Journeys in the hills and mountains
My Easter holiday was spent in the Cairngorms with David, Ruth, Alison and Alex. A return to the Cairngorms had been on the cards for some time, with a number of munros to finish off on the main plateau, and some unfinished business south-west of Braemar from 2009. We stayed in the pleasant Braemar SYHA which has very friendly staff and a good kitchen which was surprisingly quiet for a public holiday weekend! The weather, while looking better than my previous trip at New Year, was nevertheless not forecast to be good, the main blessing being that wind speeds were due to be low all week.
On Good Friday we set off to ascend Ben Avon. I was also keen to climb Beinn a’Bhuird, having missed out on this on a previous trip. The track in was more pleasant than expected, heading up through forest before reaching higher ground. The snow which had closed the high passes only a few days before was thankfully retreating. David had broken himself by racing up this track in snow a couple of Easters before, and we were keen to avoid a similar result. The track, despite being pleasant, was very long indeed, not least in the knowledge that every step would have to be retraced at the end of the day. Eventually we climbed onto the Ben Avon ridge, accidentally ascending in the wrong place, but nevertheless in a direction that took us quickly and efficiently onto the summit ridge. The summit of Ben Avon held more snow and wind, and the scramble on the summit was covered in snow, increasing the challenge of reaching the top.
From Ben Avon, David, Ruth and Alison decided to descend over a munro top, though I now headed on to Beinn a’Bhuird. I missed the col at first as I was avoiding the cornice on the edge of Ben Avon. Eventually I reached the col and began the climb up to Beinn a’Bhuird. This mountain had held the snow more thoroughly, and more deeply, and the summit ridge was hard work. From the summit I retracted my steps to the col and thence to the track leading back down the valley. Unfortunately it emerged that the high track, above where we had previously left it, was far more snow-covered, all of which was thawing fast. By the time I reached the clear track my boots and legs were soaked, and I was cold, tired and wet. And then there was the track. My morale hit a low point as I dragged myself back down the morning’s walk, and when I reached the others back at the car, past 8pm, I was not in the mood for much conversation.
The next day my legs hurt quit a lot, but we nevertheless set forth to walk from Spittal of Glenshee (well, the Dalmunzie Hotel) to Inverie, over four munros, three of which would be new for me. I surprised myself at the ease with which I ascended Glas Tulaichein, reaching the summit in good time. From there the ground was hard going, but we climbed Carn an Righ and Beinn Iutharn Mhor with little difficulty. From here I really felt the efforts of the previous day, and by the time I was descending from Carn Bhac I was already contemplating a rest day.
This was, for now, avoided. The following day we walked from Linn of Dee up to Derry Lodge, and then up to Beinn a’Chaorainn. By this point I had had enough, and so I descended directly back to Derry Lodge, while David, Ruth and Alison continued back over Beinn Bhreac, meeting me back at Linn of Dee. I had, now, definitely had enough, and the following day was spent with my feet up in a cafe in Ballater. My legs had recovered a bit by Tuesday, and so I joined David, Ruth and the newly-arrived Alex on an ascent of Mount Keen. The weather was not looking promising in the main Cairngorm region, so we hoped to find better weather on an outlier. We were correct. A pleasant track, though another long one, went south through Glen Tanar, with only the summit being shrouded in mist. A similar walk was selected for the following day. I had contemplated a couple more days in the region, but I was feeling ready to return home, so I joined David, Ruth and Alex on an ascent of Ben Chonzie on the way home.
All in all, this was a successful trip, bringing my munro tally to 142, and therefore over the half-way mark. I think this time, though, I was possibly trying a little too hard.