Wednesday 20 July 2016

A Hot Day in the Cairngorms

Creag an Leth-choin

Finally sunshine and heat! Away with the dark clouds and the rain and the cold winds. Summer has arrived. Well, for a day anyway. Tomorrow thunderstorms and heavy rain. But that’s to come.
Enjoying this rare burst of summer in the outdoors couldn’t be missed. Real heat, high humidity and the possible early arrival of the first thunderstorm didn’t make a long high level walk sound attractive though so I decided it was time to visit a fine rocky peak that gives superb views and which I don’t climb often enough. 

The Lairig Ghru from the southern slopes of Creag an Leth-choin
Creag an Leth-choin (aka Lurcher’s Crag) is an outlier of the Northern Cairngorms rising high above the deep trench of the Lairig Ghru. In Munro’s Tables it’s listed as a subsidiary top of Cairn Gorm, which always strikes me as odd as there’s two other summits and some six kilometres between them. Out on a long spur jutting north from the Cairngorm Plateau it feels like a separate hill. 

The Chalamain Gap
Although 1053 metres high and with crags all along its west face and a rocky summit ridge Creag an Leth-choin is much easier to escape from in the case of bad weather, something in my mind as I watched the big cumulus clouds building up over the higher hills as I approached the rocky ravine of the Chalamain Gap. Once into this cleft I felt the full force of the sun as the breeze that had cooled me a little vanished. The rocks were warm, the air felt thick and stuffy. I was soon over the boulders though and out into the wind again, a deceptive wind as it was actually quite warm and whipped away sweat that was soon replaced only to be dried again. The result was a big thirst. On damp cool days I often go for many hours without drinking anything. In this heat I needed to drink every hour or so, and drink deeply too. 

Hot weather hill essentials - sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen and water

An old little-used intermittent path led to the boulder-strewn summit ridge of Creag an Leth-choin. To one side were the great cliffs of Coire an Lochain, still splashed with snow, on the other, even more impressive, steep slopes fell away into the Lairig Ghru with mighty Braeriach rising on the other side. It’s a magnificent view point.

The summit of Creag an Leth-choin with Braeriach in the distance

I followed the edge of the crags for a while, revelling in the view down the Lairig Ghru, then turned and descended rough wet slopes down Lurchers Gully and beside the Allt Creag an Leth-choin and the Allt Mor. The tussocky ground made for hard going with only traces of old paths to follow. But the rushing stream gave clear cold refreshing water and there were flowers and birds and the hills to watch. 

Looking across the Allt Mor to Cairn Gorm and the Northern Corries
Back home and it’s approaching midnight now and a full moon hangs in a clear sky. It’s still 19°C outside. When will the storms arrive?

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