No easy way out: The Cairngorm Four Thousanders

"To me the Cairngorms are the finest hills in the world...nowhere else have I experienced the extraordinary variety and deep appeal that the Cairngorms have..."
Adam Watson, from The Big Walks compiled by Ken Wilson and Richard Gilbert
Standing alongside Peter Boardman's Sacred Summits, Dennis Gray's Rope Boy and many other classic tales of adventure in the mountains in the book case, is Ken Wilson's collection of Classic Rock, Cold Climbs, Hard Rock and The Big Walks. Over the years I have completed many of the routes and climbs described in each, from Central Pillar (E2) on Esk Buttress in the Lakes as described in Hard Rock, to the North East Buttress of Ben Nevis, described in Cold Climbs. 
While Adam Watson's description of his 29 mile route taking in the six 4,000ft summits of the Cairngorms had left its impression, it was a route that had to date, remained on the list, one which seems somehow to grow rather than diminish as the years go by.
But then in 2018, Finlay Wild set a new record, running the five Cairngorm summits which constitute the 4000ers round, in 3:52:59. It was a phenomenal run, Finlay's splits of 14 minutes for the descent of Ben Macdui to the Lairig Gru being of particular interest to those who are familiar with the boulder strewn slopes.
My imagination ignited, I resolved to run the route at the next opportunity. Not with any aspirations for a fast or notable time, but to complete a round that had lurked at the back of my mind for more years than I can remember.
Starting at the Sugar Bowl rather than Glenmore Lodge as those intent on a record attempt must, I followed Wild's route up onto the first summit, Cairngorm itself, but then ran the ridge to take in Cairn Lochan, the summit which is omitted on the runner's round, before continuing across the plateau to Ben Macdui.
Amazed and appalled in equal measure by Wild's 14 minute descent, I picked my way down to the Lairig Gru, noting with some concern, the steep ascent of Cairn Toul which would immediately follow.
On the Bob Graham map, there is a note to aspirants: There is no easy way out of Wasdale. It has become something of a standing joke among friends recently. I was struck with how apt the phrase was now. Clearly, there would be no easy way out of the Lairig Gru. 
A view of The Devil's Point - curious how often The Devil seems to be cited in mountain names hereabouts.
And looking north to Braeriach from my half way point.
Another boulder field to be crossed on the summit of Angel's Peak...
...and the last of the winter's snow on the tops.
Reindeer - which I saw last while mountain biking over Ben Macdui, riding from the Linn of Dee. It was sad to see them behind the fence rather than roaming free on the plateau as I had before.
And so finally I completed the round of the six Cairngorm Four Thousanders as described in the Big Walks, (although I started and finished beneath Coire Cas rather than at Whitewell) running 20 miles and 7,700ft of ascent in a little over six hours.

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