Tuesday, July 20, 2010


It had been too long since i'd been in the hills. The weather hadn't been playing: rain had been a constant companion for a week or more. Regardless, it was time to head north. "Summer" will only last for so long and at least it is warm. Ish...

The plan: drive to Blair Atholl, then head up the trail beside the Falls of Bruar. From there track north until i join the Minigaig route. Then back via the Gaick.

The Minigaig was an old trade route that replaced Comyn's road, that was in turn created to provide Comyn with his favoured ale from Atholl - at least that is the legend. Rumour also has it that the Gaick trail is haunted - and hence why the longer Wade road through the Drumochter pass became the main road between north and south.

For me a heavy downpour was followed by standard issue scottish dreich for the first leg of the route. The climb past the falls was beautiful, but steep.

Thereafter i joined land rover track passing a small cottage and joining the main track that services Bruar Lodge.

The weather was closing in a little again, but i was well below cloud level and so decided to keep going.

Up until this point a tail wind and a relatively level trail meant good progress.

The initial carry up Carr Uchd a Chlarsair took me quickly into cloud and with a misbehaving Suunto i relied heavily on the quartz topped mini-cairns (and a chance meeting with a walker) to guide me down to the Chaochan Lub stream on the Minigaig proper before climbing on to Leathad an Tahbhain's flank.

I then dropped from the edge of the Coire Bhran to the Allt na Cuilice river- which was to act as my guide west to Glen Tromie and the Gaick. This section was incredibly boggy.

Stopping for a sandwich on one of the grass river banks, i watched as cloud with a rather deep grey colour advanced down the Coire towards me. I reflected on several things: one, the nausea i had felt for a week had not settled. Two, the statement made by my friend mike to his young kids the other day is absolutely true ("there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices") and three, if weather looks bad, it usually is. I needed to move quickly westwards out of the way of the weather. I used the grass river banks (that required fording the river every 20-30 feet), the peat bog, or some sort of tracked-vehicle trail higher up from the river, but regardless of where i tried to progress, it was brutal and demoralising work.

i dont know how long it took me to get to the Gaick gatehouse, but once there i saw the vehicle i *should* have been in. That or a pugsley for that section would have been great.

Anyways, it was getting late, and i was getting tired. Nausea reared its ugly head again but taking in calories wasnt going to happen. I glugged on some Nuun and carried on. The good quality land rover track mitigated the head wind, and i made it to Gaick Lodge swiftly.

This hunting lodge is owned by none other than Xavier Louis Vuitton and although there were no fantastically expensive leather goods lying around, there was enough shooting paraphernalia to suggest the well healed spent a good amount of time in this remote place.

The trail had been partially destroyed by scree falls along the steep slopes of the Gaick, out of which one enterprising walker had evidently created a mini stonehenge. Or perhaps a temporary table, who knows.

I climbed above Loch an Duin on some reasonably good fun singletrack trail before fording a deep river with a slabby rock climb out only to find i needed to re-ford it further down the glen.

Back into the teeth of the wind for more land rover track down to the A9 and along the national route 7 from Trinafour to Blair Castle.

i wouldnt recommend doing this route if it has been raining with any significance. It took well over 7 hours and was incredibly slow going in places. I forded the rivers so many times that i cant even begin to count and was lucky they weren't running higher. Despite this the risk to ankles and of a soaking was high. As exposed as this route was in places that counts as 'not good'.


Dan said...

I've ridden this route and wouldn't recommend it at all ... unless a never ending uphill highland beasting is what your after!

Meg said...

What beautiful pictures. I wish I had an oppurtunity to take as good a pictures as these :) Keep it up

brado1 said...