Braeriach summit camp – not quite what we expected…again. September 2015.

Date: Saturday/Sunday 19th/20th September 2015
Distance: 19.5 + 12.5km
Ascent: 1650 + 200m

A rare bit of optimistic forecasting for a weekend in 2015 – with deterioration likely in the West we decided to head for the ‘Gorms. At 90% and 90% cloud free munros forecast for Saturday and Sunday it would be rude not to.

In August we’d camped up on Carn na Criche, the 1265m top of Braeriach but had been let down by the weather, the camp being a bit clagged (enough to prevent sight of what was reportedly a decent aurora). A sense of injustice still lingering the forecast suggesting a clear night and possible inversion seemed like the one to set the insult to rights.

Decided on a Glen Feshie start this time (having ascended the Coire an Lochain/Coire Ruadh ridge the last).

Previously we’ve visited Cairn Toul from Linn of Dee and via Sron na Lairig and Coire Dhondail so a Feshie/Moine Mor approach would be a further variation.

Got going in a sunny Glen Feshie – a pleasant summer-like morning.

Glen Feshie

The path up from Auchlean has been upgraded – now smooth and a very easy walk. Makes for quick progress to elevation.

Ascent from Auchlean:

As height is gained the view west expands. This side of the Cairngorms has wide views out to Lochaber and beyond not visible from the central Cairngorm plateau.

Out across Section 4:

Starting at 330m at Auchlean the track wends upin height through the Graham floor and ceiling, the Corbett floor and ceiling and then up to 1030m above quite a few munros.

Then the Moine Mhor – open country at 3000ft.

Moine Mhor:

The back sides of the western ridge of Lairig Ghru – rather bland appearing from this side.

Cairn Toul and Braeriach:

The Gleann Einich trench disappears off Moine Mhor between Braeriach and Sgor Gaoith.

Braeriach and Sgor Gaoith:

Moine Mhor pano:

Link to larger pano

Despite the soggy sounding name the Moine Mhor is nice walking terrain – short vegetation and stable ground make for a comfortable wander.

We were heading out past the oddest munro top in Christendom (Tom Dubh) and on along Allt Luineag towards Loch an Stuirteag.

Sgor Goith and Loch na Cnapan:

Allt Luineag and Cairn Toul:

Stopped for a meal above Loch nan Stuirteag – a rather nice lochan perched high above the plunging Gleann Geusachan. Nice to wander in to this from another direction.

Heading on we rounded Loch nan Stuirteag before contouring steep ground into the hanging coire between Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine.

Loch nan Stuirteag:

Gleann Geusachan:

A bit of activity in the pools up here, can’t help but think that frost is near and the end may be nigh for some of the inhabitants.

3000ft frog:


Late tadpole – likely Norwegian Blue:

Found our previous pitch spot on the way up – 6 years to the day since our trip from Linn of Dee round Bod an Deamhain/Cairn Toul/Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain.

Previous pitch site:

Wandering up the glen I was watching a raptor and trying to identify it – buzzard-sized but rather too narrow-winged. Pointing it out to Hazel, I’d no sooner said the words “not an eagle” when another raptor sailed out over the coire which undoubtedly was. Light winds meant the Goldie had a fully extended wingspan for lift and we got a nice look over about 5 minutes.

An infrequent sight in the Cairngorms.


Headed up to the bealach between the Cairn Toul summit and the 1213m top – sudden views out south and east over Coire an t-Saighdeir and Lairig Ghru.

H nearing Cairn Toul ridge:

Coire an t-Saighdeir:

Up a final 100m over boulders to the summit. Quite a nice viewpoint and for us, our best conditions in 4 visits.

Cairn Toul view of south Lairig Ghru:

Across to Macdui (and the crowds):

From the south end of the flat summit it’s 100m to the highest point and views north.

Lochan Uaine and Braeriach:

Bod an Deamhain, Carn a Mhaim and Sgor Mor from Cairn Toul:

Had another bite to eat, unfortunately it was intermittently dull which saw a fair batch of midge having a go at us. Being lunch and having lunch simultaneously is a kind of multitasking.

Cairn Toul pano:

Link to larger pano

Continued on over Sgor an Lochain Uaine – a 100m renascent from the Cairn Toul bealach.

Lochan Uaine from descent:

H at SaLU/Brariach bealach:

Clouds had been encroaching to the west for a while – Sgor Gaoith had vanished about 30 minutes before and we were now seeing Braeriach threatened. John Williams controls the orchestra at times like this.

Cue Jaws theme tune:

The cloud was coming and going still so we carried on towards it – the last 130m ascent to Carn na Criche on tiring legs (2015 has not seen us maintaining good camp pack fitness).

Wandered round the edge of Garbh Coire – snowpatches will see out the year here.

Gharbh Coire snowpatches:

Approaching 1265m point:

Garbh Coire:

Plonked the tent down at the SW end of the 1265m top – there’s a nice flat grassy spot near the cairns. Somewhat put out by the misty flow but hopeful that the cloud would clear off at some point to the possible inversion and clear skies of Sunday.

Plentiful water at the Wells of Dee – actually heard another Goldie yipping in the mist before seeing it flying away. Not often you hear a Goldie.

Back again:

Into the tent and cooked up tea, sipped our aperitif and ate the choccies. Sunset passed unmarked in the clag.

August 2015 pitch in the same spot:

A decent night’s sleep – head out of tent at 2300, 0100, 0300 and 0600 saw clag, clag, clag.

Apparent after dawn that we were about 200m too low for an inversion. Heated up the cocoa and ate breakfast before striking the pitch and heading away at 0900.

Didn’t visit the summit of Braeriach this time – we have seen it before in clag.

Headed directly down to Moine Mhor – aiming for Loch nan Cnapan. About 200m down we emerged from the cloud – a grey day with a few sun shafts.

Dropping under the cloud:

The reindeer had spent the night underneath the cloud – sensible creatures.

Snoozing reindeer:

Passed another wild camper who had pitched on Moine Mhor – he mentioned having been hoping for inversions too before he carried on up into the mist of Braeriach.

Uneventful plod back along the track and down the excellent path to Auchlean and the car.

Moine Mhor track:

Glen Feshie:

A good trip – glad to have accessed Cairn Toul by a 4th route and finally achieved good views from it. A little put out to have a second consecutive Braeriach camp in clag given the excellent forecast.

Just need to go back again.


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