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It's a fine day for the hill – My tribute to Adam Watson

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It's a fine day for the hill – My tribute to Adam Watson

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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February Update

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February Update

Hello all,
As the “beast from the east” blasts through I thought I’d spend a bit of time in my office this week catching up on the paperwork and preparing for a busy season ahead! Hopefully the snow will not impact you too much, if you don’t want it too! This winter continues to deliver with some record temperatures and snow fall. Unfortunately, it’s also been a very busy period for our Mountain Rescue Teams, huge thanks to these volunteers for looking after safety on the mountains, I’ll be hosting another charity event in August for Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team and any training I do in Braemar percentage of fees will go to the Braemar team. Stay safe, stay informed and get trained.

I was absolutely delighted to be in the latest issue of Scottish Mountaineer magazine and to be included on their website. You can read their article via my earlier blog here. My journey from back injury to Mountain Leader will hopefully help inspire some to believe they can get out and do more, thanks to Neil and the Mountaineering Scotland team for publishing the article.

We had a great mid term break down in Loch Tay, weather was good so we had some nice fresh walks up Glen Lyon and also up toward Meall nan Tarmachan for a bit of sledging! I also took the family to see the Fortingall yew, the oldest living thing in Europe, right here in Scotland, some 5000-year-old. Our time on earth seems a little insignificant next to that tree.

Meall nan Tarmachan

Meall nan Tarmachan

Fortingall Yew

Fortingall Yew

February has also seen me finalise my procedures and processes that I will submit to the HSE for my Adventure Activities Licence. This is the next stage for Hillgoers and will allow us to take groups of youngsters out on expeditions and walks, as we aim to become a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Provider by the early summer.  These activities will run aside the current activities and I’m delighted to be building my team for this with some great people.

The season ahead is looking quite busy already but there are still some places left on the planned walks and we have spaces for bespoke walks or corporate events. There is some availability on our hill skills and navigation award courses too. I have put in some new events for this as we try and cater for all – “Hill Skills with dogs” and “Navigation Awards during school hours” for busy parents! I’ll keep trying different ways to run the courses, if you have any suggestions I’d be happy to have them!

Keep an eye on my website, social media, etc for new events and please get in touch if you have any questions.

Take care in the snow.
Garry.
garry@hillgoers.com

Luna preparing for Mountain Leader exam!

Luna preparing for Mountain Leader exam!

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