Back to the challenge yesterday after a 2 month lay-off. Ran from Linn of Dee to Derry Lodge then north up Glen Derry before striking up the slope to Lochan Uaine no. 1. The high tops looked inspiring, so took the high route and went up a gully on to the plateau and passed north of Derry Cairngorm before descending to Loch Etchachan. Then retraced back up toward Ben Macdui until passing the lochan at about 1150m, soon after which there’s a gully to get down the cliffs and a traverse to Lochan Uaine no. 2 (even better than the first one). Pretty steep slopes above this lochan, so detoured south round Sron Riach before traversing and then dropping into the Lairig Ghru. Headed up the Lairig then turned left up the Allt a garbh choire. Made a bad mistake here – instead of going up the floor I tried a rising traverse on the northern slopes of Cairn Toul. Very slippery and tricky, and then a couple of hundred metres of unpleasant scrambling through and up granite slabs. Not recommended. Forced to climb too high to get a safe route up so had to drop back down to Lochan Uaine no 3. Then up the (very rough) north ridge of Cairn Toul, and south round the cliff edge towards Devil’s Point. Then double back to descend Coire Odhar to Corrour Bothy and run back to Linn of Dee via Derry Lodge, passing a pair of eagles near Clas Fearnaig. This turned into a bit of an epic (not in a good way) – and took a couple of hours more than expected.
Nice weather for a monster loop round the south west CPs. A lovely and quiet area with quite a lot of cross country, but nearly all of it is runnable. Up through the woods from Inverey to Tom Anton, then west down the heather to ford the burn and run up to the Colonel’s Bed (which is very impressive if you climb right down to the ledge just above the water, beneath the overhung cliffs. Up the valley to Altanour lodge (which looks like a bike shop there are so many parked there, but strangely there were few people) and on to Beinn Iutharn Mhor. Phenomenal views in all directions. Headed West off the top and had a great sight of a golden eagle soaring past about 40m away. Cross country to Fealar Lodge (guess Tesco’s don’t deliver there!) and a bit more cross country north towards Sron a Bhoididh. In the glen 1km south of the top saw another golden eagle very close up – this time from above – and then a pair of them, circling overhead for about 20 mins. More cross country past the south tip of Loch Tilt to reach Coire na Creige, then a weaving descent northwards to pick up the path to Bynack Lodge. Passed 3 pairs of smart but forgotten shoes at various fords, before reaching white bridge and back to the Linn of Dee, passing yet another golden eagle less than a mile from the car park.
[category cp1,cp2,cp3,cp15,cp16,cp17,cp18] Tom Anton, Colonel’s Bed, Altanour Lodge, Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Sron a Bhoididh, Coire na Creige, Bynack Lodge
I have enjoyed orienteering a few times at Glen Fearder and Inver but have never previously run here before. It’s fantastic – an 11. I would highly recommend it.
I parked in the huge layby on the A93 South of Meall Alvie, and headed straight up North through the woods. The hardest bit was the first 2metres (straight over a deer fence) then just a steady walk up to the summit (the trees thin out just in time). Then a lovely descent West through the trees to Felagie (sticking under the trees keeps you out the heather). I then took a bee-line to cross and then rejoin the path round the hill that descends to the Fog House. That is a lovely track – great views, gentle underfoot – running bliss. Then North up the track – also great running, until the track turns right and you leave the woods. Went straight up Meall Gorm – the first bit weaving through newly planted trees – to enjoy a delightful summit with fantastic panoramic views into the Cairngorms, back to Lochnagar and down to Glen Fearder. Then even more bliss – a few seconds of joyous scree running off the north side (optional for those that don’t like that kind of thing) and then descending NE through the birch to cross the Fearder burn and climb slightly to Auchtaven. Along the path and then a short climb through burned heather to Leac Ghorm. On the descent on Leac Ghorm I came across a young deer who apparently hadn’t yet learned to be startled by people. I ran up to within about 10 feet before it stopped eating and headed off. I hadn’t decided which way I’d go back and descended SW towards Balmore where there’s a bridge over the burn, then through the fields towards the couple of houses at the foot of Creag na Spaine. Just behind the upper one is a forest track that traverses round the south side of the ridge, parallel to the A93 but well above it. Yet again it’s lovely running. That goes all the way along towards the cliffs at Clagganghoul. Once the track petered out I descended diagonally below the cliffs and picked up the path beside the power line. I followed that for a bit then dropped down to the A93, coming back to the road about 100m from the car.
Total loop was a 10.5 mile run, which took a total of 2 hrs 20 mins going fairly slowly and stopping for views, sitting in the fog house, map reading etc.
So much route and terrain variety and wonderful scenery that I was literally singing for joy – good there was nobody about! Definitely coming back here.
[category cp28, cp29, cp30, cp31, cp33] meall alvie, fog house, meall gorm, auchtavan, leac ghorm 22 Mar
This is a nice candidate for a summer ‘Sunday run’ – loads of good places to stop and enjoy fantastic views, and after the first 15mins none of it difficult. Parked on the grass verge on road to Lary, about 400m before Morven cottages. Straight up through the woods to Candacraig, which doesn’t take long but is a bit of a leg-burster. Enjoyed the view before heading NE, thinking to pick up the landrover track that goes to the west corner of Morven. However, the slope to the North looked benign and there appeared to be a footbridge over the Lary burn, so went straight North for that. Turned out to be a slippy log with a mink trap, so trekked upstream until I found suitable rocks on which to cross. From Morven lodge followed the track SW then West – this is easy running – and along to the Lecht road. Ran along that for just over 1km to the ruin on the hill, then turned right up the track. This is a really nice, gradual climb up towards Coire an-t-Slugain, which still has a lot of snow and looked impressive. So impressive that I decided not to try it, but instead skirted under it and straight up a snow slope to the hill above Fox Cairn. The views of the Cairngorms from here were really excellent, as was the route down the ridge past Fox cairn, crossing the river at the bridge by the farm, and then a short climb up Cnoc Chalmac (which has a bit of a juniper maze that can be skirted). From there it’s pretty much a bee-line to the road and up Geallaig. Feeling a bit lazy/thirsty by now, so instead of continuing along the track I went North, traversed the remaining snow, and then descended the ridge North of and parallel to the West Milton burn. Fractionally shorter but definitely slower than if I’d followed the track. Crossed the Gairn on the footbridge at 317 004 then chugged back along a beautiful track past Inverenzie and Lary and back down to the car.
[category cp49, cp50, cp51, cp52, cp53] candacraig, morven lodge, hill above fox cairn, cnoc chalmain, geallaig 14 Mar
Intended to run up Coyles of Muick via Glen Girnock from Littletown (a few km past Ballater on the South Deeside). Easy running for the first couple of miles but when I turned off the landrover track I couldn’t cross the Girnock. Followed up the riverbank until seeing some likely looking stones (opposite a wooden shelter containing a broken gauge – probably measuring the number of bridges) where it was possible to get across dry. By then Craig Megen was closer than Coyles of Muick, so went up there instead – a bit heathersloggy in places but great views towards Lochnagar from the top. From there a short, rough descent (wouldn’t fancy climbing it) back to climb Coyles of Muick, which is an absolute joy of a hill. Screamingly windy on top. Descending west and tracking the burn gets back to the original crossing point, from where there’s a short landrover track then a steep climb up to Sgor an h-Iolaire. Took Ursula’s suggestion and followed the ridge north towards Craig nam Ban – really nice running track – before dropping NE and then back to the car via the deceptively steep Creag Ghiubhais (which would be another nice place to spend a sunny afternoon). Avoid the north face of the hill though – had to retrace my steps when I was blocked by some pretty fearsome crags. It isn’t far but it took an hour longer than expected – some quite slow going.
No snow lower down, and a brief lesson in not working off Grid Refs alone (if you go to the Princess Royal’s cairn challenge GR then you get a pleasing view of Ripe Hill but there’s no cairn at the bottom of the hill!). Worth the climb back up – the forest would be good for orienteering I think. Then saw a truly massive red deer stag on Ripe Hill (approx. size of a Heffalump). It got progressively snowier as I went up – until it became an uphill wade. Turns out it would have been significantly easier if I’d stuck to a path. Not being up in royal history I was unfamiliar with the Prince’s stone, and expected it to be a big natural feature, which it ain’t. The inscription was hard to read in the flat light, so I rubbed snow in the letters to make it easier to read and then had a good laugh. What a tough man he was. Another wonderful place (new to me) courtesy of the challenge – fantastic setting and views. Back over a very snowy Craig Doin, and a steep descent to NNE (beautiful linear crags and summer picnic viewpoints at GR220911). When you get back down off the hill there’s a weird fenced off trap there, with 6 sheep/deer skulls and an enormous snare. What on earth are they trying to catch? Half the challenge done now – roll on summer for the cairngorm epics.
Haven’t been up here for years, so great to have the incentive to get the map out and visit some of these slightly out the way places. Some beautiful viewpoints and a lovely round above Loch Muick. Crossing the Allt Darrarie above the falls was a bit (d)icy, and Kahtoolas were useful when descending the snow banks to the Dubh Loch (which is completely covered in thick ice), but the cliffs are most impressive and it’s a great time of year for doing this – in the gullies the snow is firm and very runnable, making it easier than in the summer. Several herds of deer and a gazillion hares.
On this day, 2 windproofs were barely enough, but a great tailwind from mudlee bracks to lamahip (the top of lamahip is surprisingly easy to miss in poor visibility – if it wasn’t for Steph and Andy’s photos I’d not have kept looking for the cairn).