Scotland – the middle bit


A couple of easy days and morning coffee at the Pooleman’s made for a speedy ride along to the southern end of loch Laggan where I rendezvoused back with Ailsa. A good track meant we could ride our bikes round to Lochan na h-Earba beneath Binnean Shuas leaving a pleasant short hike up to the base of Ardverikie Wall. The route proved all it is hyped to be as one of the best of its grade in the country, a return to the more casual enjoyable climbing after some of the more adventurous routes in Glencoe!

The following day was a what has now become a rarity, a purely cycling day to Glenmore. Since the Lake District the focus has been much more on long walks and climbing interspersed with the the occasional bike ride. Quite a contrast to the first 10days of this adventure where I cycled 500miles and climbed just 7routes!

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Camping on the beach at Loch Laggan
The following morning I met Rob in the Cairngorm mountain carpark. I would say from the start Rob has been far the most enthusiastic of my partners, immediately getting back to me after my speculative email many months ago, specifically requesting to come and do this 5day Cairngorm hiking mission before anyone else got in there (no-one else asked..).

A quick change of bag arrangements from panniers to backpack and we set of up into Corrie an Lochan, a place more familiar to us both in its winter guise rather than in a sunny July. Savage Slit goes as one fantastic long pitch which I enjoyed so much I often forgot to stop and place runners.

A hike over the platue and into loch Avon Basin to the rather dauntingly named Hell’s Lum crag and route The Clean Sweep. A tricky move to start but then follows several pitches that led Rob to comment “it’s as if it has been designed for climbing”.

We made it over to loch Etchachan by mid afternoon. Dropping our bags down at the Hutchinson bothy, we then made a speedy ascent of Talisman before we could get eaten alive by the midges emerging into the still mountain evening.

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Taking a casual approach on The Talisman
Hutchinson’s not being a very large bothy we were glad to have it too ourselves, until two walkers stumbled in at half midnight. We never had a chance to find out the reason for their late arrival as they were still slumbering when we set off the following morning, empty cans of Tennant’s outside their tent providing justification for their lie in.

The dry weather meant we could take a direct line across dry bogs and platues towards the north summit of Ben a’Bhuird, traversing right through the remote centre of the Cairngorms wondering how many people had set foot there in the past.

Arriving at the lip of Garbh Corie we dropped our bags to scramble down and back up the Cumming-Crofton route on Mitre ridge. Unlike Jamie Fisher we had no trouble then locating Squareface as it basked in the midday sun. From my perch on the arete I look up at Rob enquiring how he is finding the final crack leading to the summit, “A bit larger than my largest bit of gear” he replies, his mind surely flashing back to the carpark where we decided in the interest of weight to leave the larger climbing equipment behind!

One lost sock later we made the long trudge down to braemar, fording the Dee rather than a 2 mile walk around, we are rewarded with fish suppers and evening sunshine.

With time in hand we could afford to spend the following day reading the papers watching rain dripping down café windows. Rented mountain bikes made light work of the 10miles to Lochnagar and we enjoyed an early lunch on its summit, thankfully breezy after having a quite a midgey experience on Eagle Ridge.

A long day meant we made it to Bob Scott’s bothy that evening. The following morning we had a fine hike back north via the larig an laoigh, arriving back at the carpark 5days and 110km after we left. On the way down meeting a man clutching a tourist brochure who asked for directions to Ben Macdui, we gently tried to convince him the Cairngorm platue is not a place to go in the cloud without a map or compass!
After the Cairngorms I had almost 200km to my next climb, so a couple of days on the bike, the longest stint in the saddle since getting to Scotland.
I was fortunate just to be able to camp at the bottom of the Baelach na Ba road rather than cycle up it, meeting Paul there the next morning.

I first met Paul literally dangling from the face of El Capitan, well I was dangling 100feet up and Paul was walking along the base, a friendship was made and I promised that next time I was in his locality we would go climbing together. So it took six years but I finally made it and we had a fantastic morning on the spectacular Cioch Nose followed by a refreshing dip in the reservoir. Coffes at the café and Paul’s infectious enthusiasm mean I now cycle on to Skye and the end of my adventure with a massive smile on my face.

Stats so far:

Climbs: 78

Vertical metres climbed: 8702m

Climbing partners: 26

Pitches: 276

Distance cycled: 2,847km (1,769miles)

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