Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Episodes of deceptive flattery and testing irritation

2nd September 2009

My recollections of day one of my Aviemore escapade contain more greyness and rain than was actually the case. The skies may have been grey with a certain cool feel pervading the air on my arrival at the place’s train station on the Caledonian Sleeper but it wasn’t all thus. Awaiting the bus to Glenmore allowed me the time to both set myself up for a spot of hiking and feel any chilliness; the bus was a few minutes late, so a little more time was available than planned. After the five-mile bus journey, further organisation and orientation followed before I got to striking off up the road towards Glenmore Lodge.

Mercifully, the Forestry Commission saw fit to have a walking and cycling track shadowing the road, so any traffic going to or coming from Scotland’s national outdoor training centre could not perturb me once I found the start of the thing. After some uneventful progress, I passed the said outdoor centre to reach Scotways’ signage for rights of way to Nethy Bridge and Braemar. There were no plans in my head for going as far as either of those destinations on the day, though I was set for the Ryvoan Pass and would pass the bothy that’s there. Being around at an early around meant that I was far from surrounded by hoards with only a few fellow walkers going their merry way.

Ryvoan Pass, Glenmore, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

If you weren’t aware of the forecast, you’d have been tempted to assume that the day was set to remain fair and even get better and better based on the appearances that being put on at the time. This certainly was how it was starting to look around An Lochan Uaine and the pass itself. With the pleasant conditions and lack of midges, I lingered around Ryvoan Bothy for a while and pondered the possibility of using it on an excursion at some unknown point in the future. I still have nothing definite in mind but it’s good what’s there all the same.

From the bothy, I set off up the slopes of Meall a’ Bhuachaille with things starting to become greyer again. The uphill path is well engineered, but there’s nothing more that it can do to ease what is a hefty workout for any pair of legs, especially those carrying everything for a multi-day trip like mine was (a possible disadvantage of using an overnight service when some items cannot be dropped off somewhere). There was nothing for it but to take my time and go at a sensible and steady pace. Time often passes slower than you think on uphill stretches and you have got to watch that it doesn’t skew your judgement of height too. My ascent of Meall a’ Bhuachaille had the same ingredients, so that was further encouragement not to go rushing at anything that might turn out to be a false summit. The real summit was to be reached in its own good time, so there was no need to hurry; allowing plenty of time is essential for this type of thing.

Thankfully, the gradients eased as I neared the summit cairn and I paused a while and noted the coming predicted dampness elsewhere around and, as it was soon to turn out to be the case, coming my way. On the descent, doubts were bubbling up with regard to including further summits in my trot. After having the 810 metres summit to myself, there were a few groups coming up against me, some clad in t-shirts and shorts or tracksuit bottoms, a definite contrast to what I normally use and possibly foolhardy with the weather predictions. After all, some passing dampness had frequented the hill while I was on it.

The path down Coire Chondlaich offered an escape route but, thinking that spells of lighter rain might be what we’d get, I continued to Creagan Gorm on a clear if rougher path. There were still views round about me to be had with the rolling hills of Abernethy and Cromdale to my north, along with the more dramatic craggy affairs of Cairngorm and Braeriach to my south. After this point, the weather very definitely deteriorated and I was glad of the waterproofs that I had with me. The wind-pelted rain was one matter, but the loss of visibility was another and retention of one’s wits was mandated by the conditions. One good thing was that the path remained clear and I could see enough to avoid any calamity. The hills that I was traversing may have been humpy, but rolling or sliding down a steep slope in error does not appeal to me one bit. Patience was another necessity with plenty of ups and downs that could so easily deceive as I passed over Creag a’ Chaillich on the way to Craiggowrie; there definitely seemed to be more summits than were on my usefully waterproofed Explorer map. The conditions that I met certainly weren’t fair and I hope that the lightly clad brigade made it down in time.

Craiggowrie identified itself both by a definite left-hand turn in the path and a clear if broken down fence. The loss of height helped to inspire confidence too, as did the improving visibility. Though conditions underfoot were understandably boggy, the forest that I intended to enter came into view and the transmitter-topped of Creag a’ Ghreusaichie could be picked out from across An Slugan. The air remained damp, but the wetness was less windblown and a sodden but not soggy Irishman made his way in among the trees.

From there on, continuous improvement was the order of things. Having been out for a few hours with a goodly number of ups and downs along the way, fatigue was beginning to make its presence felt. Nevertheless, I was by now on good forestry tracks though forestry operations (a fellow walker had forewarned me of these when we met on high in the murk and it was well signed in any case) meant that one’s guard could not be dropped just yet. Though it may not have felt that way at the time, progress was steady with Badaguish Outdoor Centre being passed in good time with not much more time being needed to return to Glenmore from where I had started earlier in the day. The prospect of making my way back to Aviemore on foot did enter my mind, but the encountered wetness meant that it had no staying power.

The by then glorious conditions had me tempted with the idea of extending my walk but, even though it was only about 14:30, I decided to listen to my body and recognise my need for the services of a drying room. That had me returning to Aviemore by bus to book in at its SYHA. Somehow, the option of the SYHA in Glenmore never came to my attention until I went there this time around! It’s an accommodation option that I’ll be keeping in mind for a future visit.

Rainbow as seen from Craigellachie NNR, Aviemore, Strathspey, Scotland

Cairngorms and Rothiemurchus Forest as seen from Craigellachie NNR Viewpoint, Aviemore, Strathspey, Scotland

Back in Aviemore, I duly tidied myself up and placed whatever needed drying into the drying room. After a spot of shopping and obtaining sustenance, I decided to potter into the Craigellachie NNR for a short wander that took me up high enough to gain me some decent views towards the Cairngorms on an otherwise sunny evening beset with light showers; two came upon me while I was out. Even so, it was a good way to walk off some of the evening meal and I settled down for an early night. It had been a day when the weather both flattered to deceive and, at times, tested to the point of irritation. Only for the photos that I had made, I may well have recalled the discomfiture more clearly than the pleasant interludes, something that the day wouldn’t have deserved.


  • Andy Howell says:

    Ah, the memories. How come the sun shone! It was only on this year’s Challenge that I ever saw the walls of the Lairig properly!

    • John says:

      Andy, I often pore over weather maps to see where the sun might be and work from there. Whether it turns up afterwards is another matter. You can have brutal luck like an Argyll/Lochaber trip that undertook at the end of July one year or be spectacularly lucky like my Western Isles escapade last year when a front bearing heavy rain got stuck over the Scotland/England border and drenched Ireland too. I don’t profess to have an inside track on the weather but I could see the good people of Newcastle West in Co. Limerick wanting a word with me after last year’s flooding of the town if I did.

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