Wet and wild in the Cairngorms – and the weather wasn’t great either.
Saturday morning. Rain. Low cloud. Bacon on the frying pan in the tent next door.
The story starts at the end of September with a message across on the Outdoors Bloggers Forum: Hi Duncan, I am actually travelling up Monday night. Arriving Tuesday morning Aviemore. Getting over to the east side for the following weekend is no problem. Give me a day and location and I can be there. Dawn.
So, Friday night finds me rushing home from work and packing my Osprey Atmos pack (I have one comfortable pack for overnights and multi-days). I set the kit out on the bed, and remember Dawn’s resupply pack from the fridge. The hour it takes me also allows for the rush-hour traffic to die down, and I set off westwards after 6pm. A straight drive along Royal Deeside, and past the shops in Braemar, parking at the Linn of Dee. (maplink) A quick tab up Glen Lui gets me to Derry Lodge about 9.30pm. I do part of the journey with the headtorch switched off and sometimes with the red LED on. I sneak past Bob Scott’s bothy by diffused sky-light as I find it heightens my senses more and I find I can smell the woodsmoke from the hut down in the glen. I decide that, when I get home, I’ll swap out my Alpkit headtorch (with its many colours) for the mono-coloured 4-LED lens Petzl as I prefer to have a wider field of vision. With thoughts on lights, I round the corner past the lodge and see a red light in the near distance. After a short manoeuvring around the river (and then back across the bridge as I’d moved in a straight line but the river has a bend in it), “good evening Dawn”, and “Is that you Duncan?” I clear a pitch and Dawn offers me water for a brew. We chat, then kip, soon after the rain falls on our tents.
Next morning over the aforementioned bacon rolls and a brew, we discuss the options for the weekend. The weather is poor, the temperature had dropped to 2°c on the drive in, but was 5°c in the ‘gorm. There was snow on the peaks. My thoughts of heading to Loch nan Cnapan were shelved and a low-level day settled on. Dawn would see what Saturday brought before deciding whether to continue her hiking trip, or bail out with me on Sunday. Packing up wet tents in a break in the drizzle, we see a few people on the trail, but no other tents. The forecast of snow on the peaks, rain and high winds may have had something to do with that.
Looking back to where we had camped the night before gives some idea of the weather conditions. The waterproofs were on from the start, and conditions merely determined whether the hood was up or down. We had both walked the track enough times, and go to Luibeg Bridge without incident. Though it is strange that the good path was down to the ford (“in this weather? no chance”) rather than the bridge. We stop for a break and wave to the three ‘oriental’ gents who walk by.
The way up Luibeg disappears into the mist and snow as the shoulders of the second-highest peak in the UK (Ben MacDui) are faintly visible. We think of the folk from OutdoorsMagic who are having a “windy meet” in the region, and hope they are having fun.
Over the muddy path we slide and squelch. Moving towards the better path, but the rain is now cold and heavy and constant. We meet the three gents again at the foot of the path up Carn a’ Mhaim. They politely point to the stream running down the slope and ask us if we knew “if that was the path to the summit?” We confirmed that it was, and said it looked like it would be a snow-covered walk in the low cloud above. Something that we wouldn’t try. The main chap still looked confident, but his two colleagues were not. We left them discussing the matter.
Afterwards I mentioned that I had made the assumption that just because I wouldn’t have attempted it, these people from a different land shouldn’t either. Maybe they were trained in the Chinese military, or from a mountainous part of the world, and even their old granny walked worse to get to market. As you may have gathered, I feel guilty quite easily.
There are no photographs of the westward trek from the Luibeg to the Lairig Ghru as the rain was too heavy. Only when we started to turn south (“move down another two steps, now turn left, that’s you on the path now”). My Paramo Cascada trousers were sodden, and my Scarpa boots were squelching on the outside and inside. Dawn noted that they had failed on her in conditions like this too, and she had had an argument with a chap in the Covent Garden shop over the claims of waterproofedness. I reckon that I’ll get some Nikwax on them and decide whether or not to trust them for the West Highland Way in October.
Looking back north gives us some stunning views. Nature is great and I don’t think either of us felt down-heartened by the weather. I stop myself humming “Somewhere over the rainbow”, as it isn’t manly enough and switch to “Walking on sunshine” – hmm, I think I need to listen to less pop music and dust off some old edgier tracks.
The Bod really dominated the area, and the sun eventually managed to bless it before we finished walking the glen.
I am too much of a gentleman to mention the two falls that Dawn had in the glen. On a path. At ground level. I guess many of us have done similar things. I know I have. Well, I haven’t fallen, over, but I have stumbled and caught myself. So that is almost the same.
And, yes, this is the same day as the earlier photographs. Still Saturday, nearing 4pm, and we meet two pairs of hikers out for a day’s walk.
Stopping at White Bridge (maplink), we discuss options and settle on pitching at a spot I know near the Linn of Dee, and walking out next day.
As the sun sets on Saturday, Dawn gets out her “Bush Buddy” wood-burning stove and is making pitta-bread cheesy melts and I get my meths stove out for a brew. A pair of stags are sounding off for a fight, even though they are separated by the torrent of the River Dee. I had not seen any deer since leaving the car yesterday evening, and was still asleep when early-bird hikers were up and about watching a herd not too far from the tents.
We had walked 18km (11 miles), and my super-dooper Paramo trousers had dried out soon after the driving heavy rain had stopped.
Sunday morning. We slowly break camp. The deer noises of the night before are gone. The Silva ADC Wind (bought earlier in the year in a sale from RawOutdoors) recorded that the lowest temperature in the night had been 1.1°c. I was glad of my down jacket, and had pulled it over the down sleeping bag and slept in a layer of merino wool clothes.
A short walk to the car, and we arrive soon after at Braemar for breakfast in the “Hungry Highlander” (where the ducks stare at us menacingly) and a trip to the gear shop (Braemar Mountain Sports) which is left empty-handed.
Dawn’s take on the trip can be found over at: dawn-outdoors.blogspot.com. I will read it later, as I preferred not to read it before writing my trip report…which has been delayed by events – mainly the week passing so quickly.