IT ranks as one of the finest scrambles in the Cairngorms and the rock scenery is dramatic indeed.
But doing Angel’s Ridge in a round, returning over Braeriach, demands some stamina. I’d forgotten just how energy-sapping it was having done the route to bag Angel’s Peak – Sgor an Lochain Uaine – when I was collecting Munros.
To make matters worse on that occasion, it bucketed down with rain on the return across the Cairngorm plateau, turning our day into a soggy navigational exercise.
Today was very different, with brilliant spring sunshine and the promise of early cloud lifting off the summits – perfect conditions for another crack at being up there with the angels.
Simon and I set off from the Sugar Bowl car park off the road to Coire Cas and made our way along the excellent path that leads to the Chalamain Gap.
The rocky defile under Creag a’ Chalamain is not very long but does require a bit of concentration to negotiate the boulders – a good initiation for the scrambling to come.
Exiting the gap we were pleased to see that a lot of work had been done to upgrade the path to the Lairig Ghru, making for good progress. We were soon dropping down into the big pass that links Aviemore with Braemar and heading for its highest point at the Pools of Dee.
At 814 metres the pools are not far short of Munro height, but that doesn’t mean much when they’re hemmed in by mountains more than 1200 metres high. We were aiming for Garbh Choire so continued on for about a kilometre.
There was a clear view into the corrie now, with Angel’s Ridge soaring up to the plateau and still carrying patches of snow. We crossed the nascent River Dee and made our way slowly over rough ground into Garbh Choire.
Accessing Angel’s Ridge involves a steep climb up to its base, avoiding some nasty-looking slabs. At the top, Lochan Uaine, hidden from below, suddenly bursts into view and we were surprised to see its surface still covered in ice.
Time for some scrambling and an easy introduction over big granite boulders. The snow patches we encountered on the way up were still pretty hard, though kicking steps into them was possible and they could mostly be avoided.
Ice in some of the cracks on the ridge posed some minor problems but there was always an alternative hold on this low-grade scramble. The hardest section is reserved until last, and once over that you’re on the summit.
We were greeted by a couple from Deeside and their dog, who were a little taken aback to see two people pop onto the summit apparently from nowhere.
There was still a long way to go, so fed and watered we set off for Braeriach. A little way along some extreme skiers were checking out a line into Garbh Choire Mor – not my idea of fun carrying skis all that way for just a few minutes of adrenaline rush.
The summit of Braeriach gave us brilliant views back to Lochan Uaine and our scramble, looking steeper from this angle.
Another nine kilometres lay before us, over Sron na Lairig into the Lairig Ghru, then back through the Chalamain Gap to the Sugar Bowl.
But before we could get going there was a little first aid to do. For the first time in many years I was suffering from blisters on both heels from my relatively new Salewa boots. A couple of plasters made the rest of the walk tolerable.
And interestingly the boots came with a “blister free guarantee” – the only company I’ve ever known to offer it.
True to their word, the distributors honoured the guarantee when I took the boots back to Tiso in Inverness where they had been bought and I was able to exchange them.
Distance 15 miles / 24km
Terrain Good paths for the most part, some rough ground and a grade one ridge scramble
Start/finish Sugar Bowl car park on road to main Coire Cas car park
Map BMC/Harvey 1:40,000 Cairngorms and Lochnagar
A long day to reach a classic Cairngorms scramble and two Munros into the bargain