16th February, 2008 – Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a’Chaorainn

Matt and I planned on a weekend in the Cairngorms that grew and grew from an initial plan for a two day walk over two of the Munros in the east of the national park with an overnight camp. First, two extra Munros were added to the plan taking advantage of the fact we would already be in the vicinity of them. Then we decided on cycling in and out for a bit of variety, as far as possible on a land rover track.

Saturday – Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a’Chaorainn

An early start had us up to Glen Quioch in good time and after an initial play on my bike, which I had not been on since 2003 (had been on others in that time), we set off with large packs up a rougher than expected track. Things looked better soon though as we joined a better track for the few kilometres in to the foot of the hills we would begin and end our ‘circuit’ with. Whether or not it was my lack of recent cycling, a badly positioned new saddle or, just the bouncing around with a heavy (very heavy) pack on, my backside was a bit tender to put it mildly.
Leaving the car, it was -7C and the bikes had ice on them after the drive up but the sun was shining and the mostly uphill ride in soon had us warmed up for the walk ahead.

We ditched the bikes in a conveniently concealed spot and headed off up the sunny side of a forest, the air just the right temperature to be walking up hill, fully laden, without generating too much of a sweat.

Our first lengthy stop was at a lochan (Poll Bhat) which partially frozen, seemed ideal for some good photos. In particular Lochnagar looked good through the haze and was a bit of a contrast to all the rounded hills in front. On boulder hopping here a fish and I surprised one another.

Continuing onwards, to the top of our first hill, Beinn Bhreac, we had improving views to the west all along the way and Beinn a’ Ghlo to the South West in particular looked amazing.

Our next summit, Beinn a’Chaorainn, looked a lot closer than it felt walking to it despite good solid ground under foot and by now we were feeling the day’s efforts so we dumped our bags at a spot we would return to en route to our chosen camp site. Up top we got more great views but didn’t linger too long in the chilly breeze and headed back to the bags which now seemed especially heavy after the last hour’s walking without them. Our chosen spot for the night was revised from that planned in order to push on further with the aim of getting a better view of the sunset from higher up and to lessen the ascent the following day to see the sun rise first thing.

We set up camp in a great wee spot (though maybe not in some of the more typical weather of the area) with views in most directions except east and quickly got ready for the rapidly chilling night, had a filling tea and watched the sun going down behind the mountains west of us.

After the insult of Matt going to sleep mid conversation, I retreated to the now Baltic temperature outside to look at the moon and stars and had a go at taking photos of them. Not too successful with the photos but I passed some time as I didn’t want to head straight to bed and wake up in the middle of the night then spend hours awake and cold. As it turned out I needn’t have worried as not only was I not cold but too warm at one stage despite water bottles freezing through the night. Don’t quite think it was as cold as the morning’s temperature even though we were camped at above 900m but it is hard to say.

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