Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Keen Beans

The morning after the club Annual Dinner is never a good choice for an early start but given that Saturday morning seemed to offer the only chance to get up a hill without being soaked and flattened the alarm clock was duly set.
Ann & John rolled out of the car in Glen Tanar at 8 am for a bike-assisted bag of Mount Keen. The crisp air and bright sun on the autumn colours did their best to cut through the fug induced by the previous night’s Brewdog Hardcore IPA, with little success. An hour of cycling later things were looking better, with the hill still cloudless, the threatened gales holding off and a clearer head. The final grind up Mount Keen is not the most inspiring hill walk around, but the views were good and assured us that we had made a good choice as most other big hills were in cloud. 
Cycling up the glen

Just to prove it was sunny earlier

By now the wind had picked up considerably but we carried on around to the neighbouring HuMP of Braid Cairn just to make more of a walk of it, then back down to the bikes via Gathering Cairn. The wind and gravity assisted ride back down the glen was fast, interrupted only by a few sadly false mushroom alerts through the woods, to get back to the car just as the rain started.
Traversing from Mount Keen to Braid Cairn

Clachan Yell looking appropriately autumnal

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Unexpectedly Wintry...

The weekend before last saw Ann & John returning to decent days out after a summer of keeping on tick-over. We headed for the NE Ridge of Sgor an Lochan Uaine, right in the middle of the Cairngorms.
Driving up Deeside we got or first glimpses of how white it was high up, the result of a few cold days earlier in the week. Thinking this was just a usual early season dusting we set off undeterred for the long approach via Derry Lodge.
Up Glen Luibeg to Ben Macdui

Into the Larig Ghru, Devil's Point left

As we got higher up the Lairig Ghru the ridge looked great and the trek was starting to feel worthwhile. We had only climbed it once before, years back in thick weather so the stunningly clear day was welcome. We couldn't remember much except that we had been carrying backpacking gear, so a dusting of snow shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
First view of the ridge

As we got up the steep pull to Lochan Uaine it became obvious the snow was a bit more serious – wind blasted and refrozen, with plenty of real ice around. Suddenly things didn't look so promising and we discussed heading straight up the easier slope to Cairn Toul. This was disappointing after a 3 hour approach so we decided to give it a go and see how we got on, rarely the best mountaineering decision.
Looking up the ridge

Cairn Toul (r)

Heading up

Most of the way up was OK taken steadily with any trickier bit being very safe. Above us though loomed the much steeper and narrower top section. By the time we got to this we had been on the route for 2 hours and were staring to wish we were just up it. Luckily it wasn't any worse than the rest, just a bit more sustained and we soon burst back into the warm sunshine and incredible views all around.
On the top bit
Austin leaving the summit. Ben Nevis back right
A late first lunch was accompanied by meeting fellow AMC-er Austin, who had come in from the north over Braeriach, and was the first person we had met all day.
Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui

After enjoying the views we headed off to Cairn Toul, then Devil's Point not long before sunset. The long way out was livened up a bit by a very colourful sunset, and we got back to the car after 11 hours. Not had one of those for a while.