I have written about the long, long journey after my operations, it has been an awful 12 months but yesterday was an incredible day. The forecast on an Indian summer and an old pal from my RAF Mountain Rescue days Tom MacDonald staying locally in Burghead was a combination to try to get to a place I had always wanted to visit in the Cairngorms. It was an aircraft crash site just of the beleach between Sron Na Larig and Braeriach. I had managed a short day along the Northern Corries on Sunday and felt pretty rough so I was a bit wary how I would be but the weather was forecast so good I had to give it a go. I was feeling better but did not want to rush any recovery, it would be a slow day.
Tom is not an early riser but I managed to get away by 0800 the sun was out and what a drive we had. The familiar Dava Moor and the views of the Cairngorms were special, the clarity was incredible and you could even see the Tors on Ben Avon. The only problem I had was the brightness of the sun it was so strong whilst driving I must put in my sun glasses. I always use the back road to Nethy Bridge another stunning drive we are so lucky. We had looked at what way to go into Braeriach and the option we chose was from Rothiemurcus as I did not fancy the short climb back up to the Chalamain Gap and the Sugar Bowl ( it was the right one in my mind) From Rothiemurcus Lodge you leave the shelter of the trees.
The path up into the Larig Gru was so dry and we had a chat about days past chasing Tom along this path in winter when doing these big hills and with no car the long walk back to Aviemore. The views all the way are great and the cliffs of Lurchers Crag ( Creag an Leth – choin ) dominate as does the huge cleft of the Larig Gru. It was hot and a bit of a wind blew and we made good time with Tom a well-known botanist advising me of my shortcomings in this field. The hills were a wonderful golden brown and the deer grass blowing in the warm wind here and there was the odd flower still enjoying the sun. The words of the song “Golden Brown” were in my mind. I was enjoying it so well
We met a pair out for a short walk before heading back to Oxford after a week on the hills. I had flashbacks of when I was down South at Innsworth near Gloucester for two years in 2002 and how I missed these hills, now it is all there on my doorstep, living the dream! I felt okay maybe it was the company and we soon crossed the river and pulled up to the site of the Old Sinclair Hut now gone. The views from here are amazing the Larig Gru path goes through the boulders and off up to the Pools Of Dee. We had time for a cup of tea and a few stories it was a place I could have spent the day. The cliffs in winter Of Lurchers Crag have been a great place for me and in the days when I ran the RAF Winter Course many years ago we had some great days away from the crowds. It still can be a wild place in a bad day.
From the site of the old bothy it is a steady pull up onto Stron Na Larig with its great gullies and ribs that crash down into the Larig Gru. There is a good path but Tom is like me and we wandered along the edge of the cliffs marvelling at the wildness of this place with it shattered ridges and gullies. So many on that great rush for summits and ticks in a book are head down and miss this, all they see is the path and how many have commented on my love of the wild cliffs. Every corner each spur changes and every aspect is different. Tom has been on botanical research here and showed me some of the places he has been, brave man. These gullies and ridges offer sport in the winter for those who fancy a day away from the crowds, it can be an Alpine arena on a winter’s day.
The hill was very quiet we saw a couple in the distance on the path but we were in our own world and it was a steady pull. The views of the Larig Gru opened and so many familiar hills come into view.
It was a bit longer than I expected up onto Stron na Larig at 1180 metres but though slow I was loving it and those dark days of being ill were hopefully in the past. I had always missed this wreckage of an aircraft on this hill and I wanted to see what I had missed. There are two crashes very near each other unfortunately this one:
RAF Bristol 142M Blenheim IV / Z7356 all the crew were killed.
“This Bristol Blenheim was being flown by 526 Squadron RAF. At the time of the accident, it was returning from RAF Digby (JSSO Digby) in England to its home base close to Inverness. However, it flew into cloud not far from Aviemore and crashed at the southern flank of Sròn na Lairige (Braeriach) in the Cairngorms, just short of its final destination.
The remains of the aircraft was destroyed in the resulting fire. All on board perished in this accident. Those who died in this accident were:
WO Charles Henry Fletcher (30), Pilot, RAFVR
Ground Crew travelling as Passengers:
http://www.edwardboyle.com/wreck24.html a great website
We had a rough idea where the wreckage was and wandered about at a grid reference we had, it was out. Tom pulled out his binos and we saw wreckage and wandered down.
We had an incredible wander about and there is wreckage all over much close to the path but few see it. There was little wild life about a couple of Ptarmigan and a hare amongst the boulders darted out as we approached.
I wanted to locate the two propellers and they were a bit away on some steeper ground and we were lucky it was dry as this could be a slippy area in the wet and care should be taken. I was carrying as I had left my bag on the beleach and was carrying my I Pad for photos ( daft) We found them and they are is some situation with a backdrop of the Larig Gru, Ben MacDui and Carn a Mhain in the distance.
This is a moving place on the opposite side of the Larig Gru is the site of the Anson Crash and as we stopped and photographed this place. As always my thoughts with all these young men who died in the war and the terrible losses to their families, that have never been forgotten. 6 died in this place and after a lifetime of Mountain Rescue it must have been an awful task getting them off these wild remote hills.
We spent a while and enjoyed the peace of this place it was interesting ground to be on ans I promised a winter visit. Time was moving on and the summit was not to far away but I decided that we had a long way back and the summit could wait for another day.
We still wandered back along the cliffs Tom wandering among the ridges and I enjoying the sun and the views. The shattered ridges and gullies were looked at and we sat and enjoyed the view. Lurchers Crag on the opposite side of the Larig Gru was looking superb as the light played and showed the great gullies in detail of the crag.
We were soon back at the site of the Sinclair Hut, I n.could have stayed here it was so hot and scenic but after another break we wandered back in the sun. Tom looking for plants and me in my own world. I felt good a bit sore but what a difference for Sunday maybe I was really coming out of dark place and into the sun again?
The drive back was incredible and we managed Fish and chips in Forres and then missed the sunset by a few minutes, it was a huge orange orb.
Thanks Tom for a great day, it was so special to be out and enjoying this place. I cannot wait for my next wander on Saturday with a relative of another crash in the Cairngorms it will be a moving day and the weather looks good.
Thanks to Danny Daniels and Ray Sefton for the assistance