Bi annually, the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Association run a sponsored walk to fund raise for their activities to provide a service to those in difficulties on the hills and countryside of the Cairngorms area which runs roughly between Aviemore and Braemar. This is all beautiful wild and remote countryside with some of the highest mountains in Scotland on the Cairngorm plateau. In winter the weather conditions on this plateau are Arctic and avalanches are also a feature so CMRA provide a valuable service on a voluntary basis much appreciated by walkers and climbers but thankfully I have not had to call upon them.
This year the sponsored walk was Lairig an Laoigh and around 800 people participated supported by the forty Mountain Rescue Team volunteers and their families and friends with retired volunteers also drafted in to help. It was a long day for them as they had to walk to the checkpoints with provisions, tents, medical equipment, etc. The Lairig an Laoigh name is thought to be derived from the Gaelic word for calves which would have been driven through this glen in preference to the Lairig Ghru, a sister glen but much more rough and bouldery.
We stayed overnight near Aviemore at Glenmore Lodge run by the Scottish Sports Council. CRMA arranged buses to run from near there to Linn of Dee beyond Braemar for the start of the walk The bridge over the River Dee was opened in 1857 by Queen Victoria, Balmoral Castle is nearby. The walk was 18 miles long but due to the recent wet weather the path was very muddy which made it hard going. Glen Lui, like other Highland Glens has a sad history previously being cleared of settlements in the eighteenth century for use as a deer hunting area.
The walk to Glen Derry brought us to boarded up Derry Lodge, a substantial stone house previously used as a shooting box and in a magnificent location. We had been issued with round laminated tags carrying our number and with nine listed spaces to be punched at the checkpoints to allow CMRA to ensure all walkers were accounted for during the walk. CMRA close checkpoints when all walkers have passed through and also have a sweep team at the back to check no walkers are lost. It is all so well organised, I can understand how CMRA are so efficient at mountain rescue. The history of the area and lots of fascinating stories about it have been written by Duncan Sanderson. CMRA can be contacted at Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Association
We continued through the open glen, a classic glacially cut valley with a wide flat base and steep sides rising up to mountains including Beinn Mheadhoin which I previously wrote about in May 2003. Unfortunately, the weather was not good and by the time we reached the Fords of Avon, the river was too high to hop across on the stones and the choices were to wade across in boots or to remove boots and put on rubber rafting shoes. CMRA had stretched a rope across the fast flowing river to hold onto while crossing. With some help, I crossed using the rubber shoes but by mid crossing my feet and legs were very cold. I was ushered into a tent to dry off and offered a very welcome roll and sausage and a cup of tea Those who chose to wade in boots had to change into dry socks and put plastic bags inside their boots to keep feet dry as there was still a further nine miles to walk.
The weather deteriorated with wind and constant rain and we had further ascent up over the flanks of Bynack More. When we reached Bynack Stables there was still a further three miles to go but we had the opportunity of a ride in a Landrover Ambulance for the last three miles and we gratefully accepted given that it was after 7e.30 pm. The ride in the ambulance was an experience on the rocky track but we were assured the drivers were specially trained. We were glad to reach Glenmore Lodge and receive a medal and certificate to confirm we had participated in the walk.
The sponsored walk is a very worthwhile cause and pledges of around ?56,000 were received for this walk. This was my fourth walk with CMRA. Unfortunately, the weather was against us this time but the volunteer helpers from CMRA did a grand job in the poor conditions and looked after the walkers well when they must have been very wet and cold themselves. I look forward to better weather in two years’ time on the next CMRA sponsored walk.
Coming attractions; more Ireland, my 200th Munro, a walk in Ecuador and whatever else I do!
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Thanks to Frances Rickus for the photos.