A Navigation and Mapwork Session

Posted: 20.08hrs on Mon 12th Jul 10
We'd spent an hour or two outside on my balcony with map, compass, paper and pencil going through some of the basic knowledge and skills needed to navigate competently in the mountains so we needed to get into some hills to put it into practice.

I left Yorick ("I knew him well Horatio")) for a while to put together a full route plan after giving him 5 or 6 checkpoints for a circular walk from the sugar bowl car park above Glenmore and also to pack his sack as if he was leading a small group. Yorick is preparing for his Mountain Leader Award and had come to me for some help and guidance.

When I returned he was ready for the off and we set off. Our route took us across the footbridge in the impressive Allt Mor gorge just below Coire Cas and around the reindeer enclosure. Here we had impressive views of the huge snowpatch on the Coire Cas headwall.
It's still visible if you look at my webcam image from Loch Morlich.

The path here runs parallel to the climbers path underneath the northern corries so we also had great views looking into Coire an't Sneachda and Coire an Lochan. We left the main path and headed for Lochan Dubh a Chadha, there are some paths here but you can save unnecessary ups and downs by looking at the map carefully and selecting your own route.

From the lochan we headed for the top of our first hill Airgiod Meall which for the cairngorms is a wee blip but is actually 644m high. It's over 2000ft high and in many parts of the UK it would be called a mountain! Airgiod Meall stands on the southern side of the steep sided valley Eag a Chait and looks like a mini version of it's near neighbour the Chalamain Gap. We dropped down to the eastern side of Eag a Chait then ascended Castle Hill through deep heather, after Yorick took a compass bearing to its summit. The view from Castle Hill 728m was amazing with a magnificent panorama. With a flat top ideal for building fortified settlements it is obvious how it got its name. A clear view across Glenmore up to the Ryvoan Pass and down to Coylumbridge and Aviemore it would have been difficult not to be spotted.

Creag a Chalamain (787m) is close by and didn't take long to walk to it's top and from here the view northwards up the Lairig Ghru began to open up. The Chalamain Gap below us appears like a slit in the hills when viewed from the ski road and affords a convenient route into the Larig Ghru pass for onward passage up to Braeriach or along the pass to Braemar. There were many beginning their early evening return to cars parked in Coire Cas or the sugar bowl after a hard day's walking.

Here we dropped a fair way down into the Lairig Ghru before turning northwards again to begin our biggest ascent of the day up Creag an Leth-choin. As we slogged up the narrow rocky path more of the Braeriach plateau came into view with many surviving snow patches still present. It is over here in the Garbh Coire where you can often find snow that survives all year round - not quite enough to form a glacier though!!

About an hour later we'd reached the top. The precipitous rocky top of Lurcher's Crag can be quite scary like a steep shelf with a drop straight down to the Lairig below.


Yorick's challenge from here was to walk on a bearing directly to the fords we'd passed on the way out close to the reindeer enclosure. It was a challenging exercise mainly because of the huge boulder field we had to walk through!!


He managed it though to an amazing degree of accuracy so well done to him! We were then rewarded with an amazing pink sunshine lighting up Cairngorm turning the headwall and White Lady snowpatches an amazing colour.


A great late afternoon's and evening's walk - we got back to the car at 10pm and drove down to Aviemore for some well deserved cold beer.

June 5th 2010

Posted: 22.19hrs on Sat 5th Jun 10
Just back from a 2 day solo high level bivi trip. The warm, dry weather meant I just had to take advantage of the ideal conditions and get up there! Starting late afternoon from Glen Feshie I walked along this gorgeous glen and then ascended along the southern edge of the impressive Coire Garbhlach and up to the Munro, Mullach Clach a Bhlair, 1019m (pronounced vlarr). Then a wander across the "Great Moss" or Moine Mhor plodding through a few large snow patches and over some dodgy looking snow bridges (eek!) to a bivi spot at Loch nan Cnapan underneath the SW slopes of the Braeriach plateau and around 870m altitude. A great spot with superb views of Sgor Gaoith, Angels Peak (Sgor an Lochan Uaine), Carn Toul and Braeriach. I was surrounded by snow patches and some of the smaller lochans there are still totally covered! A colourful fiery sunset around midnight and dawn began around 2am.


In the sun I was warm and cosy in my sleeping bag and goretex bivi bag and slept right through to 1030am. This meant I missed my early morning phone check with my wife - she was not impressed!!

So a late start and a couple of unfortunate blisters meant I didn't push on up to Angels Peak and Carn Toul. (my original intention) Instead I began my return via Carn Ban Mor and the munro Sgor Gaoith, 1118m. I was looking forward to seeing those stupendous views down into Gleann Einich and across to Einich Cairn again. I wasn't disappointed and as usual the view from the 'Eagles Eyrie' of Sgor Gaoith took my breath away.

I was back at the car for 3pm after a wee picnic and a chat with a couple of mountain bikers at the summit cairn of Carn Ban Mor. All the way down I was looking forward to the cold beer and takeaway curry I had planned for my evening meal As usual it was a tasty and well deserved treat!

Now I'm pouring over the photos and maps planning my next trip. Have a look at the photos here bivi trip photos and if you fancy a similar trip whether an overnight or one dayer get in touch.
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June 1st 2010

Posted: 13.12hrs on Tue 1st Jun 10
Well another great bank holiday weekend over and it's now June so here comes Summer! I managed to fit in another days skiing on Cairngorm, a trip to see the osprey chicks at Loch Garten as well as a leisurely scenic bike ride in the warm sunshine. The snow on Cairngorm is still hanging on- it is still possible to ski down to mid station and catch the funicular train back up! Let's hope I can ski in June as well!!

As well as catching sight of the 3 new osprey chicks at the RSPB centre at Loch Garten we had a surprise bonus whilst we were there. A pine marten who had been hiding underneath the building close to one of the windows had decided to brave the daylight hours. Very rare that they are seen during the day so we were very lucky.


Our scenic nice n'easy ride took place in the blazing sun with a light breeze. We rode along the banks of the R Spey to Loch Insh and then along the R Feshie before returning back to Loch Insh for refreshment at the boat house. A superb day out at a nice leisurely pace to ensure none of the views were missed!


May 24th 2010

Posted: 10.21hrs on Tue 25th May 10
Had some fun over the last 5 or 6 days walking & biking with groups of schoolkids. Their enthusiasm and energy was amazing. It might have had something to do with the weather as well - glorious hot sunshine and light cooling winds blowing up Glenmore.

The beach at Loch Morlich is such an amazing place. As I recently commented on my Facebook page - "Sand in my shoes, sun on my face, wind in my hair and snowy mountains all around - this is the life!!!"

May 10th 2010

Posted: 19.05hrs on Mon 10th May 10
Well I told you I would let you know. Today I heard my first cuckoo on a mountain bike ride along the River Spey. I also spent some time clearing some of the singletrack trails of fallen branches in my local woods. There's some challenging twisty steep sections in there!


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