Thursday, 18 July 2013

A walk in the cairngorms

Just back from a wander through the Lairig an Laoigh a walk that I attempted to do before but got rained out of the mountains. With the weather we have had last couple of weeks and forecast to stay fine it was one of those now or never moments.I would have liked some company on this one but unfortunately Scott and Tony were not available so solo it would have to be.I dug out my large rucksack / tent / stove and the rest of my needs and packed it with what I thought I would require for a few days.The problem was weight I picked it up and just thought I can't carry this over rough high ground and my first doubts set in. However with lots of encouragement from the family I sorted my transport out for Tuesday morning.
A bit on the heavy side
Olga came to the station with me to take the car home and we said our goodbyes and I sat in gorgeous sunshine waiting for the train north.Still feeling a bit nervous I started my train journey and thought what the hell when passing through Blair Atholl and saw all the station wet and as continued north the sky just got darker and darker. Please no I thought not again as we past through the dismal visibility until arriving at Aviemore where I was starting out from.The sky was dark but still had the odd glimpse of sun as I walked past  Glenmore Lodge a few spots of rain now and again but not enough to bother me.I had a good path for the first few miles came to the fork in the track took a deep breath and struck out for Braemar with dark clouds above.
cross roads

Bynack More ( no sun )
I crossed the river Nethy and took the track up the Bynack More  Munro I new I was not going to the top but would via off at about 800 metre along the ridge before coming down into the next pass. To put it bluntly I struggled up the path and had to take many short breaks as the weight of the pack and my abilities were put to the test.To top it all just as I reached the ridge I found I was walking in wet cloud and then the rain god said hello so a quick stop to put full rain cove on rucksack to keep my sleeping bag dry. I forgot to mention the wind was getting very strong and head on and was trying to blow me over. It was gritted teeth time and at last I was at the point of heading down off the ridge.The path was a bit on the rough side now and just lead down into featureless high bog and I had read to be careful at this point as it was easy to wander off course and get yourself lost.I had the Garmin set up with the track programed in plus map and compass handy.

Bynack More ridge
Heading up the rather damp ridge with intermittent showers
Heading off the ridge into the waste land
The next few miles were hard going (for me) and I was glad it had not been too wet as most of the bog the track lead me through were nice and dry.I was hoping to reach the Avon refuge for my nights stop over but found I was getting slower and stumbling about on the wild paths.I had lost height coming off the ridge and now I had to regain it to cross over the watershed before my final mile plus to the refuge.The path was just broken rocks and loose stones and I just thought now is not the time to twist an ankle.I eventually came down to the small refuge hut and found two people there having a break.
I intended to camp there anyway as there was not enough room for more than two people but in an emergency it would shelter a a few more like sardines in a tin.It was good to have some company and a chat and the male member of the couple gave me a hand pitching my tent. ( I did mention the wind didn't I ). The refuge is at the junction of four glens and the wind which was strong was now been amplified. With the tent pitched and holding it's own I thought it would be nice if it was still standing in the morning.

Avon refuge in the distance my destination
home for the night
I know I said I was nervous about doing this sol walk  but somebody up there likes me. Chatting away to the couple charlie told me he was in the mountain rescue team and by profession worked in the Cardiac rehab scheme and his wife ( forgot her name) was involved with physiotherapy . I thought yes just the two people I need around if I have trouble.
I had a sleepless night I never sleep well in a tent ( but do rest my body ) and that night the wind changed and was hitting the poor tent broadside on and it was making hellish whip cracking sounds and I lay there waiting for it to blow away.
The next morning the tent was still there but so was the wind so I made a call early on that I would carry on my walk as I did intend staying in that area for a day but not in those conditions, theonly good thing weather wise was the sun was out and black clouds no more.
River Avon crossing point
Charlie helped me pack the tent up it did take two of us just to hold it down and we said our goodbyes they were heading west I was going south.I had a head wind to push against and the river crossing and again i was lucky as the water was the lowest it had been for ages so dry feet boulder hoping great.
I headed south through the Lairig an laoigh on another stoney loose sheep type track with the wind having a real go at me so very slow progress was made until I crossed over the Col and headed down into the next glen. I had a great view down Glen Derry from my height advantage and once I got out of the wind I was planning a proper break as I intended another nights camping near Derry lodge area.

heading up to Lairig an Laoigh

Glen Derry in the distance
I walked down into Glen Derry and met the first person of the day heading out to do some Munro bagging had a few words and continued down the glen filling my water bottle from clear fresh cold water off the hills.
My back had played the game a few little twinges but nothing to worry about my main problem was my feet they were starting to get a bit tender and hot. I found another very nice wild camping site so stopped to get the stove on and have something warm to eat.
Glen Derry

Derry Burn tea break and future camping place ?
After a rest I had a few thoughts on what to do next as it came home to me that the feet were starting to nag me now.I had about 6 miles to walk out from here to the Linn of Dee where i could stay the night and head out again in the morning to Braemar. They have put a summer service on from Braemar to Blairgowrie but only two buses a day one morning one early afternoon so I intended to get one of those as a means of getting home.
I reached Derry Lodge and rested up for about 30 minutes then made for the Linn of Dee. This bit was a good estate track made for easy walking but not when your feet are hot and hurty and I was now glad I had made the call to try to walk out as I did not fancy a long walk in the morning.
I arrived at the Linn of Dee and thought great that's it camp the night then 6 mile road walk in the morning to get the bus south. I then encountered a problem I never even thought of where to pitch the tent the estate wanted you at least half a k from any roads. I knew I was very tired and trying to make a sensible decision  was proving troublesome . After spending another 30 mins attempting to come to a conclusion on what to do I did the silly option. I had 6 miles road walk in the morning if my feet would let me or I just said shit they hurt just do it now and worry about staying somewhere later if you make it.Even if I did at a pace of one mile an hour the pubs will still be open for a pint of guinness and that thought blew all logic away so with hot feet I started out to braemar. After about two miles I thought what the hell am I up too ! all the hooray henry's speeding by no chance of a lift then a savior came in the guise of a solo tour operator in van with trailer full of mountain bikes.He was running about dropping off and picking up some dutch bikers and he had just collected them saw me the rest agreed stopped made room and off we went.That was the end of my walk not the end of the day all hotels full but found a hostel run by a very nice lady who gave me a 4 bunk room to myself just 100 yards from the Fife arms hotel and guinness at last.
I don't think I will be doing this heavy walking again or then I just might.


  1. I don't reckon there's any stopping you! What a fabulous bloke you are. If I have had of your energy and determination even now I would be a very happy woman - well done you! Daffs xx

  2. You can't beat a wee adventure to put a smile on your face, and the beer always tastes better too! Fiona xx