Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Devil has his day.......

The weather forecast told us of high winds on the summits, gusting up to 70mph over the coming days; the morning was warm and the sky gave us sun and white cloud. We decided we'd run from near the ski station out to the Pools of Dee and look to climb to the Devils Point and run the ridge toward Sgor an Lochain Uaine (Angels Peak) at 1258m. When I'd seen the ridge a few days prior it was too good to miss in the conditions we were having conditions.

Given the forecast we packed a few more bits of kit, warm tops and waterproof and extra food in case the trip was hampered by slow going in the wind.

Our hitching spot proved lucky for us again; in 5 minutes we were heading up the road toward the Glenmore Forest and getting some good knowledge from a pair of local mountain bikers who told us that the route through the Chalamain Gap was tricky as it was marred by large boulders and it might be best to summit Creag Chalamain then drop over to the main path.

Out of the car and down the forest path to the start of the Chalamain route; the wind we felt as soon as the ground opened out, blowing down the valley making it a little hard as we picked our way across the pathway, at least the sun was out. Soon it was decision time, should we summit the path as suggested or stay low and use the shelter of "Lurcher Crag" on our right and Creag Chalamain on the other side to keep us from wind or run high and be in the wind? It seemed an easy choice, we pushed up the gap and hit the boulder field - a good 400m of large fallen boulders needed careful footing as the gaps and drops between some would've been tough to pull out of. The wind seemed more persistent and I pulled on a long sleeve top as I needed to slow my pace to wait for Jude to catch.

At the top of the boulder field we nipped over a small col and made a good decent on fast peaty ground down into the valley at Lairig Ghru; checking the map we decided that we'd follow the valley toward the Pools of Dee and then head down toward the Devils Point and make the climb up and run back of the ridge. The going was getting slower as the wind picked up; by now we had high crags each side of us, the rock shining wet almost mirror like in the sun which broke beams through the silver and increasingly leaden clouds.

Ahead looked attractive ground, the elevation rising gradually to the col at the valley top which would give us the run down to our climb. The running proved different though.

As we picked our way across well trodden paths making good progress we were soon slowed by more rocky terrain, I tip toed quickly in parts and took shelter behind large boulders to hide from the wind and to await Judes arrival. It felt like the ambition of the ridge was too much in the unfolding conditions; looking at the clag on the tops and speed at which it was moving the forecast of high winds and gusts had seemingly been right.

As we ran further up the valley we soon saw the Pools of Dee - a series of small pools cum Lochs perhaps and it was here we decided we needed to find some shelter from the wind that was running down the valley toward us tripping the heat off us. We found a stone shelter and climbed in; getting more gear on and now full body cover as the rain was starting to fall more persistently than the previous short showers. In talking about what to do, even I was doubting that it would be wise to progress over the Col into the valley beyond for the Devils Point - it would mean running into the headwind, getting colder without much prospect of a climb up to the ridge due to the wind speed - which was racing.

We agreed to retreat down the valley and once we'd had a bit of food off we set with the wind from Devils Point on our backs. The pace down was good, the path seeming different somehow to the run out - the wind helped us down and soon we were at the river crossing with the path over right toward the boulder field of Chalamain Gap. A route check showed we had options on running straight down the valley and through the woods to Rothiemurchas Lodge and then a path down to Loch Morlich. Our progress was quick and the wind abated to leave us warming in the sun as all seemed calmer down here a few hundred metres.

Once at the Lodge, we picked up a service road which was relentless as it twisted through the forest. The sun had now replaced the driving wind and we were back in our summer kit! What a difference a short distance and descent brings.

It was a long slog along the forest road, the white hardcore was unforgiving but soon we cut through trees to the edge of Loch Morlich - a welcome on what was here by the shore a warm late summer afternoon.

Well, the Devil had made his point perhaps further up the valley to us - but I'm confident we'll be back there and will traverse the ridge to the Angels Peak and beyond.

A testing day, full of scenery and consideration for the place and it's elements.

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