Cairngorm, Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Braeraich,
Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.
A mammoth undertaking by Fraser Smith & Ron Neville
Click on photo for larger image
Let me start by stating that this is not a walk for
the faint hearted. To complete in less that 24 hours you will
need a very good level of fitness and willing drivers to transport
you. You might also find the following to be quite useful -
good weather, a programmed GPS for the night section and a date
as close to the longest day as possible.
- We started at 8pm from the top Cairngorm carpark and to
make life easier on the legs chose to take the boring track
up to the restaurant at the top of the funicular then the
stone set path to the summit. The easy going on this part
of the route will allow relatively fast progress but be careful
not to push too much at this early stage.
- Next it's off across the plateau to Ben Macdui. Navigation
here in thick weather can be very tricky so be careful although
if the path is found and followed there should be no problem.
Lochan Buidhe and the lochan that feeds the March Burn are
about the only noticeable features in this area and you should
be passing between them. Views to the left should include
Loch Etchachan, Shelter Stone Crag, Beinn Meadhoin, Ben Avon
and Beinn a Bhuird.The biggest potential problem on this section
if you do this overnight is the Old
- From the summit of Macdui head NW to descend by the
Allt a' Choire Mhor to the Lairig Ghru - a steep descent
down boulders and slippy grass. Keep a reasonable distance
above the burn to avoid the tricky bits at waterfalls
etc. Cross the Lairig Ghru path and follow the burn
down to cross the North section of the Dee (973 991)
and then head SW (take a line towards a dip high up
on the ridge of Cairn Toul) across lumpy ground to cross
the other half of the Dee at 969 986. Once across, the
way up Cairn Toul is obvious if not a little brutal.
Keeping in a straight line to the right of the crags
above will land you in a suitable position on the ridge
(963 978) to turn south and climb the bouldery shoulder
to the summit.
Click on photo for larger image
- From here descend WSW again following the corrie edge as
it winds its way around An Garbh Choire This is safe in mid
summer but if cornices are present this would be very dangerous.
There are a couple of gullies that cut back into the corrie
edge that would be death traps if the tops were filled with
snow. Following a GPS route across here might save a few valuable
metres compared with following the cliff edge as some of its
projections can be avoided. A final gentle climb will see
you safely landed at the summit of Braeriach.
- A path from here goes first E then NE before finally heading
N down the Sron na Lairige ridge. This path eventually drops
to join the Lairig Ghru path which is followed NNW for a couple
of hundred metres before taking the right branch up and over
to the Chalamain Gap. Once through the jumble of boulders
in the gap a good path is followed (giving great views into
the Northern Corries) to the reindeer enclosure at 983 072
where it doubles back on itself to cross the burn by a foot
bridge before climbing up to the ski access road and the Sugar
Bowl carpark where if you are lucky you will have arranged
you lift to meet you to take you onto your next leg at Lochaber.
- Our estimated time for this leg was 12 hours but we completed
in 10.5 giving us a valuable three quarter hour kip before
our lift arrived early. Not only did Joe provide the lift
but his wife Pam produced a most excellent breakfast at their
caravan near Spean Bridge. Other eating places en route could
be the Little Chef or the Wollen Mill cafe in Spean Bridge
or the Gondola cafe but you would need to check opening times.
- The second leg starts at the carpark at the bottom of the
gondola at 171 774 and follows an horrendously muddy and midgy
path up the fire break below the gondola. After leaving the
trees cross the downhill bike track and branch off to the
right towards the bottom of the chairlift. Here you can head
west towards the viewpoint along a path and follow the ridge
up to the summit or do like we did because the weather was
foul and follow the burn and then the ski tow up towards the
summit plateau then across to the cairn.
- A path leads off south towards the col and then rises through
steep ground to the summit of Aonach Beag. There is little
shelter at either of these tops or in between so if it's bleak
like we had it then lunch will have to wait.
- After returning to the col we chose to make a descending
traverse towards the next col at 187 722 although books suggest
re-ascending Aonach Mor a bit before turning west to descent
the Broad ridge. Whichever way you chose you will imagine
the other way must be better. Be very careful as a slip on
these exposed slopes could have dire consequences. Once down
to the col find the path that starts beside the stone dyke
right on the watershed and follow it up the ridge to the summit
of Carn Mor Dearg - a pleasureable experience after what you
have just experienced
- From Carn Mor Dearg follow the arete around to the broad
shoulder of Ben Nevis and if you are lucky find one of the
paths that wind their way up through the boulders to the summit
plateau where you will probably be met by hoards of people
in their flip flops, shorts and tee shirts. It was so unpleasant
when we arrived that there were only two others there!
- From the summit follow the pony track back down to Achintee
where the Ben Nevis Inn can provide a much deserved meal,
drink and sit and, if your arrangements work, clean clothes
for the journey home.
- Predicted time for this leg was just under eight and a half
hours and we did it in about 10 minutes over that. The descent
from the Aonach Mor/Beag col and the crossing of the Arete
in wet weather required more time than allowed but was compensated
by a rapid ascent of Carn Mor Dearg
- Please let me emphasise again that this is a very
serious undertaking and that you need to be very
fit to get around in under 24 hours. It's well worth trying
the Macdui/Cairn Toul section before hand as I did so that
when you are tackling this section in the dark you will have
some idea of what lays in store. If you alter the timings
then this might not be the case but my thoughts were to take
on the dark section at the beginning rather than the end and
to make it practical to get picked up at a reasonable hour
at the Sugar bowl and to finish early enough to get fed and
watered and drive (or be driven) home afterwards. The route
was planned using GPS
utility and exporting the data to an Excel spreadsheet
to get reasonably accurate timings for each section. The GPS
route file can be found here
but you will need to join the group to access it.
- We undertook this walk as part of the Boots
Across Scotland Munro Challenge. If you haven't heard
of them then have a look at their website (a bit out of date
I'm afraid) and maybe even make a contribution to them to
help them in their endeavours to support mountain rescue teams
Click on photos below
for larger images
Beinn Avon and Beinn
Lairig ghru at dawn
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