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backpacking

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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Carn a' Mhaim - bike and hike

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Carn a' Mhaim - bike and hike

Fantastic conditions in the Cairngorms for our bike and hike event to Carn a' Mhaim yeasterday. Why not join us for the next one, or contact us to arrange a trip for you! See our events page for planned outings.

All of our trips are informative and we can include navigation training too if desired!

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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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