Posted by & filed under Military/Aircraft, Mountains & hills, November 3 2011.

The two engines from the Airspeed Oxford in upper Coire Beanaidh on Braeriach

The two engines from the Airspeed Oxford in upper Coire Beanaidh on Braeriach

Last week I travelled to the Cairngorms and spent the day walking in the Braeriach area. I walked from Whitewell in the Rothiemurchus Forest, into the Lairig Ghru and up along Coire Beanaidh (where I spent a night camping on a Mountain Leader training course three years ago) to the 1296m summit of Braeriach. I wanted to explore Coire Beanaidh to see if I could discover any wreckage from a World War Two Airspeed Oxford training aircraft that crashed on Braeriach in 1943. I found many pieces of the aircraft in the upper reaches of the corrie, including the two engines from the Oxford. This wreckage does not seem have been recorded by anyone else, in any book or website, to the best of my knowledge.

The wreckage forms part of what is probably the largest debris field of any wreck site in Scotland (and probably the British Isles), overlapping as it does with wreckage from a Bristol Blenheim bomber which also crashed on Braeriach in 1945, leaving wreckage in Coire Ruadh. I’ve made two previous visits to this double-crash site (see my previous blog postings, ‘The Lairig Ghru and An Garbh Choire‘ and ‘Yet another soggy night in the Cairngorms and yet more aircraft wrecks‘), and the entire site is so large (about 2km across) and so remote, with a large amount of remaining wreckage dispersed very widely, that it’s now taken me three major mountain walks to fully investigate and record it.

You can see my page about this wreck site, with much more information about the wreckage and many photos on my website here.

An Garbh Choire, with Garbh Choire Mor at the far end, site of long-lasting snowpatches

After walking to the summit of Braeriach I then descended southwards into An Garbh Choire, the enormous glacial trench which to me represents the heart of the Cairngorms, and is possibly its most remote and inaccessible location. I descended down the steep slopes between Garbh Choire Dhidh and Coire Brochain, which was a difficult boulderfield that slowed my progress considerably. I finally reached the floor of An Garbh Choire near the Garbh Choire shelter. I had hoped to get close to Garbh Coire Mr in upper An Garbh Choire to investigate the long-lasting snowfields there, but this was a target too far on this particular route. I was however able to get a good view into the corrie from further eastwards down An Garbh Choire, and I could see that the one snowfield that remained from previous winters (called the ‘Sphinx’ patch after the rock-climbing route on the cliffs above it) was now covered with new snow that fell in mid-October, ensuring its survival for another year – this snowpatch last melted completely in Autumn 2006.

The last couple of hours of the walk were a bit unpleasant, descending from the high point of the Lairig Ghru pass in rain and darkness.

This was the longest route (33km) I have ever walked in a single day (I’ve done longer single-day routes but they have involved some cycling), with the added difficulty that it traversed the summit of Britain’s 3rd highest mountain via pathless and difficult terrain. It’s no wonder that I felt particularly tired afterwards!

4 Responses to “Braeriach and the largest air wreck site in Scotland”

  1. Iain

    We came across the Anson wreck when we camped for 9 days in Gleann Einich in September 1965 (NGR NH924019). We were descending back to our campsite having been on Braeriach via Coire Dhondail. (One photo on my Flickr site of the ascent in pouring rain.) I sent Adam Watson copies of slides I took of snowbeds/cornices I saw that day – 16 September 1965. My diary records that we found a live .303 bullet in the wreckage.

    The August 1967 photo of the Braeriach snowbeds you have a link to in one of your articles has had more views perhaps than any other on my Flickr site!
    The lady in the picture has been my wife for 42 years now and she is getting the tea ready as I type!
    Best regards and good luck with your interests, of which we share a few.

  2. Gordon Ballantyne

    Hi Ian,
    found your blog whilst trying to find some info on the gullies in Coire Bhrochain of Braeriach.
    I recall during the 60′s doing a sweep search along to top of Sron na Lairig when on a call-out for a lost soul.
    I was the most easterly end of the line walking along the edge of the ridge nearest the Lairig ghru when I came across some debris from the Blenheim including lots of live .303 rounds. I filled my pockets with them until I realised that they may have become unstable after so many years lying in the open – so I ditched them.
    At Kinloss during the 60′s we kept getting callouts to wartime wrecks so one of the guys did some research so that we could plot these old wrecks. Everyone was really surprised by how many there were. We were even called to a wartime wreck near Argay which had crashed into a peatbog and disappeared, only to resurface in the 60′s complete with preserved pilot !
    I also “discovered” the Garbh coire hut on that call-out when we scanned the coires through binos from the summit of Braeriach and saw these people who kept disappearing from site ( into the hut). When we got back to base, my ignorance was corrected !
    The MR Team at Kinloss (Lossiemouth ) may be able to help you with wreck info.
    Cheers Gordon



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