Category Archives: Walking Routes

UNDO Book Review – Winter Climbs In The Cairngorms a Cicerone Guide

Winter Climbs in the Cairngorms.

What’s it all about:

Cicerones fully updated 6th edition of this guide written by Allen and Blair Fyffe. Winter Climbs in the Cairngorms offers a selection of some of the best winter routes to be found in the Cairngorms including Creag Meagaidh. This book also covers well known routes on Lochnagar as well as the more remote and serious climbs on the Braeriach.

Cover

What you get:

  • Extensive, detailed coverage of routes on Cairngorms North, Cairngorms South and Creag Meagaidh.
  • 51 routes illustrated by colour photo topos.
  • Guide covers a substantial range of grades from short and straight forward all the way to long and exceptionally hard.

The introduction of this book starts by laying down the ground rules for this type of planned excursion. Offering no cosy, kid gloves Winter Climbs in the Cairngorms gives a brief couple of paragraphs on what the book will cover then hits you with the reality of mountain climbing in Scotland. We may not have the tallest mountains but they are amongst the most dangerous. This is mainly due to the speed at which the weather conditions can change here. I for one can vouch for this, a drizzly walk scramble to the top of one Munro turned into a gale force, sideways rain and wind, foggy struggle for survival as soon as we got to the top. And that wasn’t even in the winter.

 

Laying down the realities of winter climbs the introduction then progresses into route grades and lengths, instructions and tips on what you will need, what you may be able to get away with equipment wise. Dealing with avalanches and a little on what causes avalanches, avalanche types and basics on how to survive them. This chapter also provides information on the mountain rescue services and how to contact them. The information given in this chapter is not encycopedic but it certainly provides enough info you make you aware and at the bare minimum help you survive long enough to be rescued or avoid the dangers all together.

The rest of the book is split into the Cairngorms North, Cairngorms South and Creag Meagaidh. These chapters expand to cover many routes in extensive and luxurious detail. Many routes are provided coordinates, elevations, grades extensive visual descriptions and route length. This information is often coupled with detailed colour photographs with the routes marked out and numbered in red. As if covering the routes themselves was not enough, the book also supplies approach data to many of the routes easing your trip and preventing you from pitching at the wrong routes.

An excellent book, well written and a must buy for those looking to conquer the Cairngorms, although this book has been written with the assumption that you are already an experienced mountain climber and states this on the cover.

Winter Climbs In The Cairngorms comes as a compact, plastic water resistant covered hand book making it a rugged travel companion. The book is priced at £16.95 from the Cicerone website and worth every penny in my opinion. The book is well written, detailed and informative in a way that only those who know what they are talking about can write. Additionally Cicerone is in the process converting their new and previous publications to Kindle and eBook formats so it is worth while to keep an eye out for that.

 

Munro Bagging Buachaille Etive Mor – UNDO Feature

Well I’ve bagged my 1st Munro and I am hooked, what I was lead to believe was to be a weekend of “hill walking” turned out to be a full scale struggle of man against the elements during a trek up a mountain.

Buachaille Etive Mor translates as Great Heardsman if Etive and is commonly known as The Buachaille or The Beuckle. The Buachaille stands around 3,353ft and is locate in the Glen Etive. Coined as one of the most recognisable mountains in Scotland, The Buachaille is often pictured in postcards and calendars. The Buachaille is fairly easy to get to, simply follow the A82 towards Loch Lomond and the road goes right by it. The sight is recognisable by a small bothy alone at the foot of the mountain. There is adequate parking for quite a few cars but the entrance to this area is in extremely bad condition. Very low slung cars and people driving too fast will damage their cars on the potholes. A path leads from the parking area to a bridge crossing stream, the path then passes the bothy and leads to the foot of the mountain. The trip from Glasgow takes around an hour and a half to 2 hours depending on traffic and conditions, but don’t worry the scenery is epic once you pass the Dumbarton area and the roads are usually fairly quiet.

Munro Bagging Buachaille Etive Mor

I pitched up at the Benglass Farm campsite which took me around an hour and 15 minutes to get to from Glasgow. Pitches at this site are around £7.50 per person and £1 for parking and it’s worth every penny the onsite facilities offer constant hot water in the showers and good toilet facilities. There’s a kitchen area and canteen so you can eat away from the midges and access to tumble thdryers and laundry facilities a godsend for the Scottish weather. There is also a well stocked shop and a pub which serves food with its own beer garden area complete with fire pit. For those who prefer more home from home accommodation Benglass Farm also offer 4 star B&B and self catering wigwams.

Munro Bagging Buachaille Etive Mor

The Buachaille itself has many climbing routes of differing calibre and access to these usually involves a steep hike up scree and does involve a bit of scrambling but it’s worth it. Only half way up the mountain and the view of the valley was astounding. Further up just before the scree gully we noticed that we were under the watchful eyes of a stag and his herd standing on the north buttress ridge. For all the beauty of the area the weather was relentless constant rain made some of the rock treacherous and slippy, some parts covered by a slick black algae. The rain was broken only by the wind and although the gully was sheltered from the driving rain, wind blew the cloud into the gully making the whole adventure very wet. We had all prepared with water proof jackets base, layers and good foot ware but this wasn’t to prepare us for the final leg of our trek to the top.

The plateau at the top of the scree gully involves some light climbing and scrambling. The stone has good handholds and grip but can often be slick due to rain and algae growth. Getting over the plateau was like entering another world. Most of the assent had been heavy rain and wind but nothing to uncomfortable. The plateau was like crossing into a tornado. I could barely see 10m in front of me due heavy cloud cover and the wind was strong enough to make you lose your footing. The rain battered our hoods so much we couldn’t hear each other talk. It was awesome, however careful preparation of waterproof clothing was defeated by this type of weather. The rain was blown with such force it went through your clothing, down your back and into your socks. No matter how water proof your shoes are, once your socks are wet they wick water into your shoes. Everyone was soaked through. Fellow walkers and climbers passed us with equally soggy dispositions, cagoules, ponchos, everyone looked wet but still glad they made the effort to get this far.

Munro Bagging Buachaille Etive Mor

Munro Bagging Buachaille Etive Mor

Some time spent at the top balancing suitable rocks on the cairns at the top of the The Buachaille and we had had enough, hot showers and a BBQ awaited our return. The assent took around 4 hours with occasional breaks where as the decent took just over an hour. This was due to the stepped pathway following the North West Buttress. This path skirts past the scree and has occasional small streams running through it on rainy days. Despite this, the decent is fairly relaxed and allowed us a better look at some bouldering opportunities. There are several large boulders in the gully following the stream. On dry days the stream would either go right around these boulders or it wouldn’t be there at these points offering a suitable landing area for a nice day’s bouldering. On really hot days the streams and waterfalls look like they would be quite inviting if not freezing.

The return to base camp was a soggy drive for around half an hour but the hot showers and BBQ followed by a beer at the 300 year old Drovers Inn lifted our spirits.

I’ll definitely return to the Buachaille, winter at this location offers a great chance for Ice climbing and some people still trek it in the winter. The UKC has some info on the climbs find a little about the area on Wikipedia.