mighty Braeriach, as there was an obvious circular route to be followed, and the wild camping opportunities looked idyllic.



Unfortunately thunderstorms were forecast on the Saturday afternoon, so it was with some trepidation that I set off at 1300 for the Lairig Ghru after parking on the Whitewell road a few miles SE of Aviemore. But as I headed east down a path into the Caledonian Forest, I could feel the stress of my ongoing house move falling away from me - there’s something about these woods that is so calming. This path soon joined a forest track heading south via a small wooden footbridge (which I took note of for my return); this track took me into the heart of the forest. I turned left at a well signed crossroads beside pretty Lochan Deo, and shortly afterwards came to the Cairngorn Club Footbridge, which crosses the Am Beanaidh river that drains Gleann Eanaich as well as the northern side of the Lairig Ghru pass. At another junction I took the path to the right - signposted to the famous Lairig Ghru.


The Cairngorm Club Bridge


Caledonian Forest

The weather was hot and muggy, and I heard ominous rumbles of thunder in the distance from time to time - I began to question the wisdom of going high, but reasoned that I would be able to escape to lower ground fairly quickly if the thunder came close, so I pressed on (my plan B was to camp at the Pools of Dee, safe from lightning strikes in the depths of the Lairig Ghru chasm). My right knee started hurting a bit and the flies became very bothersome, but I struggled on, leaving the trees as I climbed. Using a walking pole helped.


Trees thinning out, entrance to the Lairig Ghru ahead

The path became rougher and it started to rain intermittently as I climbed, and it seemed to take ages ascending the moorland valley to the mountains beyond. A path joined from the left, and I passed beneath Creag a Chalamain to the east. There is a path that cuts over the shoulder of Creag a Chalamain through the Chalamain Gap, this leads back to the head of Glen More. I crossed to the eastern bank of the now much diminished river just before this path joined the Lairig Ghru path, and climbed an eroded path onto the northern shoulder of Sron na Lairige, hard going for a while.

The gradient eased eventually, and I started to enjoy the walk again. Fine views unfolded down into the Lairig Ghru, and I spotted some beautiful Trailing Azalea amongst the gravel. The views of the Lairig Ghru became more and more stunning as I climbed - an astonishing glacial trench gouged out of the Cairngorms, with Ben Macdui beyond (1309m). The colours were very striking - the red granite screes contrasting well with lush green grass, improved by the sun making a rare appearance.


Trailing Azalea (magnified - the  tiny flowers are only a few mm across)


Looking down into the Lairig Ghru, undisputed king of Scottish mountain passes.


The Lairig Ghru, with Ben Macdui beyond

After climbing a bouldery slope I reached the summit plateau of Sron na Lairige, and the path continued pleasantly along the eastern edge to the bouldery summit (1184m). An easy descent and a not so easy re-ascent took me onto the eastern ridge of Braeriach, where the views to the south across massive Garbh Choire were stunning. Particularly striking was Lochan Uaine, cradled between Cairn Toul (1291m) and Sgor an Lochan Uaine (1258m) - potentially an idyllic wild camp site, but a difficult one to get to, as the loch sits in a classic hanging valley guarded by some very steep ground. A circle of cliffs runs all the way around Garbh Choire, and it would have been possible to follow this all the way around to Cairn Toul, an exceptional high level promenade that does not drop below 1100m. It must be quite a sight in winter when heavily corniced, but no place to be in bad conditions.


Lochan Uaine cradled between Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine


Braeriach cliffs

But no time for that now; I had to press on to the summit and then drop down to Loch Coire an Lochain to the North West, where I hoped to find somewhere to squeeze my tent in amongst the boulders. The summit of Braeriach (1296m) came quickly, and I stopped for the obligatory selfie. A short distance from the summit I came across some Moss Campion in flower, a tiny pincushion covered in pretty pink flowers; far too delicate looking to survive in such a harsh environment.



I left the cliff edge and headed westwards, aiming for the summit of Sgoran Dubh Mor due west across the other side of Gleann Einich. The going was easy - grass interspersed with a few bouldery patches, with more Moss Campion, and there were extensive views of distant mountains to the west. I could have camped here, but thunderstorms were on my mind and I wanted to drop down off the plateau.


Distant mountains to the west


Moss Campion

After about half a mile I started angling towards the north somewhat, and suddenly arrived at the edge of the cliffs above Loch Coire an Lochain, with fine views of the loch and lower hills below. The loch looked lovely, framed by the granite cliffs and a patch of late snow. I picked my way down the slopes to the west of the cliffs, wondering whether I would be able to find a spot to pitch the tent amongst the bouldery chaos below.





Loch Coire an Lochain

My luck was in - at the extreme western end of the loch there was a small level patch of ground that had been cleared of stones - this was just big enough to accommodate my small 2 man tunnel tent. I had the tent up by 1930 - 6.5 hours walking and I had only covered 9.5 miles; tough going with a heavy pack.

After pitching the tent I started to relax and enjoy the stunning beauty of the location - I was literally just a few feet from the water’s edge, and the loch nestled tightly amongst the broken cliffs that surrounded it on three sides; absolutely idyllic, and I just lay there for a while soaking up the atmosphere of the place. It took a while to sink in that I was still 1000m above sea level, way above the lower hills to the north.




The perfect pitch

To save weight, I had eschewed the stove, and I dined on Orkney oatcakes, smoked cheese and smoked venison and pork sausage, a tasty and satisfying meal packed with 1150 calories - a perfectly acceptable alternative to some unpalatable dehydrated mush.

The wind picked up in the night, with rain from time to time, and I could hear the sound of the waves splashing against the rocks along the loch shore just a few feet away. But I got enough sleep, and the day dawned fine; sunrise around 0430.


Sunrise 0430

No point in hanging around, so I got up and broke camp, getting away at 0515. Initially the descent was easy, crossing a stony plateau dotted with Trailing Azalea, and then finding and following a path that zig-zagged it’s way pleasantly down the hillside. The view of Carn Eilrig and of the hills beyond Glen More was particularly fine.


Carn Eilrig and the hills beyond Glen More in the early morning sunshine. Part of Loch Morlich is visible.


Loch Mhic Ghille-choil and Gleann Eanaich far below, conical Carn Eilrig to the right

Eventually the path petered out, and I had to strike out down heather and grass covered slopes; rough going and boggy in places. The slope eased, and I joined the Land Rover track running the length of Gleann Einich; easy going if somewhat unexciting walking.


Loch Einich and surrounding hills

After crossing the Am Beanaidh river, a riverside path branched off from the main track, which headed up the hillside. I stopped and had my breakfast of a Stoats porridge bar whilst being scalded by a beautiful Grey Wagtail perched on a rock in the river. A bumble bee was foraging in the broom next to me, and the view back up the glen was magnificent.


Looking back up Gleann Eanaich

The path traversed above the river into the pine forests, a delightful easy few miles back to the car. I rejoined my outbound route at Lochan Deo, from where I retraced my steps back through the trees to my car, arriving back at 0900.


Easy going now


Tranquil Lochan Deo


Beauty and the Beast

At one point I heard a rustling sound in the small pine next to the path, and spotted part of a bushy red tail sticking out from behind the trunk. I tried to circle around the tree for a closer look, but the canny squirrel moved around as I did, always keeping the trunk between us. Eventually he was high enough to feel safe enough to pop out onto a branch to check me out.


An inquisitive little fellow checking me out

My best solo wild camp yet - and to think that I used to flog past the Cairngorms on the A9 without giving them a second thought, on my way to what I mistakenly believed to be better mountains.


Cloud covered Braeriach from the car. I camped in the corrie just below the patches of snow.


16.5 miles, with 1135m of ascent.


Viewranger route HERE
« Last Edit: 14:17:30, 04/07/19 by richardh1905 »
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Owen

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #1 on: 16:18:48, 03/07/19 »
A cracking TR Richard, I really enjoyed reading that.

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #2 on: 16:32:22, 03/07/19 »
Thanks Owen - I was lucky with the weather. Have you been up to Loch Coire an Lochain?
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Petrolhead

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #3 on: 16:48:01, 03/07/19 »
Living vicariously here mate. That's a fantastic TR, thanks a lot. Great words, great photos. I especially love the Lochan Uaine and the tent shots. Glacial lakes surrounded on three sides. It doesn't get much better. What a magic place to call home for the night.

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #4 on: 16:50:41, 03/07/19 »
Thanks Petrolhead, praise indeed! :)
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Petrolhead

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #5 on: 17:16:26, 03/07/19 »
Thanks Petrolhead, praise indeed! :)


Worthy!

My pleasure mate.

vizzavona

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #6 on: 18:13:13, 03/07/19 »
Nothing quite like being tucked into a wee tent in a Cairngorm Coire…..everything you need in there although I don't think that could ever not take my stove to enable a hot drink to e made.

Owen

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #7 on: 19:50:46, 03/07/19 »
Thanks Owen - I was lucky with the weather. Have you been up to Loch Coire an Lochain?


Yes I've been there but not camped by the Lochan.

Bigfoot_Mike

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Re: TR - Braeriach wild camp
« Reply #8 on: 20:11:19, 03/07/19 »
Great report Richard

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Braeriach
« Reply #9 on: 21:17:49, 03/07/19 »
Nothing quite like being tucked into a wee tent in a Cairngorm Coire…..everything you need in there although I don't think that could ever not take my stove to enable a hot drink to e made.

Indeed. An absolute delight.

..but I have to say that I didn't miss the stove at all. Might be a different matter on a multi night trip in winter, of course.

Great report Richard

Thanks Mike  :) 

Glad that I missed your thunderstorm!
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vghikers

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Re: TR - Braeriach wild camp
« Reply #10 on: 05:16:38, 04/07/19 »
Splendid report and photos and a brilliant pitch to remember  O0
A pitch by a corrie lake is just perfect when you can find a good flat spot, usually not easy in our experience.

adalard

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Re: TR - Braeriach wild camp
« Reply #11 on: 06:47:43, 04/07/19 »
A very enjoyable read, Richard, and great photos of that beautiful scenery.  O0

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Braeriach wild camp
« Reply #12 on: 08:02:36, 04/07/19 »

Glad that you enjoyed the report, vghikers, adalard; thank you for the feedback. :)


I believe that Loch Coire an Lochan is the highest body of water of it's size in the UK, altitude just a few metres below 1000m. Coire an Lochan is certainly a very special place.
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Ridge

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Re: TR - Braeriach wild camp
« Reply #13 on: 09:20:25, 04/07/19 »
Great report and pics Richard, it looks stunning.

richardh1905

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Re: TR - Braeriach wild camp
« Reply #14 on: 12:50:17, 04/07/19 »

Thanks, Ridge  :)


Do you know the Cairngorms?
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