Michael Kerrigan, Colin Lamont and myself were staying at Corrour, and today would be my last Cairngorm Munros for now.
The link up of Corrour - Devil's Point - Cairn Toul - Sgor an Lochain Uaine - Braeriach - Ski Centre is a classic. Privately, I'm so glad I did these summits and went straight back to the ski centre rather than cutting back across the Moine Mhor to get the remaining Cairngorms. I think that would have brought the day down a bit, especially since the weather was closing in for the first time in a couple of weeks. I haven't had any ambition to complete the Cairngorms in one continuous trip this year, probably because this was something I did last summer with Struan.
|Michael and Colin in Corrour|
After breakfast, Colin and I packed up and said farewell to Michael, until next time! And we proceeded to blast up The Devils's Point with barely a pause, and onwards and onwards and onwards. Going walking with Colin was a bit like sticking a rocket up the bahookey, and that sense of continuous urgent movement was actually very refreshing.
It was good to walk fast and not be too worried about tiring myself out. There was additional urgency in the air, since it was obvious the weather was turning. The big blue skies were gone, now the winds were picking up. The ambience was raw and the air cool.
|Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir|
But the Braeriach plateau was completely out the mist, so there was no need to navigate and it meant we could see right into An Garbh Choire, certainly once of the wildest bits of land in Scotland. It's amazing, and immense. The photos didn't seem to do it justice, but the sight of those mega-coire's isn't one you'll forget in a hurry...
The first three Munros had passed seemingly almost as soon as we'd started. The plateau to Braeriach was absolutely wild and felt exposed. There's no easy way out, you just walk and walk across miles of high ground, all stone and gravel. Even the grasses seem to have given up trying to grow here. The wind was picking up, and for the first time in weeks, my fingers went numb. It's one of my favourite places in the Cairngorms; and it summarises the way I feel about them now: it's their power that captures me. West coast ridges like the Aonach Eagach etc, are wonderful and inspiring, but there's something about the wide open spaces of the Cairngorms that is inhuman. It's powerful.
|Garbh Choire Dhaidh, Braeriach|
We reached the summit of Braeriach in good time, stopped for a few photos, then very quickly started the descent. It was getting cold! The wind was biting and picking up it's pace. Just as well; as we headed of Sron na Lairige, rain began to spit and the wind began to blast. Mist closed in on the plateau and conditions would be getting pretty bad up there now. We'd really scooted across the plateau, all thrusters firing and I was very glad that we'd done so.
Now just to make good time back to the car. Colin suggested running back to the car park after the Chalamain Gap. I quietly dismissed the idea, I don't really enjoy running. But we climbed through the gap, bounced across the boulders and emerged out the other side with just a 3km stretch back to the car park where dad was waiting to pick me up.
Then we started a jog. Now this has never happened to me before - to my surprise, I found that a slow run didn't require any more from the cardiovascular system, it was just a bit more painful in the legs; and much faster than a fast walk. If we'd walked it all, it would have become grinding. When we reverted to walking, it was simply refreshing.
So I had a bit of eureka moment: I now get hill-running! It seems more efficient than simply walking, and it seems that a higher all-round fitness has allowed me to enjoy it in a way I hadn't before. I like to feel different activities 'click', and understand what brings people to do them.
Colin and I made it back to the Sugarbowl car park at 4:15pm, 5 hours and 55 minutes after we'd started out at Corrour. A great time, especially with all the camping kit on our backs.
That concludes my Cairngorms for the moment. Those three and a half days made the greatest impression of any section of the Munro Round so far. I can't wait to get back and explore the Gorms - I'd almost be happy going through the valleys, and that's something I say about very few places! Moving on, I've finally broken through to the Spey Valley and Laggan, something I've been looking forward to for a couple of weeks. I'll be going west to Fort William, slowly and then I'll cross the Great Glen. Whoa.
But a rest day awaits, first...