The Cairngorms are home to some of Scotland’s wildest and most rugged mountains. The weather is capricious. It’s as likely to be foul as it is to be pleasant. And the terrain should never be underestimated! I set out last Friday on what was to be a 3-day backpacking trip. Though my route was only 40-miles long, I intended to work in a few side hikes up neighboring munros.
I left from Glenmore, just a few miles from the Highland town of Aviemore. The trail tracked south, crossing a swift stream before climbing up a low, bald hill where it wound around its side.
The Chalamain Gap in Cairngorm National Park, Scotland
The first hurdle on my hike was climbing the Chalamain Gap, a rocky passage between two munros. I climbed swiftly through it, pausing to take a few pictures. Apart from the boulder field at the top of the Gap, the walking was quite easy. I followed the trail down towards the fabled Lairig Ghru, an old droving route between two steep lines of mountains.
Looking down into the Lairig Ghru from the Braeriach Traverse.
When I reached the top of it I made a snap decision to climb above it, and traverse the mountaintops. Though it was cloudy, it looked as if the weather would hold for the day and this might be my only chance to get a bit of altitude if it really was going to rain all day tomorrow.
The trail quickly gained 1,500 ft. of elevation and when I gained the top of the ridge, the views were magnificent all around. I followed this long ridge, known as the Braeriach and Cairn Toul Traverse for several miles before climbing back down into the opposite end of Lairig Ghru. It was such a steep downhill, I eventually had to stop and wrap a bit of eNZees around my toes as they were starting to rub. Passing a bothy – a backcountry hut – I followed a meandering trail eastward to Glen Derry where I camped for the night.
A lonely bothy near the Fords of Avon.
The following morning was wet and windy. It looked as if it had been raining all night and intended to do so throughout the day. The trail stayed high, sidling the ridge above the river in Glen Derry. It was too cold and rainy to stop, so I hate my snacks as I walked and before I knew it, I’d nearly done 20 miles! Rather than looking for a place to camp, I decided to dry out and warm up at the hostel in Glenmore.
I hurried past the Ryvoan Bothy and Green Loch and finally stomped into the hostel, where I booked the last bed available. It seemed as if everyone else in the mountains had the same idea as me! After a quick shower, I settled down a big plate of fish and chips and a local ale.