Easter weekend was spent at Braemar Youth Hostel where there was a bumper size group of seventeen of us. Some did big Munros, some did small Munros and others cycled. With such a big group, it is easy for people to find others who want to do the same activities. It was the Saturday of the road race to Balmoral Castle, which was free and open to the public. So, while some of us slogged up a very big Munro others managed to combine the easiest Munro in Scotland (the Cairnwell at Glenshee only takes 40 minutes to the top as it starts high) and a trip to Balmoral Castle!
The serious Munro baggers set out to climb Beinn Lutharn Mor which is part of the Grampian Mountains in Aberdeenshire. It was like a summer's day with blue sky and sunshine. The car had frost on it in the morning so the air temperature was fairly low. We drove from Braemar to Spittal of Glenshee and along the private road to Dalmunzie. From there, it was a walk along a landrover track to Gleann Taitneach and on to a good path alongside the Ailt Ghlinn Thaitneich burn. The path was muddy in places as there had been a lot of snow melt recently from the mountains. The walk up to the mountain is about five miles so it is a long day to climb this mountain. Given the lovely weather, we walked at an easy pace and enjoyed the clear views of the surrounding mountains, the lovely glen and the burn at our side. (Burn and glen are Scottish words and mean stream and valley respectively). On the way we had a stop for tea and a bun from our packs. Most walkers in Scotland carry a warm drink in a flask, which can be very comforting in adverse weather conditions or refreshing in good weather.
We reached Lochan Nan Eun at over 700 metres and stopped for lunch. (loch is a lake) It was a magical place as the loch was mostly frozen and tinged with blue. It was surrounded by snow fields on the adjacent hills. Although the weather was still clear, it was cold at that height with a slight wind made colder as it blew over the snow so it was on with extra layers. We were reluctant to leave the loch as it was so beautiful and calm but the Munro called so it was upwards and a long traverse on a snowfield to the start of the walk to the summit ridge. With the milder weather, the top snow was soft so we did not need to use crampons to grip. It was easy uphill to the summit at 1,045 metres where we met Shawn and Gerena, who had cycled in from the Glen Ey side to the ruined Altanour Lodge and walked from there. They carried on to Carn Bhac but we had decided to leave that until the following day and instead descended to the bealach at Mam nan Carn to climb a second Munro of Carn an Righ. (bealach is a col).
When we reached the cars it was almost dark and although a long day, we felt elated with wonderful memories of the views and the lunch stop at the lochan. That evening, we had dinner in the hostel as a group and then over to the Fife Arms Hotel where a band were playing so we boogied until late. At one point, the hotel dog joined in the dancing on the dance floor. Only in Braemar.some of the Group decided to stay until 1am at the hotel and were locked out of the hostel. There is a curfew on SYHA Hostels so they spent the night in their cars.
Braemar is an excellent base as it offers a wide variety of walks from Munros, with long walk ins, Munros that start high to flatter walks in lovely countryside. There are also good cycling areas and bikes can be hired locally. It is mainly a ski area but also a haven for walkers. One of the most enjoyable Easter breaks I have spent and I was relieved it went well as it is the first one I have organised. I now appreciate even more the work Tom, Ian Mac and Kathleen put into regularly organising these weekends away in Scotland.
Coming Attraction A walk in Brazil
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Thanks to Tom Addie for the photographs