Southern Cairngorms solo 4+1 day walk – Day 1

Day 1's 12 km route consisting of 995 mtrs of ascent and 250 mtrs of descent. (Click for a larger image)

Day 1’s 12 km route consisting of 995 mtrs of ascent and 250 mtrs of descent. (Click for a larger image)

I didn’t arrive in Scotland until quite late on in the afternoon. As a result I had planned the first day to be a short one at 12 km.

What was different about this plan compared to my previous ones is that I would be going straight for a mountain on the first day. I normally try to delay the first real climb for day 2 or later to give me time to get acclimatised to the walk and to allow the backpack to shed some weight.

However, the nature of this route demanded a day 1 climb.

In terms of planning this also introduced a few issues too. One of which was trying to locate a decent camp spot up on the mountains. With a combination of maps and Google Earth I felt that I had eventually found one, but I wouldn’t really know for sure until I got there!

The pack weight on this journey was 17 kg, which is still heavy when compared to other fellow hikers, though it was 3 kg lighter than the previous Lake District walk.

My biggest concern on starting out was the weather. Dependent on where I looked it was either showers or rain for the whole trip. However, I decided to go ahead as the only limiting factor I would put on the weather would be the wind, which luckily for this walk was predicted to be reasonably low.

As usual I will let a small handful of photos from my Facebook journal tell the story of day 1:

Finally after a long rail journey from Bristol, I finally make it to Blair Atholl!

Finally after a long rail journey from Bristol, I finally make it to Blair Atholl!

Most of the first section of today's walk is a road walk, but it's the only real way of getting to the mountains. Up ahead is the bridge crossing the River Tilt. Will be crossing this bridge then hanging a left on a B-road headed Northward. I would encounter the River Tilt again on day 2.

Most of the first section of today’s walk is a road walk, but it’s the only real way of getting to the mountains. Up ahead is the bridge crossing the River Tilt. Will be crossing this bridge then hanging a left on a B-road headed Northward. I would encounter the River Tilt again on day 2.

As I head Northward the road narrows. Traffic is not a problem and progress is relatively swift despite most of it being uphill.

As I head Northward the road narrows. Traffic is not a problem and progress is relatively swift despite most of it being uphill.

The road is now headed North East toward the mountains that I need to climb. I'm keen to get off the road and get the 'proper' hike underway!

The road is now headed North East toward the mountains that I need to climb. I’m keen to get off the road and get the ‘proper’ hike underway!

As I head North Eastward I start to catch glimpses of the mountains themselves. I note that there is still some snow around, though I had been reliably informed that an ice axe would not be needed for this journey - so I didn't bring one...

As I head North Eastward I start to catch glimpses of the mountains themselves. I note that there is still some snow around, though I had been reliably informed that an ice axe would not be needed for this journey – so I didn’t bring one…

I cross a cattle grid which is on the map. I'm now keeping my eyes peeled for a Loch Moraig which should turn up on the right if my navigation is correct!

I cross a cattle grid which is on the map. I’m now keeping my eyes peeled for a Loch Moraig which should turn up on the right if my navigation is correct!

I soon get my first glimpse of Carn Liath. Without looking at the map, I'm kind of guessing that this is the first mountain that I will be climbing. Even from this distance it draws the eye and dominates the local landscape.

I soon get my first glimpse of Carn Liath. Without looking at the map, I’m kind of guessing that this is the first mountain that I will be climbing. Even from this distance it draws the eye and dominates the local landscape.

The new boots, a pair of Salomon 4d's. So far they are untested. Readers should note they are not my choice of colour - I'd have preferred something a little less.... luminous..... I'm secretly hoping they get pretty dirty on the walk, then I might have to accidentally forget to clean them :)

The new boots, a pair of Salomon 4d’s. So far they are untested. Readers should note they are not my choice of colour – I’d have preferred something a little less…. luminous….. I’m secretly hoping they get pretty dirty on the walk, then I might have to accidentally forget to clean them 🙂

As I proceed North East I catch the first glimpse of Loch Moraig.

As I proceed North East I catch the first glimpse of Loch Moraig.

I'm now at the main car-park servicing this area. There are quite a few people here, but most are keeping to the lower level tracks.

I’m now at the main car-park servicing this area. There are quite a few people here, but most are keeping to the lower level tracks.

Loch Moraig looks like it is the perfect breeding ground for Scotland's dreaded midge, but so far, I have yet to see any.

Loch Moraig looks like it is the perfect breeding ground for Scotland’s dreaded midge, but so far, I have yet to see any.

It seems that between August and October the local deer stalkers prefer that people stick to the designated paths. Over the next few days I would be running into a number of deer herds - some of them quite large. I guess that with no natural predator, they have got a little out of hand.

It seems that between August and October the local deer stalkers prefer that people stick to the designated paths. Over the next few days I would be running into a number of deer herds – some of them quite large. I guess that with no natural predator, they have got a little out of hand.

As if I needed any further confirmation, the track direction now makes it very clear that the big mountain up ahead is the one that I will be climbing!

As if I needed any further confirmation, the track direction now makes it very clear that the big mountain up ahead is the one that I will be climbing!

On the way to the mountain I'm taking in and surveying the local scenery and note that there are many great wild-camp spots that could be used for a route going back the other way. Maybe one for next time!

On the way to the mountain I’m taking in and surveying the local scenery and note that there are many great wild-camp spots that could be used for a route going back the other way. Maybe one for next time!

At this point I leave the other walkers and turn off the main track to head directly up the Mountain. I'm surprised that no one else was climbing it given the relatively easy access and the promise of good views.

At this point I leave the other walkers and turn off the main track to head directly up the mountain. I’m surprised that no one else was climbing it given the relative ease of access and the promise of good views.

The first part of the climb is relatively shallow and just a case of hand railing a wall upwards.

The first part of the climb is relatively shallow and just a case of hand railing a wall upwards.

As I climb upwards I start getting some great views. What the photos don't capture very well are the distant snow capped mountains on the horizon in all directions. These really make the place feel special.

As I climb upwards I start getting some great views. What the photos don’t capture very well are the distant snow capped mountains on the horizon in all directions. These really make the place feel special.

To the North East I see a few small lakes. The scenery in that direction looks like it will make a great walking route. Scotland is rapidly becoming my favourite go to destination - especially as wild camping is not illegal there.

To the North East I see a few small lakes. The scenery in that direction looks like it will make a great walking route. Scotland is rapidly becoming my favourite go to destination – especially as wild camping is not illegal there.

The latter part of the climb is relatively steep, but luckily all on a very good track which does make things a little easier. At this point I'm starting to feel that I'm nearly there!

The latter part of the climb is relatively steep, but luckily all on a very good track which does make things a little easier. At this point I’m starting to feel that I’m nearly there!

As I climb the slope starts to ease off - a good sign that I'm near the top!

As I climb the slope starts to ease off – a good sign that I’m near the top!

Up ahead I see what looks like the top of Carn Liath at 975 mtrs!

Up ahead I see what looks like the top of Carn Liath at 975 mtrs!

However, as I pass that feature it soon becomes apparent that it is not the top. Never the less I don't mind as I know the hardest part of the climb is behind me.

However, as I pass that feature it soon becomes apparent that it is not the top. Never the less I don’t mind as I know the hardest part of the climb is behind me.

Here I take a look back to the 'false top' and admire the view!

Here I take a look back to the ‘false top’ and admire the view!

Soon I spot the trig point - the official top of Carn Liath.

Soon I spot the trig point – the official top of Carn Liath.

Unlike other trig points that I have seen, this one is surrounded by a rock cairn - presumably to help protect it?

Unlike other trig points that I have seen, this one is surrounded by a rock cairn – presumably to help protect it?

A victory pose at the top* of Carn Liath at 975 mtrs elevation. *I say top, but I can't help noticing another cairn that seems to be a few metres further upward! This is the first hill top/mountain top that I have climbed where the trig point isn't the highest elevation!

A victory pose at the top* of Carn Liath at 975 mtrs elevation. *I say top, but I can’t help noticing another cairn that seems to be a few metres further upward! This is the first hill top/mountain top that I have climbed where the trig point isn’t the highest elevation!

This is a timed photo from the trig point that shows my standard kit load-out which is vastly simplified over my earlier walks. There is no gorp pouch, or water bottle holder - these items of kit are now long gone. Everything is built into the Osprey Exos rucksack. In fact if you look closely you can see the water bottle in the side netting pocket. This pocket is ingeniously designed, in that it has a hole on the side which allows me to pull out the bottle whilst on the move!

This is a timed photo from the trig point that shows my standard kit load-out which is vastly simplified over my earlier walks. There is no gorp pouch, or water bottle holder – these items of kit are now long gone. Everything is built into the Osprey Exos rucksack. In fact if you look closely you can see the water bottle in the side netting pocket. This pocket is ingeniously designed, in that it has a hole on the side which allows me to pull out the bottle whilst on the move!

This is what I regard as the real top of Carn Liath. It's only a few metres higher than the trig point, but never the less!

This is what I regard as the real top of Carn Liath. It’s only a few metres higher than the trig point, but never the less!

This is a photo from the cairn marking the real top down to the trig point which illustrates quite nicely the difference in elevation between the two points. Maybe the cairn was always there, resulting in the trig point having to be built lower down?

This is a photo from the cairn marking the real top down to the trig point which illustrates quite nicely the difference in elevation between the two points. Maybe the cairn was always there, resulting in the trig point having to be built lower down?

I'm now headed Northwards on the Beinn Mhaol ridge line. The plan is to make camp in the saddle where this ridge-line meets the next mountain of Braigh Coire. The map indicates that there is likely to be a flatish bit of ground there and it should have a water supply nearby. My big worry is that the stream will be dry and the ground too rocky to pitch. In the former case I have already decided to utilise the nearby snow should the need arise. The latter case was somewhat mitigated by Google Earth reconnaisance during planning. Yes I know - a bit OTT!

I’m now headed Northwards on the Beinn Mhaol ridge line. The plan is to make camp in the saddle where this ridge-line meets the next mountain of Braigh Coire. The map indicates that there is likely to be a flatish bit of ground there and it should have a water supply nearby. My big worry is that the stream will be dry and the ground too rocky to pitch. In the former case I have already decided to utilise the nearby snow should the need arise. The latter case was somewhat mitigated by Google Earth reconnaisance during planning. Yes I know – a bit OTT!

Up ahead I can see the two mountains that I would be climbing the following day. Braigh Coire on the left and Carn nan Gabhar on the right. If all goes to plan I will end up breaking my own elevation record!

Up ahead I can see the two mountains that I would be climbing the following day. Braigh Coire on the left and Carn nan Gabhar on the right. If all goes to plan I will end up breaking my own elevation record!

The views from up here are stunning. Once again the camera really doesn't so them any justice.

The views from up here are stunning. Once again the camera really doesn’t do them any justice.

I'm nearly at the join point between the ridge-line and Braigh Coire. This is the final planned destination for today. The terrain here is quite rocky, I'm hoping this won't be the case at the proposed camp spot.

I’m nearly at the join point between the ridge-line and Braigh Coire. This is the final planned destination for today. The terrain here is quite rocky, I’m hoping this won’t be the case at the proposed camp spot.

As I start to descend I can see that the ground up ahead is lacking in rocks which is a good sign! It is now just a case of locating a relatively flat piece of ground.

As I start to descend I can see that the ground up ahead is lacking in rocks which is a good sign! It is now just a case of locating a relatively flat piece of ground.

I find an ideal patch of ground for a tent pitch and drop the rucksack on it to mark the spot. I then grab one of my water bottles and Travel Tap and decide to head Northward which should take me to a stream...

I find an ideal patch of ground for a tent pitch and drop the rucksack on it to mark the spot. I then grab one of my water bottles and the Travel Tap. The plan is to head Northward which should take me to a stream…

As I head Northward and downward I spot a stream! Perfect. I have a camp spot and I will soon have water - time to relax!

As I head Northward and downward I soon spot the stream! Perfect. I have a camp spot and I will soon have water – time to relax!

The bottles are taken to be filled up. I still fill them using the Travel Tap - even though this is probably not needed. I cannot afford to get ill during a solo walk, so I take no risks with water. I only have one of my 1 Litre bottles here as the other bottle is already full of water that has not been touched. I note to myself that I had in effect carried an extra kilo for no real benefit. I decide that given the abundance of streams in the area that I will adopt the same policy that I did in the Lake District and effectively leave my two 1 litre bottles dry from this point on. The only water I would be carrying would be the 800 ml in the Travel Tap itself, which would be topped up as I went.

The bottles are taken to be filled up. I still fill them using the Travel Tap – even though this is probably not needed. I cannot afford to get ill during a solo walk, so I take no risks with water. I only have one of my 1 Litre bottles here as the other bottle is already full of water that has not been touched. I note to myself that I had in effect carried an extra kilo for no real benefit. I decide that given the abundance of streams in the area that I will adopt the same policy that I did in the Lake District and effectively leave my two 1 litre bottles dry from this point on. The only water I would be carrying would be the 800 ml in the Travel Tap itself, which would be topped up as I went.

*Zoom On* After climbing the hill from the stream, I soon catch sight of my rucksack. I begin to wonder about the wisdom of leaving it there, despite the fact that it saved me having to carry it down and up from the stream....

*Zoom On* After climbing the hill from the stream, I soon catch sight of my rucksack. I begin to wonder about the wisdom of leaving it there, despite the fact that it saved me having to carry it down and up from the stream….

The tent is soon put up. The pegs are having to go in at relatively shallow angles due to the rock just below the surface. As a result some pegs have had rocks placed on them for stability should the winds pick up. In the event, this position turned out to be a very sheltered one thanks to being surrounded by mountain on three sides.

The tent is soon put up. The pegs are having to go in at relatively shallow angles due to the rock just below the surface. As a result some pegs have had rocks placed on them for stability should the winds pick up. In the event, this position turned out to be a very sheltered one thanks to being surrounded by mountain on three sides.

The view from out of the tent! I rarely do mountain pitches as most mountains lack a decent water supply. As a result I'm not used to seeing such high elevation views from the tent!

The view from out of the tent! I rarely do mountain pitches as most mountains lack a decent water supply. As a result I’m not used to seeing such high elevation views from the tent!

On with the evening meal - which in this case consists of soup followed by a Mountain House Chilli Con Carne.

On with the evening meal – which in this case consists of soup followed by a Mountain House Chilli Con Carne.

The Mountain House Chilli Con Carne is gorgeous and really hits the spot. I can't quite believe that freeze dried food could be this good!

The Mountain House Chilli Con Carne is gorgeous and really hits the spot. I can’t quite believe that freeze dried food could be this good!

It seems that I got the tent up in the nick of time as the rain has started to move in. The forecast for the whole area was for showery rain for the whole walk. At this point I was wondering if the walk would be completely rain drenched and whether my hardshell would be able to cope after its failure in the Lake District? It had been re-proofed since then, but never the less I was quite wary. With those thoughts I pop in for an early night!

It seems that I got the tent up in the nick of time as the rain has started to move in. The forecast for the whole area was for showery rain for the whole walk. At this point I was wondering if the walk would be completely rain drenched and whether my hardshell would be able to cope after its failure in the Lake District? It had been re-proofed since then, but never the less I was quite wary. With those thoughts I pop in for an early night!

The camp spot at the point where Beinn Mhaol joins Braigh Coire. Despite my concerns during planning it turned out to be a very good one! (Click for larger image)

The camp spot at the point where Beinn Mhaol joins Braigh Coire. Despite my concerns during planning it turned out to be a very good one! (Click for larger image)

Tune in next week for an account of Day 2’s antics!

Laters

RobP

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About RobP

Got into backpacking in the spring of 2012. I started as a couch potato then made my way through walker, hiker and now backpacker! As you can see from below I have far too many hobbies! :)
This entry was posted in Backpacking, Cairngorms, Hiking, Multi-Day Walk, Wild Camping and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Southern Cairngorms solo 4+1 day walk – Day 1

  1. Pingback: Year in Review 2014 | Uk Backpacker

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