Sunday 22 May 2022

A Cairngorms Walk With Contrasting Camps - One High & Calm, One Low & Windy

Moine Mhor camp looking to Braeriach, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, and Cairn Toul

For many months now wind has been the dominant feature in the weather, never seeming to stop. So far this May cloudy skies have been the norm too. This can be the best month for walking in sunshine. Not this year. A week ago there looked to be a brief weather window. I seized it and headed up onto the Moine Mhor plateau above Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms for a high camp in calm dry clear conditions.

Evening glow

I walked up in the evening as the wind died down and the land glowed gold in late sunshine. I camped right out in the heart of the plateau near the Allt Sgairnich, one of the high streams that flow south and become the River Eidart. I was to cross the other, the Allt Luineag, the next day.

Moine Mhor camp looking to Sgor Gaoith

Dawn came with drifting high clouds and the beginnings of a breeze. The tarp was soaked inside and out after a heavy dew. Early sunshine soon dried it. But before I set off the sky was already clouding over from the south and the wind was strengthening. 

View from Monadh Mor to Braeriach, Ben Macdui, and Bod an Deamhain

After crossing the Luineag, dry-shod due to some careful rock hopping, I climbed long slopes to Monadh Mor, one of the remoter and least visited Cairngorm Munros. It’s not an exciting hill but it is an excellent viewpoint. Today there were two others up here. The wind was now strong and I was soon down at the narrow col with Beinn Bhrotain, a rather grander Munro. I turned away though and dropped down steep slopes to the headwaters of the Allt Dhaidh Mor. A ribbon of snow curved along the hill crest above me. 

Beinn Bhrotain from Monadh Mor

The Dhaidh Mor runs south-east to the Geldie Burn, a feeder of the River Dee. I wanted to return to Glen Feshie to the west, so I soon left the Dhaidh Mor to cross a shallow col between Monadh Mor and a minor top called Cnapan Mor to another stream that ran down to the River Eidart. This is all rough pathless country, a mix of heather and grass tussocks. Walking isn’t easy or fast. 

River Eidart

The moorland is bleak, but the streams are a delight, especially the Eidart as it tumbles down in a mix of cascades and water slides, sometimes in mini gorges. As I descended the first trees appeared, a few scattered birch, rowan and willow on steep banks out of reach of deer and still not in leaf at this height. There should be more.

The Eidart Bridge

The rough walking ended at the spectacularly situated Eidart Bridge. From here it was a path along Glen Feshie. My speed increased, as did the wind. I had thought I would camp out in the open before I reached the forest lower down. The wind discouraged this idea and I kept moving, glad of the long hours of daylight.

Glowing birch trees

After the subdued browns of the open moor the first birches were a burst of brilliant green, lit by the hazy low sun shining through thin clouds. The light was dazzling as I was heading straight into it.

Glen Feshie camp

As I descended into the forest I could hear the wind roaring in the trees. As I watched them swaying and shaking I decided I wasn’t going to camp below any of them. Eventually I found a flat open spot that didn’t seem too windy as there were dense bushes not far away. By the time I was ready for sleep the wind was ferocious though. I went out and checked all the pegs and tightened guylines. Several time during the night the wind woke me. It’s one of the windiest camps I’ve had for a while. The night before I’d been over 600 metres higher and out in the open and the air had been still. 

In the rain in Glen Feshie

The racing clouds were darkening as I packed up. The first rain began just as I took down the tarp. Waterproofs on I walked back down Glen Feshie revelling in the lush spring richness and the beauty of the regenerating forest. Glen Feshie is never less than wonderful.


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