A great weekend Saturday 8th to Monday 10th December 2018 parking at Linn of Dee car park, walking into and staying at Bob Scotts and Corrour bothies, with a winter ascent of Cairn Toul in the Cairngorm mountains.
Ok, so we had arranged to meet at Linn of Dee for the walk in to Bob Scotts bothy on Saturday 8th of December 2018. Alan, Martin Rob and Mark were driving up from Wales for this meet up and expected to arrive at Linn of Dee at around 1330hrs. Driving from Perth, it would only take me 1hr and 30 minutes and so I had a leisurely morning packing kit before heading of around 1130hrs. I made haste and stopped and Glenshee ski center cafe for some hot soup and coffee, my last hot food for the next three days.
After my hot food I decided to split my 10kgs of coal into two 5kg tesco bags for ease of carrying the coal into the first bothy. As I was completing this task the Welsh boyos turned up. So it didn’t take long to get to the car park and after a short delay we were soon on our way into the forest in the direction of Bob Scotts bothy.
Now in addition to the 10kg coal I had a guitar, crampons , ice axe, food for three days, cans of alcohol and whisky so it was pretty much a heavy load I was carrying, something in the region of 35kgs (half my body weight). It was approximately 5km to the bothy on a reasonably flat track so I didn’t hang about. It took me under the hour to get to the bothy and it was a relief to drop the pack inside. The lads soon turned up and we got settled for a good night, starting a fire, lighting candles, telling stories and eventually playing and singing some songs. Mark displayed his talents as an impromptu drummer drumming on anything that was near to hand. How we laughed hahaha. Two other lads turned up and joined in the fun.
It was late into the night when we all retired to bed having a very broken sleep due to the snoring and other noises that go with a bothy full of men.
So Sunday morning approached faster than was expected. We were all up at 0630 and left the bothy for the 8km walk into the Lairig Ghru and Corour bothy. There was a couple of river crossing on good bridges, the second involving a 1km detour over the Luibeg bridge but this saved us getting wet feet on the walk in. Well actually that was not true, I had my summer boots on for the walk in and due to the weather, slush and melt water covered the path so getting wet feet for me was inevitable. I had my winter boots in my backpack and they were specifically taken in for the coming winter ascent of Cairn Toul. the 5th highest mountain in the UK. I made short work of the walk to Corrour bothy arriving in good time and setting up my sleeping arrangements for the night. The guys arrived not long after. Alan was now intent on checking out the other bothy in Gharb Coire whilst the other four of us headed into the hillside for the ascent to Cairn Toul.
Mark was leading the way ascending the 300m or so up to the beallach below the devils point, but I soon found my self taking charge and leading the way. Once we got to the beallach at an altitude of 900ft we donned goggles due to the strong North Westerly wind that was blowing down the mountain. I explained to Mark the route we would be taking following the snow covered rocky ridge around Coire Odhar and ascending then directly to the top of Coire and T Saigdeir at a height of 1213m. There was plenty snow on the ground, some of it soft but as we ascended ice patches started to appear and we stopped to don crampons. I was then leading kicking holes in the snow and ice as we steadily made our way to the spot height at 1213 metres. It was now a small descent of 40 metres then 150 metres of ascent to the clagged in summit of Cairn Toul at a height of 1291 metres. I had to make sure we skirted the corrie keeping far enough away from the corniced edge of the hillside. It didnt take long to ascent the final climb and we arrived at the summit almost three hours from setting off. In summer this would have taken half the time. There were no views and the wind was quite strong and cold. So with no further ado it was time to head back to the bothy.
I strode out and kept checking that the guys were ok behind me. It only took an hour or so to get back to the bothy. That was an excellent climb and a good workout.
6 more individuals came into the bothy. There were two perhaps French or Danish guys that set up a tent outside and four other chaps, Dom and Chris (brothers) and Rob and Dave. As the night progressed stories were told and songs were sung to a blazing fire which burned all night. It was an excellent evening and like sardines in a tin we eventually settled down for the night. Morning came all too quickly. I wast hanging about and as soon as I had my breakfast I was on my way to walk the 13km back to the car at Linn of Dee. I had my winter boots on and set off at a pace. I had walked about 1km when I realized I had left my jacket in the bothy so a revisit was required hahaha. Now I was behind time so I flew across the land crossing both rivers by wading through the cold deep water. I had decided during the walk out that I was not going to go to the Luibeg bridge and instead headed directly down to the ford. The water was not too fast and was deep for only a couple of steps. As I arrived nearer the mountain rescue hut and Derry Lodge I inadvertently followed the Argo tracks to the ford in front of the hut instead of the boggy track to the bridge. So I just waded across. When I got to Derry lodge I swapped my winter boots for my now dry summer boots (dried on the fire last night) and hoofed the last 5km very quickly to the car.
I again stopped at the ski center for soup and coffee.
What an awesome weekend with friends old and new.
The Route (we didnt do Sgor an Lochain Uaine on this walk)
A bothy rendition of my “Munro Bagger” song captured by Alan Bellis and Rob Petit.
Video by Alan Bellis aka Mountainstar