Monday, October 17, 2011

Something a Little Different

On Sunday Ann and John, already jaded by too many weekends stuck on the East Coast hills, came up with something a little different. We took the long cycle from Linn of Dee up to Geldie Lodge to tackle the remote peak of An Sgarsoch. The cycle in was quite pleasant with only a slight headwind, although we did make the mistake of bothering to take the bikes across the Geldie Burn ford for very little gain. Once on foot we soon had a test of faith as a very heavy and prolonged shower hit. Luckily we stuck at it and had a bit of a slog through boggy heather to get onto the grassy northern slopes of the hill. This gave quite easy going to the summit.
Back down the Geldie Burn from the start of the ascent
On the way we spotted a group of 20+ ptarmigan, almost perfectly camouflaged on one of the rocky outcrops. Sheltering from the biting wind behind the cairn we had a tasty first lunch of Wensleydale and beetroot chutney rolls. Then we headed off eastwards to the deleted Munro Top and from there it was an easy descent of the NE ridge back to the bikes. The cycle out was uneventful (save for a stop for second lunch) but fast thanks to the now strong tail wind.
The summit of An Sgarsoch from the East top

The Cairgorms from the summit (Macdui over Ann's head)

Sunday Stravaig

On Sunday, cashing in our respective day passes for the weekend, Romain and I headed out for a cross country blast on the mountain bikes. Deciding upon a blast up over Mount Keen, down to Invermark and then back to Aboyne via Tarfside and the fungle road we set out bright and early.

A cracking ride through Glen Tannar's Pine forest took us to the foot of mount keen, where we decidedly failed to find the "keen-nes" (sorry....) to push up the steep track on two wheels and resorted to shanks pony to gain the plateau.

On Mount Keen Ascet, Tanar in the Background

Setting off once again on wheel, a quick traverse around the final summit cone and then a long, fun wheech down to the waters of mark (dodging the now complusory estate landrover coming in the other direction) and the queens well through possibly one of the most picturesque parts of the Cairngorms brought a cheery smile to our faces after the long slog up Mount Keen with the bikes!

The descent from Mount Keen

More of the descet

After cycling out along the glen we stopped at Tarfside for a bit of lunch, before heading for the second big climb of the day - back over the Fungle road to Biel. 600m of ascent later and luckily we were both too clapped out to bother with photos on the col, and so saved our blushes now! The descent down to Birse was a fantastic run on great track with only the occasional drainage ditch we had to stop to avoid.

Birse from the Fugle Road

Unfortunatley we could now see ascent no. 3 in the distance but were enjoying the views enough not to register it!

From Birse we headed up the last ascent on the fungle road, before starting the drop back down to Aboyne, via the great little stretch of red single track on the fungle road.

The single track section, suitably blurry!

A satisfying blast indeed on a great sunny day through some less frequented sections of the Cairngorms which are none the less stunning for it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saturday Ramblings

Saturday, the day after the night before, saw Ed and I heading out for a night bothying in the cairngorms with plans to nip up a hill the following morning. With tales of a new bothy near to Beinn a' Bhuird / Ben Avon we set off cycling in after dark from Keiloch carpark with all our gear, but no idea where this new bothy was.

A suprising short cycle in found us ditching the bikes in the Glean an t-Slugain, and heading onwards on foot to spend a "pleasant" hour searching various nooks, crannies and hollows for anything resembling a bothy. Unfortunately our doss sense let us down and we beat a retreat to the established alternative eventually settling in just as the rain started to become a little more insistent in getting through out cycling togs.

A fine feast of oatcakes and cheese, a warming brew and a couple of more warming drams finished the evening.

Dragging ourselves out of our too comfy sleeping bags the following morning, the worst of the wind and rain was over so a quick wheech up Benn Avon gave us a pleasant if breezy on top day out.

Ed and Ben Avon Tor

On the way up, we decided to renew our search for the elusive bothy from the night before and by good chance stumbled upon it first try this time! Unfortunately it hadn't been advanced from the last set of photos we'd seen and was still lacking a roof and anywhere comfortable / large enough to lie down. It was however an impressive effort by someone and the dry stane walls looked well done. Maybe once the heat of publicity from the NEMT (and pesky bloggers) dies down the builders will be back and get to complete their doss.

New bothy to-be?

Free wheeling back from our stashed bikes (after a brief panic trying to find them) was a satisfyingly muddy experience and bar dodging the odd family in 4x4 out for a Sunday drive easy enough.

Ed heading vanwards

Back at the van, my dropped map and map case had unfortunately failed to materialise, even more unfortunately the gear shop in Ballater was still open when I stopped off for the post hill 'Bru and they were happy to lighten my pockets by the cost of replacement (though at least did offer a respectable discount!).


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cuillin Capers

For the week after the sailing meet Ann and John stayed on Skye in what was, even by Skye standards, awful weather. Luckily things cleared up a bit right at the end and gave us a chance to get reacquainted with the main Cuillin Ridge after too long away. We tackled the central section, starting from the youth hostel, and ascending Sgurr na Banachdich by the easy walking route of Coire an Eich. The rain that had started on the drive from Dunvegan stopped and things were starting to look more like the forecast.
The way up


By the time we topped out it was all getting very atmospheric with clouds billowing around the ridge and clear sky above. Then the scrambling started. Having not done anything serious for a few years we were a bit rusty but soon got back into it with the imposing but easy ascent of Sgurr Thormaid.
The view South from Sgurr na Banachdich
Ascent of Sgurr Thormaid
Then onto one of my favourite sections of the ridge – the S ridge of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh. It didn't disappoint with fantastic situations and some nice exposure. We were getting back into the swing by now and the short, tricky descent into An Dorus seemed straightforward.

South Ridge of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh

Loch Coruisk from Sgurr a Ghreadaidh
Then it was the final summit of the day, Sgurr a Mhadaidh. On the summit we were chatting to Graham from Skye Hi guides who told us the ridge down towards Sgurr Thuilm was not as bad as it looked, so we decided to give it a go. From the start it was surprisingly untrodden and a few shouted route suggestions from Graham kept us on track down what was in places a quite tricky but very good route. Despite our best intentions we couldn't be bothered with the walk up Sgurr Thuilm so dropped into the corrie and wandered out in the warm sunshine.
Sgurr Thuilm from Sgurr a Mhadaidh

The NW ridge of Sgurr a Mhadaidh