With ‘summer’ in full swing (pretty rainy recently), Aberdeen Hillwalkers’ routes began to tend towards longer ventures. This weekend was An Socach, starting from Baddoch on the Old Military road south of Braemar, heading south west to munro An Socach, then north to Braemar via some other hills. With the weather outlook good, I took the opportunity to head out on an extended multi-munro run that would be towards the upper limits of my endurance, with the planned 4 munros (and some other lumps n bumps) covering 35km and 1600m of ascent.
Today’s load out was salomon 2-in-1 shorts, scott kinabalu trainers, a thickish long sleeve top. (MWIS had a ‘feels like’ temp of about 0ºc at 900m). In the rucksack (montane razor 15) a berghaus vapourlight smock and hypertherm jacket, sawyer micro filter.
The bus dropped off at Baddoch on the Old military road sweeping south from Braemar towards Glenshee, the walkers heading along the Baddoch glen, and me climbing up onto the grassy ridge overlooking it. Once I’d ascended a bit, there were nice views along the glen, and on the other side following the road.
The ridge broadened and a scrape of a rocky path appeared. The first munro of the day, Carn Aosda was reached within 45m. Not much to see here: the area nearby is awash with rusty ski machinery and wide tracks, with a few walkers bagging one of the easiest munros around. There’s a pretty stiff breeze; I’d need to keep an eye on time/progress as this is going to be in my face for much of the long return leg
I pass a wee loch, Loch Vrotachan on route to the next hill. It’s got a fishing hut: quite a windswept place to cast a fly. A golden plover peeps at my passing
The next top, reached by way of wide but loose rubbly tracks, The Cairnwell has a cluster of transmitters or aerials in addition to the ski paraphernalia
Heading down and then north west, I got back on to some singletrack to head around Choire Dhirich
Past two ponds, then I took a fork right which contours round Carn nan Sac, to make better time, but forsaking a minor ascent and a view from higher up back along the corrie crags.
Carn a Gheoidh (Hill of the Goose), the 3rd munro of the day and highest point at 975m was reached in under 2 hours – I was still roughly on schedule. A chap was here with his dog and I took a photo for him and he reciprocated
Looking west from here into mamba land as far as the eye can see (miles n miles of bugger all)
Leaving this top, the ground was wilder descending the mile to cross the baddoch burn. I’d plotted a path in preparation the night before, looking at aerial photos from OS, but the reality on the ground was what had looked like paths were random scrapes / flood channels, so I just chopped back n forth trying to find the path of least resistance on either rough rocks or spongy heather
Down at the burn, the wind had dropped so I took a lunch break here (minimal snack break really, some stoats bars and a banana) and refilled my water flask using the sawyer micro filter. There was no sign of a bridge I had spotted on OS aerial
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a splash of a bright man-made colour and was surprised that somebody else was nearby in a fairly ‘off the beaten track’ area. The colour flickered but didn’t move on. I’d go over and see what it was once finished eating
It’s .. a balloon. Twats launch these into the sky never thinking where they’ll end up, well there’s one here out in the wilderness, sticking out like a sore thumb. I deflated it and popped it in the rucksack for later disposal
I followed the gully of the Allt Boruiche upwards and regained a path here, past some rocks n the odd pool
Reaching the ridge top, it’s a km west to An Socach, the last munro of the day. Clipping carefully over the rocky ridge I met the first of the rear guard of the walkers who had proceeded directly to An Socach. To the south west a great view opens up with Loch nan Eun a mile away ringed by hills
I continued to the summit cairn then went further over the back to survey the land below, with a mind to a future trip using Loch nan Eun as a basecamp to explore the hills nearby. Looked like quite rough ground would have to be covered once leaving the end of the nearest trail a mile or so to the north
It was pretty chilly to be too still, so I cracked on, though it’s hard to get any pace or rhythm going on what is a very rocky plateau. Most of the ascent had been done for the day, but it was daunting to consider there was still another 17km much of which would have the wind blasting in my face.
Caught up with a few of the walkers huddled in a shelter at the unnamed mound marked as 938 on the map
A brief respite of cushioned bounding down across bouncy heather towards the Allt a Mhoire Ghrianaich was interrupted by the view down the burn towards Glen Ey. I followed the cleft north a bit to get an uninterrupted view down, and my eye was caught by a small clump that stood out being a lush bright green. Standing at the mossy mound, it seemed it’s a popular haunt of some predator, there being a few poops of fur n bone scattered around it. Which came first? The mound attracted the beast to use it as a watch point down the burn, or has it grown green from nutrient enrichment after frequent visitations
Onwards back up to the undulating ridge at Sgor Mor. From here, I could spy the marker of the final hill (the aerial on Morrone) which was still disconcertingly far off. There were now good views east towards Lochnagar and the hills around Loch Callater
I finally caught up with the main body of walkers, and was tempted to walk and chat for a bit but too chilly. The ridge undulates up and down, and the pathless heather makes for reasonably slow going, and I’m feeling quite tired, the last of my snacks are gone, and water is out
Nearing the final ascent, a track appeared, though by now I was running sporadically and taking quite a few walk breaks. Before I headed over the summit, a zoomed look back at the views
Not much to see on top, some aerials and a hut (locked). The main track down to Braemar is a horrendous rocky scar, that I ended up bypassing at times to give my knees a break. My descent speed was pitifully slow, it’d be easy to let tiredness cause an accident on the lumpy and steep terrain
Braemar came into view. Down there is beer, cold beer. And ice cream. And chocolate. I was definitely going to have a calorie bonanza.
The descent is merciless, but after 20 minutes I’m eventually down into woodland. I take a left to have a nosey into Morrone birkwoods, but down here in the stillness the temperature has cranked up over 10 degrees and I’m feeling a bit weak and shit. I soaked my cap in a burn, but the coolness on the head isn’t enough: time to knock it on the head, only a few km of the 35 total left.
I plodded into town, 5 and half hours after starting, drained and beaten. I meet up with some other walkers who’d done a shorter route in the Fife arms. Ooft, a pint of cold Schiehallion tasted good. The hotel was taken over by some wealthy swiss art dealers recently, and the place is adorned by all manner of arty stuff. There’s a real Picasso on the wall! I do like the drawing room ceiling swirls, the auto piano and the winged deer hanging over the bar. Not your average village pub. A lovely stop to round off the day.