Wednesday 19 August
That was a superb day! It started with a midgefest*, which certainly got us moving the moment we stepped outside this morning.
Ben Macdui was the main event of the day. It’s one of those elusive hills that has resisted all my previous designs on it**. Today it succumbed, and it was such a nice walk, and the weather had cleared so much by the time that we were on top, that it would have been rude not to make a circular walk of it. We chose Cairn Gorm for our return route, even though we’ve been up there a few times before. The major difference today was that it’s summer, whereas all previous visits have been in the deep snow cover of February, such that we had no idea what a network of motorway-esque paths lead across these hills. There’s even steps leading up the west side of Cairn Gorm; we never knew that, even though it’s the fourth time we’ve been up that side.
On our last visit, we left the summit on a bearing and managed to drift off a bit, walking between two of the cairns which lead the way from the summit to the Ptarmigan hut. Today we saw that those cairns are, at most, placed ten yards apart. As it’s highly unlikely that we managed to walk at right-angles to the line we were supposed to be on, we have to deduce that visibility on that occasion was down to a matter of feet. I certainly recall thinking we were going to walk slap into the side of the building before we saw it.
Walkers visiting the Ptarmigan hut in summer have to ring a bell, wait to be let in and sign a register. We duly did that and enjoyed tea and cake in the crowded restaurant, filled with people who had taken a ride up the funicular railway. Then we signed back out and walked down, nearly beating the people who were waiting in the queue for the next ‘train’ when we left.
Anyways, here’s a few photies of the day:
It was a warm and sunny ascent … to start with, at least:
Once on top, I made a bee-line for the trig point, before we enjoyed butteries and tea in a nearby wind shelter (“Is there a shelter on the top?” I asked Mick on the way up, with my mind on the butteries and a flask of tea. “One or two” he replied. The top is actually liberally littered with shelters.)
It was as he stood there looking at me at the trig point that Mick thought “I’ve been here before. I could have stayed in bed with my book today!”. Here he is, thinking those thoughts, with Cairn Toul behind him:
You’ll find these chaps on top of Cairn Gorm on the 19th of August every year, flying their flag and reciting Gaelic poetry. Something to do with commemorating the battle of Culloden. We didn’t hang around for the poetry … it was a bit nippy up there!
(*Today didn’t start as midgeyly as yesterday ended, when I accidentally allowed an entire swarm to enter Colin. It’s a lot easier finding and killing midges in a backpacking tent than it is in a van!
**Twice Ben Macdui nearly featured in a TGO Challenge crossing. On one of those occasions wind speeds of over 100mph were recorded on Cairn Gorm on the day in question, so we were glad to have heeded Challenge Control’s advice that it may not be a wise choice on the day. The second time on the Challenge we waded through deep snow in the Lairig Ghru, being ill-equipped to go high. Last February we were thwarted by very stormy weather. Last November I set out in snow and awful visibility and got half way before deciding that if I was going to go to a summit which has a 360-degree-view-point symbol on the map I wanted to be able to see something, so I modified my plans and visited Cairn Lochan instead. Mick made it up there on the Challenge this year, but I was on a different hill at the time.)