Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Keeping up the mileage in The Cairngorms


The cliffs and old snow of Garbh Choire Mor, Braeriach

"A traverse possible in a single epic day for the extremely fit"…so the guidebook says for the 22.5 mile traverse of the "Braeriach Four". Just the kind of description that fitted the bill for what I was craving yesterday.


Dawn over the Cairngorms

Regular followers of this blog will know that I have a very minor injury just now that has prevented me from hill-running for the last few weeks. Despite trying to stay as positive as I can, I am forced to admit that I don't cope well with injuries. Being deprived of my daily running fix has begun to take its toll as I struggle to find something to fill the gap, and my efforts have fully turned to trying to maintain my hard-earned peak fitness of spring this year.



Despite many 15 or 16 mile mountain routes over the last few weeks I've been getting fed-up of finishing the route and getting home with still plenty left "in the tank". It has actually been a fair while since hill-walking has tired me out, I guess as a result of focusing on running in the hills instead.. Yesterday I wanted to feel the sensation of being drained…I wanted sore feet, stiff muscles and the need for sleep.


Reindeer near the summit of Braeriach

Ignoring the guidebook's advice to take two days over the full-circuit, I was walking up Braeriach's NE spur early yesterday morning in glorious sunshine and crisp light, looking forward to the many miles ahead. What a wonderful route it is, the undulating plateau edge all the way to The Devil's Point. 

Braeriach is an utterly stupendous place, its 13 corries and endless cliffs making it an awe-inspiring place hard to equal in Scotland. I can't think of many backdrops more suitable to a route of this length, and a lot of mileage seemed to disappear as I would marvel at one view after another along the plateau.

The extent of the views from Cairn Toul were quite a change after spending most of my time in the West and NW Highlands recently. There aren't many places from which you can see the Trossachs, Ben Nevis, Knoydart, The Fannichs and the Southern Cairngorms all at the same time.



After the four Munros and the descent down to Corrour Bothy, I started what would usually be "day two" of the route, the return along the entire length of the Lairig Ghru. At about 19 miles along the route I started to get what I'd been after, the pleasant sense of fatigue starting to make itself known. 


Perfect weather on the plateau

A lot about tiredness comes down to what's going on in your mind, after only 30 minutes of sleep the night before doing the route I should have been totally exhausted…but because I regularly do long mountain days after little or no rest I simply know the tricks to ignoring some of the signals your body sends you.


The semi-permanent snows of Braeriach, Garbh Choire has been snow-free only 5 times in the last 100 years.

10 hours 45 mins after leaving the car I had finished the route, but with some frustration I realised I simply did not feel that tired. I guess that I need to aim higher until I can start running again. A little frustrated yes, but glowing from such a grand course over the Cairngorm's finest. One of Scotland's best routes, for sure.

Note: unless you are a hill-runner or an extremely fit hill-walker then take the guidebook's advice and do this route over two days, if you doubt your mountain-legs then trying it in a day will break you.

James

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