Monday, 2 November 2015

Another Fab Day, Another Trig

We had planned a little foray to the Ladder Hills on Saturday, but the forecast wasn’t good, so we postponed to yesterday. as it was, Saturday wasn’t so bad, but yesterday was glorious.

We set off about 09:40, I thought we might be pushing it for daylight hours as I wasn’t sure quite how long this walk would take, but we arrived at the car park and enjoyed a coffee and second breakfast before setting off at 11:16.

There’s an information board at the car park, despite this not being the car park marked on the map, nor the one specified in most write ups, but it’s the one I’ve previously used with Laura. We set off straight from the car and along the track towards East Auchavaich Farm, then along to Corrunich and Ladderfoot, before the track following the Ladder Burn. It’s the kind of track that continually goes up, and then up some more, all the way to the top of The Ladder, but it gives great views over the hills behind as you pause occasionally to breathe. It was during one of these pauses, quite close to the top, when David said, “Oo, big bird!” Sure enough, there was a large bird in the sky coming overhead. My initial reaction is always that it must be a buzzard. It avoids disappointment. However, as this bird soared overhead, it was absolutely unmistakably a Golden Eagle. What a treat!!

We didn’t have far to go now to reach the ridge, and when we did what a view! It was just splendid, with hills to all sides and blue skies above, glorious.


The information board


Along the track to Ladderfoot


Looking back at the start of the climb


An unusual deep square pool at a small dam


Continuing to go up


Looking back


Looking up


Looking NW once we gained the ridge


Looking SW from The Ladder

So we set off then, roughly SW along the ridge to the first little rise, Dun Muir. I knew there would be peat hags, I was expecting it to be quite bad, but either it wasn’t that bad, or it was drier than usual or maybe I’ve just had so much practice and got very good at hag hopping! We had a great time and made short shrift of those peat hags. Once we were passed the hags and on the next little rise, the ground was fantastically easy going, a mix of short heather, lichen and a bit stony in places and often a faint path to follow. It wasn’t long before we were heading up to the trig point of Carn Mor and a lunch stop. It was really quite blowy at the top, so once I’d taken a few photographs, David suggested deploying the bothy bag, just get some shelter while we ate and avoid me losing my fingers. What a difference! Although, I have to say, my least favourite bit of the trip, I felt quite claustrophobic as the wind outside pushed the bothy bag fabric against my head, but it was warm.


We’re getting to the point where we will all just enjoy the views…


Faint path


Pretty sure this was the one where I could see Ben Wyvis, but was proving it would come out on a photograph. think I was right…


…faint path…


The last bit up to the trig…






Naming the hills (must have been looking north-ish…)








Really shouldn’t put David in control of the camera…

Once we’d eaten, stowed the bothy bag and rearranged our layers of jackets, we set off along the ridge once more, still heading SW, again with great going underfoot. There was another little descent and rise before we could see the fence line we were heading for that we would handrail down to the ruins at Clash of Scalan. Once we’d caught sight of it, we just cut straight across the next lot of peat hags in a direct line to the old fence and then turned NW to follow it along the little spur. At the point the fence turns more westerly, we paused to take in the views, including the top of the ski tows at the Lecht just peeping over the hills in front of us. At this point, we took a direct line north, steeply downhill and straight to the ruins.










We handrailed down from there


The ruins

Once at the ruins it’s easy to pick up the track that leads to the College of Scalan, a secret seminary in the past, now a museum, and then along to West Auchavaich, passed the car park marked on the map, then along passed the Braeval distillery and back to the car.


The College of Scalan


…with water wheel

It was an absolutely fabulous day, I felt so emotional at times, quite overwhelmed by the beauty of the day and sheer fun of the walk, it was spectacular. I loved it! For some reason my Viewranger stopped tracking about a half mile short of the car, which was better than David’s which stopped just 25m after we set off, but I would guess we covered just short of 9.5 miles with around 2,054 ft total ascent and in about 4 hrs and 45 mins including rest stops.

Utterly brilliant.

First Girly Walk for Over Four Years

It must be about four and a half years since I joined Angela and the Girlies for a Girly Walk, so after having bumped into a few of the girls over a short period of time, I decided somebody was trying to send me a message and that I should join them again. So I sent a message to Angela to include me on the walks email list, and she did. I immediately realised Laura might enjoy these walks too, so arranged for her to meet us at Huntly’s Cave near Grantown-on-Spey to join us last Sunday for a walk to be led by Judith.

I quickly realised I’d done the start of this walk before, as we set off north along the Dava Way, then took a turning off along tracks towards Upper Derraid, then by minor roads to Lower Derraid before taking tracks again to Garthkeen, Home Farm and Castle Grant. We then suffered a minor navigational misplacement as the required track was completely ignored and the wrong one taken, leading us to a dead end. There was some conferring, during which time Laura and I decided the best option was probably to follow the fence line across the field, cross the fence at the bottom and then take a short yomp through a narrow strip of woodland to reach the road.


Setting off along the Dava Way from the Huntly’s Cave path


Looking towards the Cairngorms


Home Farm


Striding on


Towards the Cairngorms, again


Lovely estate features

Despite the barbed wire, this plan worked well and we were soon dropped onto our intended route. Off we went again, in search of the road to the bridge, only according to Judith’s map, we would be able to take a track through the woods instead. This worked well, until the track in our direction was blocked by a fallen tree and the path routed in the apparently the wrong direction. We tried to follow what remained of our path, but it became and more indistinct until we decided to give up take another quick yomp through trees and over rough ground in the vague direction required. We popped out onto a road, nearly went the wrong way, then found the track we wanted was not only gated, but had an electric fence across it too. we took a chance, there was some limbo-ing, commando crawling and hopping involved but eventually, we arrived at the bridge over the Spey to pick up the Speyside Way.

Part of the purpose of this walk had been to get to Cromdale so that Alison could complete her circuit of The Moray Way. Cromdale is an easy stroll from this point, where we were able to take our lunch stop in the shelter by the football pitch, although I had to throw myself at the mercy of the group that were vacating the Cromdale Outdoor Centre to use the facilities as the PCs were locked up.

After a good break, we elected to follow the road back to meet the Speyside Way again at the bridge and follow it into Grantown. There, we accidentally fell in to the coffee shop where the someone had the Wrong Hot Chocolate, someone else had the Wrong Coffee, and someone else had a Missing Hot Chocolate. I got my Mocha though, so that was okay.


Towards the Cromdales




We like bringing up the rear…

To avoid a lengthy detour to return to the Dava Way, we decided to walk along the road a bit, then take the track back towards Castle Grant, noticing as we passed the initial path we should have taken the first time we’d been through the grounds. This time, we got the right path to take us back to join the Dava Way as it meanders through the woodland to the point where we could leave it to return to the cars above Huntly’s Cave. There were no further incidents or accidents, nothing to be seen, no one fell over or anything like that. Nothing happened at all.

Roughly 16.9 miles, 1578 ft total ascent with lots of breaks and pauses and chatting and fun.

It was good to be back.