View of Braeriach from the Chalamain Gap. Image courtesy of Andrew Last. Some rights reserved.

View of Braeriach from the Chalamain Gap. Image courtesy of Andrew Last. Some rights reserved.

I am now fed up with dehydrated and pasta meals, which means, I think, that I am starting to get accustomed to this expeditionary lifestyle. What is more, my feet and ankles no longer protest at their incarceration in plastic boots; the bruises on my shoulders and hips have diminished. In short, I’m feeling pretty fit and have managed some big days out as a result.


The turning point was day two. I made good progress from the Hutchinson Memorial Hut to Ben Macdui on what was the only pleasant morning (nevermind day) of the expedition: blood red skies, crisp snow and very still. Two choices lay ahead: descend to the Lairig Ghru and Corrour – a short day; or descend and then climb onto Braeriach and cross the big plateau. Time was with me, and so seemed the weather, so the second option it was. The trouble was that halfway to the plateau strong southwesterly winds arrived as well as low cloud. To retreat would mean failure, to carry on require extra reserves of will-power and energy.


The gauntlet had been thrown down.


Mind games required the greatest resolve to overcome – can I trust my navigation and map skills; is there enough daylight left; have I got it in me to make it across; and, whatever you do, keep away from the cornices. After a leg or two of point to point navigation, I settled down and the peaks and bealachs (low points between peaks) came and went. Whilst engrossed in following bearings and keeping check of the distance I was covering, I glanced sideways and to my surprise noticed two other walkers on the plateau. I briefly wondered why they were there and then continued – the thought was probably reciprocated.


One concession I had to make en route was Cairn Toul, also known as Carn an t-Sabhail, ‘the hill of the barn’. After already having made a lot of height gain, this was beyond me physically, and the desire to climb a barn or a barn door after tackling the Lairig Ghru straight on had inevitably waned. So, it was then a case of making my way down to the Corrour hut, past the ominous and looming Devil’s Point, which went without incident.


After six days out now, my only desire is that the weather and conditions return to a more acceptable state of winter. Although you have to take every day as it comes, most will admit that they would take the blue sky days and leave the murky, wet ones. Forecasts are now suggesting  a return of certain amounts of colder airflows, which will fit nicely with a quick foray into the Grey Corries before a first aid course in Glasgow.



Simon is the Morocco Director and an instructor with The Mountain People. He is currently preparing for his Winter Mountain Leader assessment, as chronicled by the ‘Highland Hobo’ series.

Categories: Blog, NGBs, Personal, Simon, Winter
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