Day 2’s 26.4km route with 1207 mtrs ascent and 992 mtrs descent. Click to see a larger version.
I awoke on day two to the combined sounds of wind and rain. With the exception of the lunch break at 1500, this weather pretty much persisted all day. This meant that I would have to wait for day’s 3 and 4 to see some truly decent views of the Cairngorms.
In terms of the actual walk, day 2 would be around 50 percent on a track and 50 percent cross country. This combination would enable me to walk almost 26.5 km before the sun went down. It would seem that the leg cramp of yesterday was a thing of the past!
The new Arcteryx Beta LT hardshell did a sterling job of keeping me dry for the whole day. This made the walk a lot more pleasant than it could have been and it had validated my decision to make the purchase before this walk.
As usual I will let the photos tell the story of day 2:
I awake to fairly high winds, rain and fog! Perfect! The Akto tent’s zips are designed so that the top of the vestibule can be unzipped to allow one to use a stove whilst staying relatively sheltered. Here I’m making the morning coffee.
I start with my usual breakfast of muesli, scone and cheese. This is the first walk I have been on where I have not brought my waterproof trousers. The reason for this is that I never seem to use them and they aren’t that waterproof anyway. The gaiters seen in this photo are almost knee length and keep my lower leg completely dry, so it is only the top part of the trousers that get wet. This allows air ventilation to the legs at the cost of getting them wet, but they do dry quickly!
With the rain going on outside I decide to pack the rucksack within the shelter of the tent. Normally this would be an issue as one cannot get the tent in the rucksack if it is not the first thing to go in. However, in this case I intend to detach the inner tent and put that in the rucksack, as it folds down to a very small size. The outer tent will then get taken down and stowed in the rucksack’s outer stretch pocket. This method of taking down a tent ensures that both the kit and myself stay dry.
I’m now busy taking down the inner tent under the shelter of the outer tent.
I’m still not used to seeing the inside of the Akto tent with no inner as I normally pack the whole thing as one. The next step is to pop outside and take down the outer ready for packing into the rucksack’s outer stretch pocket.
The inner-less Akto ready for final packing!
The cloud and fog seem to be passing through the area in waves. Here the visibility isn’t too bad, but up ahead one can see another cloud bank getting ready to move in over Loch Valigan.
Out with the compass to send me the right way!
I know from my map that I should see a few small ponds/pools once I clear this ridge. After that the main ascent of Ben Vuirich starts.
The terrain I’m crossing isn’t too bad. It seems to be a combination of heather and grasses. Rather surprisingly it isn’t too boggy, despite the weather!
Finally I get to see the pools. Just beyond them lies the ascent of the 903 mtr Ben Vuirich. I already have a fair bit of elevation under me from yesterday’s climb to Loch Valigan. The result of this is that I have just over 200 metres to climb – so it shouldn’t be too bad!
After what seems like an age of climbing the terrain starts to flatten out. I’m near the top! However, as is usual in the fog, I don’t know exactly where I am. I know I have been climbing Ben Vuirich from the South West, but that’s all the information that I have. From the small breaks in the fog I think I’m further South East than I actually am which results in me hanging a left here to find the trig point….
But left is the wrong direction! It’s only when the slope downward started to get steeper to the North West that I realised where I really was. Even locating a simple trig point can be tricky in fog!
After realising my error I start following the ridge the other way. I am soon rewarded by what looks like a stone structure coming out of the fog. I’m pretty certain that the trig point resides in there!
A happy chappy on the rather windy peak of Ben Vuirich at 903 mtrs elevation!
In a blog first, here is a video from that peak:
It’s out with the compass for the next leg of the journey. The plan here is to run into the scree of Carn Dubh and simply handrail it to a man made boundary. However, this all goes horribly wrong! 🙂
I find the scree, but this scree isn’t on the map. I hand rail it to the left as per my original plan with the intent of getting to the man made boundary. I do get to a man made boundary, but it’s not the right one!
Whoopie!! The man made boundary! But alas, not the right one…
I start to follow the boundary downwards in accordance with my plan. However, this incorrect boundary is heading to the South East and not to the North East….
When the fog partially clears I survey the terrain and realise that it is totally not what I’m expecting to see! A quick compass bearing down the wall confirms that I have been following the wrong wall. That will teach me to be too cocky – this compass check should have been performed when I first reached the wall. Luckily there is only one wall on the map with this bearing, so figuring out a remedial plan is relatively trivial.
Red is planned, blue is actual. The intent was to head to the scree, then hand rail it clockwise to take me to the boundary. In the event I do find some scree and follow a clockwise curve (the curve in the blue line where there is no scree on map). I then hit a wall and thought bingo! Made it! But alas, I didn’t take a compass bearing on the wall. I fear there is a lesson to be learnt here! 🙂
Here I’m contouring North East around Carn Dearn. The new plan is to keep contouring North Eastward until I see an artificial boundary appear on my right.
It’s quite hard to see in this picture due to the rain covered camera lens. Down below is the artificial boundary that I need. I was quite surprised to see that it was a fence. In my mind’s eye I was expecting a wall! It’s now simply a case of climbing down to the fence then hand railing it North Eastward all the way to the Allt Glen Loch stream.
There’s the fence! I can now relax navigationally speaking, as all I need to do is follow it to the Allt Glen Stream. This is a major stream, but the map promises me a bridge where this fence intersects it. So off I go!
I’m now headed downhill toward the stream. I know I’m in the right place, but I’m still waiting for a break in the fog so that I can confirm it visually.
Finally the fog lifts a little. The view matches my map exactly, which proves to be a relief. It’s now a 1km jaunt downward to the stream.
As I descend I start to break through the cloud layer that I had been walking in. As a result, I get my first real views for today.
It’s hard to see here because of the rain on the camera lens. But there is something not quite right with that bridge down below…
Drat! It looks like the wood on the bridge is rotting and in some places it is missing altogether. The frame of the bridge is made from metal though, so I decide to shimmy across on the edge where I can place my body weight on the sturdier metal. That’s one thing about these hikes, they are always full of adventure! 🙂
I get to the other side of the Allt Glen Loch stream without incident and take the opportunity to top up water supplies and drink as much as I can before embarking on the next stage of today’s journey.
A short climb up the embankment takes me up onto this main track. I need to follow it to the farm buildings up ahead at Dald hu. Then it’s a case of hand railing the buildings North East to get me on the main track Northward.
I’m now on the main track Northward. This part of the journey will mostly be on track for around 8 Km. My boots are soaked, due to the wet vegetation that I had been walking through. Given that the rain had now stopped and that I would be on relatively dry track for 8 km, I decide to stop off to wring out my socks before continuing.
Some say that these boots don’t leak. But if that is the case, then I truly have a bad case of sweaty feet! 😛
The journey Northward has now started. The aim for this first part of the walk is to climb out of the valley to the East of Sron Chrion a Bhacain.
The track takes away something of the ‘wilderness’ feel to the walk. But alas it is a necessary evil to enable me to get enough km cleared before the sun goes down.
After around 3 km Northward I can see the valley end. I will be going up and over there to continue the journey Northward.
As I get closer I can see that the track winds Nortward between Creag Cam a Choire on the left and Carn an t-Sionnaich on the right. Although the walk has been relatively easy at this point, it has nevertheless been a relentless uphill climb all the way…
Here I have just exited the valley and get my first real view Northward. Up ahead is Cnapan Liath at 679 mtrs. Once I climb that it will be all down hill for this on-track section.
Despite being on a track I am getting some great views. This is a look to the West.
To my right I see the Allt a’Ghlinne Mhoir stream. I will be following this Northward until I get to a bridge where this stream y-junction’s off. The intent is to have lunch there before starting the next section of the walk which will be all cross country.
On the way down to the stream Y-Junction I run into many teams of young people. They are all carrying what looks to be exceedingly heavy packs, with many of them looking completely tired out by their constant ascent. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they had a long way to go before reaching this track’s peak at Cnapan Liath.
I finally get eyes on to the bridge marking the y-junction of the stream. This will be my rest point and water stop prior to the cross country stage of the walk.
It seems that lady luck is with me. As I stop off to replenish water and have lunch, the sun decides to come out!
Lunch consists of Oatcakes with cheese-spread and a Thai Soup. In a change from the norm, the Oatcakes are cheese oatcakes as I wanted something with a little more flavour. These turned out to be an instant hit!
Having fed and watered, I’m now ready for the next stage of today’s walk which will be all cross country. Just as I finish eating the weather starts to close in again – looks like I picked the perfect meal time! Here I am ascending Northward onto Miadan Mor. Once I get to the top, the intent is to head North East up to the peak of Carn Dearg at 765 mtrs and then from there on to an unnamed peak at 818 metres.
This is the view up the Gleann Beag valley as I make my ascent. The going is a lot harder than on the track, but I feel happier being back in ‘real’ country side.
I soon get to the top of Miadan Mor – this is the view Southward back down the valley and track that I had walked previously.
It’s now an uphill ascent North Eastward up to Carn Dearg at 765 mtrs elevation.
As is usual with many of the hills in the Cairngorms, it is criss-crossed by these deep muddy scars. I wonder how they are formed and why I have only seen them in the Cairngorms? Are they the result of melting snow in the Winter? Who knows? I will have to do some research on this.
I get to the top of Carn Dearg and peer down it’s steep slope to the South East. I wish the weather was clear so that I could take in the views, but alas it was not to be.
It’s now a relatively shallow ascent NorthEastward up to the unnamed peak at 818 mtrs elevation. If I’m in the right place I should see a pool of water when I get up there…
The rains have now come back. At least the new Arcteryx hardshell is keeping me dry!
Finally I can just see the pool of water near the peak of the 818 mtr unmarked hill. The plan is to walk past the pool then make a break Northward up to another unmarked hill at 920 mtrs. This hill should have a cairn marking its top.
Occasionally I get glimpses of the surrounding terrain where the fog breaks up. I’m guessing that this would be a spectacular place to be in good weather!
With the persistent fog, I’m taking continuous compass readings even though I’m following a ridge line Northward. I don’t want any nasty surprises like the one I had this morning! 🙂
As I head Northward the terrain soon becomes a mixture of mud and peat. Contrary to looks, the ground does support my weight pretty well and even adds a spring to my step!
I’m now on the final ascent stage of the unmarked 920 mtr hill/mountain (delete as applicable!)
Whoopie! I am soon rewarded with the silhouette of the cairn marking the top!
And there it is, the cairn marking the top of the unmarked 920 mtr hill! (Note to self, is one allowed to start a sentence off with ‘and’?)
The next stage of the walk is a little trickier navigationally as the terrain flattens out. I need to head Northward until I can make out a hill saddle forming to my left to the West. At that point I will need to turn to face it then start the climb of Geal Charn at 878 mtrs elevation.
I successfully spot the saddle then turn Westward to start the ascent up Geal Charn. It is now quite late in the day and I’m very conscious that it is starting to get dark now…
The ascent isn’t too bad. I decide that once I make it to the top, I will camp at the first opportunity directly afterward.
I get to see the cairn shelter on the lower slopes of Geal Charn – at least I’m in the right place! 🙂
This is now the final ascent stage up Geal Charn at 878 mtrs. Nearly there!
Finally, I get my eyes on the top of Geal Charn! Woooot!
The top seems to have both a cairn shelter (another one) and a cairn marking it’s actual peak at 878 mtrs elevation.
A quick video from the peak of Geal Charn:
After reaching the peak of Geal Charn, I head Northwards and decide to make camp as soon as possible as the light levels are starting to drop.
I can’t quite believe it, but up ahead I can see a water source! Perfect! Time to get ready to make camp and just in the nick of time too!
I find a suitable spot and drop the rucksack off to mark it.
It’s then up with the Akto tent. Normally the whole tent goes up as one and takes around 2-3 mins to put up. However, I had removed the inner this morning to protect myself and my equipment from the rain. This would now necessitate spending some additional time refitting it. As it would turn out this was a good move as the inner was bone dry, despite the weather today.
The tent is now up, though I seem to have misplaced a tent peg. I don’t worry about it though as two of the tent’s guy lines are only really needed in the most severe conditions. Here I am at the water source to top up all three water bottles ready for this evening’s camp.
Whilst I’m filling the bottles I get occasional glimpses through the fog which show that the views from here would actually be pretty good if the fog lifted. Maybe tomorrow?
The water from the supply source is extremely brown and doesn’t taste that good either. However, I don’t really have any choice. I wasn’t too concerned though as it had already been filtered and will soon be boiled.
I found the view out of the tent to be stunning during those short periods where the clouds allowed me to peer through them.
Anyways, it is now on with the water for a spot of well deserved supper!
At camp feeling rather pleased with myself. The reason? I had thought that I had fallen short of today’s planned stop location. That is until I opened up map number two and realised that I was right where I was supposed to be! For some reason I hadn’t marked today’s camp location on map number one! I guess I had assumed that I would have switched maps by now.
Today’s supper is a Mountain House Salmon and Potato freeze dried meal. This went down very well despite the rather dodgy water that went into making it!
Day 2’s camp spot just to the North of the peak of Geal Charn! (Click for larger version)
That’s it for Day 2. Tune in next week for Day 3, clearer weather and much better views 🙂