Archive for Gaick Pass

Traversing the Gaick (Take 1)

Posted in Cycling with tags on July 12, 2016 by Jinja Coo

An attempt to traverse the whole of the Gaick Pass (it won’t be the last) after two previous visits on foot and by ski. This time mountain bike was the means of travel, and linking the full route from Dalnacardoch Lodge on the A9 with Kingussie to the north would take us through about 40km of relatively remote country.

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A dry but grey start with low cloud – the reason we opted for this low option over a day on the hills – had us setting off north into the Gaick with Kingussie our intended turning point. We would return south either by cycling parallel to the A9 on the cycle route (NCN 7), or ideally by train if there was space for the bikes.

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We made good progress on 4×4 tracks before meeting the main technical section of the whole route, which runs the length of Loch an Duin. It isn’t that bad, but resulted in a few falls and gear snags, one of which, led to an irreparable problem, and our decision (wise) to retreat rather than carry on. A mix of free wheelin’ and walking got us back the twelve kilometres to our start within a couple of hours, albeit wet, muddy and bloody.

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Ironically, given this was an attempt to go all the way through the pass, our turning point was at my previous limit on foot, so what remains around the corner is still a bit of a mystery and is pulling me back for another go.

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Cross-Country Ski Towards the Gaick Pass

Posted in Snow Sports, Wildlife, X-Country with tags , , , on January 22, 2015 by Jinja Coo

Having a weekday free and good weather forecast, I looked out my downhill skis and planned on heading to Glenshee for a day’s skiing without the weekend queues. Memories of similar days way back in the past came to mind and I was getting quite excited about the day ahead. Just one problem, the access road seemed to be closed due to … snow! Even later in the evening it was still looking like no progress for the day ahead and rather than gamble on a drive up the following morning, I changed my plan to one of cross-country skiing so I would not be reliant on roads or ski tows.

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My revised plan was to take me up the A9 as far as Drumochter pass where roadside webcams showed good snow levels. From there I had three intended routes I could opt to follow, my favoured being the furthest north and therefore highest too.

A good breakfast on the road up and encouraging signs of snow even as low as Pitlochry had me convinced plan A, ski in to a favourite bothy for lunch with a round of a scenic loch, was possible. Unfortunately though, access by car to the starting point was not possible due to the amount of snow on the access road. I had to backtrack a few miles to the start of plan B with a bit of short-lived disappointment.

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Plan B was to retrace part of a walk I had done a couple of summers ago as I knew the gradient of the approach track should be okay for cross-country skis assuming the snow cover was relatively uniform. As it turned out, I left the track almost immediately on exiting the initial forest section as the hillside above it was gentle enough to ski up and would result in better views and potentially less time in shade.

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Within a few minutes I had gained enough height to be enjoying views to the west, east and south. Only the rising plateau ahead to the north obscured things slightly. Numerous rests to catch breath and cool off, despite it being -7, allowed me to enjoy encounters with the wildlife in the area. At one point I was surprised by the proximity of a hare which seemed undisturbed by my presence. I spent at least five minutes getting closer and closer until I was just four or five feet away, quite an unusual occurrence.

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After this pleasant stop I made my way eastwards across the plateau to try and get a view in to the next glen and to delay my getting to my intended destination of Meall na Spianaig. From that top I got a view in to the narrow pass between the hills An Dun and A’ Chaoirnich which a semi-frozen Loch an Duin lay between.

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By the time I had reached Meall na Spianaig I was pretty hungry from my efforts and for the first time in ages lingered at a top for over half an hour, taking in the views and enjoying the silence. Just about everything about me was white except for the small, wooded area surrounding the ruins of Sronphadruig Lodge below me. With not a breath of wind and some extra layers I was warm enough to just enjoy the sunshine, eat my lunch and was in no real hurry to get back.

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The map showed the way out to be gently downhill all the way, perfect! Actually, it turned out to be a little too steep for my cross-country skis and my lack of skill to begin with resulting in numerous painful wipe outs, which got a bit frustrating. Following this though I had a spell of perfect gradient (for me) which allowed me to glide along effortlessly for a couple of kilometers.

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The final run through the forest with the low sun just visible through the gaps in the trees was taken as slowly as possible to prolong my day before finally setting off for home.

Into the Gaick

Posted in Hiking, Hills with tags , , on June 3, 2013 by Jinja Coo

The weather finally was showing signs of warming up after a pretty poor spring and I fancied a walk of a reasonable length, but something not too far away. Having first settled on the rough area of Pitlochry and the surroundings, I next honed in on a specific walk into the Gaick Pass, something I’d only recently heard of by coincidence.

The pass starts off subtly and is barely noticeable from the road where one starts from, but eventually it becomes more distinct, providing a north / south passage via a narrow, steep sided glen through higher ground.

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Looking at the map the previous night, I was in two minds, should I take my bike for the 9km approach to the Gaick or not? It would speed things up in both directions but my intention was for a long saunter in the hills so I decided to walk instead. The track in is obviously used by cyclists and apart from the couple of kilometers along Loch an Duin, would provide a great journey through to Kingussie if continuing on further than I did.

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The heat on the way in and views of a lovely river, Edendon Water, were planting ideas of a swim before the end of the day and eventually when crossing a bridge over it, I was pleased to see a nice deep pool which could be just the thing later on.

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An Dun and A' Chaiornich

An Dun and A’ Chaiornich

A fast track in, gently undulating, took me past a few buildings of varying condition and a tall cairn which I have not been able to find any information about. First was a shell of a cottage, then soon after a more intact one with roof but open to the elements and critters. Finally, there were the buildings of Sronphadruig Lodge itself, mostly boarded up for safety but with one building still used by the estate.

Sronphadruig Lodge

Sronphadruig Lodge

The walk in from Dalnacardoch

The walk in from Dalnacardoch

From slightly beyond here, steep ground lead direct to the top of An Dun, that swim was becoming more appealing, but a cooling breeze at the top was refreshing enough at that moment. Great views to savour and complete peace and quiet, barely a sound except for bird song and distant running water. The occasional sight of a silently bounding hare would draw my attention briefly away from views of the mountains in the distance and down to Loch an Duin below me.

Loch an Dun with A' Chaoirnich beyond

Loch an Duin with A’ Chaoirnich beyond

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After a lunch stop, I descended more steep ground to the north end of Loch an Duin and crossed to a gully on A’ Chaoirnich which lead to the plateau above. Sweat poured out me and more thoughts of a swim entered my head as I plodded away upwards.

Gaick Pass

Gaick Pass

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An odd shaped rock stood out near the top and only as I reached the plateau did I finally wonder about the strangeness of its shape. I finally realised it was a rock with a large bird sitting on top watching me and I just had time to get my camera focused on it and walk a few paces closer before it took flight and then soared in circles above me then south.

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View north from A' Chaoirnich

View north from A’ Chaoirnich

That distraction over, I headed for the top then beyond it to get a better view north over the surroundings of Gaick Lodge.

An Dun above Loch an Dun

An Dun above Loch an Duin

From there it was just a case of descending back towards Sronphadruig Lodge and then reversing my route in. Despite an increase in heat and notable sunburn, I decided against the swim on the way out, maybe it was the temperature of the water when I hung my feet in it from a low bridge to recharge them for the march out.

Great to find a new place to walk / cycle in future, and maybe even ski as I think it would suit this too with good snow cover. Lots of options in the side glens as well as further on through the pass itself.