Days 1 to 3 can be found here.
Days 4 to 6 can be found here.
Days 7 to 9 can be found here.
Day 10 – 22.5 kilometres with 880 metres ascent
(Click map to enlarge)
Harmonicas should be banned from public spaces unless the user is a trained professional. A merry band of Challengers were enjoying a beer or two right below my room in the Moorfield Hotel. That was ok by me as I knew that would be the case when I booked. I had not taken into account a drunk man with a harmonica though.
The day started off with some very heavy showers as I left Braemar and walked along the road past the golf course. The way to Callater Lodge is straightforward, and I was happy to see what I hoped would be the last of the showers head swiftly east.
The hospitality for Challengers at Callater Lodge is legendary. Before I had even managed to remove my pack Bill popped his head out the door and offered me a cup of tea. I entered the warm kitchen full of Challengers swapping tales in front of a roaring fire. I was kindly offered a bed for the night by Bill but I had plans to climb some Munro’s whilst the weather was fine. After half an hour I said my goodbyes and headed up the path at the back of the lodge and bothy.
After ten days of bog and moor the path that leads up to and over the shoulder of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor was a thing of beauty. It is brilliantly constructed at an angle that makes the ascent nice and easy. I took my time though, frequently stopping to take in the views which were extensive due to the cold and crisp air.
Carn an t-Sagairt Mor was an easy bag, a short stroll off the path. On the way up a passing shower gave me a good battering and I had to bury my face in my hood as protection from the stinging hail. One hefty gust saw my pack cover take off at great speed. It was last seen heading for Lochnagar with great enthusiasm.
Some hill days are as close to perfect as it is possible to be. After the rucksack cover blasting shower the weather remained benign for a while and I enjoyed a high level promenade over two more Munros, these being Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn. I remained above 900 metres and there was a great feeling of space and solitude up there. I did not see a soul, the hills were all mine. This is perfect hands in pockets yomping country, distance and ascent effortless. In this case a few pictures can say more than words.
The path down the east of Broad Cairn soon turns into an ugly eroded track, a bit of a disgrace for the Cairngorms National Park. However it was much easier than the extensive boulder field that preceded it. I could see that bad weather was rapidly coming in, a big wall of cloud and grey heading my way. It was time to look for a place to pitch for the night before the forecast wind and rain hit. I spotted a tin hut and a patch of green on the high plateau below me and decided to go and investigate. The hut itself was a midden of animal excrement, whilst outside shit stained toilet paper blew in the wind like soiled streamers.
The weather arrived in a misery of wet. I was high and exposed and indecisive whether or not to drop down to Loch Muick or continue ahead. In the end I decided to try the headwaters of the Black Burn. This initially was a disappointment of rough heather and peaty pools. I was very pleased to find a tent sized patch of flat, reasonably lump free grass. I wasted no time in setting up. Thankfully a window of dry weather that evening gave me an opportunity to dry out some of my kit before the rain returned for the rest of the night.
(Click map to enlarge)
Day 11 – 12.5 kilometres with 320 metres ascent
Waking to a world of grey murk is never conducive to getting out of a warm sleeping bag with much enthusiasm. Especially when that day involves miles of rough ground without a hint of path. In the end the walk across the barren wastes of the catchment area for the Black Burn was not too bad. Years of hiking in the Dark Peak toughen your resolve for this type of walking. Lochnagar remained scowling under a blanket of cloud all day.
A large cairn on the summit of Ferrowie gave some shelter for a quick snack, the cloud remaining high enough to enable me to plan the ascent of the Lair of Aldararie. There are some great names on the map within this part of the eastern Cairngorms.
I was dropping down into the headwaters of the Water of Unich when the temperature suddenly plummeted. It literally fell several degrees in a matter of a couple of minutes. A cold rain started and became heavier before finally turning into large wet snow flakes. This quickly began to settle into a slippery slush, my toes wet and cold within mesh trailshoes. It was an unpleasant walk down by the river, the hills hidden from view under cloud and swirling snow.
I cut a corner off the long twisting glen by climbing and descending along the Burn of Longshank. As soon as the snow stopped it melted away under the strong May sunshine. A reasonable pitch was found alongside a ruin next to the river. Another snow shower blew in whilst I was pitching but quickly passed allowing me to once again dry out my kit before getting comfortable for the night.
Sadly it would be my final camp on this years Challenge. However it was a good one.