Sunday, 19 June 2011

Gold DofE: Cairngorms Journey

This week I got to truly appreciate the incredible scale of the Cairngorm mountains, by walking a circuit that took me around their gentler fringes, using ancient passes and estate tracks to trace their circumference. The walk took four days, with three camps on route.  Davy, Andy and I were shadowing a group of Gold Duke of Edinburgh students on their final expedition.

Day 1: The students set off from Loch Morlich, and Davy and I set off ahead of them from the ski centre. We tucked ourselves away in wet and windy weather to watch them pass through the bouldery Chalamain Gap and descend in to the Lairig Ghru.

The Chalamain Gap is an amazing feature but not a fun place to be with a big rucksack! We did manage to find a cool little boulder howf for a brew though!

From the gap it was in to the amazing drovers pass of the Lairig Ghru.  This is Lurchers Crag, a famous winter venue for climbers. 

Looking South out of the Lairig Ghru and towards the Devil's Point. 

On route to Corrour Bothy for the night we took a detour to check out the tiny bothy in Garbh Coire under Angels Peak. I'll be back!

Day 2: After a night of vicious wind we awoke to a bright and breezy day at Corrour Bothy.  The students left early to continue their journey to the next camp by the river Gairn.  The route was to follow a series of passes via Derry Lodge, and Glen Quoich.

Corrour Bothy nestling under the Devils Point.

Hot dusty road from Derry Lodge.

Day 3: Now thoroughly off the beaten track, we followed a stalkers path to Loch Builg and then picked up the doubletrack in to Glen Builg.  The glen is a haven for breeding wading birds including oystercatchers, sandpipers, snipe and lapwings. I waited at the bridge at the entrance to Glen Avon and was treated to dramatic views of a young golden eagle being mobbed by angry crows and gulls.

The wide and peaceful Glen Builg, with meadows full of waders. 

We passed the lovely waterfalls of the Linn of Avon and turned north up Glen Loin, a tortuous and twisting glen that we gladly left behind, before descending to the water of Caiplich for a camp. 

The Linn of Avon with its dramatic cascades and inviting pools.

Day 4: Most of the students headed north over a bealach to descend down to the Nethy and a crossing at the fords of Nethy.  Andy and I headed over the tops with one lucky lad who was being trained for a future final exped.  There were lots of navigation opportunities and rough boggy heather hillsides to negotiate before we dropped down to Bynack Stables to meet the rest of the students at Ryvoan Bothy.  All that remained was the stunning walk back to Loch Morlich through the wonderful scots pines below the bothy in Glenmore. 

Looking from the bealach back towards Glen Loin. 

Scots pine heaven, Glenmore.

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