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The Cairngorms In late spring

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The Cairngorms In late spring

Late spring in the Cairngorms is a great time to wander. The snow patches add more drama to the scene and cool spring air makes very pleasant walking. At the end of April I was in Aviemore so decided to wander up to the plateau from the ski centre. Going up to 1141, the clouds were low with poor visibility and really cold wind chill. 30 minutes later the cloud lifted and the sun came out and I was treated to an excellent day. I went all over the place and up to Ben Macdui for views into the Lairig Ghru.

Ben Macdui Snow Bunting

Ben Macdui Snow Bunting

Views from Ben Macdui down in the Lairig Ghru

Views from Ben Macdui down in the Lairig Ghru

I walked between the small snow patches to look into the lochs from above and views from different angles. I walked along the west side of the plateau just above the Lairig Ghru and found a couple of new camping spots for a later date. Views to Cairn Toul (from the Gaelic Càrn an t-Sabhail, 'Hill of the barn'), Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (peak of the little green loch, also known as Angels Peak) and the big Braeriach (Am Bràigh Riabhach, ‘the grey upper part’) were excellent. I could see the ice still covering the lip of the green lochain and the longest lying snow patches in the Garbh Choire Mòr looked quite small for late April. As I walked along the side of the plateau I could see some Ptarmigan sheltering amongst the boulders. 

Loch A’an

Loch A’an

I was surprised by the lack of snow, especially down at the Pools of Dee which was bare. I’d be passing there a couple of weeks later on my first Lairig Ghru trip of the year. Having no snow makes that section easier to contend with...

The Pool of Dee

The Pool of Dee

On the way down to the van I had an encounter and great conversation with the local reindeer, topping off what had been a fantastic day. 

Resident Cairngorm reindeer

Resident Cairngorm reindeer

Later that week I had the pleasure of guiding a group out of Linn o’ Dee to Beinn Bhreac (speckled hill) then on to Beinn a' Chaorainn (hill of the rowan tree) in what can only be described as damp conditions! We had a good day though, first two Munros for some of the group, a great achievement for them!  

Having fun in the snow patches, no dangers at the bottom!

Having fun in the snow patches, no dangers at the bottom!

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

May began with a trip up the Glenshee west Munros with my brother on an excellent visibility day, highlight being the white tailed eagle!  

Views from

Views from

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Then the day after I guided a repeat client up Lochnagar. Another memorable day as I’ve never seen the loch so still, perfectly reflecting the corrie and snow patches. The air was so still at the top too, the only noises to be heard being birdsong and running water. We strolled over the White Mounth and down to Dubh Loch for lunch on the beach. By this time the wind was picking up and heavy rain came on. 

The stags were in the valley as we returned back to the car, happy and fulfilled with our day.  

White Mounth Ptarmigan

White Mounth Ptarmigan

Dubh Loch

Dubh Loch

Forward a week and winter returned! Some of the heaviest snow we’ve seen all winter. The plateau is white again and the bare Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru are filled with snow only a few days before my planned guided walk which is now rescheduled! I walked up to the Munro Beinn Bhreac to gauge conditions and wet snow met me at 700m followed by blizzards all the way to the top. Late spring can still surprise!

Beinn Bhreac winter returns

Beinn Bhreac winter returns

Blog by Garry, lead guide at Hillgoers.

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Lochnagar Sunset

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Lochnagar Sunset

Lochnagar Sunset

With glorious weather all week I had an itching to get up high for a camp and take in the sunset over the Cairngorms. So after cutting the grass I headed out Thursday afternoon to Loch Muick, via a quick stop in Ballater to drop off some flyers at the library. As usual, Ballater was looking fantastic in the sunshine, a TV crew were out on the village green, probably for voting day, as were many of the locals, taking in the sunshine. The town is so vibrant and the reconstruction of the old railway station is well underway, I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product.

Spital of Glen Muick visitor centre

Spital of Glen Muick visitor centre

The car park at Loch Muick was quite full which was no surprise but folks were starting to return from their walks to head home. Some weary looking but mostly happy! I timed my departure to give me enough time to pitch my tent just down from the top of Lochnagar, over toward the Stuic.

Red Spout

Red Spout

There was a reasonable breeze giving a little wind chill but nothing a hat and warm layer wouldn't fix. On my way up I stopped at foxes for a drink, hearing the noises above, I looked up and watched an eagle and raven in overhead battle. The raven was trying her best to see of the eagle, which flew off calmly in the direction of Conachcraig and didn't seem to be fussed about the raven! After reaching the top, just before 8pm I put on my extra duvet coat and sat watching the clouds and views unfold, with the sun stretching the shadows over the glens, Lochnagar itself completely in shadow.

Campsite toward the Stuic

Campsite toward the Stuic

On my way to pitch my tent I passed a fit trail runner in shorts and t-shirt, a quick run up Lochnagar, a couple of selfies perhaps, then off over the Stuic! I pitched my tent out of the wind best I could, put the kettle on and took in the views until I was in need of my bed.

Stuic and Loch nan Eun

Stuic and Loch nan Eun

In the morning I went back up to Lochnagar, then headed back to Loch Muick via Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach and Dubh Loch. I took a break at Dubh Loch as it's such a beautiful place, I was tempted for a swim but resisted, so instead I sat on a rock and watched the swirls in the water and looked for trout rises. On my way down to the loch, I stopped to watch quite a few mountain hare, now in their summer coats, galloping around the hillside. I didn't see any deer or catch sight of a dropped antlers but I did see some interesting remains of what looked to be grouse and a couple raven feathers.

Grouse feathers

Grouse feathers

Mountain Hare

Mountain Hare

Dubh Loch

Dubh Loch

The heather down toward Loch Muick is starting to take colour too, with the odd sprig of yellow flowers which is really cheery. The sundews and butterworts, really shooting up as well, I've a feeling they will be busy this year!

I've uploaded a wee video to YouTube which you can view here, this will hopefully give you an idea of the views, although they never do it justice, you have to be there, breathe and feel it. Apologies it's a little shaky in places. I was getting fed up with the standard backing tracks offered by Apple so I asked my 15yo daughter Emma to lay down a track for me last night, Maggie West's Waltz by Mairearad Green, this could be a new feature on my videos!

If you'd like to join me on a walk get in touch. Our next planned event is 20th May but we welcome bespoke outings too.

Bridge over the Muick

Bridge over the Muick

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Cairngorm Walk - 19th April 2017

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Cairngorm Walk - 19th April 2017

I try to get out every other day for a walk and I try and do a long one at least once a week. When I say long, 25km plus, into a remote area where I can look at that conditions and see the seasonal changes.

Last Wednesday I decided to head for Loch Avon via Glen Derry, Loch Etchachan and over Ben Mheadhoin coming off the north east side down to the east side of Loch Avon. A reasonable walk but I also took my bike to Derry Lodge, cutting off 10km in foot, so in total about 34km, with 970m ascent.

Derry Lodge

Derry Lodge

With the forecast saying the cloud was to lift through morning and wind really light, I knew I was in for a good day. I was only 10 minutes into my cycle along Glen Lui when I heard the call of an eagle, looking up and stopping my bike it was not that far from me, soaring around the trees just beside the path up to Clais Fhearnaig, confirming it was going to be a good day!

As I walked further up and through Glen Derry the noticeable change that struck me this time was the colour of the juniper, the green shoots seemed to stand out more against the brown of the heather. Passing by I like to pinch a piece in my fingers and smell the gin and tonic!  

Hutchison Memorial Hut

Hutchison Memorial Hut

I stopped at the Hutchison hut for lunch before heading up to the loch and beyond. I could've sat there all day, with the place to myself and taking in the views and sounds in the sun, sheltered from the breeze. The only sounds being the cackle of grouse and the creak in the roof from the warmth of the sun.

Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan

Loch Etchachan

Loch Etchachan

Loch Etchachan seems to be a prime spot for ptarmigan and with my 200mm camera in hand I was pleased to pick up a couple of good photos on my way up the hill. As you travel up the hill the views of the loch really open up, as do the views over the whole area. And when you reach the flat spot you can really pick out the mountains far and wide. I passed the barns (granite tors shaped by the wind and ice) and headed over to the north side to get a better view into Loch Avon, enjoying every step.

Loch Avon (Loch A'an)

Loch Avon (Loch A'an)

Loch Avon east beach

Loch Avon east beach

My walk back took me close to the Fords of Avon refuge, past the Dubh Lochan and through the Lairig an Laoigh, back to Glen Derry.  I picked up my bike and nearly rode over an adder on my way back which would've spoilt fantastic day!

Dubh Lochan

Dubh Lochan

I'm out walking most weeks, contact me if you'd like to join one of my longer explorer walks or look at my event calendar.

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