Round of the 18 Cairngorms: Day 2
Sgor Gaoith, Mullach Clach a' Bhlair, Monadh Mor, Beinn Bhrotain, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Cairn Toul & The Devil's Point

Wednesday 25th July 2012

Weather/Conditions: A great day to spend a long time at height. Woke up to a crisp and clear morning, a kind of all-consuming stillness. The day was warm but not hot, with a breeze and enough cloud to keep the sun off. A small pulse of heavier cloud moved through toward the end of the day, but by that point we were on the final summits and ready to descend. Considering that we'd planned to do this trip on this day far in advance, we got very lucky with the weather.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 39km / 1800m / 13h 15m
Accompanying: Struan

This was the biggest day of the trip, the most commitment, the longest hours... We essentially walked a marathon (a couple km's less) over eight Munro summits. And, to be honest, I really felt it. Not only was it longest day but it was also the hardest physically and psychologically. Taking a beating like this leaves you open to the temptation of failure, but if you can scoop yourself up and carry on in the light of that battering, then the rest will be easier... You start to understand that those hard moments are really as bad as it'll ever get, and it will only be easier beyond this point, so don't pull out now! It sure was a marathon of a day.

We started it on the Moine Mhor, camped just a touch above 3000 feet on the moors. The mornings panorama was bleak, but perhaps not as shocking as it had been last night. The Moine seemed desolate, the the suns warmth seemed at odds with the isolation of our position. We got breakfast and packed up our stuff. It would be a long one. I noticed too, the first symptoms of a cold. This would quietly weigh down on me the entire trip, but it never stopped me. Just made things a touch harder...

We headed off for Sgor Gaoith, passing over the insanity by Loch nan Cnapan. It looks like the glaciers freshly dumped their guts here - perhaps because of their higher altitude, vegetation hasn't completely reclaimed these moraines and thus they look somewhat fresh.

This was also my first acquaintance with Sgor Gaoith's incredible eastern cliffs, which plunge with stunning immediacy 2000 feet to Loch Eanaich. This morning the great loch was like a mirror to the morning sun.

From then on we began the long tramp across the plateau - many miles would be covered and until we reached the western cluster, we would cross one Munro, Mullach Clach a' Bhlair. The Moine Mhor was made for days like this - the morning isolation was dissolved by walkers appearing. A biker turned up from Glen Feshie. People were out enjoying this place, and the weather was set to match our hopes. Considering we had set this date weeks previously, we really were very lucky that our big day would be given to us in the sun...

All in all, this was a really enjoyable part of the trip - some miles under our belts and many more to go. The sun was out and we had all day to make gentle progress over the hills.

We did Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain as a packless pair, having dropped them on a little plateau on the Moine side of these hills. Slowly the day was going down and beyond this, we only had a stunning trio of peaks left to do. But it was also around this point that things started to get hard - the miles were racking up and I was feeling it.

Shouldering the bags once more, we plodded to the rim of the Garbh Choire and headed up Sgor an Lochain Uaine. Here I was tired but okay - I had enough energy to scramble down the top 50m of the Angel's Ridge. I got past the steep top then headed back to the summit to meet Struan.

It was on Cairn Toul where I finally hit the wall. In one moment the systems shut down and every step turned to monumental effort. The psychological difficulty cranked up suddenly and it took a lot of will and patience to crest the summit and sit with the lat significant ascent of the day done. I was really ripping shreds out my system here, it was slowly grinding to a halt. I think Struan felt the same.

Over Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir as a pulse of cloud moved through and we descended toward The Devil's Point. Dropping the bags, we went for one last short plod to gain the final Munro of the day.

The team psyche was one of doubt at this point. I was pretty well done in and Struan mentioned the Cairngorms being a lot larger than he'd expected them to be. We looked across to Ben Macdui and the rest. There was so much to go. In the other direction, the sickly bare flanks of Beinn Bhrotain dropped into the glen. Suddenly in my state of tiredness I was sensitised to strange details in the mountains. I was confident that I wanted to carry on with the trip, but in that moment, all I wanted was Corrour to come.

Shouldering the rucksacks once more, we took a walk down to the bothy. It really was just painful, every step uncomfortable, every jarring of the body a bit much to take. Arrival at the bothy was a bit of a dream come true, a chance to sit, to feel the ache, but have no need to move. I put on two pastas thus meaning I'd be without dinner the following day. I didn't really care. I needed to eat.

We met a guy called Steve who was spending the night in the bothy, I enjoyed sitting and cooking dinner in good company. Resolve hardened overnight, and without so much as a word, we would continue the following day over the central Cairngorm summits, and thus break the back of the journey.

Photos: Sgor Gaoith

Mullach Clach a' Bhlair

Monadh Mor & Beinn Bhrotain

Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Cairn Toul & Devil's Point

Descent & Corrour

360° Panoramas

Sgor Gaoith

Mullach Clach a' Bhlair

Monadh Mor

Beinn Bhrotain

Sgor an Lochain Uaine

Sgor an Lochain Uaine - Detail

Cairn Toul

The Devil's Point
Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 7.30am Left campsite, Moine Mhor
(1.25) 8.55am Sgor Gaoith
(3.30) 11.00am Mullach Clach a' Bhlair
(6.20) 1.50pm Monadh Mor
(7.10) 2.40pm Beinn Bhrotain
(8.15) 3.45pm Monadh Mor
(10.30) 6.00pm Sgor an Lochain Uaine
(11.20) 6.50pm Cairn Toul
(11.45) 7.15pm Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir
(12.35) 8.05pm The Devil's Point
(13.15) 8.45pm Corrour

Written: 2015-08-04