Munro diaries: Cairngorms

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5 minute read

Munro diaries 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

I found an old diary entry detailing a solo trip to Scotland to hike six Munros in the Cairngorms.
Originally written, but never published, on 8th June, 2019.

What’s a Munro?

Let’s lean on Wikipedia for this one:

“A Munro is defined as a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000ft/914m, and which is on the Scottish Mountaineering Club official list of Munros”.

There are 282 Munros across Scotland and I, like many others, am on a mission to bag them all. I’m currently only on 7.

Now that’s cleared up, on to my (now tidied up) diary entry

📔

On the road

Friday 8th June 2019

Drive up after work at 16:15 on Friday. Traffic traffic traffic until out of England. I love driving across the border into Scotland, I instantly love the scenery, open space, and empty roads.

Long drive, after a couple of wrong turns I arrive at Braemar YHA 22:15. Saw a lot of people camping on the way through the Cairngorms so thought I should’ve just wild camped, but YHA is lovely. Maybe next time.

Get settled, a bit of charging things, a bit of planning things. Realise I’ve brought the wrong OS maps with me and the shop is shut now

Bed 23:00.

🗺

Getting started

Great sleep, up 06:30, mess about for a bit, breakfast then set off at 08:00.

The shop’s open now, but I can only buy 1 of the 2 maps I need for the routesure it’ll be fine.

Try to find parking lay-by at the route start point, get lost, find it 3rd time lucky.

Creag Leacach (Krayk Lairkoch), 987m.

Hmm compass not calibrating properlymaybe it’s broken. Might have to rely on technology as well as the proper way. Especially as I have only 50% of the required maps!

Descend down towards a river then follow it along for a bit. Go too far, get back on track then start trekking up a VERY steep hill. Tired after 30 mins - this is going to be tough. Follow a fork in the river uphill, get into my stride charging on upwards.

Have to scramble up a lot of rock, I’m sure this wasn’t in the guidebook! Make it to the top where there’s something resembling a cairn along an old stone wall.

Fly my drone for a bit trying to get some good photos but a bit nervous about the wind.

Creag Leacach summit

Creag Leacach summit

Glas Maol (Glaz Merle), 1068m

Follow the wall down from Creag Leacach. I see other people for the first timeshame.

No, they’re friendly, everyone in Scotland is friendly! Up a gradual incline to the top - a big display of cairns and a trig point. This ended up being my favourite peak of the route.

Stuck my GoPro in the trig point for some photos, started spitting with rain though. Have a look around to see the next one ahead of me, regret not bringing my binoculars from the car, and set off.

Glas Maol summit

Glas Maol summit

Cairn of Claise (Karn uh Clash), 1064m

I can see it! I’m getting into this. There are still people following me though. Head down and off-track for a bit then pick up an old road. Follow it up to a wall and follow the wall up to the summit of Cairn of Claise.

Easy, so far.

Cairn of Claise summit

Cairn of Claise summit

I stay around here for a while as it’s another high point on the route. You can see the next few peaks from here, sort of. Few snacks then off before anyone can catch me up.

Apparently, the next one is hard to spot, hard to navigate to, and I don’t have the appropriate map so we’ll see how this goes. I think I know where I’m going

Mountain view

I’m enjoying the views

Tom Buidhe (Tom Booyer), 957m

Going off the map nowshould be fine.

I get lost immediately.

I know the grid reference of the summit so I get the OS Locate app open on my watch. Technology’s great. I’m only about 100m East and 300m North off course. Should be fine.

People are following me about half a km behind, they obviously don’t know I’m lost.

Keep on track towards the grid ref. Go through lots of peaty bogs, loads of funget on to an old road and follow it along until I get to a clear path to the summit. It’s a hard slog and it’s just started raining.

Get to the top to see a less than impressive cairn (the guide book even said it’s not the greatest of hills). The couple and their dog catch up with me and are also less than impressed! Their dog seems happy enough.

Tom Buidhe summit

Tom Buidhe summit

Tolmount, 958m

I shoot off down the hill, off-piste again because I reckon I know a quicker way up to the next one. I don’t fancy retracing my steps all the way down Tom Buidhe to the real path, so I quickly scramble down the North face, hop over a river and head up the extremely steep South face of Tolmount. Worth it as I get to the top ahead of schedule.

Decide to chill out for 5 mins in what looks like an unfinished hut. Have a lie-down and try to fly my drone around. It gets taken off by the wind so I end up chasing it and performing an emergency landing! Time to move on.

Carn an Tuirc (Karn ern Toork), 1019m

A long slog to this one. Not totally sure where I’m going as I’ve not been paying that much attention since I’ve been back on the map. Just keep heading upwards I suppose.

I head towards the grid reference I know, so go along the ridge until it gets rocky. Hit a wall and know where I am. Scramble up to the first fake cairn, then onwards to the real one! There are a few actually. Have a rest and take photos with all of them, just in case.

Massive, absolutely beautiful panoramic view. I can (almost) see my car from here! Not really, it’s so far away.

That’s the Munros for the day done! Now for the long road home.

🚶🏼

On the road, again

This is going to be boring. I need to get back on to the road (approx 3km/40 min hike), then walk 5km to my car.

Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I put the book and map away and scramble down a sheer rock face. Sketchy. Sit down on the rocks and fly the drone for a bit. Not much to see but rocks though.

Descend into the valley, cross a river then realise that my plan to follow it to the road will still take me out of the way. Go uphill instead and try to get to the road as the crow flies. Uphill a lot again. Drag myself to the road and still have 3km to walk.

🚷

Stop at the ski centre for a coffee and cola, set off on the long walk back. Thumbing for a lift, but cars aren’t allowed to stop on this part of the road, so no-one does, of course.

Finally get to the car, faff around trying to find where in my bag I put my keys as it starts to rain. Get in the car and head back to the hostel, just as the heavens open.

Thanks for reading! 👋🏻
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