Cairngorms Revisited

Helen Rose Hill Diary April 2004

Photo: Cairngorm snowman.

Easter weekend saw us back in Aviemore for another opportunity to bag something in the Cairngorm range of mountains. Easter last year was later in April and we were lucky with fine weather. However, this year at Easter the weather was not quite so good but still passable to attempt a sizeable mountain. In the Cairngorms the days are long bagging Munros and it is going to take several more visits to complete the round of all the Cairngorm Munros but who cares as these weekends are very sociable and the emphasis is on enjoyment.

There were seventeen of us in the group and we travelled north on Friday. At the Cairngorm Lodge Hostel, there was a pipe band from Western Australia numbering around forty three and mostly teenagers. They rehearsed on the front lawn and we were treated to Waltzing Matilda on the Bagpipes and Drums.

On Saturday, a smaller group of us walked to Monadh Mor which was a very hard day as there was a lot of soft snow on the Cairngorm plateau making it heavy going with the track hidden. Although this was always going to be a long walk, it would have been much easier without the snow as trudging through soft snow takes a lot of effort. Tom forged the trail and we followed in his footsteps other than when he fell down holes and we then avoided.

Photo: Cairngorms Tom.

We drove round to Glen Feshie beyond Feshiebridge through ancient Caledonian Pine Forests and parked at the car park near the farm. Thoughtfully, some boulders had been placed around the car park which were great to use for sitting on to change into boots and even better at the end of the day when you are too tired and stiff to bend down to unlace boots. Well, I never said hill walking in Scotland was easy!

There was a pleasant walk through the National Nature Reserve in the forest and into the glen at Coire Fhearnagan reaching the crest of the Glen Feshie Ridge south of Carn Ban. There was a descent to Loch nan Cnapan. This wide expanse known as Moine Mhor is mainly grass with peat bogs and crisscrossed by burns but it was mostly covered in snow. It is a featureless landscape and on the return journey, it was misty and the GPS was useful to check the positions. It was five hours from the time of setting off from the car park to the top of Monadh Mor but we were rewarded with fine views across the Cairngorms. We did not meet another person on this mountain and enjoyed the desolate beauty of the landscape in our own little group. On the final ascent to Monadh Mor, there was a fast rushing burn to cross which is always a nightmare to me but Roy thoughtfully dug up a stone and placed it in a strategic position in the burn to step on. This is the great value of a group where everyone helps out and works as a team to aid the 'weaker vessels!'

Photo: Cairngorms Loch.

On Sunday evening we decided after dinner to go to Glenmore Lodge for a drink but we were so busy chatting we forgot to turn off the road onto the track at the Reindeer Centre and after some time realised we were still on the main road. We attempted to cross country by a forest trail using head torches but the trail brought us back to the Hostel and it was then too late to start the walk again to Glenmore Lodge. It is the first time we have ever been lost trying to walk to the pub. Fortunately, navigation on the mountain was better and we had managed to get back safely the previous day. Maybe, we all need a course in navigation to pubs!

Coming Attractions; Ireland again, another weekend in Skye, the Crinan Canal and anything else I do in the next few months.

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Thanks to Frances Rickus and Tom Addie for the photos

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