Wednesday, 17 September 2014


It's been at least five years since me & Andy started mentioning Gairich in dispatches, as one of those hills that'd be good for a longish drive/shortish walk option, perhaps for the dog days of summer. Part of the reason it took us so long to actually get round to taking said option was a fondly held belief that we'd take the canoe (a) out my garage, (b) to Knoydart and (c) into some watter.

Fondly held, yes - ever going to happen, no.

And the Yes/No conundrum leads us timeously - if inelegantly - to a very brief trip report...

The walk begins at the Loch Quoich dam; there is parking just west of the dam on the left side of the road. 

Begin the walk by crossing the top of the dam. 

There is a good view of the day's objective, Gairich, across the waters of the loch, its craggy northeast face looking impressive. 
(Not at this point there wisny. Ed.)
Once across the dam, follow the rough and very boggy path which keeps close to the shore of the reservoir at first. 

After about a kilometre the path begins to climb away from the water, and passes the southern end of Lochan an-Fhigheadair. 

The going improves as the path crosses a low bealach on the moor before descending towards the forestry below the Bealach na Faire, where it joins another old path. 

Don't go through the gate into the trees, but turn right on a rough path which climbs uphill beside the forest fence; this soon joins the stalkers path up from Glen Kingie.

The path, now thankfully dry and easy to walk, ascends Druim na Gaid Salaich in a series of zigzags. 

It peters out to just a faint peaty trail once the ridge flattens out into an extensive plateau of Bac nam Foid. Continue towards Gairich to the west; the path becomes clearer once more at the foot of the steeper slopes.

The stalkers path keeps well to the left of the ridge at first before zig-zagging sharply to the right to ascend to the foot of the steep nose. The original stalkers path cuts left again from here as shown on the OS maps, however a new path worn by Munro-baggers continues up the ridge and is the clearer of the two routes these days. 

The east ridge of Gairich is very steep higher up...

 ...and there is one section of very simple scrambling up knobbly rock...
(Camera was not to hand at that point! Ed.)

 ...the summit is reached not too far beyond. 

Overall, depending on the result of tomorrow's referendum, I'm thinking about heading back up there for a party this weekend. It had a cracking clientele. ;)

(The large cairn is at 919 metres on a small plateau, making Gairich one of the smallest of the Munros. The isolated position makes it a superb viewpoint however, particularly for the vast waters of Loch Quoich and into Knoydart and the Glendessary mountains to the west. The return is by the same route.)
And on the return, even the stretch across the dam feels like a long way!

We even had time for a pricy pint at Invergarry, and had it not been for a closure of the A9, leading us to try and get home via Edinburgh, resulting in our getting tangled up in the Forth Road Bridge's bloody birthday party, we'd have been home at a reasonable hour!
Maybe there's something to be said for canoes as a form of transport...  

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Happy Eighteenth, Jorja!

That's nothing to do with her age, but in something of an odd coincidence it was last Tuesday, after me and the WBD returned from Braeriach - her last outstanding Cairngorm Munro - that for the first time ever I kind of noticed she was utterly exhausted after a hillwalk.

She's been tired before, admittedly, but never has she seemed reluctant to get out of bed for a biscuit. She's very like me in that regard.

Further deliberations have tended to suggest that it was maybe the nature of the terrain - dry ground, mostly unforgiving hard paths, somewhat exacerbated by the Chalamain Bloody Gap - rather than the lessening of her stamina that had combined to cause her ills, because no more than four days later she was haring up Gairich like a puppy. (More of which anon).

In another odd coincidence, Gairich got a mention in the post about my first visit to Braeriach. So it's nice to report that it's only taken us about five and a half years to get up that yin too.

There's not a lot to add to the first report. I started from the same spot, took the same route up, got similar good weather and took hundreds of photies, the vast majority of which will never see the light of day. I will observe that the Chalamain Gap (no doubt partly due to relatively recent tragedy occurring therein) remains a place that one would not want to linger. There looks to be, to this inexpert eye, rather more in the way of unstable slope-poised boulders than before, and there's an unsettling feel about the whole affair.

Jorja managed without too much bother on the way to the hill, but on the walk out I decided to head up and over Creag a' Chalamain. There's an obvious path that takes you to its summit, but there's also a developing side/contouring path that I stumbled across, having left the main drag after a 100 metres or so. It's eminently spottable on the outward journey, and although it'd steepish from that direction for the first wee bit, I still tend to think it'd be worth it for canine-accompanied folk.

For those that are interested, Ronald Turnbull's "Walking in the Cairngorms" route description (slightly abbreviated here on account of my rubbish typing ability) is all you need. If you've got a map and compass, like.

Start from the Sugar Bowl car park, and drop South to a long footbridge. It is signed for the Chalamain Gap. 
The path climbs the bank above the river and turns upstream, wide and clear. 

 Soon it bends right (west) above the valley of a smaller side stream and then drops to cross this. 

The path continues southwest to enter the Chalamain Gap.

This continues for 300m. At its top, continue ahead on a clear path southwest. 

This slants down around the end of Lurcher’s crag, then drops with engineered steps to the Allt Druidh. 

Turn Left, upstream with the river to your right, for 200m...

...when the path crosses a natural boulder bridge...

...and slants up the opposite bank. At the first bend a smaller path ahead would proceed through the Lairig Ghru, but keep to the main path zigzagging uphill, with stone steps here and there.

At 750m altitude the path bends left, up the steeper ridge of Sron na Lairige. Resurfacing soon ends but the way is clear as there are large crags dropping on the left all the way up. As ridge broadens, the now unclear path drops very slightly, then contours round the left (Lairig Ghru) flank of Sron na Lairige. In mist its simpler to head south to the cairn on the 1180m north top, then across the slight dip to the main summit of SnL; then drop slightly east of south across stony ground with no clear path. 

(Me & the dug just kind of wandered across the broad top of Sron na Lairige, heading roughly towards the intended target. We could see where we wanted to be, so there wasn't an issue leaving what is - as was evident from the return leg of the journey, a good, obvious path as far as the "drop" mentioned above.)

On the way down, the path reappears from the left, into a wide col just below. Follow the path up southwest...

...onto what becomes a clearly defined ridge with long drops into Coire Bhrochain on the left. 

Follow the corrie rim west to a cairn.

After the first cairn the ridge dips slightly. 

About 200m from the first cairn the crag rim rises again to a much larger cairn that’s the summit of Braeriach.

And after all that, you rather turn tail and head back the way you came up. Although the sun had finally decided to break through the haze, so the photos got slightly sharper. ;)

Whatever the weather though, it feels a long way back to yon footbridge!