Wednesday 20 August 2014

TGOC 2014 - Day 7: Newtonmore to Ruigh Aiteachain

Thursday 15th May 2014 

A shorter low level day in Badenoch, linking the high peaks of the Monadhliath Mountains and the Cairngorms 

Distance: 22.5km; Ascent: 450m; Dry, overcast and windy; Partly with Laura & Louise

Today was meant to consist of a long low-level walk followed by an approach to a high camp at the north end of the ridge between Glen Feshie and Gleann Eanaich, with a further high camp planned tomorrow night somewhere in the vicinity of Beinn Bhrotain.  However the forecasted strong winds put pay to that plan, as I didn't fancy camping in high winds.  Therefore I switched to a mixture of my FWA and main route, with the intention of heading to Ruigh Aiteachain bothy today followed by a high-level route over to another valley camp in Glen Dee tomorrow.

This change in route meant that I now had a relatively easy low-level day ahead of me today to Ruigh Aiteachain in Glen Feshie, as there was little point trying to push on any further than there today since I planned to head up Mullach Clach a Bhlair tomorrow morning.  Therefore I had a leisurely first half of the morning in Newtonmore and sorted through my kit.  My micro spikes were waiting for me in Newtonmore and I decided to carry them through to Braemar as I'd heard that there was still plenty of snow up high (although in the end I didn't actually need them!).

Heading along the cycle path with views of the hills beyond Glen Feshie
Ali came to find me shortly before I left to see if I was heading to Ruigh Aiteachain today and if so could I please take Jamie's camera with me, which he had accidentally left behind in the hostel.  As I was indeed heading that way, I was happy to oblige; so after saying goodbye to David, Ali & Neil, I set off walking at around 10am.  My first stop was the post office, a short distance along the main street, to post a few things home.  Shortly afterwards I bumped into Chris and Tony again, so I chatted to them for a while before heading to the Coop to re-supply with food.  The tarmac cycle path provided pleasant enough off-road walking to Kingussie, where I stopped for a quick break in the Gynack Memorial Gardens.

Entering Kingussie
Gynack Memorial Gardens in Kingussie
Flowers and lichen in the woods near Ruthven
Around here I bumped into Laura & Louise, who were heading for the Cairngorm Club Footbridge today.  As this meant that we'd all be walking the same way for the next five or six kilometres, I decided to join them for the road walk to Ruthven Barracks followed by a pleasant wander along the first section of the Badenoch Way through the RSPB's Insh Marshes National Nature Reserve.  Even though this was longer than just following the road to Tromie Bridge, it made a very pleasant change from the road walking!

Ruthven Barracks
At Ruthven Barracks
Start of the Badenoch Way
Heading through the Insh Marshes Nature Reserve
The Insh Marshes
We passed a few other people out for a stroll as we followed the waymarked route through the woods to reach the River Tromie, with its impressive looking rapids, stopping on route for a spot of lunch.  Soon afterwards we reached Tromie Bridge, from where we headed up into Drumguish; this marked the parting of the ways as Laura & Louise continued straight on following the Badenoch Way, whilst I turned right and headed towards Glen Feshie, stopping for a second lunch quick break just before I entered the forest.

The Cairngorms from the Insh Marshes Nature Reserve
River Tromie near Tromie Bridge
River Tromie near Tromie Bridge
It was quite warm as I followed the tracks and paths through the woods, across footbridges and open country before entering the Glen Feshie woods.  Soon I reached the private road along the western edge of the glen, which I followed southwards for around a kilometre before stopping for a well earned break!  I dropped down to the river to cross by way of the bridge, where I found a fellow challenger camped on the east bank, who I stopped to chat with for a while.

Heading through the Inshriach Forest
Bridge over the Allt Mor
River Feshie ~500m south of Stonetoper
As it was now around 4pm and I still had phone signal, I quickly downloaded the updated MWIS forecast to help me decide on tomorrow's route - it looked a bit windy, but otherwise fine so my Munro bagging plan was probably going to be possible :-)  I continued southwards along a new looking path through the woods to reach a new looking land rover track, which led me all the way to Ruigh Aiteachain bothy.  This was slightly confusing as lots of these tracks seem to have appeared in the six years since I'd last been here on my first TGO Challenge back in 2008, which seemed a very long time ago now!

River Feshie near the confluence with the Allt Garbhlach
Makeshift Bridge over the Allt Garbhlach
Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy
I arrived at the bothy at around 5:30pm, and headed inside to find two or three challengers and a few other backpackers here for the night.  Peter and Jamie were amongst them, and Jamie was very happy to discover that I had brought his camera with me from Newtonmore today :-)  I stayed inside and chatted for a while before heading outside to look for somewhere to pitch.  About now Sue arrived after a long day in the hills between Glen Tromie and Glen Feshie; I chatted to her for a while and she decided to join me on my planned high-level route over to Glen Dee tomorrow - it would be nice to have some company for a change :-)

After pitching my tent on a pleasant spot near the river a couple of hundred metres away from the bothy, and cooking dinner, I headed back into the bothy to enjoy a wee dram whilst chatting to Jamie, Peter and a few other walkers.  I was quite surprised that there weren't many more challengers here this evening, as previously in 2008 I'm sure there were 10-15 of us on the Thursday evening - perhaps they had pushed on further up the glen?  Anyway, as tomorrow's walk would be quite long, with potentially 4 Munros to climb, I didn't stay up late and was soon heading back to my tent for a reasonably early night!

Thursday 14 August 2014

TGOC 2014 - Day 6: Chalybeate Spring to Newtonmore

Wednesday 14th May 2014 

An excellent high-level day over two Munros on the edge of the Monadhliath Mountains 

Distance: 29.5km; Ascent: 680m; Dry and sunny, followed by showers; Mainly with John B

I woke at around 5am this morning due to the cold - there was a heavy frost outside and ice on the inside on my flysheet!  Therefore I added an extra layer and soon was back asleep for a couple of hours.  The vast majority of the other challengers camped at Chalybeate Spring were heading east from here, whereas I was planning on detouring to bag a Munro: Geal Charn.  This therefore meant that I set off walking alone at around 9am and followed the burn southwards to reach Loch na Lairige, which looked like it might be a pleasant spot to camp.

Camp by the Allt Mor
The Crom Allt below Loch na Lairige
The outflow of Loch na Lairige
Loch na Lairige
From Loch na Lairige I followed the Allt an Iuit up past several large snowfields to eventually reach the NE shoulder of Geal Charn, where I picked up a faint path through the moorland.  Around here I bumped into John Braide again!  He had just come from the summit, but opted to turn around and retrace his steps with me to the large summit cairn of Geal Charn (Munro, HuMP), which we reached at around half past eleven.

Snowfield SE of Loch na Lairige
Looking back to Loch na Lairige
Snowfields above the Allt an Iuil
On the summit of Geal Charn
Geal Charn summit cairn
John & I both had the same route planned for the next few hours, so after a short break we set off walking together in a north-easterly direction over the gentle rolling hills of the Monadhliath.  There were excellent views in all directions as we passed over the summit of Carn na Criche (Corbett Top) and the summit of Cairn Ewen before reaching the summit of Carn Odhar na Criche (Corbett Top), where we picked up a line of fence posts.

Looking NE from Geal Charn
Carn Odhar na Criche
From here we dropped ESE to seek some shelter from the brisk wind for a spot of lunch, before continuing on over Beinn Odhar and the former Munro Top of Sneachdach Slinnean before bumping into Chris Townsend and Tony Hobbs again.

Superfluous gate on the west slopes of Sneachdach Slinnean
Looking towards Carn Dearg from Sneachdach Slinnean
We walked together to the summit of Carn Ban (Munro Top), before continuing on to my final hill of the day: Carn Dearg (Munro, Marilyn), whose summit we reached at around twenty past three this afternoon.  As we reached the summit the threatening clouds finally started to rain, so we didn't linger long here.

John, Chris and Tony heading for Carn Dearg
Carn Dearg from the NNW
One of the remaining snow patches on Carn Dearg
Gleann Ballach from Carn Dearg
Summit cairn of Carn Dearg
We retraced our steps back to the bealach, where John left to continue on his high-level route through the Monadhliath for another day, whilst Chris, Tony & I descended NE into the coire at the head of Gleann Ballach.  Here we bumped into a team of balloon herders, also known as Andy, Alan and Phil, whose cheese and wine party I had attended last night.  After stopping for a chat, they continued down Gleann Ballach whilst Chris, Tony & I crossed over into the next glen to the east.

Alan, Andy & Phil in Gleann Ballach
Footbridge over the Allt Fionndrigh
After missing the start of the path shown on the OS map, we had a steep descent down to the Allt Fionndrigh, which we boulder-hopped across before finding that there was a bridge a few hundred metres further downstream.  By now it was around 5pm and as I was due to be meeting Martin in Newtonmore for a pub meal I picked up my pace and headed off down the vehicle track towards Glen Banchor.

Looking back up Glen Banchor
Soon after joining the minor road, I came across a welcome sign tied to a nearby tree - free tea, coffee and cakes! :-)

A welcome sign :-)
The River Calder NW of Newtonmore
Spurred on by the thought of this, I continued along the minor road into Newtonmore to reach the excellent Newtonmore Hostel, where I found Martin and I were sharing a room.  Martin headed out to the pub shortly after I arrived, whilst I enjoyed tea and cake before unpacking, grabbing a shower and heading over to the pub to join him.

I enjoyed a most sociable evening in the Glen Hotel with Martin, Markus, Philipp, Laura, Louise, David, Ali & Sue amongst many others :-)