Tuesday 21 August 2018

A Night & Day On The Moine Mhor

The bright half moon looked promising. An evening start meant I knew it would be night before I reached the Moine Mhor high above Glen Feshie. With that moon the walking should be easy. It wasn’t to be. As darkness fell so did the clouds and once on the plateau I was walking in dense mist. There was no wind, no sound, just damp clinging mist enshrouding me. I reached the Allt Sgairnich, that long river that runs from high on Carn Ban Mor at the north-west corner of the Moine Mhor, almost splitting it in two before tumbling down the southern slopes into upper Glen Feshie. It’s one of my favourite Cairngorm rivers. Here, not far from its source, it’s a narrow stream. Surrounded by peat bogs it was still running strongly despite this dry summer. 

I followed the river upwards a little way, picking a route through the bogs. They were drier than usual but I still got my feet wet. It doesn’t take much moisture to penetrate mesh trail shoes. I didn’t mind. It wasn’t cold. Casting round for a camp site I found one on a low dry knoll. I knew where I was, but I still wondered what I’d see in the morning. In this black night I could have been anywhere.
I woke at 5.45 a.m. Pale light crept under the door. I looked out. Dense mist. Back to sleep. 7.45 and still the mist. More sleep. 9.45 and heat woke me. Stifling in the sleeping bag I was up quickly. The higher summits were still in cloud but it was breaking and a thin sun shone through the last remnants. The air outside the tent was cool. I was in the heart of the Moine Mhor which stretched out to distant hills in every direction, old friends all – Braeriach, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Cairn Toul, Monadh Mor, and today’s objective, Sgor Gaoith.

It was noon before I broke camp, the time spent watching the hills and the clouds, marvelling at the subtle colours of the summer moor, the tips of grasses turning red, the white nodding heads of cotton grass, yellow tormentil, tiny violet touched white eyebright, cloudberry leaves turning a red-purple, spots of heather, green and red mosses. It’s a complex world up here. Two grouse skimmed the ground noisily. Quite high up for them. Amongst some rocks their mountain cousin, the ptarmigan, scuttled. Two ravens flapped lazily past, calling loudly. A dipper flashed up the burn, rapidly beating wings skimming the water. 

Pack on back I departed for the rim of the moor, where its northern edge plunges down broken slopes to Gleann Einich and shining blue Loch Einich. An old path follows the rim here, wending its way along the edge of the steepness towards Sgor Gaoith. A fine airy path, on the brink of two worlds. Tiny figures headed up Sgor Gaoith, the first people I’d seen. Soon they grew in size, one of them posing atop a rock block with a mountain bike. From my lower path they seemed to be walking a narrow arete, rather than the broad hillside they were actually on.

The classic view from Sgor Gaoith down some 600 metres to Loch Einich with the bulky ramparts of Braeriach beyond it was looking good, the drifting clouds and their shadows giving depth to the landscape.

Turning away I took the path over Carn Ban Mor and back down to Glen Feshie. As I set off a reindeer trotted past, far from its home in Glenmore. I passed it again on Carn Ban Mor where it was sitting in the grass, nonchalantly chewing.


  1. Lovely post Chris. Evocative and beautifully written.

  2. Great stuff Chris. I was out this week not too far from where you were; from Linn of Dee to the Tarf Hotel via Falls of Tarf, then out on a very misty day over An Sgarsoch to Geldie. True "mamba" country and all the better for it.

    Kind Regards