12km ~ 980m ascent ~ 920m descent ~ 6hrs 30mins
After being dropped off by my dad, and leaving a note of my route with the ranger station I began my 7 day trek at 3pm. WooHA!
I made my way up the side of the ski slope which with it being July was completely free of snow. 200m up I was surprised at how much my backpack was taking out of me, but figured I’d settle into it. 400m up I’d already drunk over 1.5l of water as my body tried to work out what the hell I was doing to it. Haha! I must admit it’s a bit of a kick in the nuts to have the vernicular railway running alongside me as I carried my 23kg bag.
From the top of the railway there’s a proper well made path with a hand rope and everything. I reached the top around 5pm. My first munro of the trip, Cairn Gorm, fittingly the one final one of my last attempt. Quick break for text update, photo and something to munch. Then off towards munro 2, Bynack More. I headed roughly north east towards a path on the map that heads towards The Saddle.
I wasn’t looking forward to this first descent. My memories of ascending it last time round were not pretty. It had been day 7 of trekking through the snow, my knees were sore, the route was steep and the weather was starting to warm meaning that almost ever step was going knee deep into the snow. It was hard, we were all tired, it was just an endless last push on a failed attempt at bagging all 18 munros of the Cairngorms.
As I approached and started down two things became apparent. Firstly there was no path, no matter what the map said, or at least I couldn’t see it. However secondly despite it being pretty steep it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. The sun was shining, I was really happy to be on my way, the views were spectacular and the wildlife was beautiful.
As I descended it became increasingly apparent that despite me thinking I had made fairly conservative time estimates I was behind time. My initial plan had been to go to The Saddle drop my pack, go bag Bynack More, come back collect my pack and head to the Fords of Avon Refuge. However at my current pace, things weren’t looking good and I had read online that sunset was at 9pm. I really didn’t want to be out here in the dark, not on my first night.
As much as I had put up the tent during the week to remind myself how, I knew I wasn’t really trek ready. I hadn’t been on a trek in a long time, so was pretty sure that my first few days would include a bit of adjustment of kit position and packing etc.
With that in mind I changed my game plan. I decided I’d cut up towards Bynack More without going as far as The Saddle, head west towards a bit of a plateau, drop my pack, take Bynack, back to my pack, and down the southern slope towards the path leading to the Fords of Avon Refuge.
That’s exactly what I did. It gave me a chance to settle into the feeling of 23kg on my back, brush up on my navigation skills, check out some of the terrain in the distance that I’d be hiking in the coming days and try to get a better sense of my pacing.
I got to the top of Bynack More around 8pm and literally as I stood there the weather turned. My great scenic views disappeared as the clouds came in around me, a gentle welcoming from the Cairngorms as I made my way deeper into the mountain range.
On my way back to my bag I spotted the silhouette of another walker on the crest of the hill I was heading for, but by the time I got there whoever it had been was long gone.
The descent was steep, really steep! There were points where I rather unflatteringly chose to slide down on my bottom, the thick heather giving quite a cushioned descent. By the time I reached the path below, 9pm had come and gone, but the sun had not. The website I had looked had obviously given a sunset time for somewhere further south.
On my descent I had spotted someone on the path below so as I approached the Fords of Avon Refuge I started whistling so as not to startle them. Turns out it was a guy called Ben. He was doing a weekend trek, and was most likely the silhouette I’d seen earlier. He was planning on heading over to Ben Avon the next day, camping by a lochan just past it, and walking out on the Sunday. We chatted for a while as I put up my tent, which for some reason didn’t look right. He kindly pointed out that I’d put the outer cover on back-to-front. Cheers Ben! Can’t help but feel that saved me a lot of hassle later.
Gradually darkness descended and by the time I made dinner, ate, cleaned up and settled in I realised in was midnight! Sleep soon followed.
It was planned as a seven day trek through the Scottish Cairngorms to bag all 18 of their Munros. This was going to be my second attempt, but where my last attampt had been in a team of three and in full winter conditions, this time I was doing it solo in July.
The plan was to arrive in Aviemore on Thursday 9th July and begin my ascent from the Base Station of the Cairngorm ski resort. I’d then trek for seven days in which time I’d summit all 18 Munros and walk out on the following Thursday. However as I wasn’t being picked up until the Friday I’d have an additional day on the end just incase I needed it. I’d figure that I’d rather take an extra day and get all 18 than walk away having only got 15 or 16. Therefore that was me set, my route was planned, my bags were packed and my contingency plan was in place.
What I’m going to try and do next is write a collection of posts that walk you through my trip to the Cairngorms, my thoughts at the time, what happened, how it affected me and my state of mind, etc. You’ll be able to find it under the seperate category of ‘The Cairngorms’.