The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

A Wild Camp in the Cairngorms

Tags: munro Slug: a-wild-camp-in-the-cairngorms Author: Nick Bramhall

Distance: 37.15 km
Ascent: 1390 m
Time: 8hrs 10mins (excluding the camping bit!)
Munros: The Devil's Point, Cairn Toul, The Angel's Peak
Weather: Day 1, clear and warm, Day 2, early sunshine, cloud above 1100m, late warm and humid
Route: View on OS Maps

At half-past six in the evening and with a boot full of gear I headed out of Aberdeen towards the sunny west. There were clouds about but the sun was shining and the air was warm as I drove through Braemar and out along the road to the Linn of Dee. The sunshine over the Dee was beautiful.

At just on 8:15pm I was booted up and heading into the woods away from the car park. It was my latest start for a hike but there was still plenty of light and I decided I could walk for about two hours before I would need to start looking about for a place to pitch the tent. This was going to be my first wild camp so I wanted to ensure I had sufficient light to get my tent sorted.

The walk along the Derry Road beside the quiet Lui Water was beautiful. The cloud formations were fantastic and at one point I was treated to a brief sundog. At Derry there was plenty of activity: tents, bikes, camp fires, football games, laughter and shouting. It was a busy place with various camps set up around the river and trees.

After Derry I followed the right of way around to Luibeg where I encountered more campers. After getting a brief toe-wetting at the Luibeg steps (to save the detour around to the bridge) I did my only serious ascent of the day, up and around the south shoulder of Carn a' Mhaim.

As I rounded the corner the Devil's Point came into view, and then behind it the bulk of Cairn Toul. The sky was now darkening as my watch showed the hour ticking over. It was 10pm.

I dropped into the Lairig Ghru and then, as the track headed towards the branch off to Corrour, headed down towards the River Dee to find a site for my tent. On a small flattened knoll, covered in sparse heather I found my spot. It was just up slope from the river but was flat and relatively rock free.

I got to work pitching the tent. Despite it being a while since I had practiced it went up smoothly and soon I had all the various tapes and cords and guys secured. The pitch wasn't perfect but with a calm evening ahead I didn't anticipate any problems.

Whilst setting up the tent the midgies had found me but a cooling breeze got up and drove them away. I set my stove up and made myself a nice hot cup of hot chocolate. With this in hand I watched the light change as the sun sank somewhere beyond Braeriach.

For my first night under canvas in a long, long time I slept fairly well, only waking up a couple of times during the night. Each time I had a peek out of the tent, first seeing the full moon had risen, and later that the north had maintained its cloudy state.

At 4:30am I finally got up to enjoy the still dawn. The glen was in the shade whilst the mountain tops were beginning to catch the first rays. I wanted to make the most of the clear weather so broke camp and was soon heading along the track to the Corrour branch. A rainbow appeared behind the Devil's Point and a brief shower passed across the glen.

I headed towards the bothy, crossing the Dee via the metal footbridge. A single tent was outside the bothy but all was quiet. The path continued up into Coire Odhar. With my full pack on I was glad of the good track which rose in a series of zig-zags besides the chattering burn. Behind me the Lairig Ghru was beginning to fill with a suffused light.

At the bealach I dropped my bag behind a tussock and then, with a spring in my lightened step, headed up to the summit of the Devil's Point. I reached the summit of the day's first Munro just before 6am and had the pleasure of watching the sun light up the surrounding scenery. It was still and beautiful and definitely worth the hassle of lugging a tent around.

I picked out Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor above Glen Geusachan. To the south along the line of the Tarf was Beinn a'Ghlo. North I could see along the high ridge to Cairn Toul and away east the sun was rising over Carn a' Mhaim and Ben Macdui. It was simply stunning.

After this refreshing wake-up I returned to the bealach and then continued on the track to Cairn Toul. Unfortunately cloud had swept in from the west and soon I was in the mist, picking my way up a boulder field to the subsidiary top. It was then a case of following the ridge around the lip of a coire and ascending the final slope up to Cairn Toul's misty cairn.

There were no views so I continued on, dropping off Cairn Toul to the col and then ascending the Angel's Peak. As I dropped back down to around 1100m I came out of the mist and got a view of Lochan Uaine and the Lairig Ghru beyond.

Once at the summit of the Angel's Peak, my third Munro of the day, I was once again in the mist. I explored the mountain's north-east ridge and then sat about munching on a cereal bar and enjoying the silence and solemnity.

I returned to the bealach below the Devil's Point by a more direct route, contouring below Cairn Toul and then dropping more directly from its southern top.

After picking up my bag I dropped down by my route of ascent and once again joined the Lairig Ghru route for the walk out.

The long road out was a re-run of the previous evenings walk (the misty weather didn't make me want to take the longer Whitebridge route out) but was livened up by walking with the Stocket Hillwalking Club who had done the entire Lairig Ghru over from Coylumbirdge. There were also plenty of other groups of people heading into the Cairngorms, some with massive packs.

Back at the Linn of Dee there was a barbeque with the Stockets and then a quick drive back to Aberdeen for a good night's sleep.