It is not the most pleasant of feelings in the morning as I was to find out. I woke up to a spray of frost on my face. I had inadvertently banged the side of the tent and it had come showering down on me. It was 6.45am. I unzipped the opening to the tent. I could not see a cloud in the sky. The grass around the tent was white with frost and my breakfast was frozen!
I lay back a while snuggled in my sleeping bag looking at the sky, slowly coming around and pondering my quandary. I had not expected it to be quite so cold [the car registered – 7.5oC] nor to be faced with frozen food. There was nothing for it for the moment but to delay eating and to disassemble the tent and pack up. I shook as much of the frost off the tent as I could and carried my gear to my nearby car. The tent could dry in the back of the car.
I drove to the Linn of Dee car park to sort myself out for the day ahead and to scavenge some food. I was off by 7.55am cycling west out of the car park, past the barrier by the road and onto the track along the north side of the Dee, by some woodland and noting the traces of former settlements.
Fingers were numb and my face flush with the breeze rushing by. The track’s surface was better than I remembered it. But it had been many years since I had gone this way. Too long probably.
What a day!
I reached White Bridge in twenty minutes and stopped for a drink and to marvel at the blueness of the sky.
An Sgarsoch is visible in the distance.
Here the way splits but I carried on along the vehicle track. In another two kilometres of level going the Red House is reached. It is 8.40am.
Again there is a split in the track. To the south it goes Tarff way by the ruins of Bynack Lodge. I continued west. The track gains some height but the gradients are straightforward. The side streams were crossed easily and I reached the Geldie Burn in 90 minutes from the start, dumping my bike before rock hopping across the water dryshod. Here I had another food stop.
Here, of course, is Geldie Lodge where some crude shelter might be found (though the NTS has signs warning about the dangerous nature of the structures) and there are good spots for camping. The ruins of the Lodge are nonetheless swamped by the wilderness.
Even on as fine a day as this there is a certain quality to the landscape, a sense of desolation emphasised by the ruins – as if nature is telling us of the futility of trying to maintain a human presence here.
A path leads off from behind the ruins tracking further west. I followed this. I felt jaded after the exertions of the previous day. But there was no hurry and I ambled along. An Sgarsoch rose to the left and I would tackle this later.
The path continues to the Allt a’Chaorainn, in other words further than is shown on the Ordnance Survey maps. As it started to go down hill with the stream I left it. That was probably a slight mistake because I understand that there is a path of sorts that continues to the west across the bogs towards Car Ealar. However, after a short dry spell and with the bogs largely frozen the way was easy enough. Animal tracks could be followed from time to time. I aimed to the right of the streams coming off the flank of Carn Ealar.
Beinn a’Ghlo loomed to the south.
Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain to the north.
Grass and bog gave way to heather and rock. Ahead I saw someone but he/she was moving fast and I never caught up. I reached the summit of Carn Ealar at around 12.15pm. The views were expansive.
There was a chill wind and I did not stay long. There is no shelter on this summit. Three chaps were approaching from An Sgarsoch. We stopped and spoke for 5 minutes or so. They had spent the previous night at the Tarff bothy and one of them was going to make for Carn a’Chlamain that same day laden with a heavy pack. The route bypasses point 906m to its east. There was some tricky lingering snow to navigate, too soft to gain certain purchase. But this was safely slithered through and a disconcerting loss of height achieved down to the col at 710m.
Here I had a lengthy lunch stop before tackling the 300m of ascent to An Sgarsoch. There is a path if you can find it. Carn Ealar looks rather undistinguished from this angle.
I reached the fine cairn and shelter of An Sgarsoch at 2.15pm. Again the views are expansive.
Here I spoke briefly to another solo walker who had come up from Glen Feshie. Clouds were gathering to the west. I did not take the WH route off An Sgarsoch. Instead I went east for almost a kilometre and then north down the ridge that starts from between the summit and point 954m aiming for the Allt Coire an-t Seilich. The way is easy even where the ridge drops more steeply. There were then a couple of kilometres of moorland to cross but keeping to the riverside generally made for faster progress.
By 3.30pm I was approaching the Geldie Burn and a soaking.
But the rain soon blew by. With the wind behind me the ride back to Linn of Dee took about 50 minutes so I was back at the car by 4.30pm. I felt privileged to have had such a fine day, especially at this time of the year.
[This blog was first posted on WH here http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=20044]