Friday came at last, and it was time to pack up for a weekend at the Raeburn Hut near Dalwhinnie. Rob, Jim, Mary and Fiona formed the advance guard, arriving at various stages during the evening. The hut was very comfortable and well equipped; it even boasted a gas fire which gave off a good heat without any stoking. We shared the accommodation with one SMC member. Over cups of coffee we discussed our plans for Saturday and agreed that our objective would be the three Munros on the Creag Meagaidh circuit.
Next morning Ian and Liz arrived in good time and we all drove to the SNH car park at Aberardar. Although the forecast was for rain later it was dry and almost sultry as we set off up the path past the old farm buildings. We soon reached the cairn marking where the paths divided and left the substantial route into the coire for a narrow and uneven path rising through scrubby woodland - a machete might have been useful - before emerging onto the open hill. We had fine views of Loch Laggan and Ardverikie Castle and the hills to the south, but to the west we could see no further than ‘the window’ at the top of Coire Ardair.
After climbing for about two hours we stopped for refreshments but were soon on the move again and before long gentler slopes led us to the top of our first Munro of the day, Carn Liath.
We stopped for the obligatory summit photos and then, as dark clouds were gathering, donned waterproof jackets before setting off along the ridge on the north edge of the Coire – in one of the dips between tops we found a strange pile of broken iron pipes and wondered if there had once been a small building somewhere nearby. The promised shower did not come to much and did not impede progress. Our second Munro, Stob Poite a Coire Ardair, was reached soon after lunch: two cairns within a short distance of each other but neither of them seemed to justify the status of a separate Munro – but we ticked it anyway.
We were lucky to catch sight of both Mad Meg’s Cairn and the summit cairn on Creag Meagaidh before they disappeared in a veil of cloud. Then we descended steeply to the bealach above the window and stopped to don waterproof trousers.
After a steep climb up into the mist around the head of the coire we headed west towards our final objective. A couple who had stopped at Mad Meg’s Cairn, perhaps assuming they had reached their objective, followed us to the top and took a photograph of our damp group in the rain.
We didn’t linger long before retracing our steps. Beside Mad Meg’s Cairn I was delighted to see four dotterel wandering just close enough to allow identification in the mist – not birds we see often on our outings. We briefly visited the top of Moy corrie before heading along the ridge between it and Coire Ardair and traversing the slopes of Sron a Ghoire. After a short stop with fine views of Carn Liath we dropped down into the coire to the west of Allt Bealach a Ghoire which took us over rather wet and slippery slopes laced with invisible burns until we reached the bridge across the tumbling Allt Coire Ardair not far from the car park.
It was a relief to shed waterproofs and boots after our 14 mile tramp.
Back at the hut, as Rob unfortunately had to leave us he packed his gear and headed home; Ian and Liz were staying for the night and leaving on Sunday morning; Mike and Jennifer were driving up to join us and arrived soon after we finished our meal (an excellent communal pasta dish, thanks Ian and Jim, followed by fruit cake and hot and cold drinks).
Over the customary evening drinks we checked out the plans for Sunday – the forecast was for more rain. Instead of going to Geal Charn ‘out and back’ from Garva Bridge we were able to tackle a circular route.
The day dawned fairly cloudy but dry. Jim and Mike dropped off Jim’s car at Garva Bridge while Fiona, Jennifer and I set off up the Glen Markie track from Spey Dam. There were fine views of the other side of the ridge leading to Carn Liath.
By the time Jim and Mike caught up thick clouds were gathering and before long the waterproofs were needed again. Crossing the Markie Burn the biggest challenge was climbing the bank on the other side! We followed a soggy path up the Piper’s burn into the coire and then climbed rough and boggy slopes towards the ridge west of Bruach nam Biodag. The walking was much easier on the high moor and as the rain had eased we stopped for lunch before tackling the steep water-logged slopes leading onto the shoulder of Geal Charn. As we approached the summit a huge cairn loomed out of the mist – Mike and Jennifer both climbed to the top of it to claim their hill.
We took advantage of the opportunity to practice some navigation, and would have followed a bearing of 235o down the south west ridge had the clouds not suddenly cleared to reveal fine views in all directions.
Another river crossing produced a little excitement and then we followed a path beside Allt Coire nan Dearcaig. Blaeberries grew in profusion beside the track and provided a tasty snack but we stopped for something more substantial before heading down the glen above the Feith Talagain where lovely birch and rowan trees clustered above the tumbling brown water.
Finally we made our way through the construction works associated with the Beauly- Denny power lines, and followed the track to Garva Bridge and the welcome sight of Jim’s car at the end of another fine day out.
On our return to the hut we had tea and cake, packed our gear, tidied and closed up the hut and headed for home at the end of a great weekend.
Well done to all those who walked on one or both days, thanks to those who provided transport, and thanks to the Committee for organising such a comfortable base for the weekend. A return visit to the Raeburn Hut is definitely to be recommended.