The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 25 February 2013

Scotland - Day 16 (Aviemore)

As today’s weather forecast wasn’t as good as tomorrow’s, our route choice for today was a couple of little hills, rather than a big hill. I’m not sure how tomorrow’s weather could possibly be better – you can’t improve on perfection!

There being a forest lying between us and our objective for the day, we first had to negotiate it. The plan saw us almost exclusively along forestry roads, but reality varied a tiny bit as, not far in, we came across a path that looked like it couldn’t go anywhere except for in our direction, so we followed it. It not only went in our direction but cut off a smidge of distance too.

The tracks got more interesting (i.e. older and less well used) as we went on, until, at the edge of the reindeer enclosure (in which we saw no reindeer, even though we were within it for quite a while), we ran out of track and started following a path.

When the path disappeared under increasingly large patches of hard, steep snow, the spikes were called into action and a direct line was taken. It must have been a sensible line, as when we got to the top of the bank and beyond the snow, we weren’t many paces away from the continuation of the path.

Elevenses were had (even though it was already gone noon), just below Airgiod-Meall, looking at this view:IMG_2776

Whilst sitting there serious contemplation was given to going over the top of Airgiod-Meall. It seemed wrong to be descending into the gap to the south of the hill when we could just go over the top, but after consideration we decided to stick with the original plan. It was a good plan, as the gap is attractive in and of itself:


‘Twas a bit nippy in the middle though, beyond the reach of the February sun:


At the other end of the gap we were faced with the side of Castle Hill (complete with lots more patches of snow, far more than we encountered on yesterday’s excursion). In the absence of a path there was no reason to faff around, so straight up we went. What incredible views there were to be had. Notably, behind us we could see the ridge along which we had walked yesterday. Oh, to have had today’s weather yesterday!


From Castle Hill it wasn’t more than a few hundred paces over to our highest top of the day Creag a Chalamain where the views were outstanding. Unfortunately, because I took a video snippet up there, I forgot to take many photos, but here’s one with the entrance to the Lairig Ghru on the left side and Braeriach dominating the view:


The spikes were called into action again on part of our descent, as we made our way down to the path which heads through the Lairig Ghru. That wasn’t our direction though; we were heading back north, for miles and miles and miles through the forest. That’s what it felt like anyway. By the time we sat down for afternoon tea (sadly lacking in any kind of cake or snack today, having already depleted our supplies) I really wanted to be tele-transported back to Colin.

Alas, in the absence of tele-transportation, I had to walk, but I did opt not to take the scenic route around the south side of Loch Morlich. Instead the track which runs parallel to the road sped us back to a mug of hot chocolate and a snack. My eagerness to sit down didn’t stop me from nipping over to the water’s edge for one last snap of Cairngorm and its neighbours:


I was surprisingly tired, feeling like I’d walked twice the distance we had (just over 11 miles was the final tally with just over 2000’ of ascent). This is the track recorded by the Garmin Gadget:


(Sorry about the quality of today’s photos – I’ve degraded them more than usual in an effort to help with the upload time. There’s only so long I can sit balancing the laptop in the position it needs to be in order to get a 3g connection!)


  1. You're picking all the routes I want to do!


  2. I walked through the rocky defile to the south east of Creag a Chalamain on my way to Braeriach. Looking at the photo of your rocky defile it looks very similar. I very nearly turned back close to the summit of Braeriach because of desperately strong wind, but it had been a long haul to get there and I managed to get to the top (and back). Looks like you're having a very worthwhile trip.

  3. Very similar route th the one David and I took, except we did the Gap, not the lumpy bit. And I didn't get hot chocolate despite being completely knackered :-( Can't get the staff you know. Glad you were taking advantage of the blue skies!