GUIDE TO ALLT MOR AND CAS BURN
NAME OF RIVER: Cas Burn/Allt Mor.
WHERE IS IT?: Aviemore, Scotland. From Aviemore take the Coylumbridge road and continue past the Glenmore visitor centre (etc.) up the mountain to the ski centre car park at the end of the road.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: OS Landranger 36. Put in at the ski centre car park GR989060. Take-out at footbridge GR984071. The path (river right) from the bridge leads up to the road (200m) at the first large car park on the drive up the mountain.
APPROX LENGTH: Just over 1 km.
TIME NEEDED: Not long: 30 - 60 mins max - but you might want to do it again and again and again.......
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown. Not believed to be any problems. Situated within the Cairngorms National Nature Reserve. (See SCA access notes also).
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Required to be bank full before it is paddle-able: check at put-in. Requires snow-melt to bring it into condition. You can probably gauge the snow-melt requirements from the photograph of the ski centre car park - three days before this photograph was taken there was a thick blanket of snow covering the whole area (in fact right down to Aviemore - 1000 ft lower down the mountains). It may also come into condition after continuous heavy rain - but I have no experience of this.
GRADING: Difficult to grade - see description for explanation. Probably equivalent to grade 2/3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: One 5 foot drop approximately half way - shallow pool requiring 'controlled' landing. Snow bridges spanning the burn are possible hazards - depends on the level of the snow-line - probably advisable not to paddle under them!!! The trip, as described, is above the tree line so there is no danger from fallen trees - there are no trees!!!!
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Cas Burn is the run-off for the Coire Cas area on the north-western slopes of Cairn Gorm to the south-east of Aviemore. It is a typical mountain burn - a 'ditch' of rocks and boulders which for the majority of the year only harbours a trickle of water if any at all. From the put-in the Cas runs for about 800m before entering the Allt Mor (a slightly wider burn, similar in nature, with a number of tributaries draining the northern Corries of Cairn Gorm). However, when the snow melt occurs they rapidly rise to become bank full, white water slides down the mountain with an average gradient of approximately 1 in 10 (some sections reach a gradient of 1 in 7). The best description of the Cas Burn I can think of is a Cresta Run for kayaks but a hell of a lot bumpier - a steep-downhill pin-ball helter-skelter! This suggests that the most appropriate boat to use should be tough, short, roundish and preferably someone else's!!!! Paddle mitts/gloves and elbow pads may also be something to consider.
The get in is beside the ski-centre car park. At this point it is almost inconceivable that the burn is paddle-able. It is only just wide enough for a boat - you can hang on to both banks when putting-on! Group control (if you can call it that) is best achieved by 'launching' each paddler several minutes after the previous one. The Burn can only be run 'solo' and time spacing is needed to avoid multiple boat pile-ups. Although you are 'with' a group the many twists and turns of the Burn mean that for most of the paddle you are on your own - which is an experience in itself.
The only real hazard, the 'big' drop, is as far as I recall half way down the Cas Burn. About a 5 foot vertical drop into a pool. The 'danger' being the very shallow pool - the deeper part lies to river left (April 98 - it may have changed since then). A 'flat-ish' landing is suggested as the best option.
Apart from the obvious boulders, potential broaches and running aground up the banks there are no real hazards for most of its length - there is never a choice of routes it's always on and down. After the Cas Burn meets the Allt Mor, the river becomes slightly wider for about 2-300m of similar paddling before reaching the take-out at a well constructed foot bridge across the river.
From the take-out follow the path on river right up the hill to the road and the car park.
Being such a short trip you may wish to repeat the body-bruising process several times. Alternatively, this is a paddle that could be done as a second 'river'. When I paddled it we ran the nearby River Feshie in the morning and finished the day with the Cas Burn.
I have been told that it is possible to continue the paddle down the Allt Mor as far as Loch Morlich. However, below the section described here, the river crosses the tree line (upper limit of trees on the mountain) into ancient (and new) pine forests. There is a big danger from fallen trees blocking the river - great care should be taken.
Other burns in this area must be paddle-able in similar conditions but would need a walk-in and possibly a walk-out! Have they been paddled?
CONTRIBUTED BY: Gordon Miller, Blackwater Valley Canoe Club.