Sunday, 12 July 2020


Garbh Uisge Mor
An absolutely gorgeous day to be out in the hills. Light winds, wall to wall sunshine and very pleasant temperatures in The Cairngorms.
With travel restrictions now lifted, suddenly the hills and mountains of Scotland have become a huge attraction for many.
The tranquil Lochan Buidhe
I have always loved my mountain days peaceful and uncrowded, as do many other folk I guess. Looking at various hillwalking social media sites and there's a string of questions from people seeking some kind of 'quiet' hills. My answer is to get away from Munro routes and popular Corbett sized hills. If you also find somewhere that doesn't have a well made path or even pathless then you stand a very good chance to find solitude or see very few folk.
Cairn Toul & Braeriach 
On Sunday Karen and I left Coire Cas carpark around 0830. There was already 30+ vehicles parked up. Probably 50 by the time we got down off the hill.  The Northern Cairngorms and in particular The Northern Corries attract many folk. We saw no one after leaving the car all the way to Lochan Buidhe on the plateau. Along the way we had diversions looking for wildlife and spotted a Dotterel high up at 1000m.
One of many small snow patches around
From Lochan Buidhe the route we took was pathless. If you are competent at navigation and confident on pathless terrain then there are many hundreds of hills in the Scottish Highlands that don't have paths or only very faint trails.  All of my mountain adventures over 30 odd years have embraced being out in wild country and looking for adventure. Exploration, wildness and remoteness are some of my key factors for going in the hills. Very rarely do I look at guidebooks or 'apps' and the like to give me ideas. The OS map is my companion and inspiration in planning a day or days out.
The finest view in The Cairngorms 
Walking over wonderful Arctic like Tundra with many Snow Bunting and Meadow Pipits for company, we eventually got to our lunch spot and the finest view in the Cairngorms. Not too distant below our spot there is still a huge area of snow lingering on the Feithe Buidhe slabs. We explored around here a bit and saw the only folk we were to see until much later in the day.  Four skiers were having fun sliding down the steep snow slopes. We stayed out of their way and explored the top of the snow further to the south.

Top of the snowpatch

Deep snow

should last a few weeks, hot or no hot

Feithe Buidhe snow and Hells Lum Crag

A lot of steep up for a few seconds of skiing dowm

We wandered off towards the Garbh Uisge Mor which is another burn that slowly trickles from its source high up on the Cairngorm plateau and gradually builds up in volume. Eventually all the burns tumble in small waterfalls and end up in Loch A'an. We sat and enjoyed the wonderful sight of one of these waterfalls.
Tranquility and beauty
We weaved our way down beside the waterfalls and burns on a mix of wonderful granite slabs and vegetation full of flowers and berries ready to fruit shortly. Heading slowly down towards Loch A'an, views everywhere. Paths nowhere. The amazing Shelterstone Crag  gets more and more impressive as you loose height.  The sun by this point in early afternoon was hot enough to keep any midges away. We had a midge free day.
Hard to leave this spot

Loch A'an and the Shelterstone

Shelterstone and Carn Etchachan 

Hells Lum Crag
Despite it being mid July and a nice hot day the temperature of the water in Loch A'an are still on the chilly side. Around end of August or September the water will be at its warmest. Or shall we just say less cold?  Still a wee dip in order for my wife, cold or no cold.
Loch A'an & Stacan Dubha

Swim time
There are many ways to get up and down to Loch A'an. From the plateau it's around 300m descent and of course the same or more to get back out. There is no mobile phone reception in the Loch A'an basin. Another wonderful feeling and reality of remoteness and isolation from the world. Love that. This whole area from the plateau rim and down to the Loch is my favourite area in the entire Cairngorms, and one of utter beauty.
Shelterstone Crag 

Loch A'an & Shelterstone Crag

Final views before heading over the plateau
It is still two hours from the Loch back to 'civilisation ' at the Coire Cas carpark, whichever route you choose. We were back on a path but saw no one until 1141m, even then there were just two separate groups of two folk. Back at the car and many other cars were double parked on the narrow access road. But we had just enjoyed 8 hours  exploring the wildness in solitude.
My top tips: Get away from popular Munros, easiest routes to them, nice man made paths where no navigation is required. Even better, get yourself off any form of path.
Alternatively, go with the masses.

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