Having warned Gayle and Mick against using all the good weather before May, Saturday morning we awoke to a cloudy, overcast day and even a dusting of snow. They are solely responsible.
We were helped out of the house at a good time by Aedan, who had to be dropped off in town for a D of E Youth Voice thing. After chatting with one of the other leaders, Lee, for a while, we decided it was high time we set off towards Glenlivet in order to park the car at Mains of Inverourie. Gayle had sent photographs and weather report from Carn Diamh last week with the promise of good walking. I have been here before when I walked with Laura whilst Santa was on holiday, but today the plan was to ascend the way Laura and I had finished and do the Graham we didn’t do, Carn a Ghille Chear at the eastern end of the Cromdale Hills. Then we would turn westwards and trundle along the ridge for David to tick off the other Graham that I’d done already, Creagan a Chaise, before descending the way Laura and I had ascended last time.
Looks simple from here
It’s an easy track to follow all the way to the bealach where it continues on over the ridge and down the other side into Cromdale, but we went off at a bit of a tangent for a quick yomp over the heather towards Carn Eachie on the way to our first goal. It was fairly easy going despite being a bit tussocky as the ground was quite frozen so there was no bog to plunge into when you missjudged the heather. In the distance we soon spied the herd of reindeer that Laura and I had had a surprise encounter with last time, so tried to skirt round the side giving them a wide berth so as not to disturb them. I expected them to behave more like a herd of deer and disappear off over the ridge. I was a little surprised when they actually headed towards us and in fact, we soon found ourselves surrounded by these wonderfully inquisitive creatures. They are so cute!
On the horizon
Quite up close and personal
I know David was wary of the antlers and quite wisely so, but there was absolutely no sense of fear or threat from these lovely animals, I really enjoyed this unexpected experience.
We managed to extricate ourselves from the midst of the herd to pass by the cairn on Carn Eachie and made our way to the first Graham of the day.
With Ben Rinnes behind
Off we went again, this time heading west through intermittent snow showers along the ridge in the hope of finding a sheltered dip in which to deploy the emergency bothy and have lunch. The reindeer obviously recognised we were the same people as they made no attempt to say hello again, they knew we had no food. The cairn on Creagan a Chaise is clearly visible all along the ridge, but having been there before, I did not find this encouraging. I know that this particular cairn is huge and as it looked quite small at this point, it had to be a long way a way. Quite disheartening. We seemed to walk an awful long way, passed by Carn Eachie again and continued down to the bealach. My tummy was fair rumbling before I finally piped up “Are we going to stop for lunch?” A spot was picked, we crouched inside our yellow glowing shelter and enjoyed tomato soup, cheese rolls and fruit mince slice. I hoped nobody would spot us and phone the emergency services thinking someone was in trouble.
After this welcome break we set off again. We decided to miss out the next lump as there was no cairn there anyway and no obvious path and instead took the more direct route which skirted round to take in the next cairn. It was in fact quite hard going and I think it may have been a shade too late for lunch as my mood dipped. Quite dramatically. I became grumpy and stroppy and my whinging soon degenerated into tears of frustration. I was given short shrift and told “If you have that much energy to waste, just get on with it!” or words to that effect.
Eventually the route we had taken levelled out and we again picked up a path of sorts. I cheered up. The ground was more even and although there were patches of snow and ice, it was not going to slow us down now.
Looking back to Carn a Ghille Chearr
(I’d had the camera in my chest pocket, so may notice there was a little misting on the lens)
We were on the home straight now. The cairn on the second Graham of the day was beginning to look bigger. We continued on a slightly less vague path at quite a speed now and soon found ourselves crossing a short stretch of snow on the north facing slope leading up to the cairn. Here we met the only other person we saw on the hills all day, a gentleman and his adorable black Labrador.
The way ahead
Just a bit of snow
Where we’d been
That there is a little patch of blue sky!
A substantial cairn
Despite the clouds, the views were stunning (although the photographs don’t capture it well
The plaque on the Jubilee Cairn
David took a bearing from the cairn, we picked a point of reference and off we went to find the track home. The downhill yomping was much easier and less frustrating than the earlier yomping and we soon picked up the track that lead over a couple of burns and then down to the road at Milton leading back to the car park before it got (really) dark. When I checked the track we had taken on the GPS, David had rather cleverly lead us directly to the track without and faffing, what a clever boy. Thankfully I’ve been to his school of navigation, so have great faith in my own abilities. I hope.
12.7 miles, 2540 ft total ascent ascent, 2.3 mph average, roughly.
Despite my unfortunate mood dip, we had a brilliant day, hard work but very enjoyable. There was a seemingly healthy grouse population, I eventually lost count of the number of mountain hares we saw and the reindeer were an absolute delight. Just brilliant.