Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sgur Mor, Cairngorms

View of Cairngorms from Sgor Mor
Tuesday, 5 August 2014
Ascent:     480 metres
Distance:   8 kilometres walk, 18 kilometres on bike
Time:        3 hours 0 minutes total       
                 1 hour 58 minutes walk from White Bridge, 
                 1 hour 2 mins on bike from Inverey     

Sgur Mor         809m     1hr 44mins (36 mins on bike to White Bridge)

I had planned to climb Carn Bhac and An Socach from Inverey before the onset of the shooting season and had a sudden notion to add Sgur Mor, one of my last remaining corbetts in the Cairngorms. It would be a long day and not possible without a bike. The good forecast was even better in the morning and I left home shortly after 7am. After realising the probability of a sun drenched hot day, I stopped in Blairgowrie to pick up an energy drink and some sun cream. The road from Blairgowrie to Glenshee always seems longer than expected but the visibility was superb and on the long descent to Braemar I was the only vehicle, my urge to go faster suppressed by the imperative to admire the mountain landscapes.

The road from Braemar to Inverey or the Linn of Dee is one of the best in Scotland with the river Dee in the broad glen providing the perfect setting for the caledonian pine forest and the peerie granite cottages looking like pink polka dots in the landscape. I parked up at Inverey in a near empty car park and assembled the bike. I had taken a rear wheel from an old bike to replace the buckled wheel from my last outing, but it had only 8 cogs instead of the 9 cogs on the original. I needn't have worried it worked well. I had decided on the journey up to Inverey to climb Sgurr Mor first, it would be an easier cycle ride and I knew it would be hard to summon up the energy to climb Sgur Mor after the more difficult ride up Glen Ey to climb the two munros.

I was soon speeding along the 3 kilometres to Linn of Dee, enjoying the scenery and the sunshine. The views from the bridge are a microcosm of all that is best in the highlands. It is a further 6 kilometres of riding up to White Bridge from where I took the path on the north of the river Dee leading to the waterfalls at Chest of Dee and then on to the Lairig Ghru. I met a family of four attempting the walk and admired their sense of adventure as well as their choice of a perfect day to attempt this walk.  I left the path and headed up the first large burn and then across interminable heather slopes before reaching the fine granite spur south of the Sgur Mor summit.

A steady breeze had sprung up to cool me during the ascent but even on the summit a T shirt was all that was needed. The eroded granite gave a carpet of orange/pink granules and the rocks provided a sculpture trail to the summit. The views across into the Cairngorms were very impressive with the massive shapes of Cairntoul and Ben Macdui guarding over the Lairig Ghru.  I looked over to Carn Bhac in the south east and realised that I had quite a distance to cycle and walk so set off running to make a more direct descent to my bike.

The Cairngorms are one of the few areas in Scotland where deer are largely absent following the culling of recent years but I was also surprised at the absence of grouse in the lush heathers that  inhibited progress even more than the boggy ground on the descent. I collected my bike and made a speedy descent passing several groups of young people quipping that they wanted to buy my bike. Although only a gentle gradient, I managed to keep a good cadence all the way back to Inverey. The optimistic schedule of 3 hours that I had set myself had been achieved. I felt suitably pleased and took 15 minutes to change shoes and have some lunch before setting out for the second cycle/walk of the day to Carn Bhac and An Sogach

The river Dee by Linn of Dee

Pine forest at Linn of Dee

The Dee before White Bridge
Sgur Mor summit
Cairntoul to Ben Macdui from Sgur Mor

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