The annual Braemar mountain festival was on and I stayed out at the Cairngorm Club’s Muir Cottage, planning to see some events but also do some walking. Myself and another extracted bikes from the shed, and made an error of not thoroughly checking them before heading out: mine had rubbish brakes and was too small a frame; the other bike had a wobbly seat. We should have turned back at Linn o’Dee but ploughed ahead tempted by snow-capped peaks.
I was glad to dump the bike in Glen Dee beside the tree enclosure (not much sign of anything growing there despite a few years of prtection). We’d swapped bikes to ‘share the pain’, my better bike skills/fitness helping equalise progress on a wonky machine.
There’s a thin scrape of a path near the Allt Larnaidh, and we followed that confidently seeing others ahead.
I went past a small gully near 979 902, a club member had checked this as a snowhole location in years gone by, and in a time of more snow it might do – the club’s snowhole trip was imminent and as the leader of that I had a mind today of keeping an eye out for deep snow.
We quickly made the 942m of Carn Cloch-Mhuilinn, the ‘munro that got away’ from Sir Hugh Munro but since demoted from munro status.
As we headed towards the top of the Allt Garbh, the white curves of Coire an t-Sneachda drew us from the obvious easy ascent of a broad ridge, to explore into the coire, and this effort wasn’t wasted as the snow had been whirled into impressive cornices. With my companion, who was keen to try winter gulies but inexperienced, I saw an opportunity to demonstrate the potential difficulties of escape from these where a large vertical cornice caps the top. The corrie had a 40 foot slope, with a smaller portion guarded below by a small ridge – ideal to tackle with any fall being caught at 10 feet rathern than tumbling all the way down.
The snow on this side was pretty hard, and above the lip not flat but curved. It proved easy to climb vertically cutting some footholes with the axe, but tricky to pull up and over with only one axe or without digging a trench through. After a few goes we moved on with the clock ticking on the day and still far to go.
We headed around the corrie and encountered an area of softer snow, so I got out the probe and shovel and tested suitability for a snowhole. Although the gradient here was less suited to entry, there was metres of snow-depth.
We soon left the snow field and crossed stony ground to the summit trig point and shelter, and with there being a gentle breeze and it being a very fine day had a good lunch stop.
We headed north west to the 975m col, we’d thought of maybe continuing to Mondah Mor but time was against us. A descent to Glen Geusachan from here looked precarious, so turned around, back up the boulder field to the top.
We headed south from the top where another cairn lies, then followed the broad ridge down that we’d spurned for snow fun earlier
On the way back we skirted around the north side of Carn Cloich-Mhuilinn, having to divert to avoid a steep slabbed section of rock, which now intrigued we headed below to inspect
Finding a path below the slabs we followed to Carn Fiaclach then skirted it’s north side and glad to do so, as great views develop to Carn a Mhaim and to the Lairig Ghru. There are a few rocky knolls here and I think in the right light (ours fading to sunset) there’d be some cracking photos here, with the spine of Carn a Mhaim, the angle of Devil’s Point, and the meandering of the silvery Dee between.
There are small hillocks, coves and ridges here and on a longer day I’d have spent a bit more time nooking around, but we had to be back for our mountain festival event so we headed down to get back on the bikes
Changed, fed and watered at Muir, we headed to Braemar to catch a presentation by some of Scotland’s top winter climbers with some great feats and fab photography.
The next day we thought we’d do something small before heading back to Aberdeen, but the weather wasn’t looking great. We got dropped of at Auchallater and had thought to do a loop back along some small hills to Braemar and meet in a cafe there.
We crossed the Callater Burn and headed up rough ground south of Allt Coire Ghiuthais, joingin it just short of Loch Phadruig – in retrospect it’s grassy bounds would have been a better ascent than the coarse heather.
Snow squalls whipped past, and the gloom didn’t inspire us that the rough terrain heading back along the ridge north would be enjoyable today.
We headed over to the An Slugain gap below Meall an t-Slugain. I thought it may be a useful shortcut from Keiloch through to Callater, so had a llook down towards the bounds of Ballochbuie below
We spent a bit of time bimbling along the river back down to Auchallater where we’d now arranged to meet before heading to Braemar for tea
There are a few rocky nooks and some nice textures, though some are steep and difficult to get to without risking a dunk.