Tuesday, 30 August 2011

What fun!

As David had a Bank Holiday weekend and the children were at school, (well, they were until the senior school didn’t open due to a burst pipe…) we had intended an assault on Bynack Mor. When we eventually set off (late, again) the weather was quite interesting. The forecast had been for buffeting winds, showers and low cloud until the afternoon, but we decided to drive down anyway and adjust our plans accordingly.
I could barely see the top of Meall a Bhuachaille as we passed and Bynack was lost, so after a comfort stop at Aviemore (middle age gets you) we consulted the maps and decided on a lower route from the car park NH 985 074 through the ‘Chalamain Gap’ to join the Lairig Ghru, back north to Rothiemurchus Lodge then hot foot it along the north side of Loch Morlich and back up the road to the car.
So, off we went.
SDC12290Looking south from the footbridge
SDC12291And north
There was a lot of faffing during the first part of this walk and very little of it was done by me, apart from a few photographs! David soon stopped to don his Paramo. The couple ahead of us left the path to look through the gate to the reindeer enclosure, returned to the path and went ahead, faffed, then returned to the gate, an elderly couple behind us faffed with waterproofs, then we both faffed with our waterproof trousers. It could be a long day.
On we went, the elderly couple never caught us up. It’s quite a nice, well looked after path and I daresay with less cloud, there would be some lovely views. I felt the drifting cloud and ever changing views added atmosphere and mood.
SDC12293 Couldn’t see a lot behind us at this point
SDC12292 Looking south along a moody Allt Creag an Leth-choin
We wended our merry little way and soon came across a small group of people crossing from the north of Castle Hill and making their way onto our path. Interesting looking route they had taken, but they didn’t pass us so we didn’t get to know why. They were wearing jeans. It was a very pleasant path.
SDC12295 The Chalamain Gap
Looking at the Gap from a distance, I had commented to David that it was difficult to imagine a path through. How prophetic.
SDC12297Meall a Bhuachaille, from the Gap
SDC12300 Still hoping for the path on the map
SDC12301“I think we find our own way.”
As we got closer it became clear this bit was going to be ‘fun’. As we scrambled our way over the boulders I giggled and called to David, “Two years ago, what would I have done?” “Cried, sworn. Turned back.” Very amusing to think that here I was now, relatively happily picking my way round and over these enormous rocks, almost enjoying myself! I say almost, I did, but as you can occasionally catch a glimpse through the gaps in the rocks to the depths, I found it a little unnerving. But fun!
We were eventually overtaken by two ill-equipped young men (no daysack, waterproofs or map…), but the elderly lady behind us was in difficulty and we think the couple turned back. The two young men disappeared ahead only to return shortly after to take the path up Castle Hill. Maybe a map would have helped?
As we made our way through the Gap, we occasionally thought we heard a dog barking. As we passed the foot of Castle Hill we did again. Never saw a dog, so it was a bit odd.
The path continues on and down, eventually meeting with the Lairig Ghru. David was ahead of me at this point and I was a little concerned when he headed south down the path, but when I spotted the large rocks placed neatly by the burn, I realised his sandwiches must have been calling to him from his pack and he’d spotted the *perfect picnic spot. We lunched.
SDC12310Looking south along the Lairig Ghru
We then headed north. The path was a but rocky and muddy at this point, but then improved. Sadly, we opted to leave it soon after to take another rocky, muddy path to the Lodge, but at least once we reached there, we were on good tracks all the way to the road.
Rocky and wet
SDC12315 Better
There were occasional breaks in the cloud, but I wouldn’t have wanted to head south today. There was a distant, but familiar sound as we made our way north, a rescue helicopter hove into view. It tried to head south at first, but they must have realised they couldn’t as it circled round Carn Odhar and came low past us.
SDC12318 Someone needed help
It circled around  by Castle Hill and up the Ghru a few times, but then we didn’t see it again. We hoped they found who they were looking for safely.
The track from the Lodge is straight forward but I had never seen anything like these before.
SDC12319Brightly coloured, plastic bee hives?
It became a bit of a route march from this point as, as usual, we were up against time and as we’d been a shade tardy, again, we were running late for a couple of evening activities. Not to mention trying  to fit in an evening meal. Oops.
It felt a long way on the road up the hill to the car park, but our concerns for the lost someone were heightened when a car drew up along side us and the driver asked us our names. Actually, he asked us three times, I caught it the first time, but because the man was not asking us what David had expected him to (“Would you like a lift?”) he couldn’t comprehend the question. (Age thing again?) The chap had hoped we were the people the Mountain Rescue were looking for who had been heading up Coire an t-Sneachda. Not something I’d have thought wise in the rotten conditions. We couldn’t help as we hadn’t been that way, but we haven’t heard any news. I hope they were safe and well.
All in all, I loved it. Towards the end was hard, because we had to pick up the pace, but yet again, I found myself doing things I would never have done before, or would have found challenging and perhaps even refused to attempt.
As  to my kit, I wore my new Merrells and my new Paramo. The boots were surprising. Despite the odd wet, muddy patch, my feet remained dry and comfortable, however, they were never fully submerged. I suffered no discomfort or hot spots at all, not even on my funny big toes (funny peculiar, not ha ha). I did notice a slight ache in my arch, which I used to always suffer before I invested in my green Superfeet. I am using these in my Merrells, but maybe I need something more in them. However, the ache didn’t last and my feet were fine when we got home. I think maybe my feet need to get used to the souls of these being thinner than my Brashers. They were lighter too and although my right hip grumbled briefly, it settled again. This could have been down to the weight of the boots, perhaps.
The Paramo was great. The weather didn’t rain persistently or heavily, but enough to get one wet, but I wasn’t. It dried quickly in between damp times. I was comfortable at all times (until the route march) with long and short sleeved merino tops on. I think we will be happy together.
Forgot the statistics (age again?)
Roughly 16.8 km 517 m ascent and approximately 4 kph
* Well, it would have been the perfect picnic spot if there hadn’t been the rubbish left behind and just before we left, we discovered somebody had felt the need for the toilet in rather a large way just in the gap between two rocks, a few feet from the burn. Lovely.
Why? I will never, never understand.
SDC12321 I have taken to taking other people’s rubbish home if I have the means to carry it


-maria- said...

Sounds like a good day out. Thanks for the update about your Paramo. It really sounds like something I'd like to try out. How do you like the thickness of the Velez? I think my choice will be either Velez or Velez light.

I agree about the rubbish. It is something I just don't understand - the empty packages are even so much lighter than the full ones, so I guess they would be quite easy to take away?!!

Louise said...

Hi Maria
I thought the Velez would feel too heavy, but actually, it's fine. I think the Light version would be good too and obviously, er, lighter! I find the Velez is remarkably windproof too.

Laura said...

Fine walk! Must do that one myself one day!

Louise said...

Oh it was such fun! Before I got to the Gap, I'd been thinking "I could do this for training!" Not sure how I'd get on with it without TTS, but then, that is probably good training for the Challenge!

Alan Sloman said...

Interesting, about the dog in the Chalamain Gap. I have heard a dog running behind me through there. I didn't mention it at the time to my companion but when we got back to the hotel she asked if I heard a dog behind us...

A bit of subsequent Googling has turned up all sorts of stories about dogs that didn't exist in the Gap...

Louise said...

Er, thanks for that Al. Perhaps I won't be going that way alone in the future after all!