Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had in the Cairngorms, blue skies, no wind and good company. With the passing of Adam Watson last week, I decided on Derry Cairngorm area as the place where I would go and be thankful for the short time I knew Adam. Derry was Adam’s favourite area, although he was also very fond of Lochnagar too. I asked him this last year on one of my visits to his home in Crathes, just along the road from me. The time spent studying ptarmigan at Derry swung the balance from Lochnagar. I didn’t see any ptarmigan yesterday, I’m sure they were there. As I walked the same area on Wednesday an eagle flew just above my head, Adam could probably have told me where her eyrie was I’m sure.
I listened to the outdoors podcast this morning and there were good reflections on Adam. Lots of much better tributes than this have been posted on social media this week too from those who knew him better than I. Unfortunately, the only outings we had together was to Milton of Crathes but he could tell me in detail the places to visit and things to look out for. After my walks I would send him pictures of the hills and sometimes unusual flowers, he would email me back comments within hours, so generous he was with his time for me and others.
My admiration for Adam started well before we met though, from reading his books and articles. We shared similar views and the same love for the hills. His years of evidence-based study of the habitat fascinates me. In a world where everything is based on short term visions and quick results, we need more scientists like Adam to be listened to.
Wednesday was a cold night in Derry, I’m not sure of the exact number but we estimated -14 degC . I had pulled an almost full bag of coal and logs in my wee sledge though and others had taken fuel too so there was a warm atmosphere in Bob Scott’s bothy. Simon, from Cairngorm Treks and I had planned to meet there, I wasn’t quite expecting there to be 7 others on a cold Wednesday night but it was a good night with good conversation, Adam would have loved it. Simon did the right thing and slept in his tent…I tried to sleep as best I could, but it was noisy, for all kinds of reasons. One of the occupants decided to pack up and leave at 2:30am!
After a warm up coffee and breakfast, we headed out into the powder snow, hard going straight up until we eventually reached the more wind scoured part of the hill. Above maybe 900m the snow was more crusted and easier to walk on. The snow covering was not up to perfect ski touring levels but it did make for dramatic mountain views, with contrasting rock and snow. We spotted mountain hare and a snow bunting too. The sun had a warmth in it and with no wind we were soon taking off the layers. From the top views were vast, Ben Nevis could be seen in the distance. The only cloud to be seen was far off to the east coast. We spotted two other walkers from NTS ahead of us, someone up on Ben Macdui and a couple maybe on Cairn Gorm.
I’ll miss Adam’s wisdom, stories and generous advice. I wish we could have wandered the hills together on a day like yesterday, a perfect day.