The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team organise a bi-annual sponsored walk to raise funds for their work and as a hillwalker I am very aware of how important it is to have a rescue team available as anyone can have an accident or become unwell on the hills. Many people owe their lives to the Mountain Rescue Teams who do the work on a voluntary unpaid basis. Thankfully, I have never had to call on the services of a Mountain Rescue Team but I do know people who have been rescued by them. Cairngorm MRT is one of a network of Teams throughout Scotland relying on donations and sponsorship to continue with their work. I have previously walked the Lairig Ghru and the Corrievairack Pass, as an organised walk with the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team, but this year it was a new route through the Gaick Pass and called the 'Big Whisky Trail'.
The walk was 23 miles long and much to the relief of my generous sponsors I completed it. Seventeen hundred and sixteen people were on the walk and there was an expectation that in excess of £57,000 would have be raised through sponsorship. A Highland Terrier even walked the route, with the owner willing to carry it in a rucksack if it was too tired on its short legs, but these little dogs are very determined and it completed the walk. CRMT bussed us from Kingussie early in the morning to Dalnacardoch at the old shooting lodge, which was built in 1715 to serve the General Wade Military Road. At the seven checkpoints, our numbered and laminated discs were punched so CRMT were able to keep tabs on all walkers.
The Gaick is a hill pass that connects Badenoch and Strathspey in the North with the lands of Atholl in the South. Gaick is Gaelic for cleft and the pass is a glacial valley with very steep sides and a wide flat-bottomed floor. The second checkpoint was at Patrick's Nose originally a shooting lodge and given this name in 1870 but the origins of the name are unknown. On to the pass itself and along by Loch an Duin crossing the river to the second loch, Loch Bhrodainn.
On this walk there are many stories of the Supernatural including the one about the dog Brodan which was a puppy given by a stranger to a hunter who realised he was a magical fairy dog. The hunter's ambition was to hunt the white fairy deer of Ben Alder. Brodan had an epic chase of a deer from Ben Alder and with the deer in his jaws disappeared into the loch which now bears his name. Around the ten mile point, we reached a checkpoint where we had lunch. Snacks and a 'wee dram' (small whisky) were provided by CRMT and there was a party atmosphere with a band of pipers in kilts marching up and down the path.
The path along the route is very good although a little muddy along the lochside as there has been a wet summer in Scotland. Although there were some showers we had sunshine later - so it was the usual weather of three seasons in one day excluding winter. After all, it was the end of June! We continued on through the Pass by the third loch, Loch na t'Seilich, once again with a river crossing, which was easy as CRMT had thoughtfully laid stones to walk across at convenient distances.
The next part of the walk was the least enjoyable as it involved walking a metalled road but with hills and woods around to distract us. This part was soon over and it was through the Woods of Glen Tromie where we spotted wild orchids. There was a great variety of scenery and it is interesting once in a while to do a fairly flat walk and not having to slog up Munros. The weather is certainly gentler at the low level and there were no winds to contend with as I have mentioned in previous articles on Mull and Ratagan.
The route continued through the woods and over the moorland to the ruined Ruthven Barracks, which sit high on the hill above the A9 road. The Barracks are a monument managed by Historic Scotland and well worth a visit. Having completed the 23 miles, we were bussed into adjacent Kingussie for a large plate of pasta to replenish our energy stores. We completed the day by dancing at a local hostelry. Those of us who walked slowly still had enough energy to bop the night away. We were the last four walkers to come in but we enjoyed the day immensely as a sociable walk and if we can't be first we would rather be last!
If you would like to take part in future sponsored walks, you can contact the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team on 01463 223193
Coming Attractions Weekends at Glen Affric and the English Lake District.
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Thanks to Tom Addie for his never ending supply of photos!