Saturday 1 November 2014

Sgor Gaoith.

Rafe as we set off from the
Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve car park (NH852012)

The hour has gone back and the daylight hours are lessening...

The forecast was for better weather in the east today - so the Cairngorms seemed a better bet for good views - even if the winds were due to get up later in the day.

So it was an early start from the campsite, making it to the car park at the beginning of the walk for 9;15am. We went for a shorter, one Munro, walk today, wanting to give ourselves plenty of time to get off the hill before dark. Sgor Gaoith was our main aim, with three Munro Tops as a bonus (apparently all three used to be Munro's but were demoted as being subsidiaries).

Ascending through the pine forest of Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve

The guide book gave a rather over complicated explanation of the initial part of the walk in the woods - it was absolutely straightforward and obvious - an excellent path through the beautiful regenerating pinewoods of the Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve. Even though the skies were rather grey, the autumn colours glowed...

The excellent path through the autumn grasses as we contour around
Meall Tionail

I would have quite liked to be in the woods a little longer, but after crossing the Allt nam Bo and soon after the Allt Coire na Cloiche, (only small burns today, even after all the recent rain) we headed out onto the open hillside, across the lower slopes of Meall Tionail. The path contoured around the hill, gaining height only very gradually - it almost looked like an all access path - a little bit too engineered and it certainly stood out in the landscape!

The autumn colours shone out - the grasses, bright orange, thrashing about in a squally shower that passed over,

Allt a'Chrom-alltain looking east to Carn Ban Beag

By the time we reached Allt a'Chrom-alltain, the rain had stopped (I had been on the point of donning full waterproofs - nothing worse when the route is just about to get steeper and hotter!).

Once over the burn the path deteriorated markedly - to muddy, slimy, messy stuff.

We were gaining height though - we were soon on a flat shoulder at about 810m with great views over the nature reserve and beyond to the Spey Valley. The hills roundabout were green, grey and orange in the late autumn light, smooth and rolling - with the bigger hills to the west merging into angry cloud...

Ascent to bealach south of Sgor Gaoith - views north west

We continued on up, the path disappeared completely for a few hundred yards as we headed south east towards the bealach south of Sgor Gaoith. The path suddenly reappeared as if it had never been away - its amazing how much faster you walk when on a (reasonably) smooth path, rather than vegetation!

Sgor Gaoith from the  plateau to the south of the summit

We soon popped up onto the wide bealach and turned north towards the Munro. A very gentle ascent took us towards the summit, with massive cliffs, cories and buttresses to the east of the plateau, so very different from the rolling greens so far...

Loch Eanaich from the top of Coire na Callich, south of Sgor Gaoith summit
Views east to Braeriach

Loch Eanaich, steel grey/blue below and the enormous Braeriach massif east over the gleann.

Sgor Gaoith southern top

The wind was noticeably stronger, we were at over 1100m now, it was a touch chilly. Sending Jim on ahead to the summit for a photo op seemed like to good idea, but just a few minutes standing about and I was chilled to the bone!

Loch Eanaich and Braeriach from Sgor Gaoith southern top

The views, though, were amazing - Braeriach loomed, the cliffs yawned and the wind whined - totally atmospheric - I'm afraid the photographs don't do it justice, the light just wasn't quite right for my photographic skills (or lack of) today...

Sgor Gaoith - Loch Eanaich and Braeriach

The second summit was the highest, just the few extra metre's seemed to add to the wind's strength - it felt quite hairy close to the edge. After a few more photo's on the summit of Sgor Gaoith (Munro 36, 1118m) we took ourselves off the very top into the relative shelter below.

Rafe and Jim - Sgor Gaoith summit (Munro 36, 1118m)

We followed the cliff edge north from the summit into another wide bealach at 1053m and then dropped just over to the east out of the worst of the wind.

Sgor Gaoith summit with views south east to Loch Eanaich

A spot of lunch was in order. Despite donning an extra layer, it was not the warmest picnic we have ever had, and was therefore, rather short-lived!

Gleann Eanaich from the descent from Sgor Gaoith

Sgor Gaoith from the bealach to the north (spot height 1058m)

We were quickly on the move again - keen to get warmed up with a bit of ascent. The short pull up Sgoran Dubh Mor (Munro Top 18, 1111m) warmed us up, but the wind on the summit plateau was wild - it was one of those times when you need to lean into the wind to make any progress and pausing during the worst gusts is obligatory if you don't want to get blown over!

Rafe and Jim - Sgoran Dubh Mor (Munro Top 18, 1111m) - Views south to Sgor Gaoith

Very little time was spent on Sgoran Dubh Mor's summit. A quick descent directly down grass and boulders to the bealach to the south east, took us out of the worst of the gale, but it was obvious that the forecast had been right and the wind was getting up.

Rafe and Jim - Meall Buidhe (Munro Top 111, 978m)

Any path had pretty much gone now, but the way was clear, another short ascent to the twin summits of Meall Buidhe (Munro Top 111, 978m), where the wind was howling again, It was blowing in from the south, or from our left, pushing us across the summit plateau, it would have been rather nasty if we had been on any pointy stuff!

Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoith from Meall Buidhe

The sun had come out though... Better for photographs, but Jim wasn't in the mood for pausing to be a model - we pushed on towards our last summit of the day.

 North over the Cairngorms from Meall Buidhe

The weather must have been condusive for gliding - the sky was full of white long winged gliders from the club based at the landing strip in Glen Feshie - soaring above us.

More white wings were seen as we descended into the bealach - a flock of ptarmigan in full winter gear - lovely...

Rafe and Jim - North west to Geal-charn from Meall Buidhe

The wind pushed us up the final very short pull to Geal-charn (not another Geal-charn!) (Munro Top 210, 920m), where once again, despite wonderful views - possibly the clearest and furthest of the day, we didn't mess about. The wind was definitely increasing and we were at the stage where we really wanted to get off the tops.

South west from the summit of Geal-charn (Munro Top 210, 920m)

Rather than walk into the teeth of the wind, we chose to walk off the north west ridge, hopefully slightly sheltered by the shoulder of Geal-charn and down to the path in the pass between Geal-charn and Creag Mhigeachaidh.

Descent from Geal-charn - views south west

It was a touch bouldery in places, which wasn't very nice if a sudden gust took you mid stride, but it was mercifully brief, the wind dropping as we descended. By the time we reached the path it seemed positively balmy.

Decent towards Invereshie Forest with views south to Carn Ban Beag

A gentle stroll through the pass led us back to the beauty that is the Caledonain pine forest in the Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve.

Rafe and Jim by Invereshie Forest

Regenerating pine forest - Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve

We soon met our outward track and headed east back to the car.

A proper hill day!!

South east to Meall Tionail
from Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve (NH870013)

We were definitely ready for coffee. So we stopped in Aviemore and had 2 coffee's each at Active Cafaidh cafe - and of course Jim had to try out the cake as well...

 Views across Allt Ruadh to Barn Ban Beag - Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve

Route:  Forestry Commission car park at Invereshie and Inshriach Nature Reserve just off minor road S of Feshiebridge (NH852012), E along forestry track continuing straight on E to NH869009 where the foretry track turns N, continue E then SE on narrower path onto open hillside, crossing the Allt nam Bo, contour S then SE on good path to cross Allt a'Chrom-alltain where the path deteriorates, continue SE to flat shoulder at NH890986 (810m) where the path disappears for a time, ascend SE and a good path is soon picked up again leading to bealach S of Sgor Gaoith at spot height 1012m, N to Sgor Gaoith (Munro 36, 1118m), N to Sgoran Dubh Mor (Munro Top 18, 1111m), SW to Meall Buidhe (Munto Top 111, 978m), Meal Buidhe north west top (976m), NW to Geal-charn (Munro Top 210, 920m), continue NW and descend to  bealach (spot height 670m), SSW along path to meet outward path at NH869009 and return W to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 16km  Ascent: 990m  Time: 5 hrs 15 mins

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