Sunday, 5 October 2008

Wet and Wild in the CGNP

Wet and wild in the Cairngorms – and the weather wasn’t great either.

Saturday at Derry Lodge

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: 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.


Martin Rye said...

Pictures Duncan. We want to see you having fun in the rain ;)

Take care

AktoMan said...

Patience, young Martin, patience. I'm hosting tonight. Or am I doing my stint with mountain rescue ;-)

Blessed said...

there is nothing quite like camping in the rain...

beautiful pictures - waiting for the text... :)

Martin Rye said...

My first backpacking trip to Scotland was the Cairngorms. I am still enchanted with the place. If I had to pick one place to visit and stay in? It would be there. They have something wonderful about them. I sometimes meet others who don't rate them. I ask have they wildcamped in the heart of the mountains. They shuffle their feet look down and mumble some comment. I know they have most likely not, or had a bad weather trip. See them like the photos show and fall under there spell.

Simon said...

Nice to see you out and about. It all looked pretty good to me.

Dawn said...

It was fantasmagorical. Duncan slipped up though, he missed me falling down a hidden hole and he missed a fantastic photo shot of me taking a header after slipping on mud. He is a brave lad though, I mean to say, walking with Dawn, scary!!!

dawn said...

My version of events is now written up.

AktoMan said...

As is mine - and I even waited until I had finished before reading yours ;-)

I'll be treating my Paramo trousers, an then testing it out before trusting it for the WHW.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. Bit of a contrast with my trip in May! Disturbing that your Cascadas didn't stand up to the rain.

AktoMan said...

[extracts from email reply to query about trousers]

I've had my Paramo Cascada trousers about a year now, and worn them on the few hikes that I have been on, I wear layers on my top, but had to pull on and off waterproof overtrousers, so liked the idea of a single dry layer. I got fitted in the shop in Aboyne, and got a 10% membership discount (I can't remember what for, NTS, SYHA, etc). Until the weekend, I just felt the cold transmission when kneeling in wet grass

After an hour of driving cold rain (as opposed to the usual showers) my actual legs were damp. I noted this to Dawn, who said that she had that issue with Paramo in the past, and said so to them when in their Covent Garden shop. However, as I hadn't been out much since getting the trousers, I hadn't reproofed them (I have now done this, but haven't tested them).

After turning down the glen and the rain was not driving to the front, my legs and trousers dried out, and by the time the sun had come out, all was back to normal.


I noticed that when my legs were damp, my socks were squelching. I wondered if rain was coming through the upper vent holes in the Scarpa ZG65's, but I hadn't had trouble before (except when water comes over the top). So I wondered if it was water coming down the inside of the Paramo trousers.

I wan't wearing gaiters as I haven't worn them in ages. I had vague memories that Simon Parkes had worn a pair of short gaiters under his Paramo trousers last year when I did some hiking with him. I've not had this problem before, but did have a look at small ankle gaiters when I was in Tiso's on Wednesday getting Nikwax products to clean and waterproof the trousers (which are currently drying in the airing cupboard).

I dried off my feet in the evening and changed socks for my spare pair. I wondered about dropping some foot-talc into my lotions/potions bag (hmm, think I'll do that now before I forget again).

I'm off on the West Highland Way again during my October break, and am wondering if I should take a pair of waterproofs with me as well as the Paramos. It defeats the purpose of them though, as I'd need to take a pair of 'hotel trousers' for the civilised places too. So that would be 3 pair of trousers. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I had no problems with my 3rd Element Jacket in August when the weather was foul for most of the time, but the rain was not continuously beating on the jacket. Was the water beading on the Cascadas? I had an old pair of Fuera trousers which refused to be proofed properly and wetted out after an hour or so. My new Cascadas do not seem to have this issue. I'm very careful with re-proofing. I always rise out the washing machine with a boil wash before I clean/proof my Paramo stuff.

AktoMan said...

I also did a clean-wash through beforehand, and then used the Nikwax cleaning product, and then the proofing one.

Perhaps I'll put them on and go and have a shower.

I'll be spray-proofing other kit today in preparation for my trek.

Dawn said...

having yet again raised this issue with the paramo shop. It was reluctantly agreed that in extreme conditions, water may perculate through. This happend to me in February. In fact I got soaked to the skin and was in a serious situation. I am fond of my cascadas but am now wary. My paclite over trousers will be in the rucksack. Dawn

AktoMan said...

I think I'm going to err on the side of caution and put my overtrousers in the pack for the WHW. For all they weigh, I'll fall back into the mode of "better safe than sorry".

I think - no, I'm sure - I'll be packing my down jacket too. Just in case. It isn't as if it will be snowing one week and be hot and clammy the next!

Gayle E Bird said...

Oh, now I'm in a quandary! I'd pretty much decided on my Cascadas for the WHW. But I don't think that I've ever used them in any significant rain yet, so maybe I should try them out in testing conditions before trusting them on a week-long walk.

I'm not sure whether I've used my Velez smock in wet weather either. It seems to me that it's acted as an excellent rain deterrent since I got it 18 months ago, but I can't expect that run of luck to last.

AktoMan said...

I honestly don't know what to advise, Gayle. If you check across on OM, there's a thread there about Paramo failures (and successes).

Having re-proofed mine (if that part of the washing machine cycle worked properly), I'm taking mine as well as a pair of overtrousers. The Paramo dried off quickly once the cold, driving rain died away.

Big Kev said...

Try re-proofing your Paramo stuff twice. I had to do that recently with a Velez that wetted out after being done once.

I wonder if it's something to do with the capacity of the washing machine used? ie the solution is more/less dilute than optimal.


Fred said...

Hi Duncan
Just come across yours and Dawns write up of your intrepid voyage. The mountains are at their most powerfully impressive in such inhospitable weather.
I always wear a a pair fleece trousers (expensive one from Berghaus I think - about 10 yrs old and cheapo ones from Go Outdoors-£6 a pair earlier this year). I bought 4 pairs. They should not be as good as they are -being so cheap and unbranded , but they are. My legs stay dry for a good 30 minutes in the rain, after which I don my Paclites and like Paramos they dry quickly. Plus they cause no resistance for the high steps when scrambling. Along with gaiters to keep the water out of my Scarpas they handle anything.
I cannot understand how they can be as good as the top of the range expensive kit you describe - perhaps I'll have to put them through their paces in a winter cairngorm hike.

AktoMan said...

As ever with gear, it is finding a solution that works for us, and we trust.

I think I'll go with Big Kev's suggestion and put my trousers through a 2nd proofing session.