The western Cairngorms above Glen Feshie – [# 150 & 151]

Sgor Gaoith (1118m); Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair (1019m)

  • Pronunciation:             Sgor Gayee; Mooluch Clach uh Vlarth
  • Translation:                  Windy Peak; The Peak of the Stony Plane
  • Total distance:             25.7km
  • Total time:                    6hrs 40mins
  • Total ascent:                 980m
  • Weather:                        Overcast start but with cloud level well above the summits. Mists rolled in as we approached the first summit. Cleared again into a bright day: cool wind-chill on the summits and ridges but warm elsewhere.
  • Start / end location:   Car park near the end of the public road on the east side of Glen Feshie: 1km from Auchlean.  [OS Map Sheet 43 – Grid Ref: NN 984 851
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Looking west along the ridgeline towards Meall nan Sleac - our descent path clearly visible

As mentioned in a previous blog entry (last week) we’d already bumped into our friends Anne and Dave at the Linn of Dee car park. At this impromptu meeting we’d agreed that we should endeavour to meet up when all four of us were over at the northern side of the Cairngorms “in about a week’s time”. Well that week had passed and after a few last minute exchanges of emails and texts we’d organised to rendezvous at a little car park just north of Achlean high up in Glen Feshie.

Misty conditions on the summit of Sgor Gaoith for the team photo

So, at our appointed time of 08.30 we duly met up at the car park only 1km north of the little house of Achlean. After a bit of chatting to catch up with one another we set off along the last bit of road towards Achlean before taking a path eastwards onto the hillside. This path was well maintained and offered us a dry passage as we first veered towards the Allt Fhearnagan burn and then almost immediately away again as we took an easy angled traversing line up the north side of the glen.

Moments after leaving the summit of Sgor Gaoith a glance back revealed the mist clearing from the summit

Our path continued to climb steadily higher until it levelled off just to the south of Carn Ban Mor (1052m). Here a path ran perpendicular from ours right over the summit of Carn Ban Mor, which was little more than a fine stony cairn on top of a huge shallow convex plateau. By this stage the mist had rolled in and our visibility had been reduced to only a few tens of metres. We passed the cairn and continued NNE to the summit of our first Munro, the sharp little peak of Sgor Gaoith at 1118m or 3,668ft. It was such a shame that the mist was obscuring our views because this Munro, like many in the Cairngorms has two quite differing sides: in this case the gentle rolling side that we ascended on the west, versus its very steep escarpment that faces east and rises high above the beautiful Loch Eunich. Beyond Loch Eunich our panorama would have stretched across to Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Angels Peak: but sadly not today – or at this moment at least.

Looking east from the Moine Mhor to Braeriach (L), Angel's Peak (middle) and Cairn Toul (R)

Still in the mist we began to retrace our steps back towards Carn Ban Mor only to find, as we descended to the broad col between the two hills, that breaks in the mist were beginning to appear around us and as we looked back to where we’d just come from the sharp little peak of Sgor Gaoith was now in full view. A delay on our part of only 10 minutes would have seen us still standing on Sgor Gaoith’s summit, but this time admiring the views. Such is the way of things in the high mountains, and the vistas that we were now receiving were still excellent – especially SE to Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain, and generally westward to Ben Alder and further beyond into Lochaber. Although the scene was quite confusing with such a profusion of mountain peaks on the horizon, Dave and I were able to pick out one or two more notable features such as the deep notch called “The Window” that links Creag Meagaidh to its neighbour of Stob Poite Coire Ardair.

On the summit of Mullach Clach a' Bhlair

Once back across the summit of Carn Ban Mor we regained our path from earlier and followed it south-eastwards over the huge expanse of Moine Mhor. Our path soon reached a bull-dozed track that we turned right on to. The track provided easy uneventful walking – but did allow us to continue our conversations whilst walking two abreast. After a few kilometres on this track it passed within a couple of hundred metres of the top of our second Munro, so at the appropriate point we branched off the track to reach the pile of rocks that signified the summit cairn of Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair at 1019m or 3,343ft. By this point it really felt like it was time for lunch but as per usual a stiff wind across the exposed summit would have made it too cold to stop for long. We all agreed that a better strategy was to seek a more sheltered spot for our lunch.

Making for home along the bull-dozed track with the knobbly summit of Sgor Gaoith just visible

Our route of descent saw us taking the bull-dozed track back northward until it split just to the SE of the deep Coire Garbhlach. At this junction we took the left hand track as it followed the descending ridgeline that formed the rim of the coire. We only had to drop a few tens of metres from the top of the ridge to realise a welcome drop in the wind and the associated wind-chill. A little grassy promontory that jutted out from the main ridgeline and hung out high above the corrie provided us with an ideal sheltered lunch spot and gave us great views down into Coire Garbhlach and its adjacent neighbour of Fionna Choire.

Looking NNE into Fionnar Choire from our lunch stop

Lunch proved to be one of huge contrasts. Elaine and I have been used to a whole winter and spring season where the prevailing conditions have more often than not been too cold for us to stop for a “proper” lunch, and so we’ve become accustomed to eating on the march or at best huddled for a few brief minutes in the lee of a summit cairn. As a consequence our hill diet has become one of cereal / nut bars, dried dates and apricots and when we’re lucky some of Elaine’s (or my Mum’s) home baking. We’ve even dispensed with carrying a flask of hot tea or coffee. So, it was with hopefully concealed envy that we looked on as Anne produced sandwiches for Dave on little red plastic plates and then sliced up some fresh tomatoes followed by some peeled hard-boiled eggs and slices of apple. [I can still see it quite clearly even as I right this blog some days later!]. This was all washed down with piping hot coffee from their thermos flask. To our credit, Elaine had recently made some delicious chocolate “Rocky-road” bars (Nigella Lawson recipe – check out “Cooking and Baking” on our site for the recipe) and brought enough to share around. It went down rather well with us all.

Looking WNW along the Allt Garbhlach burn from our lunch stop

After our lunch we rejoined the track just to the SW of the crest of the ridgeline and followed it traversing diagonally downward as it began to run parallel with the course of the Allt Choire Chaoil burn. This track eventually arrived in Glen Feshie and without crossing over the River Feshie we took a path north that meandered, as the river did, all the way back to Achlean. By this time we were very sheltered from any wind and the temperature was noticeably warmer. The walk back along the riverside was very pleasant and we met one or two groups out enjoying this part of the beautiful Glen Feshie.

It was only when we reached our respective cars and we were taking off our walking gear that a slight spit in the air accompanied by some darkening of the clouds reminded us of just how lucky we’d been with today’s weather: this was in total contrast to the soaking that Anne and Dave received yesterday. So all in all we’d had a great day out in the company of friends.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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