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An Garbh Coire Mor

Backpacking with just a lightweight daysack?

Mmmh Ė sounds good but how?

The answer Ė bivvying!

An Garbh Coire Mor was our aim and whilst there is a small bothy there, it is very small was likely to be already occupied so sleeping out was the plan.

We walked up the Lairig Ghru on a pleasantly mild afternoon. The other backpackers that we passed were lumbering under heavy expedition rucksacks presumably filled with tents and heavy camping equipment. We just had daysacks with little more than we would carry for a normal dayís hillwalking, the only extras being the sleeping bag, sleeping mat, small stove and gas, mug, spoon and food. There was no need for us to have an early start from Aviemore as that would just mean time sitting around in the evening so four oíclock seemed very leisurely. The midges werenít a problem and after a pleasant walk along the track, we were soon picking our way over the small burns that flow from the coire. A faint track follows the burn leading up to the little stone bothy but we continued on after a chat with the bothyís sole occupant.

The corrie feels very remote and far away from the hustle and bustle of Aviemore. Coire Brochain nearby looked an interesting place to explore and even the name is intriguing Ė corrie of the porridge? Perhaps thatís where we should have gone for breakfast! High above was the Braeriach Plateau with some patches of snow still lingering in the gullies making it feel more Alpine than Scottish.

But back to the bivvi experience. Once we arrived, there was no tent to pitch - just pull the sleeping bag and bivvi bag from the sack, roll out the sleeping mat and that was bed sorted. As for the devotees of thermarests, well, they are comfortable but given the extra weight they add and the possibility of a puncture, Iíll stick with my green foam mat for bivvying any day. The next most important thing was food. Itís strange how food that I would ignore at home suddenly takes on very appealing qualities. Boil in the bag chicken tikka and noodles beat anything I could have bought out of my local takeaway. And pudding, a sachet of custard in a thermal mug with dried fruit was the gastronomic highlight of the evening finished off with a some wine (Tescoís conveniently do little cans!).

The only problem was that by the time we had finished our meal, the rain had started and not just a light shower but a big, wet downpour! This meant we were standing there with soaking wet outer clothes trying to work out how to get into the warm, dry sleeping bags without soaking them too. A moment or two of struggle but once in the  bivvi bag with the zip tightly shut, it was just like being in a little tent only the sound of the rain hitting the material of the bivvi bag was a bit closer than Iím used to. I got a good sleep though and woke up in the morning wondering just quite where I was and what I was doing lying in a strange, green bag.

Breakfast was a reviving mix of porridge and hot drinks and then, how much easier it was to stuff everything into the sack. No wet, heavy tent to dismantle. We headed off up steep slopes to Einich Cairn then we followed the edge of the corrie to Angelís Peak. Our descent route was by way of the lovely, scrambly Angel Ridge down to Lochain Uaine. We continued down to the bothy which had been vacated by the previous nightís tenant giving us a chance to peer inside and marvel at the stupidity of folk who leave things on the basis that they might be useful to the next occupant. If you carry things in, then you carry them out again and used teabags are of no use to anybody. The bothy is small but would sleep four in relative comfort and would provide shelter for a few more if everybody sat up for the night. A stag wandered around outside curious about these strange visitors to his corrie but maybe he was drawn by the possibility of some boil in the bag chicken tikka!

Back down we went and out by the Lairig Ghru visualising how the scenery would have looked when the glaciers were there. It is amazing how we see glacial features in the Alps then fail to recognize these same shapes and landforms in Scotland. We envisaged the people of days gone by using the pass as their way of reaching cattle markets, heading for places as far afield as the south of England where Scottish cattle was much in demand.

Back to the present day and the car which was parked conveniently at Rothiemurchus Lodge saving another hour of walking. A great trip which made me realise that backpacking with a bivvi bag is so much easier than taking a tent. Since then I have been into the Shelters Stone at Loch Avon and slept under a huge boulder but having such lightweight backpacking equipment meant that climbing kit could also be carried. I enjoyed two excellent days climbing as a result.

Using a bivvi bag instead of a tent saves so much weight meaning that places previously thought inaccessible can easily be reached. A whole new area of Scotland has been opened up to me as a result and I thoroughly recommend it.

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Copyright Fiona Chappell 2003-2012 (updated Wednesday, 10. October 2012)