Day 4’s 16.1 km route with 514 mtrs of ascent and 1170 mtrs of descent. (click to see the full sized version)
The aim for Day 4 was to put me close enough to Aviemore so that I could get to the train station relatively early the following day.
My one big memory of today’s walk, was the very windy descent down from Creag an Leth-choin. It felt a little touch and go in places because of the strength of the wind gusts and was one of the few occasions where I was genuinely glad to get to the bottom!
The other ‘highlight’ of day 4 was a little navigation fubar earlier on where I thought I was on the peak of Ben Macdui! It’s a long story, and one that you can read about below! 😛
As usual I will let the photos tell the story…
I awake on day four to find low lying cloud. I was mesmerised by its passage over the surrounding peaks as it swept across Loch Etchachan.
For breakfast I grab my cup and find 3 spiders in it! I don’t think anything of it until I grab the JetBoil and find another three in there too!
It doesn’t take long to get everything packed up and once more I leave the ground in pristine condition.
The first order of the day is to head up the hill to the South to intercept the main track to the peak of Ben Macdui.
The winds on this day are quite strong – even in this sheltered area. This results in a fair bit of wind-chill, hence the second layer of clothing and hat.
Up ahead toward the top of the picture I think I can just make out the track that I need!
And here it is, the track! This should take me to the peak of Ben Macdui, the tallest peak in the Cairngorms at 1309 mtrs elevation.
As I ascend I find the winds are getting much stronger. Unfortunately, my route takes me directly into the wind, which results in a climb that is more difficult than it would be otherwise.
Behind me I can see Loch Etchachan starting to fall away.
I’m now climbing up an area marked as ‘Main Spout’ on the map. There should be a small tarn/pond up ahead on the right.
I take a final look behind me to say farewell to Loch Etchachan.
Here it is, the small tarn/pond near Main Spout. At this point the visibility has dropped and the gusting winds have increased. I’m now finding it genuinely difficult to walk at times.
By now the climb starts to flatten out. I’m surprised at the texture of the ground. It looks very sandy, almost like being on a track near a beach.
The winds are too strong to allow me to safely approach the edge. Somewhere down below should be Lochan Uaine.
Up ahead I can see what looks like the peak. It is a peak – an unmarked one at 1249 mtrs, but it isn’t the peak of Ben Macdui.
The climb Westward seems to take me past the peak I had spotted earlier. I thought I was going to end up missing the peak of Ben Macdui! As a result I decide to leave the track and head directly up it!
On the right my marvellous sense of direction prompted me to go off the track to explorer what I thought was Ben Macdui – I had thought the track was bypassing it and wasn’t willing to risk missing it. This was despite what the map was telling me! The random wanderings were as a result of me trying to find Ben Macdui’s trig point in the thick fog. But of course I was on the wrong peak, so it was no where to be found! 🙂
The way up to the peak is quite rocky requiring careful footing. I’m convinced that I’m on Ben Macdui, so set about looking for its trig point.
It’s very foggy and windy up here. I’m convinced that the reason I haven’t seen the trig point yet is due to the fog. So I spend a considerable amount of time up here hunting for a trig point that doesn’t exist!
I spot a cairn, but alas, it isn’t what I’m looking for. It still hadn’t occurred to me yet that I’m on the wrong peak!
Disheartened, I eventually give up and head back to the track. At this point I thought that I wasn’t going to be seeing the peak of Ben Macdui on this walk
The track continues upward for quite a bit. It then begins to dawn on me that this track must be taking me to the real peak as it was leaving the unmarked ‘false peak’ below me and to the rear. This wouldn’t have been possible if the ‘false peak’ was the tallest in the Cairngorms.
Up ahead I think I can make out a ruin! This is on the map and more to the point it proves that this track is taking me to Ben Macdui.
A close up of the ruin. It’s rather odd one in that there doesn’t seem to be a gap for an obvious doorway.
Wooooot!!!! Finally! There it is! The trig point marking the top of Ben Macdui starts to come out of the fog.
The top of Ben Macdui at 1309 mtrs elevation!
A rather windy victory pose from the top of the tallest mountain in the Cairngorms! The gusting winds are so strong that I’m having to hold onto the trig point to retain my balance.
Beside the peak is this rather worn plaque pointing out all of the sights that can be viewed from the peak. Alas, there wouldn’t be anything to see today
The winds are strong enough up here that I decide not to hang around. So it’s out with the compass to give me the bearing off the peak.
As I head downward I get confirmation that I’m taking the correct route when I see a party of hikers coming out of the fog.
The trail on the way down is very undefined, but luckily for me it is well marked by cairns like this one. Here the sandy texture of the terrain is very evident.
Although the visibility is very poor, the cairns occur frequently enough that it is hard to miss the way down. In this photo there are three of them!
I was hoping that the winds were going to subside as I descended, but this was not the case.
The track Northward starts to steepen. I know that I should soon be seeing a small tarn called Lochan Buidhe on the right.
By now I’m seeing many walkers on their way up to the peak. Some ask what the visibility is like up there, but alas I only have bad news to give them.
Right on cue I spot Lochan Buidhe on the right! The route I’m taking will take me around the left hand side of the hill up ahead.
As I head Northward I start getting some views onto Lairig Ghru on the other side of the valley to my left.
*Zoom On* It’s not long before I get to see the Rothiemurchus Forest and Aviemore itself. My journey is almost at an end.
As I head Northward I know I must leave this trail by heading off to the left. From there it will be a case of hand railing the valley edge Northward until I find the descent point.
I have now left the trail. The small pond up ahead is on the map, so I know exactly where I am!
I pause to look behind me down the Lairig Ghru valley. Even with the wind and moody clouds, the view Southward is stunning.
Up ahead on the right is Creag an Leth-choin at 1053 mtrs elevation. The intent is to climb it via a track, which should be there. Not long after the peak I will be making my descent.
As I head toward the peak, the gusting winds are getting stronger and stronger. I’m now concerned that this is going to affect my descent.
I get to the base of Creag an Leth-choin where I find the trail! This is a view Southward from the direction that I came.
The climb isn’t that steep, but the gusting winds are making it very difficult. It seems that with every step I take they are getting stronger!
As I head near the top it gets quite rocky. I’m having to time my lunges on the rocks between the wind gusts in order to maintain my balance.
I get to the top where I’m presented with this wonderful view Westward.
Up ahead to the North is an unmarked peak at 1026 mtrs. I know that between it and me there should be a trail leading down the side of this mountain. I’m a little concerned as the winds are incredibly strong and the ground looks a long way down on the left!
To the West across the other side of Lairig Ghru is this beautiful plateau resplendent with many lakes and streams. I really need to visit that place one day!
It might not look like it, but this is the trail leading downward! I’m happy that I found it, but I’m still concerned about the gusting winds. The one plus point to the winds is that they are blowing in from the West, which means that the gusts are blowing me into the mountain rather than off it.
The descent presents some really great views, but the winds are making it difficult. I found that the map was occasionally slapping me in the face, despite my best efforts to pin it down with my left arm. In the end I stop off and put the map under my second layer of clothing. I also take the time to get the walking poles out. These make a big difference to my overall stability.
This rather windy video captures a moment when a gust catches me off balance!
The descent is slow and methodical to make sure the wind doesn’t push me off balance.
In places like this, the track heads directly downward which requires extra care. The walking poles make a huge difference. I am so glad that I had decided to pack them for this walk.
The views on the way down are just stunning!
Another steep part of the descent. Not being able to see immediately over the ridge up ahead was a little disconcerting given my elevation above the ground. I kept wondering what I would see when I got there!
Parts of the descent are quite rocky, but even here, I’m quite surprised at how well the poles worked.
I’m now on the final part of the descent. Down below is the trail that will take me into the Rothiemurchus Forest – the final stage of my journey to Aviemore.
I finally make it to the bottom. This is the view back up to the mountains that I had descended down from. Even down here, the winds were pretty strong!
I stop to get the second clothing layer off and pack the poles away. I also take the opportunity to just chill out after the rather fraught descent. Once I’m ready I start heading Northward down this trail. Navigation is now very easy, as this trail theoretically goes all the way to Aviemore!
I temporarily lose sight of the forest, but I know it is just over the brow of this hill.
The descent is now relatively uneventful. Even the winds have finally started to ease off, which does make a big difference to the overall feel of the walk.
The track does fork off, but I know that I need to stay left and follow the valley edge downward. There is a tangible sense that I have left the wilderness behind.
The views downward to the Allt Druidh stream are quite stunning from here. I sometimes wonder if it would be worth the effort climbing down just to find a nice isolated camp spot.
As I descend into the forest I’m a little worried. I’m supposed to be making camp in one of the open areas in the forest, but if the terrain is like this, it will be completely unsuitable. As a result I consult the map to make backup plans for an emergency camp to the North East by Blar Ban should my fears be realised.
I’m now heading Northward to what should be a big track junction marked by a cairn. I’m then going to need to hang a left there.
On the way down I spot this sign. Looks like the area has been hit by some pretty poor weather!
Here’s the junction. Everything is well signposted here, so there is no chance of getting lost!
I’m now headed toward the Cairngorms Club FootBridge. The plan is to make camp around 1 km North of the bridge.
The view Southward back up to the mountains!
As I proceed down the trail I spot the grassy area up ahead. It is right by the stream and looks like the perfect camp spot. But it’s around 2km short of my planned stop…
Closer inspection reveals that it is perfect. I now have a decision to make. Should I cut today’s walk short by 2km? After a lot of pondering I decide to stop here. My reasoning is that this is the first and only bit of grass that I have seen since entering the forest. There was a real possibility that there wouldn’t be any grass at my planned spot, so as a result I decide to seize the moment!
The water here is very clear and within easy reach of the bank. It seems that I have found the perfect camp spot for the final day!
Up goes the Akto tent. For the first time in a while I found that the ground was solid enough that the pegs actually felt very secure. However, the downside to this is that the ground was very hard, which made the night’s sleep a little uncomfortable at times.
I’m now all set up and ready for a nice relaxing evening by the stream!
The view out of the Akto tent – perfect!
It’s time for supper. As usual the final meal of the walk is a Mountain House curry. This is it before it is reconstituted.
On goes the JetBoil. Although I have had it for about a year now, I’m still continually amazed at how quickly it boils water.
Ten minutes later the curry is ready for eating. It was delicious!
Time for bed! I have a very early start tomorrow morning as I need to be at the train station for around 0930.
Here’s a quick tour of the Akto tent:
Eventually the sun sets below the horizon and turns the clouds up ahead into a beautiful orange.
The final camp spot at the end of Day 4 was the perfect pitch!
That’s it for Day 4! The next day would be the ‘spare’ day and would be a short night walk to the railway station. Tune in next week to see how it went!