Fourteen hardy Stockets climbed aboard Gordon’s Luxury Coach at Mile End School early on Saturday morning. Silvester did an excellent job of tearing around the top of the Cairngorms but even so it was more than three hours after leaving Aberdeen that we rolled past turf-roofed houses in Glen Feshie and were deposited at the end of the road.
Unusually the Munroists had a shorter route and so we bid farewell to the Glen Dwellers, led by Steve who disappeared off in what appeared to be the wrong direction. They were actually heading further south down Glen Feshie to pick up a Glen that would eventually bring them through to Whitebridge. Apparently it was a lovely walk with spectacular landscapes, marred slightly by the onset of blisters for one unlucky trekker.
Meanwhile, the Munroists were heading up on a good track around the lower slopes of xxx before finally gaining the plateau by way of a steep slog up an eroded path. Initially sun had driven off the layers but by the time the plateau was reached most people were back on with midlayers and waterproofs against a wind that was driving cloud, rain-like into our faces.
Without a dedicated leader the task of navigating was shared amongst the company. Maps were consulted regularly in the mist and very often when a path ran out we were referring to our compasses. In unpleasant conditions we identified a suitable spot on the map for lunch, and after a rapid descent down a landrover track we found it by a gushing burn.
Lunch was a relatively brief affair and we were soon crossing over and heather-bashing our way up the other side, making our way for the top of Tom Dubh and Liz’s prime objective of the day. Premature celebrations occurred when I found a small mist-shrouded cairn but the group’s opinion was that given the subsequent rise in the ground beyond me I was not yet at the top. A few minutes later a much more substantial cairn was found and with a little help from multiple GPS units, our position was identified as on top of Tom Dubh. In the mist it could just as easily have been Tom Buidhe.
Coming off this seemingly innocent and insignificant top we came across the great obstacle of the day, the Allt Luineag, which came down a steep sided, almost straight gully. With the water high and fast it posed something of a puzzle and only some brave venturing forth with poles took the first person across the rocks to the other side. Three intrepid folk headed further upstream to try their luck and successfully reappeared a few minutes later.
With regrouping achieved again compasses were taken out and by reading the countours we found our way across another spot height and then on to the final slope of Monadh Mor, a steep grassy slope with occasional rocky patches. The summit was soon achieved after only a little discussion of the slope of the plateau. It was still very misty so after brief discussions we again split, three headed by Liz seeking a different way off the plateau by way of Glen Geusachan, and the remaining heading now southeast along the broad summit towards Beinn Bhrotain.
Using the crags as a handrail we navigated our way across the narrow col and then up the final bouldery slopes to the Bhrotain plateau. In thick mist we regrouped and discussed the probable location of the summit. 10s after heading off in our chosen direction we found the trig point.
The potential for compass treachery and moving of trig points was discussed before photos were taken and a last intake of energy. After refreshments we continued, taking a south-easterly bearing and descending down into Coire an t-Sneachda. Eventually the burn in the coire became more of a stream and we were able to follow it as it tumbled off the hill and into the River Dee.
As we came off the hill the views opened out and we had atmospheric views deep into Glen Dee and the feet of some of the Cairngorm giants.
After a final stop to shed layers we trooped off down the track by the river, catching up walkers from the low group shortly after passing White Bridge. The coach was found at the Linn of Dee and then we had a wee wait for the folk who had avoided the summit of Bhrotain.
Our attempt to stop at the Inver was foiled so we continued onto the POW in Ballater where a more obliging bar attendent served tea to those who wanted it and beer to the sensible folk.
A much shorter coach ride back got us to Aberdeen for 9:30pm. A long but ultimately rewarding day.