Sgor Mor Sgor Dubh

The main target of Aberdeen Hillwalking’s trip this weekend, was Ben Macdui, starting out from the Linn O’Dee. My recent run of scorching hill runs was away to come to an end though; the forecast was for high winds and a lot of rain. It’s a long enough trip to Macdui, but with the weather looking poor I thought I’d abandon that idea and keep it lower level, so joined a party doing an alternative loop down to White bridge, then up to the corbett Sgor Mor.

Through the trees near Linn O’Dee

Heading west alongside the Dee, initially it was lovely but within half an hour the waterproofs were on.

Along the Dee heading west

White bridge was reached where the path splits and goes across to Glen Tilt, we stayed this side heading to the Lairig Ghru

White bridge

A brief stop to check out the falls at the chests of Dee

Lower falls
Upper falls
Rain off for a bit

The path beyond here is pretty rough, rocky and lumpy or boggy and barely visible.

Lumpy path. Not a good one for a bike
Path is in turns grassy and boggy to invisibility

At NO 00286 89501 we followed the burn uphill past a few small waterfalls before cutting across to the crags below Sgor na Cuileige

Higher up one of a series of small waterfalls

The ascent over rough heather had a few bits of natural interest down amongst the micro-forest

Eyebright is tiny but perfectly formed
An insect nest cunningly made from a bent back stem and lashings of silk
A frog that actually remained still for a moment. No doubt enjoying the rain
Fox moth caterpillar
A lazy butterwort that’s failed in it’s duty to catch flies

Arriving at the crag, a blast of sun cracked through the clouds and lit the landscape up, a real whew moment as the mountains north poked out of the swirling clouds: I quickly headed a few hundred metres up and north to open up the view, it was a day when brief windows of sunlight needed to have the most made of them.

Sun’s out looking back the way we’d came
Crag above now framed by blue
Whew there’s a landscape round the corner
Frizzy clouds whip past craggy tops, big shadows and glows sweeping majestically past

Looked great. I was keen to get higher and make more of the panorama while the weather window held. First I’d tick off the corbett

After the first crag, a more gentle slope to the top
Rocky slabs and ridges
Wet rocks all around
Cloudy and dour the other side of the hill

I pootled around the rocks, finding a big facee.. had the Grey Man of Macdui visited Sgor Mor for the day?

Missed that cloud burst
Amongst the slabs.. small round pools make a face. Has The Grey Man of Macdui stopped at Sgor Mor today?
I presume they’re made by pebble erosion twirling round over eons
Loook inttoooo myyyy eyyyyeee

The top of Sgor Mor is rocky and slabby, and we found some good shelter from the strong wind behind a steep rock wall. A good spot for lunch

Out of the wind briefly

Before heading off, we savoured the panorama to the north; from the Devil’s Point past the foot of the Lairig Ghru with Cairn Toul/Angel’s Peak beyond, Luibeg glen with Sron Riach, then Derry Cairngorm with the tors of beinn Mheadhoin peeping past it, it’s a prime viewpoint with a great sweep of Cairngorm character. The windswept clouds meant the lighting changed every minute, moody and dramatic, and necks were craned left as we made our way east through the rocks clusters of the ridge.

Corrour bothy a tiny speck in the middle
White speckles near the top of Carn a Mhaim (top left): unknown. Possibly air dropped bags of rubble for path building?
Devil’s point
Rain making it’s way down the Lairig Ghru

Between Sgor Mor and Sgor Dubh, the going was mostly good, rocky and a smidge scrubby. We reached the combination shelter/ trig point on Sgor Dubh, had a brief snack break then continued onwards, chased by the rain

Looking towards Glen Derry, past Luibeg, with Derry cairngorm at the back
Looking back to Glen Tilt, with Beinn a’Ghlo a shadow at the back
Derry Cairngorm on the right, Sron Riach left
Farewell rocky tors and ridges of Sgor Dubh
Sgor Dubh shelter. There’s a trig too. Rain is away to hammer down

There’s not a path down from here that we could see as we headed south east towards Carn an’lc Duibhe. The ground was an endless sweep of squishy tuft-bog along a broad ridge.

Endless tuft-bog

The tuft bog deepened and fragmented to become ‘pooled-jigsaw’ bog where one becomes a dot calculating escape from a watery maze, concentrating on steps, strides and hops to avoid the dreaded over-ankle plunge. Today, this was avoided but the feet were wet anyway, boots having reached saturation point earlier and the waterproofing giving up. There’s probably a better route than this most direct one. I suspect following the ridge north east down to near Derry lodge and fording the river might be better if a low-water kind of day.

Pool maze
Eventually gets a bit more solid, a cairn before heading down steep heather
Linn O’Dee overwatch

We eventually reached ‘dry’ land overlooking the valley from the top of the steep slope that enters into the trees above the river where we started from. The heather here is knee deep and covers an assortment of boulders and holes that meant you couldn’t just yomp freely downhill.

An additional barrier was reached: a double electric fence, fortunately somebody further back up the hill pointed to a gate from their vantage point (gate at NO 0531 9008 ).

I placed my hands on the gravel of the track gratefully; it had been quite a while since I’d been on anything remotely resembling solid dryness.

A brief detour to the Linn rounded off the day, the day’s rain was thundering through the chasm.

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