One of my main ambitions for this week (as it had been the previous year) was to ‘do’ Braeriach. On this occasion I was to have an attempt with Tim and Ian.
Ian had sworn me to secrecy the previous evening to restrict the size of the group, and at breakfast I was insisting that I was having a rest day despite having the salopettes and boots on, and having been seen by at least 10 people putting the sac in the car!!!
We didn’t leave as early as we had intended, and this did have a bearing on the rest of the day. Parking up at the Sugarbowl about 0915 we proceeded along the footpath that ultimately leads to the Chalamain Gap. The footpath on this side is rather good, and the sun was out over the northern corries. However I was feeling rather jaded by this point in the week, and did have concerns about my ability to complete this walk, at this point.
The walk in was rather better than the photographs suggest, although with the sun over Cairngorm it spoilt any pictures taken. The gap was both dry and free from snow, and we were soon heartbreakingly descending into the Lairig Ghru.
Crossing the burn we were soon ascending along the long ridge of Sron na Lairig, and before long into the cloud. The wind was ferocious as was the spindrift it created. The speeds were gusting between 40mph and 60mph, and made progress exceedingly difficult. Arriving at the first top on Sron na Lairig at 12:55, I suggested that we should turn around as we would clearly not summit by 13:15, which was the turn around time that I had in mind. It was decided to pursue, and we spent a considerable amount of time cramponing up, immediately after a previous long break in which Ian had donned an extra layer.
Heading over Sron na Lairig we soon found ourselves at the col below Braeriach. With visibility drifting in and out, I knew that we were not too far away, and when it was suggested that we turned around here, it was my vote that decided that we should continue, and I chose to do so as I was now quite happily walking away in crampons, and really felt just that little too close to turn around.
We summitted Braeriach at about 14:00, only knowing that we had done so when we began to descend quite steeply. Reversing we found the cairn, and carefully made our way down, myself more on instinct than the precision of Ian and Tim, but between us we found the route fairly well. Our footprints from ascent had been entirely obliterated by the spindrift.
The spindrift cleared as we descended, but only intermittently, before finally clearing at about 900m. We kept the crampons on far too long, only taking them off when we next paused at the col above the crossing of the Lairig Ghru. The numerous falls on the way contributing to another sore knee!!!! I was concerned by the 20 minutes spent here as I desparately wanted to get through the Chalamain Gap before dark, knowing that there would now be snow in it.
I set a good pace up the hill to the gap, and noted that I felt as fit as I had prior to my 3000s attempt in the summer for the first time since. We cleared the gap whilst it was still in good light, and indeed did not require the head torch to reach the car.
On the Thursday I felt that my right knee was very sore and immediately abandoned my plans to walk every day. I went to Aviemore and then Inverness with Andy Brown, procuring Butterfield’s ‘High Mountains’ a book called ‘The Black Cloud’ which details Scottish mountain accidents and is absolutely fantastic, in addition to a new pair of Marmot ‘Borealis’ gloves. I was delighted to discover that as I have tiny hands I required child size gloves at half the price of the adult’s!!!!
On the friday I also did not walk, and it turned out to be a fabulous day. I regretted this decision, as my knee felt ok after a brisk stroll up the road, but with retrospect it was the right decision. I’m hoping that a couple of weeks rest will allow it to heal sufficiently.