A Cairngorms Ultra

Last week, I decided to make use of a sunny day and headed to the Cairngorms. In crisp air, I set off on my run before 9am. It was quite chilly despite the rising sun.

Golden Morning

On the asecent towards Lochnagar, I passed the Falls of Glasallt.

From the Spittal of Glenmuick car par, I headed off and along the shore of Loch Muick for a few kilometers. When I reached an abandoned House in a small patch of wood, I left the shoreline and started to head upwards along the river of Glas Allt. The slope was steep at first until reaching the Falls of Glasallt. After that, the path became less steep and I followed along the river. I could already see Lochnagar towering in the distance. The morning sun bathed the glen behind me in a golden light. In the distance, I saw a group of stags walking along and heard them rutting. The path got steeper again and I finally reached the peak of Lochnagar.

I sought some shelter from the wind behind a few boulders and had some breakfast, before running past Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach and across Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. From there, I could already see Loch Callater in the distance, with the bothy at its far tip. I enjoyed the smooth run on the long descent, before reaching the shore of the loch and stopping for a lunch break at a tiny beach. For a while along the loch, the path was narrow, but easy to run.

Bogs

On the first descent, I could see Loch Callater down below with the bothy sitting at its tip.

Once I left the Loch Callater behind, I followed the Jack’s Road path along the stream of Allt an Loch through Glen Callater. The path became a lot boggier and was hardly visible in places. This was slowing me down more than I would have liked. For a while, I plodded across fairly even ground, until reaching the end of the glen. From there, the path of Jack’s Road was marked by rusty metal poles every 100m or so, but there was virtually no path visible anymore.

I ascended a steep slope, before meeting a clear path again on the approach to Crow Craigies. After an short while of easy running on Jack’s Road, I branched off that path towards the Craigs of Loch Esk. From there, I descended moderately steep slopes towards the River South Esk and past a waterfall. I followed the river on a wide gravel track through the glen, eventually crossing it and heading into a small patch of woodland.

The Final Stretch

In that bit of woodland, I took a turn and hit Capel’s Road, a track back to my starting point. The last ascent up Capel Mounth was hard and slow, as I could definitely feel the previous climbs in my legs. But I hiked on and eventually made it past the steepest parts, fuelled by sweets.

While ascending towards Crow Craigies, the view back over Glen Callater was impressive.

As soon as my legs had recovered a little and were willing to move again, I started running across the gently undulating gravel track. To the left, I could see Loch Muick, where I had started in the morning. I was moving better than expected and felt a lot fresher than I had anticipated. So when it came to the final long descent back to the car park, I decided to just see how fast I could do it. I just went with the flow and felt like I was flying down the hill. Soon, I was past the loch and down the hill, just jogging the final 400m to the car park.

In the end, I reached the car after 47k, about 2000m of ascent and over 7 hours of moving time. My own little ultramarathon in the Cairngorms. Surprisingly, my legs actually weren’t overly tired and achy the next day.

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