Thursday, 10 December 2009

Meall nan Sleac via Glen Feshie

I travelled up to Aviemore on Sunday with the intention of bagging a few Munros in the Cairngorms National Park. I have only walked in the Cairngorms once before when I did a three day backpacking trip from Linn of Dee to Corrour Bothy and did the four mountains along the Braeriach ridge in stunning weather several years ago now. That trip was originally a plan to walk the Lairig Ghru from Braemar to Aviemore and back but as is often the way on my planned trips, I am very versitile and don't mind changing the plan at the last minute or from day to day. I did the same on this trip and after planning to do something from the Cairn Gorm ski car park or Linn of Dee again, I instead opted for the more desolate wilderness of Glen Feshie which so many locals rave about and for good reason.

River Feshie
The journey up on Sunday took about six hours and the weather was pretty awful most of the way. The only snow I spotted on the way up was on Kidsty Pike and Cross Fell from the M6 near Shap, that was until I reached the Drumochter Pass when to my delight the rain turned to sleet and then snow for a few miles before returning to rain again on the descent to Aviemore. I arrived and read my email on my phone to find some useful advice from Scott who said that the Rothiemurchus campsite could be closed as it was a fortnight ago due to refurbishments. I found the lovely Kila Guest House for a bargain £20 in Aviemore. The Guest House owners were friendly, the rooms were nice and the breakfast was great and all for just £20. They did say it is that cheap as it is quiet season but even at there usual £25 to £35 they are good value. I was hungry so went across the road to the Roo's Leap restaurant by the railway station which has a mixed reputation but I can confirm that the Nacho's and in particular the Quesadillas are spot on and reasonably priced.

Red Squirrel
Monday morning I woke up to find I hadn't packed any boxer shorts! I had a fantastic breakfast at the Guest House and left to find some non cotton boxers in one of the many outdoor shops. The only thing I could find in all but one of the shops was the Ice Breaker or should that be Mortgage Breaker ones and I refused to pay £35 for soemthing I'd basically be making wiping against my backside for the rest of the day! Luckilly Cairngorm Mountain Sports had some cheaper Patagonia jobbies that I was happy with. I was really excited as I set off as from Aviemore as I could see snow topped mountains, blue skies and sunshine. I drove along the minor road from Aviemore to Feshie Bridge and on the way spotted a lovely young Red Squirrel in the trees so stopped to take some a shot. I reached the car park by Achlean and started gettting all my gear ready. Once ready I set off with a route already in my head and the map round my neck. I took my new Montane North Star down jacket on this trip which I had brought just in case the temperature got too low for my Rab Generator jacket to handle which I left at home. The North Star really was one of the heroes of the trip, I hardly took it off.

Badan Mosach Waterfalls
I passed by Achlean Farm, not through it as the map would indicate, and found myself on one side of the Allt Fhearnagan at a place marked on the map as a ford. Hmm for a car maybe, I headed down stream as I saw the initials FB at the point where the Allt Fhearnagan meets the River Feshie, was it there was it buggery. So I headed off once again this time up stream and followed it all the way into the beautiful Badan Mosach woods and its huge and stunning waterfalls. I had to go uphill from the impressive waterfalls to reach a point in the stream where I could finally cross. I then headed downstream again to reach the other side of the original ford. Passing through the forest I saw two red deer that I startled run off into the protection of the dark gloomy forestry to my left. As I reached the dam area I heared a noise as a Dipper flew upstream not at all happy at my presence in its neighbourhood. I crossed three streams in the two days and on each was a Dipper, fantastic!

Carnachuin Bridge collapsed after floods
I crossed the fields to the surviving footbridge over the River Feshie. The bridge further up stream at Carnachuin was washed away a few months ago in a flood. I suspect that the huge up rooted tree I saw on the rivers banks a few hundred metres down may well have had something to do with it. I had to stop and think here as I had difficulty crossing the ford over Allt Fhearnagan and if I stayed on this side of the River Feshie I would have to cross another stream Allt Garbhlach which appeared wider than the other on the map. I didn't cross the footbridge and instead chanced the east side and walked a lovely path clinging to the river. This path literally skirts the bank of the river in places and I would imagine is probably impassable at times though a higher track on a strange ridge of the flood plain takes just as good a route with even better views. The Allt Garbhlach wasn't as wide as the map illustrated luckilly. I reached the ruined bridge at Carnachuin then had to make a decision, do I go for the ascent of the Munro Mullach Clach a' Bhlair or do I just go to the Bothy or find a camp. I chose to give it a go, despite the snow visible under the dark looming clouds and the forecasted 60mph winds on the MWIS forecast. I ascended the easiest of land rover tracks but only got as far as Cadh na Coin Duibh before the reality hit that it would go dark soon, I had only three season boots and no crampons, the snow was getting deeper and I could hardly stand up as the winds were so strong. When I looked over the edge of the cliffs into the incredible ravine of Coire Garbhlach, I had to throw myself down quickly as I felt my pack rise and try to push me over the edge.

Coire Garnhlach from Meall nan Sleac
I decided to bag the Corbett summit of Meall nan Sleac on the way back down, simply for the sheer sake of standing on the top of a mountain. The views down into Coire Garnhlach were well worth the tiny detour. I descended the landrover track to Glen Feshie and set about finding the bothy. The Ruigh Aiteachain bothy was like a small piece of heaven. The last visitors, the RAF Squadron from Lossiemouth on a training exercise, had left a plentiful pile of wood for me to burn all night long. The main room of the bothy was candle lit and a cozy place to be on this cold winters night. After making a cup of tea and the delicous Mountain House Chicken Tikka meal on my new White Box Solo stove, I sat for hours reading the often hillarious bothy book entries.

Glen Feshie Bothy
After six hours of chilling by the fire I settled down for the night and was happy until about 15 minutes later when the noises started. I've been in a bothy before and had a mouse run across me at Corrour but this was the most persistant I'd ever experienced. I had to listen to my MP3 player eventually to drown out the noise as the little sod would not stop playing around with my gear and ripping shreds out of a chair in the bothy which I presume it used for its bedding. At 1am a loud crashing noise woke me and scared the living daylights out of me, the little sod had knocked over my titanium mug onto the stone floor of the bothy. I'm a big softy when it comes to the dark as it is, so you can imagine what I was like. At 6am after much interupted sleep I really had had enough so I set about making a fire as I just couldn't sleep anymore. It was pitch black outside until about 6:30am when all of a sudden a light appeared, at first I though it was a fellow walker but it was a bright moon. With the brightness of the moon a view opened up through the bothy window of a pure white and sparkly Glen Feshie. I went outside just to see the sparkling effect, it was awesome.

Myself in the cold morning outside Glen Feshie Bothy
As light came at dawn I went out to find replacement firewood and did a good job finding enough dead wood on the ground for the next lucky wanderer to experience the warm cosy bothy I did. The weather started well in the morning and I even pondered over another attempt at Mullach Clach a' Bhlair but just an hour later a few light showers, cold easterly breeze and clouds rolling in made my mind up to head back out to the car. On the walk out I passed the wild horses I had seen round the bothy at night. The streams seemed easier to cross though maybe that was because the fear of crossing them had gone from my head. I have to admit that if I hadn't taken my Pacer Poles with me I would never have been able to ford any of the streams so they were the real heroes of the weekend, I don't know how I walked without these poles in the past. Before I reached the end of the glen I sat by the River Feshie and contemplated my last few days and life in general like I often do at the end of such experiences. I was glad I was in the middle of nowhere and hadn't seen anyone for 28 hours but I was also missing home so after I reached the car and chilled out over a cuppa I then set off home to see Nicky and Bonnie the cat. I was home by 6pm, at the kebab shop by 6:45pm and sat watching the United match by 7:45pm. It is amazing what you can do in just 48 hours!

I have uploaded the photos from the adventure here.

Route Map...


  1. Well done! Shame about not getting up the Munro, and I'd certainly have chosen the peace of a warm tent rather than a noisy bothy, but it's nice to see someone making the effort....

  2. Sounds good Jamie. Glen Feshie's a cracking place altogether. We missed the moose when we were there a few months back - maybe it just lives inside in the winter.


  3. Hi Scotty! I was looking for info on the bothy and came across Gordys photos of you guys there a few months ago and also when you did the NTGO Challenge! Was great to know you guys had been there too! Must make sure I get up top of one of those big ones by it next time though. Might see you this christmas if we have an OM get together thing like last year ;-)

  4. That'd be good Jamie. Keep us posted as to your whereabouts!