First camp of the year

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First camp of the year

I knew I’d be in the tent last Friday night but I hadn’t decided on the exact location before I left the house in the morning. I did tell Sarah my route though and gave a few options of where I might end up. My first thought was at the col of Lochnagar, just down a bit from Meikle Pap, that’s what we discussed anyway. The forecast was perfect, light winds, clear skies, chance of a meteor shower and perhaps an aurora! I first camped at the col with Sarah circa 1995, can’t remember for sure, but this time I was a little more prepared.…

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Before that though I met up with my chum Struan and we took the boys for a stroll to Shielin of Mark Bothy. The hard frost crafted ice formations on the burns and made the usually damp walk to the bothy quite easy across the peat hags. Dropping down to the bothy in beautiful sunshine we had our picnic by the fire (to add to the bothy experience) and played a game of top trumps, in which I came last. We had both carried in and left fire wood for the next visitor. Be warned though, the chimney is a bit like me, no good at drawing!

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The 4 of us and very happy dog left the bothy (with fire out) and enjoyed our walk back over the heather to the path. The boys tried to smash as much ice as possible, icicles fascinating them as usual. We met another nice chap outside the bothy, carrying two large cameras and enjoying the sunshine and fading light on the way back. We probably disturbed his afternoon but he didn’t seem to mind.
Walking back we admired Lochnagar in the distance and I was looking forward to extending my walk along the road. I walked back to the car park with them and waved them off while I changed over bags and boots. By this time the sun was already getting low and I walked up towards Allt-na-giubhsaich as the light faded.

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This was my first longish day since the festive period and I was feeling it with the heavier pack. The walk up the track was quite slow for my usual standards, possibly because of the weight in my bag and around my waist!

At the path junction before the walk up to the col I stopped for a break to decide what I was going to do. The mist was starting to form and I contemplated turning back for a comfy night in the van. I put on my stove for a cup of tea then out of the darkness I heard footsteps approaching. Thinking to myself ‘who could this be’, along walked Bill Dallas. I used to work for the same company as Bill and we’ve crossed paths a couple of times since. I told him I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up that night. Being a member of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team he probably wasn’t too impressed with this indecision but he did kindly offer me to join him on the top. I would support that view and it’s not advisable to wander in winter if you don’t know what you’re doing. To explain, I gave Sarah a full late back procedure, including route and times of contact. In winter I also carry Spot SOS tracker, I know the area very well and I’m a qualified Mountain Leader. Camping up high in winter is life threatening if you don’t understand and mitigate the risks. Serious stuff over.

Bill left me and my boiling stove and I stood looking at the stars, occasionally I could could see him switch on the head torch as he wandered up the hill.
It’s amazing the difference a wee hot drink and a snack can make to your energy levels. Inspired by Bill’s efforts I decided to plod on, soon reaching foxes well where I filled my water containers for the trip up top, the best water in Scotland. I didn’t carry my tripod which was a mistake so balancing my camera on a rock I took a couple of poor photos of the corrie before continuing on up the ladder and over towards the top.

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There was some ice on the ground but mostly avoidable. A snow patch on the path before the climb to Cac Carn Mòr was avoided by staying closer to the corrie rim. I didn’t continue onto the top, I decided to leave Bill to the solitude he probably went up for. I pitched my tent on the flat spot west of Cac Carn Mòr, by this time getting tired and hungry.
I only saw one meteor but the glow of the northern lights and huge skies above was eye opening, utterly beautiful. I pitched my tent with the door facing north, sat in my sleeping bag and watched the display eating a lovely...chicken curry. About 10:30 I was dozing off and I heard another couple of voices and torches approaching near the Cairn. Bill’s solitude was about to be disturbed by another couple of team members as I found out in the morning when speaking with the Aberdeen team who were out training.

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During the night the cloud came in and the frost came too. I don’t think it was overly cold but there was a good deposit of rime on anything exposed. I woke up a few times through the night, opened the door at 6 ish and quickly closed it again! Then awoke about 8 for breakfast, still in cloud.
After packing up the cloud began to lift and I had a great walk down enjoying the clouds drifting below and chatting to folk as they walked up.

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Long story short, pick your day, know what you’re doing and go for it. Watching that sky at 1140m is something I’ll never forget. I’ll keep the camping in winter for myself but if you’d like to experience this in summer get in touch.

Happy New Year all, Garry.

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Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas

Hello,
As we approach Christmas and the end of another year I just wanted to say thanks so much for supporting Hillgoers this year.
I’m pretty sure this has been the most I’ve ever walked in one year, not bad for someone in their late twenties...Seriously though, it’s been a great year and it’s been a pleasure to be out with you. If you’ve not been on one of my walks or navigation sessions then I look forward to that next year perhaps.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a healthy happy new year.
Best Wishes,
Garry & family x

p.s. Use discount code FINDRA15% off the next week on all out FINDRA products :)

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The Lairig Ghru

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The Lairig Ghru

The Lairig Ghru - A walk to remember

One of our favourite walks in Scotland, the Lairig Ghru was once one of the main routes used for driving cattle and transporting goods through the Cairngorm mountains. This walk has everything, old Caledonian pine forests, stunning views and crystal clears waters. The sparkling waters of the Lui, Luibeg, Dee and Druidh travel with you as you journey along the route. The source of the mighty river Dee can be seen falling from its beginnings at the Wells of Dee beside the mighty Braeriach, down the falls and into Garbh Choire Dhàidh. The Garbh Choire being Scotland’s most remote Choire and up until the summer of 2018 held snow longer than any other snow area. 2017 and 2018 has sadly seen this snow melt consecutively for the first time in recorded history. These long lasting snow patches named Sphinx and Pinnacles can usually be spotted from Lairig Ghru, more info here.

As you walk a short while over the boulder field at the top of the Lairig the beautiful Pools of Dee appear. They are just small pools but the water is so pure and very transparent on a calm day. Brown trout minnows can sometimes be seen darting around or coming up for air. It’s worth stopping here for a moment to absorb your remote surroundings.

The Pools of Dee

The Pools of Dee

The Lairig also has some human history to share. There’s the sad story of Clach nan Taillear, the beginnings of Corrour and Bob Scott’s bothies, Sinclair memorial hut and the old archeological settlements along the route.

Corrour Bothy

Corrour Bothy

It’s a challenging walk and not one to be taken lightly, a degree of fitness is required and some long walks prior is a good idea, especially if your breaking in new boots! Snow can accumulate here well into late spring. The walk reaches an altitude of 835m at the high point where you will find a boulder field and the wonderous Pools of Dee. From Linn o’ Dee to Coylumbridge you’ll travel 32km!

The surrounding mountains on both sides of the Lairig Ghru tower above you creating a ‘V’ shaped gap, with the massive Ben Macdui on one side, Braeriach on the other. The pass gives a rich variety of woodland and mountain scenery. It had a wide variety of mountain flora too. It truly is the best mountain pass in Scotland.

We run guided walks throughout the summer months with return transport included. contact us to discuss and have a look at our events.

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