An Sgarsoch Two – Long Day With Unexpected Company

2 07 2011

Tue 14 June 2011


Glen Dee near Braemar

As it was a lovely day and I still had two very remote Munros to do in the Braemar area, I decided I had to go for them. I loaded the little fold-up bike into the Polo’s boot and arrived at Linn O’ Dee just after 0900. In less than ten minutes I was saddled up, the bike was assembled and I was on my way along the track to White Bridge and beyond. Unfortunately, the only bad thing about the weather was that it was very windy – and the wind was against me pretty much for the whole 8 miles to the river crossing near the Geldie Ruin. Shortly after setting off from the carpark I could see an Sgarsoch – it looked a very long way – and that is the nearer of the two!

In parts the path was very rough and the bike bucked me off a few times but I luckily always landed on my feet. I found one awkward side burn crossing and I went across on the abundant stepping stones but had to drag the bike across. Suddenly the bike made a dive for the burn and I ended up falling off the stones into the water – luckily only my feet though – I was also lucky that the water didn’t come over my boot tops, it wouldn’t do to have wet feet at this early stage in the day! As soon as I’d finished manhandling the bike across the burn, I looked to my right and saw there had been a slight diversion to a wooden bridge. Wouldn’t be so bad but I’d noticed a bridge as I approached – just didn’t notice exactly where it was and had forgotten about it by the time I came to the burn crossing.


Riding into nowhere!

I managed to get within about a mile of the river crossing before Geldie Ruin but then met another side burn, if anything deeper than the last. I checked this time for the presence of a bridge but there wasn’t one so I decided this was the end of the road for the battered little bike. I couldn’t find anywhere to really get the bike out of sight so just collapsed it as much as I could and cabled it up. I thought it was fairly out of sight but a couple I met much later in the day said they’d seen it. I was quite glad to give up the battle against the wind on the bike and just set off walking, but I knew I’d be glad of the bike at the end of the day.


My two Objectives – An Sgarsoch (L) and Carn an Fhidleir (R)


An Sgarsoch and Geldie Ruin

I set off walking briskly for the ruin and soon came to the crossing over the Geldie Burn. The water was well down (unlike further west in Scotland) and the stepping stones were very easy to cross. There was a second burn soon after but that was even easier. I noticed a tent and two mountain bikes outside the ruin but assumed the folk from them would be long gone by now as it was 1045. At the ruin I noticed there is a wooden shelter which would be great if you really felt you couldn’t make it back – I didn’t know there was any shelter at the ruin, I’d always been led to believe there was none.

I didn’t linger at the ruin but strode on along the beautifully made stony path (I later heard the National Trust for Scotland had made it). The new path looked much better than the original landrover track which looked to disappear regularly into bogs and spent a lot more time going up and down. I made great progress and reversed my plans, deciding to do the further Munro of Carn an Fhidhleir first – that way I would then feel I was homeward bound as I set off for the second Munro.

The path ended after about three miles, as I knew it would, but I noticed a small cairn and went to investigate. There was a small walker’s path setting off along the bogs and peat hags and headed towards Fhidhleir – I hoped it would continue all the way to the foot of the hill – luckily it did. I’d wavered about which line to take up Fhidhleir but in the end, both the path and myself thought it was best just to make a beeline up the very steep slope for the summit. Partway up, I lost the path and ended up clambering steeply up a lot of boulders but eventually it was just steep grass again. The climb was absolutely exhausting – especially as I was by now out of the wind and in full sun. My chest started to get a bit wheezy and crackly but I just kept plodding on.

Eventually, the climb eased off considerably as I reached the edge of the summit plateau and I re-found the path. There was quite a bit still to go but the gradient was now easy – I was still exhausted though. I staggered towards the distant cairn and thought I could see a bird sat atop it. As I got a bit nearer, I could see it wasn’t a bird at all but someone with their head turned to the side and wearing a baseball cap. Ah, a person! A fellow walker! I was delighted – I always like to meet other people in the hills. I found a lady under the baseball cap and she was equally surprised and pleased to see me. Even more fortuitously, we were both headed the same way so we decided to walk together – and very pleasant company she was too.


Isabel way ahead for a while

We gabbed away as we descended the long south ridge of Fhidhleir while we peered at An Sgarsoch to see if we could see a track heading up it. The first two-thirds of the hill was heather so we were really hoping for a path. Unfortuately we couldn’t see one until high up on the shoulder of the hill where there was a very clear one heading for the summit through the heather. Oh well…

The path we were on didn’t seem to want to descend to the boggy col so we just abandoned it and headed straight down. As we reached the bottom, we still couldn’t see any sign of a path so had to just start off ploughing up the steep heather. Partway up, I looked back and could see a couple of people on the shoulder of Fhidhleir.

About half-way up the slope we eventually found the path which eased our progress – psychologically it certainly made us feel much better too. It was a long, hard and again, hot pull up the slope so we had frequent short rests. The climb seemed to go on forever. Eventually we reached a high shoulder and the heather abated leaving an easier grassy climb to the summit. The summit crags had by now appeared and as we neared them I noticed a little cave shelter under them. Basically there was a natural top-stone but the sides had been built up a bit with spare rocks – it would only fit one person but would be very welcome in bad weather.

We eventually reached the summit cairn which also had a nice, but small shelter. We were by now back in the cold north-west wind so it was nice to shelter and sit in the sun while we had another break to get a bite and a drink. After ten minutes or so, we headed more or less due north down the slopes towards the west side of Sgarsoch Beag. As we descended, I could see a nice-looking path contouring round Sgarsoch Beag just above the far side of the burn so we headed for that. The descent yielded grand views of the Glen Einich Cairngorms…

We were soon on the nice little path through the heather and it took us quite a way further until we were not far above our original stony outward path. Our path then disappeared so we headed straight down for our outward route.

It didn’t seem long from there back to the ruin. We were surprised to meet, just before the ruin, a couple setting out towards us. We asked them what their plans were and they said they were going to do the two Munros and asked us how long it would take. By now it was 1600 and we’d been around five hours just doing the two peaks. But it turned out they were camping at the ruin (not the original tent who they said had just packed up and left) so I supposed it wouldn’t matter really as they’d probably be back around 2100 and there wouldn’t be much else to do that evening anyway. We didn’t detain them any longer and continued to the ruin where we had another good break and more food and drink.

It was a lovely peaceful place to rest – we even had a nice pallet to sit on to keep us out of the tick-infested grass. Sitting there, I felt I’d more or less made it and it wouldn’t be long before I got back – I knew the cycle back would be much easier. I felt a bit sorry for my companion Isabel though as she’d walked all the way from the Linn O’ Dee! I knew I’d feel guilty when we reached my bike and I cycled off.

Presently, we set off for the two burn crossings, my bike and her long walk out. I noted though that, by the time I’d unchained and rebuilt my bike (minutes of a job), she was well down the track and going well. As I passed I thanked her for her company and we wished each other a good journey back.

This time, I remembered the wooden footbridge and didn’t try to drag my bike across the burn. I noticed I was hardly having to pedal at all and was more or less just sitting on the bike being carried back to base. I had to pay full attention though as the track was very rough for a lot of its course and I neither wanted to break the bike nor fall off!


Looking towards the head of Glen Tilt

The last two or three miles after the White Bridge seemed to go on forever – they seemed far longer than on the way out and by now my bum was getting sore! The only thing which livened up the journey was lying in the middle of the track. I suddenly noticed as I cycled along that my front wheel was just about to decapitate an adder basking on the path. I shouted out and luckily it drew its head back just in time. I knew there were other cyclists on the track and also several walkers on their way so thought it had best move. It was only pretty much a baby and was coiled up on the track. I prodded it several times with my bike lock cable but it just coiled up tighter. I backed off a bit to give it space but it still didn’t move. By now it was raised up and hissing at me – probably more in fear than in anger. I decided to unlock my bike lock which would give me a longer item to prod it with and, if necessary, I could pick it up on it and shift it. Luckily, while I was messing about unlocking the cable, the adder decided discretion was the better part of valour and slithered off.

Just after 1800 I was back at my car. I don’t think I’ve often been so pleased to see the car at the end of a day – I’m pretty sure the bike was glad too!

Stats: 24 miles, 3069 feet of ascent, 9 hours

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10 responses

7 07 2011
Alex

I`ve been in to do these hills twice.First time was one February from the bothy in Glen Feshie and second time was by bike from Linn of Dee.Also managed to do the remote Corbett of Beinn Bhreac on that trip to save my backside another painful journey 🙂
I do feel sorry for Isabel though.Any decent human being would have offered to share the bike on the return 🙂

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9 07 2011
mountaincoward

LOL – the poor little bike was struggling enough on that rough path just carting me! Perhaps I could have offered to drag her behind? 😉

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6 07 2011
Janet

What a great report, Carol, loved the bit about you persuading the adder to shift 🙂

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6 07 2011
mountaincoward

Well I ended up not managing to persuade it but it must have decided it was fed up of me as it left in disgust! LOL

I actually like seeing adders – just wish they weren’t always basking somewhere bad for their health then I could just leave them in peace! It was only a couple of years back I had to pick up one off the middle of the road near Linn o’ Dee (using a stick) before someone could come along and squish it…

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4 07 2011
Isabel Smith

Carol- sorry, me again. After our discussion when walking, I have copied 5 photographs from your report which will only be used by me. Thank you – I will have proof and a reminder of that day.

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4 07 2011
mountaincoward

That’s fine – glad you found some you liked. I’m quite pleased with those ones as the colours are nice and it reminds me of the day too. While I wouldn’t want to do the two hills again, I’d love to go back up Glen Geldie as far as the ruin. I also have a yen to walk all the way through Glen Tilt and up to White Bridge so may yet do that 🙂

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4 07 2011
Isabel Smith

Hi Carol
Please be sure that you are great company on the hill – I enjoyed our time together. Your photos are great and remind me of the day.
I did Ben Hope and Ben Klibreck about 10 days ago and on Saturday did Sron a Choire Ghairbh and Meall na Teanga – if you have not done them then I suggest you do them from Kilfinnan – not Loch Arkaig as I did. I almost lost the will to live before I reached the bealach but the views were tremendous.

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4 07 2011
mountaincoward

Thanks for the praise 🙂

Did you do Bens Hope & Klibreck on the same day? I was lucky I was staying up at Durness for a week and so didn’t have to. I found Ben Hope a lovely short walk but wouldn’t have fancied the boggy plod to Klibreck the same day I don’t think – would have spoilt the day a bit.

I’ve already done the 2 Great Glen Munros thanks – and I did them from Killfinnan which was quite nice once you’d got the forest bit out of the way (that bit was boring but not too long). I was wondering about doing them again from ‘the back’ as you did but you’ve put me off!

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3 07 2011
mountaincoward

It’s actually a really nice cycle ride though and very flat all the way – the only thing is if you get a wind against you as I did. But if you have a proper mountain bike and not a small-wheeled fold-up like I used, the rough sections are probably fine. To be honest, I wouldn’t do those 2 hills again for any money but I’d definitely go out to the Geldie Ruin again – lovely lonely spot

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3 07 2011
colin

A nice journey Carol. That is a never ending cycle out. I still have to do these two so might go this way.

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