As I now only have 16 Munros to do, I am completing groups of hills. I started the Cairngorms in 1995 and finally completed them last month. These are a group of eighteen mountains classed as Munros in the southern highlands in the centre of Scotland and include the second highest mountain in Scotland, Ben Macdui. They are the main skiing area in winter as several of the mountains rise to over 4,000 feet with an extensive plateau. In winter, these mountains can be treacherous and have been compared to the Arctic as the winds blow over the plateau. As they are high by Scottish standards, the weather can be very changeable even in summer time and expeditions in them should not be taken lightly.
In May 2003, I wrote about Ben Mheadhoin and it is still one of my favourite mountains. I wrote about Monadh Mor in April 2004 and since then I have had four further Munro bagging trips to the Cairngorms to complete them. I have been to the Cairngorms around nine times staying in either Aviemore to the west or Braemar to the east. The Cairngorms are divided by the two major passes of the Lairig Ghru and the Lairig an Laoigh, both of these I have walked as linear sponsored walks in aid of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team. The area is like a bleak stony tundra although there are interesting features in the corries and glens with hidden treasures.
One of the outstanding days and it was also the longest was to Braeriach and Angels Peak from the Sugar Bowl carpark at the Aviemore side via the Chalamain Gap. This was an easy, albeit, a long walk on a good path to Braeriach. The most common feature of walking the Cairngorms is that the walks are all long but usually on good paths. We detoured on the rim walk to Angels Peak to see the Wells of Dee. It was strange to see the start of the River Dee spouting up from a plateau at 4,000 feet. Due to high winds, we descended from the col at Angels Peak and Cairntoul down the glen and came across an emergency bothy which must have saved many lives in this hostile place.
I have not attempted the Cairngorms in winter due to the limited daylight hours, the length of the walks and the often Arctic conditions. Last October, I climbed Derry Cairngorm in snow but this was straightforward and as tough as I want to go in this area. All the others I have climbed in summertime with the last two, Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a?Chaorainn in August. These are two easier hills but with spectacular views over to the huge plateau of Beinn a?Bhuird and Ben Avon. On this visit to Braemar, we called in at the local butcher and bought wild venison from the Mar Estate. The Estate is owned by the National Trust and maintained to a high standard. The venison casserole was excellent cooked with a few prunes and onions in red wine as recommended by the butcher.
It seems like the end of an era to have completed the Cairngorms after eleven years but I will go back to climb the best including Beinn Mheadhoin and Ben Avon.
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Coming attractions: Mullardochs, Beinn Fhionnlaidh on a boat and Cona Mheall in the dark.
Thanks to Frances Rickus for the photos