Creag Ruadh (24.6 km, 866 m)
A’ Chaoirnich, An Dùn + Carn na Caim (20.6 km, 1105 m)
Dalwhinnie – Creag Ruadh – Allt a’ Chaoirnich
24.6 km/866 m/08:30 hrs
Graham: Creag Ruadh (No. 17)
After reading several trip reports about the two Gaick Corbetts, and seeing photos of the impressive steep-sided hills around Gaick Lodge, I had been wanting to visit the area since the beginning of the year. But with the snow lying until well into spring, I had never got round to climbing those hills before the TGO Challenge.
The weather at the beginning of July was warm and sunny, so this was a perfect occasion to do this long-awaited walk. Unfortunately, it involved a long section of walking along the A9, and I’d rather got this out of the way at the start of the walk instead of at the end.
I parked in the lay-by about a kilometre S of the turnoff to Dalwhinnie, and walked first along the cycle path, then on the grass verge beside the main road. After about 40 minutes I could climb over a banister down to the track running along the Aqueduct.
This track leads all the way to Loch Cuaich, but I left it about a km before the loch, crossed the Allt Cuaich and a deer fence, and headed up the hillside to make the short detour to the summit of the Graham Creag Ruadh.
View back along the track to Dalwhinnie and Loch Ericht, Ben Alder just visible in the haze in the centre of the photo.
On the summit it was very windy, and after a short break in the shelter I quickly made my way down again.
I passed the (private and locked) bothy and followed the track into Coire Chuaich.
This track ends at the bealach between Meall Chuaich and Bogha-cloiche, and continues as a steep path up the heather-covered hillside.
In the meantime, the weather had started to deteriorate, and I sat down for a break overlooking Coire Chuaich, taking advantage of what would probably be the last sheltered place before I reached the exposed plateau.
Meall Chuaich – it looks perfectly doable to climb this Munro first and then descend to the bealach (a variation that came to my mind for a future Challenge route…).
The terrain on the plateau mainly consists of peat hags and boggy ground.
It’s easier going along the grassy banks of the contributary streams of the Allt Cùil, but I couldn’t follow them for too long as I didn’t want to lose too much height.
By the time I had to turn E towards the top of Sgòr Dearg, it had become very windy and cold.
Sròn Bhùirich and Loch Bhrodainn.
Steep-sided Coire Bhrodainn.
Loch Bhrodainn, with A’ Chaoirnich on the right.
When I first reached the E face of Sgòr Dearg, I was wondering how I was supposed to get down there, but after a bit of wandering about I found the steep, eroded path.
Looking into the valley of the Allt Gharbh Ghaig.
Loch an t-Seilich.
View back along the Dubh Brodainn to Gaick Lodge.
I had planned to walk over the first of the Corbetts today and camp by Sronphadruig Lodge, but it was getting late and I felt I didn’t have the energy for that, so I decided to camp on the sheltered northern slopes of A’ Chaoirnich.
It was a bit of a struggle to find a large enough area of flat, dry ground for my tent, but eventually I found a suitable pitch above the Allt a’ Chaoirnich.
Allt a’ Chaoirnich – A’ Chaoirnich – An Dùn – Carn na Caim – Dalwhinnie
20.6 km/1105 m/09:00 hrs
Corbetts: A’ Chaoirnich + An Dùn (Nos. 57 + 58)
Munro: Carn na Caim
I was ready to go just before 08:00 and headed directly up the grassy spur of Lùb Bhàn.
The last section is quite steep and it felt like hard work, as it was already very warm in the morning sun, with no breeze at all.
But the views back to the Gaick Forest were absolutely stunning and well worth the effort 🙂
The tiny summit cairn of A’ Chaoirnich, and Schiehallion on the skyline left of centre.
The Cairngorms in the NE: Sgòr Gaoith, Braeriach, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul.
From the summit I had seen a larger cairn at spot height 867 m, and walked over to it, hoping to get a better view to the S from there.
The views were not much different, as the plateau is so wide, and so I made my way down along the S ridge towards the bealach above Sronphadruig Lodge.
My next target, An Dùn.
Down by the river I met Rohan, who had cycled in from Dalnacardoch to climb the two Corbetts in an anti-clockwise circuit. It turned out that we were both members of the Walkhighlands website, and we had an interesting chat for about half an hour.
When she left to make her way up A’ Chaoirnich, I had a look around Sronphadruig Lodge. Sadly, the whole area is fenced off and the bothy can’t be used.
After an early lunch break in the shadow of some trees by the river, I walked along the track towards An Dùn.
Instead of fording the river twice, I stayed on the E bank where a slightly boggy path leads to the foot of the hill.
Looking back to Sronphadruig Lodge.
The path improves and continues along Loch an Dùin and towards Gaick Lodge.
I left the path and climbed up the hillside on a mixture of grass and heather. Higher up I even came across traces of another path that made the going a lot easier.
Loch an Dùin.
View S along the Edendon Water.
An Dùn summit cairn.
The N end of Loch an Dùin.
I descended in a W direction to the boggy bealach between An Dùn and Meallan Buidhe,
The ascent to Meallan Buidhe was a bit unpleasant: It was very hot by now, and with every step through the knee-deep heather, swarms of horse flies flew up and landed on me.
It got better when I reached the plateau, here the terrain becomes grassy/boggy again, but at least there were no horse flies around.
On the approach to Carn na Caim, I suddenly noticed four paragliders above me.
Carn na Caim summit cairn.
The first time I climbed this Munro was on a very dull day in October 2011, so it was nice to get some views this time.
Yesterday’s hill Creag Ruadh (which looks really tiny from here) and Meall Chuaich.
The descent from the summit is easy on a grassy track at first, and then on a Landrover track all the way down to the A9, with good views across to the Ben Alder hills.
On the way back I made a short detour to Dalwhinnie to check out the restaurant/grill “The Tollhouse” and the adjacent bunkhouse (during my walk I had come up with the idea to include part of it in a future TGO Challenge route).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t have a meal there as the restaurant was closed, but I was able speak to the managers who explained that they were running on reduced hours at the moment because Ron, the owner, is waiting for an operation on his hip. They let me look at the menu which appears to be very good value for money, and assured me that the business should be back to normal in May next year.