Sunday 23 October 2011

Eastern Cairngorms Backpack - Day 2: Upper Glen Quoich to Hutchison Memorial Hut

Distance: 19km; Ascent: 810m; with Colin

After a good nights sleep, we woke to find that the cloud had lifted significantly and the wind had dropped. We set off walking at around 8am and returned to The Sneck, to find it too was much less windy than yesterday and there were good views north down to Glen Avon.

Slochd Mor & Glen Avon from The Sneck
We ascended west from The Sneck into the cloud, with occasional views into Garbh Choire to reach the misty Cnap a'Chléirich (Munro Top). After a quick visit to the top of the summit tor, we sheltered from the wind behind the tor for a break. We descended into a small hollow, complete with several snow patches that seemed like they might have been there all summer unless it had snowed a lot in the past few weeks. After a gentle ascent we reached the edge of the plateau and shortly afterwards reached the summit of Beinn a'Bhùird (Munro) at around 10:30am.

Colin on summit of Beinn a'Bhùird
We didn't hang around for long on the exposed plateau and were soon heading westwards down a spur towards our next peaks of the day. At around 900m we dropped out of the cloud and there were good views over towards Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Chaorainn as well as north to Glen Avon.

Beinn Bhreac across the Moine Bhealaidh
We picked a route through boggy, peaty and tussocky ground, heading towards Beinn Bhreac, seeing the occasional mountain hare. Eventually the ground became firmer just over a kilometre from Beinn Bhreac, and we stopped here for a spot of lunch as it was relatively sheltered.  After leaving our bags here, we picked up a path that pretty much led all the way to the summit of Beinn Bhreac (Munro), which we reached shortly before 1pm. It made a pleasant change to actually have views from the top of a peak and we could see down into Glen Quoich and Glen Derry.

Summit of Beinn Bhreac
After detouring to bag the west top (Munro Top), we returned to our bags and continued northwards, picking a route through the boggy ground. After a while we reached drier ground on the watershed and the going was easy pretty much all the way to the foot of Beinn a'Chaorainn. The cloud lifted still further with the sun even coming out at one point, and there were good views across to Beinn Mheadhoin.

Beinn a'Chaorainn across the Moine Bhealaidh
Unfortunately this improvement in the weather didn't last long and it started to lightly rain as we entered the cloud on the way up Beinn a'Chaorainn.  We reached the windy summit cairn of Beinn a'Chaorainn (Munro) at around 2:30pm and after a quick break we descended SW almost into the wind.  At around 850m we dropped out of the cloud and picked our way down the steeping scree slopes to reach the summit of the Lairig an Laoigh pass.

On the summit of Beinn a'Chaorainn
From here the plan had been to ascend up to Beinn Mheadhoin before dropping SW to camp at Loch Etchachan. However given we were both tired and the wind had strengthened (and the weather was forecast to deteriorate further) we decided that it might be best not to camp at Loch Etchachan. Also scrambling up the summit tor of Beinn Mheadhoin might have proved tricky in the strong winds and I didn't really want to slog all the way up there to find that I couldn't actually get to the top again! (I had previously been up the peak in 2003 with Jon but declined to scramble up to the true summit due it being very snowy and icy).

So instead we decided to head for the Hutchison Memorial Hut with the intention of either staying in the hut or camping nearby. We traversed the hillside below Stob Coire Etchachan following a faint path before dropping down and boulder hopping across the river. We reached the hut shortly before 4pm and opted to stay inside, despite the fact that it was quite sheltered outside. We had the small hut to ourselves and had a leisurely late afternoon & evening, with a dinner of spaghetti with courgette, salami and cheese followed by whisky.  The weather deteriorated further and as I write this at 8pm the wind is whistling around the outside of the hut; I'm glad we opted to stay inside instead of camping!

Hutchison Memorial Hut

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