Coignascallen (Ruins) - Aviemore
Distance 24.5 Km Ascent 807 m - (I remember why I love the Monadhlaith)
After a rather blustery night, we decided on an early start, there being a bit of a walk on today, and having had something or other for breakfast, tents up, and away by about 8.00. Actually I cannot remember the actual time, but it was about then, and anyway, it doesn't really matter. The weather was quite good, and the tents were reasonably dry. Not dry, just reasonably dry, which means damp.
Al and I headed round the north end of the wood, and across to the river. We needed to get to the LRT along Allt a Mhuillin. The river was a little more full than normal and we had to go upstream on this side a bit before crossing. There was an interesting bit with a dodgy fence that I traversed and Al more sensibly went round, and then we were across onto the wide LRT that leads up to the bridge.
This is another pretty Monadhliath valley.
At this point, the weather was good, but quite breezy. Luckily down in the valley you are quite sheltered. At the other side of the bridge, the track winds up quite steeply. There are various route options from here, but it was decided to stay on the slightly lower path and go round. This is not shown on my map, but there is a track there.
You can head up and over Allt Mor, Via Capchan Ei, or go further along the Allt Tarsuinn and then up and over the top. Just before the Capchan Ei junction, there is another new track that heads South. We had gone past this, and were heading along, when it started to rain. It was one of those short sharp showers that you get. So waterproofs on, we then continued. Since the track was not on the map, I decided to take a GPS reading, and we checked our position. Al decided we were drifting to far NE and headed back. I was originally going to go up Capchan Ei aand across to the Lochan's, but just as we got to the track that Al was going to take, we bumped into Rod, Steve and Bernie. Rod, who has done a few, and been this way before said that you could carry on this track and then bash over the top to the Red Bothy. So, this seeming like a plan to me, Al and I said a tearful farewell (no we didn't, we're 'Ard we are), and Al headed off up the track. He was off to Kincraig to stay at Val's and my end point for the day was Aviemore, so it was time for different routes for a few days.
Thus, I headed off up the track with Rod and co, until we got round to about where the river forks again. At this we could have tried to follow the river futher, but it was a lot easier just to gain some high ground and then take a bearing, so we headed up. To be honest, I am not exactly sure where we went up. The weather was good, and the visibility excellent. I had a small compass, and knew where I was heading, so it was really just a matter of taking a bearing and heading that way, with a few minor corrections.
It was wonderful wild land. I love heather bashing over this stuff. I was on a roll today, and going at a good pace, and loving it. I seemed to be pulling away from Rod, although they had I think stopped to check maps and stuff. I was working in trusty compass mode, and the fact that I could see for miles. I knew from the map the geography. It was just a matter of not getting suckered off into the wrong valley, and staying high. I headed Just South of East. I knew that if I kept high, I would eventually arrive at the Dulnain, and be able to see the Bothy, so on and on I went.
The ground underfoot, was not that wet, and nice and soft and springy. The only difficulty, was the very gusty wind.
Indeed, although I was not to know this, but before they got to the Red Bothy, the wind, and heather bashing was going to cause Bernie's tent to fall off his rucksack, where it was on the outside. Unfortunately, he was not to notice this until they were a long way across, and the top of the Monas, is not a place that it is easy to go back and find dropped items, even if they are as big as a tent. Sadly this was to be the fate of Bernie's tent. Not exactly lucky. but at least fortunate that the nights stop spot was going to be Aviemore, a place that he would at least be able to replace his tent. A very expensive accident, but it could have been a lot worse if intending to camp high that night.
|The wilderness of the top
|Heading to the Red Bothy
|Just before the descent to the Bothy
|Dead wood on the way down
|Sheep Pens before thr red bothy
I just love it up here. And actually it was a great place to be walking on your own. Quiet, and in the middle of a wilderness, but knowing exactly where you were heading. If you've never gone across the Monadhliath Mountains, then do it at least once. And do it soon, before they completely bugger it up.
It was a wonderful bumpy heather bash down to the bottom, with small lochans, and amazing colours, despite the fact that it looks like it is all brown in most photos.
When I arrived at the bothy, there was just Bernie Roberts there, (Good chap is Bernie). He had just finished his lunch stop, and was heading over to Aviemore. I was later to catch him up at the top of the Birma Road.
So, no one about, I took off my shoes, to rest my feet, and had a nice break.
The weather outside was still good, although the wind was picking up.
I had a break for about 20 min before packing up gear and heading off.
I was suprised that Rod had not arrived by now, and when I looked back I could just about make them out a long way up the hill. I had not at this point realised the problem with Bernie's tent, nor the fact that they had been asked by the sheep farmers, to wait up the hill until they had herded the sheep to the bottom.
As I left there were quite a lot of sheep and dogs there, and three farmers who had been rounding them up. I had a brief chat, and then headed off to the bridge to go over to Aviemore in every increasing blustery winds.
The bridge across by the bothy to start the Birma road
So across the bridge, and the rather tedious walk up and over the track to Aviemore.
Somewhere between the start of the track, and first small bridge, an enormous gust of wind had taken my rucksack cover, at the speed of sound in a northerly direction. I did not even notice it go, and it was not coming back. So, lesson 2 for the day, attach you rucksack cover with some shot cord or something. Lesson 1 being:
Don't have your tent on the outside, and if you do make sure it is secured like Fort Knox.
On the way up, I could see Bernie R in the distance. I also encountered an enormous digger, that was flattening the track and filling gaps with sand. There is a huge amount of money spent on maintaining this track and making it smooth. So big was the digger, that I had to walk off the track on the heather to get round it.
It is a long way up the track. As I reached the top, I caught up with Bernie. A brief chat and as the weather suddenly changed into a squally shower, it was time to head off on the equally long journey down.
It is a bit mindless this bit, and so I plugged my headphones in, and boogied on down to something rocky.
I think it was Michael Angelo Batio.
If you want to find what that sounds like, then check out the link.
So, there I am drifting down the hill in boogie mode. Hood up to keep the rain and wind out, and 3 off road vehicles full of farmers and dogs in convoy behind me waiting to get past as I walk down the middle of the track. Luckily I did eventually notice, and moved over to let them pass. They waved and smiled as they drove off, but were probably thinking wa?ker!
I have no idea how long they were waiting, but according to Bernie, 2 or 3 minutes. OOPS!
I boogie on a bit more and at the bottom sat down for a shoe adjust and a read. Bernie caught me up at this point, along with another couple of Challengers who I apologise for not remembering, and together we walked to the end of the track and down the road past Lynnwig.
From here (to quote Al), it is just a half mile and a bit to Aviemore. Unfortunately, it is a LONG TEDIOUS ROADY bit and the bit part is about 6 or 7 K although it feels like about 15 miles.
I have no pictures of this bit, because you do not want to be put off.
And thus it came to pass that we arrived in Aviemore, at the pub next to Aviemore Hostel. Bernie was off to the campsite, but was lured into the pub by me, and also by the siren like call of the amber nectar. It was here that we met Jane Egg, and Alan Hardy. Alan had injured his back, and had had to withdraw.
He was off to the Chiropractor in Inverness the next day.
Jane had yomped here at an insane speed, carrying a large pack, and wearing what looked for all the world like slippers. No wonder her feet and legs ached, but she's well 'ard is Jane, she wasn't going to let aches and pains stop her.
We had a beer, and I booked into my hostel bunk, and Bernie headed off to his campsite.
After sorting out my stuff, and putting my shoes and Wendy (if you remember she is nearly dry from earlier, but now damper than when she went into the rucksack) into the drying room. I then washed up some undies and stuff and then took them to the drier.
This needed tokens that you collect from the pub, or the hostel.
So in pops the token and ......................... Nothing!
Back to the pub to find the nice girl who had let me in, and given me the tokens. Fortunately she did manage to get it going after a bit of a struggle with the token tray, and washing in the drying machine, along with loads of other stuff dangling over hot water pipes, I headed into Aviemore for supplies, and to get to tent seam sealant, and a few other bits and bobs.
Oh yes, a rucksack cover!
I had a mince round Tesco, as you do, got some rolls and cheese and sweets, and a half bottle of Whiskey.
Job done, back to the hostel to have a sort out, and pack stuff, and then down the pub for food and a pint.
The hostel is good, with good facilities, and near enough to town to get stuff, and just far enough out to make the next days start easy.
Interestingly, the dormitories are mixed, which is a new twist, not that it makes any difference, and the one I was in had a full contingent of people on the night.
A couple who had been climbing, and some others who were walking or cycling.
I say nice although, admittedly, the shower door was hanging off, and also the hot tap had more water coming out the top than the spout, but it was still fine.
Luckily I had arrived early enough to have the pick of the bunks, and also to spread my stuff out and get all the packing done.
As it happens, I packed my rucksack ready that night, apart from essential morning kit, so that it would make for an easy departure.
After this I had a jolly fine shower, minus door, and then that was the time to go down and have a pint.
When I arrived, Alan, Rod, Steve and Bernie were already there and about to order food. I joined them at the next table, and also ordered some food and had a pint of cider. I just fancied a cider!
A few other challengers arrived and we spent a pleasant evening, in a pub that was absolutely heaving with folk. A popular place.
It was still heaving in there when I finally left to go and get some sleep, and that was at about 11.00.
So I snuck back to the hostel, and on the way, realised that I had not rung into control (oops).
I rang through and spoke to Avril.
The forecast for the next day was not great, and people were being advised to do their FWA. My original plan was to go down to Loch Einich and then high over Coire Dhondail. But this seemed unlikely.
However, my other alternative was via the Larig Ghru.
Now officially, this is not a FWA since it goes over 800m, but I decided again, that I would make the final decision in the morning, once I had got up and had a good look at the weather.Which I did!