Talking about the Garbh Choire Refuge the other day brought to mind other days in the Cairngorms’ most impressive choire complex.
Depending on how you count them, there are maybe five or six choires in the great cirque between Braeriach and Cairn Toul, encompassing a huge area that can take many days to explore and still not uncover all there is to see.
The Garbh Choire is most famous, of course, for the ‘everlasting’ snowfields of Garbh Choire Mhor, which rarely melt.
Garbh Choire Daidh, too, is the scene for the earliest recorded rock climb in the Cairngorms, in 1810, when Dr Keith climbed the side of the Dee Waterfall from the choire out onto the plateau. Ostensibly it was so he could trace the source of the Dee and he followed the course of the falls so that he would make no mistake. But, come on! It’s not hard to check that the burn that disappears over the edge of the plateau is the same one that lands at the bottom and flows down to Aberdeen. Dr Keith was at it – he just fancied a bit of a scramble. And who can blame him?
I enjoyed a memorable weekend in Garbh Choire Daidh once, kipping under the Smith-Dey Bivouac, a sort of mini Shelter Stone just before the cliff turns the corner into Garbh Choire Mhor. It’s supposed to sleep two, but my friend and I discovered that it definitely helped that one of us – him – had been caving before and didn’t mind sleeping with just about six inches headroom.
After a lazy afternoon lounging on the lush grass beside some pools and reading a book, I ‘enjoyed’ a rather sleepless night with my head at the ‘door’ and what I thought was a boulder sticking up through the floor. As it turned out, the boulder wasn’t embedded at all and could have been lifted out easily, giving me a sounder night’s sleep, but it’s hard to regret a night which ended as this one did.
I was having an odd dream about watching a red hot-air balloon rising over the horizon of Ben MacDui – only to waken a little further and realise I was seeing the sun rise, big and red against a cloudless sky, bringing out an intensity of colour in the pink granite that was breathtaking – all without moving out of my bed! I watched for a time and then slid back into my fitful sleep before waking to a day that fully lived up to the promise of the morning.
That day we exited the choire by climbing the nose between Garbh Choires Daidh and Mhor but, in truth, it’s pretty chossy and rubbish underfoot near the top and a much better route in or out of the choire system can be found via the Crown Buttress Spur, which reaches the plateau just west of the summit of Angel’s Peak (Sgorr an Lochain Uaine).
Of course the queen of all routes out, without resorting to a climbing rope, is Angel’s Ridge, the north east ridge of Sgorr an Lochain Uaine. But that’s maybe for another day…