Friday, August 5, 2016

Cairngorm Challenge

It is good to attempt to climb the Scottish munros by different means and styles. One on my Munro bagging friends is leaping ahead! This motivated a need to seek new tactics for attempting to keep up with our current pace of Munro bagging. I have started to run some ultra trail marathons in the peak and Lake District. A little research revealed to me that there is a round of all the Cairngorms, known as the Rigby round. The challenge here is a 74 mile circuit of the Cairngorms in under 24 hours. As I had already completed a number of summits I decided to split the mountains I had not attempted into two groups, East and West. Both days were 43 and 31 miles respectively and required an early morning start.
For the first day I attempted the east group of Braeriach, Sgor Gaoith, Mullach Clach a Bhlair, Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain. I was dropped off at 6am at the Sugar Bowl car park on the road to the Cairngorm ski centre. On the walk up Braeriach and rising above the mist bathed environs of Aviemore the experience was magical.
Cairn a Mhaim (left) and Cairn Toul (right) with the Devils point showing itself in the middle.
The ridges of Cairn Toul and Angels Peak looked fabulous, on a future visit to Cairn Toul I'd like to try the fabulous  North East ridge of Angels Peak. This was a group of mountains which were most enjoyable. With fresh legs, gaining the summit of Braeriach, I viewed the summit of Sgor Gaoith and began to appreciate the scale of the challenge ahead! Before gaining the slopes of Sgor Gaoith, there was quite a lot of rough ground to negotiate. Once on the ridge which linked with the rounded slopes of Mullach Clach a Bhlair the going was easier. There was track which lead from near the summit of Mullach Clach a Bhlair, however the distances to Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain were significant! Time was marching on and the cloud started to build in the sky. The climb of Beinn Bhrotain was somewhat arduous the reward made it worthwhile when I looked back at the fabulous glens around the Devils point, I had completed the days challenge and I was very happy. The sky looked increasingly angry Cairn Toul and Angels peak were bathed in thhe cloud. I comfortably made may way back from the Corrour Bothy which is just over 9 miles from the Sugar bowl car park. At this point in the day energy levels had dropped to the extent that I walked most of the Lairig Ghru. I was conscious of the fact that I wanted to attempt the eastern group of munro's so a decent recovery was required.

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The support team needed a break! An attempt on the eastern group would require an early start too! I was quite fatigued the following day but two days later I was prepared to attempt the eastern section.
The eastern section comprised Beinn a Chaorainn, Beinn Bhreac and Beinn Avon. Beinn a Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac are quite a reasonable day the addition of Ben Avon made this a 32 mile  challenge. I was dropped off at the Corrie Cas car park for the ski centre at 6am. The first part of the journey was to climb up over the Cairngorm and drop down to the Saddle with the fantastic view of Loch Avon and Creagan a Corrie Etchachan. From this point I headed down Glen Avon to the shelter after a chat with a group of young people staying in the shelter I waded across the river and headed along Lairig an Laoigh to the col leading into glen derry. Although the paths were very wet they were typical highland quality trails. I followed the south ridge onto Beinn a Chaorainn. So far this all felt quite reasonable for Beinn Bhreac  it was necessary to head south east across a very rough and boggy bealach and then head back north to gain the line of hills connecting Beinn a Bhuird and Beinn Avon.

Although I found the ground hard going underfoot. When planning this route I really questioned the viability of attempting Beinn Avon, although I was making reasonable progress the reality of this challenge was looming 5 miles in front! With patient and steady progress I traversed the shoulder of the north top of Beinn a Bhuird, I was my way to Beinn Avon!

It was a wonderful journey climbing over the rounded top near Cnap a Chleirich and crossing the deep pass known as the Sneck which was mildly difficult due to some loose scree. The final slopes of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe (the name of the summit of Bheinn Avon) beckoned. Many of the hills around here have granite rock structures which look like barns! I had an enjoyable scramble over the barns on Bheinn Avon. It was good to meet  a couple of walkers who had climbed from Braemar.

So I'd now completed all the Cairngorms, two excellent days, now twelve mile's on tired legs awaited. The weather brightened for my return walk I took a slightly different route dropping into glen Avon from coire Ruaridh a pleasent descent.

As forecast the approach to the saddle was welcomed with quite a heavy shower of rain. I climbed back over the Cairngorm and jogged back down the easy path from the Ptarmigan back to my awaiting family.

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