My multi-Munro work mate recommended this summit to me sometime back. Barry @GM4TOE also gave it a good talk up. The only problem is it’s a bit of a trek so it’s sort of been hanging around waiting for me. It has only been activated 5 times in 15 years, not too surprising as there are lots of big summits nearby.
Once more up A93 but no stopping at the ski centre but keep on going all the way to Braemar. Having driven the road a few times recently I took the quiet mid-week conditions as a chance to slacken the reins on the car and let it have a bit of run down to Braemar. As usual I missed the turning for Linn of Dee and had to do a 180 to get on to the road. It’s quite narrow and single track and 11km to the car park with lots of people on bikes etc. So car onto cruise at 35mph and just waft to the car park. Nice.
It was thick fog when I left Edinburgh at 7.50 and it was a glorious sunny and hot day in the car park. I’d checked with the NTS that the car park was open. It was nearly full when I arrived just gone 10am. I got out and got a mouthful of midges so it was on with a mask. First job, Smidge the skin. Everyone has their favourite midge repellent and since Robin GM7PKT put me on to Smidge, it’s become my favourite. Not cheap but it works for me. YMMV. After than £3 into the meter for the parking, a bargain. Boots, water, baterries etc. etc. etc. and off we went.
Just after the car park there is a sign that says the hills around here are very serious so know what you’re doing and don’t be another statistic. Plenty of people have met their end in The Cairngorms. Boy it was hot with no breeze and plenty of flying terrors. The first 700m are easy, along the road then track. After that I decided I take the direct route up the heather clad slope then enjoy walking the high level ridge to the summit. This summit has some of the best views into the Cairngorms so it made sense to take advantage of this. Wrong, oh so very wrong.
The track to White Bridge and where I turned off, absolutely brilliant day if warm.
The climb starts of through short heather but as the slope increase the heather deepens. Then there’s the electric double deer fence. You can squeeze under both wires, well I’m a lardy lump and I can get under it. Then more heather and slope. It was very hot, I was very sweaty and the ground so dry that every step produced a cloud of dust and pollen. No wind so I was breathing this in and trying to see what I was doing. The ascent from the track to the summit of Carn an 'lc Duibhe is only 225m and the computer says 48mins to the top. Hahahahaha! 1hr40 it took with slope and finally waist deep heather. Pah!
The first 2/3rds of the bank. Looks easy but it is soul destroying and energy sucking. The last 1/3rd is out of view.
When I got to the top the text on the sign came back to me. The lack of scale the countryside becomes apparent as there is nothing on the top to judge distance. The WX was to cloud up at lunch time then brighten later. I though some clouds looked dark enough for rain so I thought it would be wise to check through options. How much water drink, where could I refill, how far, navigation points if the GPS failed, navigation in mist, how long to summit, how long for radio, shelter if it thundered etc. Shall we say this is a tiddler for the Cairngorms and it would be oh, so embarrassing to get caught out on a wee hill.
The view from Carn an 'lc Duibhe to our target. It’s hiding beneath Bheinn Bhrotain GM/ES-007. To the right behind Sgor Duibhe is Carn a’Mhaim GM/ES-013 and Braeriach GM/ES-003.
Looking North at Ben Macdui GM/ES-002, Derry Cairngorm (the cone) , Beinn Mheadhoin GM/ES-005 and Beinn a’Chaorainn GM/ES-011.
Beinn a’ Bhuird GM/ES-004
The hill with the cloud shadows is Carn na Drochaide GM/ES-025 (easy) and the small heather topped hill in the centre is Creag Bhalg GM/ES-046. Down in the glen is the town of Braemar.
Our target Sgor Mor GM/ES-026
The ground looks easy but it was not springy but dried out. This would be horrible if wet as it’s obvious dried out bog. The only thing I could see was a deer fence and that, like the electric one, was not mentioned in reports I’d read. I aimed for that as the make good navigation handles and often run to the summits. It wasn’t long till I was there. More navigation with maps then I checked the GPS. It must be broken because the arrival time seemed far too late. Nope, it was based on correctly on how far to go and how fast I’d been going. A good drink and I was off following the fence. I did think I’d have to climb it, plenty of good stout posts and newish wire so it looked easy.
I continued to climb gently and then realised there would be no need to cross the fence. Slowly we diverged as I made for the coll between Sgor Mor and Sgor Duibhe (where the trig point is). It became a drudge-like trek into a strengthening wind and clouding sky. I was glad I got these photos because it was really rubbish at the summit. The walk never ended and slowly the summit came nearer. Till bish-bash-bosh I was breathless and cool at the cairn talking to a walker who had come the easier way. None of the routes are that easy! I was 1hr30 later than I expected due to the heather. Bad move coming this way.
At the top it was damn cool after the sun and it was raining very lightly. I didn’t like the black clouds and with the antenna on the ground I checked the radio. No pops or bangs or crashes so no thunder about. The big problem was there was almost no phone coverage for spotting. Annoying because I had the satellite spotter in the car but didn’t bring it to save 350gm. I was just able to get a weak 2G Vodaphone signal and could spot. First band was 20m and I called for a while before I was rewarded with OK2PDT answering. OK one QSO means it’s activated and the sweat was not spilled for no reward. I actually went on to work 6 on 20m and 12 on 30m, all CW. After that in increasingly cold wind and rain spots I called it a day. I knew I had at least 2hrs if not more walking to get to the car then at least 2hrs drive home and it was not the best WX.
View to The Devil’s Point, Cairn Toul and Carn a’Mhaim. You can see just how pants the WX had become so quickly.
Summit of Sgor Mor GM/ES-026
The view back to Carn an 'lc Duibhe and Braemar. One of those lumps is Barry GM4TOE’s favourite wee hill Creag Ghiubhais GM/ES-067.
Trying to keep my floppy hat in the wind.
The route out was the way I should have come. In this case due South from the col and along a nice ridge, down through more bloody heather then onto the good path to White Bridge then the excellent track to the Linn of Dee car park.
About 1km from the summit on the direct way home, another shot of Sgor Mor GM/ES-026
And from the exact same spot turning through 180degs to show how different the WX was away from the 1300m mountains behind my summit. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not stood there.
It’s a non-stop easy-ish walk then steeper through heather till finally a decent track.
Looking back to Beinn Bhrotain GM/ES-007
From here there’s 5+ km along the excellent but boring track. Bikes recommended. However the views make up for the tedium of trudging along. You can see why the Queen has her Summer holidays here.
Finally, the end in sight. The Linn of Dee bridge about 1.5km distance. So something 20mins from here to the car.
When I got back to the car it was a midge fest again and I was somewhat knackered. I sat in the luggage area with the tailgate open doing nothing but drinking a nice warm can of diet Red Bull! I could have done with the wings earlier. 15.5km according to the GPS. I was very worried till I had my 4 QSOs but in the end the radio was OK for a mid-week during the bottom of the sunspot cycle.
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It’s only later that you truly appreciate some walks. This was one of them. Though I twisted my knee in a hidden hole coming down to the river and it’s still a bit sore. With that I would do this again. I think. Well certainly if you paid me!