Sunday 30 June 2019

A Wild Camp on Braeriach

Wild places always call. Sometimes the weather does too.  Blue cloudless skies, hot sun, the mountains sharp and clear. I couldn’t resist. So I went to Braeriach for a circular walk with a high camp that I think takes in just about everything the Cairngorms have to offer from the forests to the mountain plateaux.

The walk began amongst the wonderful pines of Rothiemurchus Forest. Even in the shade of the trees it was hot. The rivers and streams still ran strongly though, full with recent rain. The path took me slowly up through the forest towards the great cleft of the Lairig Ghru and the ragged cliffs of Creag an Leth-choin. 

Once below the cliffs and in the mouth of the pass I turned more steeply uphill to climb the slopes of Sron na Lairige, the other wall of the Lairig Ghru. A few walkers passed me, descending. Distant views opened up, far hills sharp and clear. 

A last climb and I was on the long broad summit ridge of Braeriach looking across the snow-splashed cliffs rimming huge An Garbh Choire to Cairn Toul, one of the great views of the Cairngorms. Across the Lairig Ghru a few clouds were drifting over the summit of Ben Macdui, the first I’d seen all day.

Away across the plateau I could see the silver thread of the infant River Dee running across the mountainside before plunging down into the corrie as the Falls of Dee. Reaching the stream I followed it to its source, a collection of springs called the Wells of Dee. Here I camped, alone in a vast landscape.

A thin mist slipping over the ground reduced the sunset to a thin red line. At 2.30 in the morning I woke and looked out to a clear sky with a bright crescent moon and the white streaks of noctilucent clouds rising above the orange glow on the eastern horizon. I wandered round camp, revelling in the silence, the beauty, the peace, the joy of being here. In the distance I caught movement, a herd of reindeer browsing in the half-light.

Several hours later I woke again as the bright light of the sun warmed the tent. A breeze gently rattled the fabric, a breeze that kept me pleasantly cool as I wandered up to Einich Cairn and then along the edge of Coire an Lochain where I gazed down snow-filled gullies to the dark waters of the lochan.

From the mouth of the corrie an old little-used path zigzagged down towards Gleann Einich with the long cliffs of Sgor Gaoith and Sgoran Dubh Mor rising above, another splendid scene. A final descent down boggy heathery slopes and I was on the wide track in the glen and heading back towards the forest. Once in the shelter of the trees the heat hammered at me, making the walking the toughest of the day. Amongst the glorious trees I was happy to slow down, sitting often to soak in the life of the forest.

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