Scotland – February 2012

Two reports from this year’s trip to Braemar, read on….

Braemar 2012 “My Trip”

Our long journey north was elongated by the threat of blizzards over the mountains, so a trip via the coastal tropics of Aberdeen beckoned. Huge drifts of Crocus met us as we entered the Granite City, my sat nav quickly found a rest stop at MacDonald’s (the famous Scots coffee shop!) Our eventual arrival into a snowy Braemar, found Archie, Dick and Ruth waiting, with a much needed meal, already prepared.

Sunday broke with a cloudy but snow covered scene. Two hut groups combined to mount a stroll over Morone (Corbett) via the local nature reserve (and its noisy hungry ducks). A brief stopover at the summit mast was followed by a walk along the ridge to Carn na Drochaide, then a fun downhill across deep snow drifts down to the river and eventually huts. The pub beckoned briefly before tea.

Beware of the dangers of Haggis! Not the hunting but the cooking. A reluctant microwave sparked and crackled its way into flames, before the ‘traditional’ deep frying was employed. The hotel owners found this tale difficult to believe?!

Our hut group set out on Monday to climb Carn an Tuir (Munro) from Auchallater car park. The walk in along an attractive moorland valley eventually led to the cold windswept summit stones. Two sets could lead to confusion in the snow, but we prevailed onto the correct one! Our descent with walking poles blown horizontal was interesting, until Archie and Mike extended their day and set off to cross the pathless terrain to summit the nearby Corbett of Creag nan Gabar. Dick, Ruth and I enjoyed a late lunch on benches in the shelter of Callater Stable buildings, looking out over the briefly sunlit, and very scenic Loch.

The hut 4 team set out on valley walk from Linn of Dee on Tuesday, along the scenic Glen Lui. A lunch break was taken alongside the aluminium bridge surviving from 1948, with brief views of surrounding Cairngorms. Again, Mike and Archie set off and extended their day by taking in another Munro, Carn a’ Mhaim, despite the falling cloud height and rising winds. Café society eventually commenced at “Taste” overlooking Braemar village.

Wednesday found Archie, Mike and I on a steep jaunt up through deep heather, to the Corbett of Carn na Drochaide (the other one north of Braemar this time!) A walk along the ridge via Car na Criche then took us down the pretty highland valley of Glen Qouiche. An early finish left us time to test the delights of nearby Ballater. Scotch pies were sampled from the butcher, whilst sat on the green in bright, warm, sunshine. Then after, washed down with coffee at The Bothy, a café attached to a well stocked outdoor shop, however, shocked was the word, when we were given free fill ups before returning to our Hut.

The Linn of Dee car park was again used as a base for Thursdays walk along the Dee Valley. Archie, Dick, Ruth and I set off into a very strong westerly breeze via the White Bridge (now confusingly painted red!). Once we got into Glen Dee the rocky summit of Sgur Mor (Corbett) could be seen, wrong! After passing the outlying crags, it was a pleasant climb to the ‘actual’ top, with the wind now behind us. We crossed the amazingly untrodden gravel plateau, with alpine plants in abundance, to two more minor rocky tops, Sgur Dubh and Can a’lc Duibhe. Strangely the lowest had a disused trig point. Steep heather clad slopes took us almost back to the car park with its’ Earth Closet. The Taste café, with its homemade cakes, drew us back before reaching our hut!

A club meal was hosted at the hotel on Thursday evening, when 13 of us ate, drank and made merry, on excellent, well prepared food.

Our last day found Archie, Ruth and I setting of from Invercauld House, along a really good path in bright weather. After some miles we struck out across country to gain the southern end of the ridge leading to Carn Liath. At this point the breeze seemed to assume hurricane – like proportions, we fought our way cross the rocks to the summit, then dived behind a dry stone wall to recover. After a brief refreshment, we found our way back down to the main track, and took in the fantastic northerly views to a snow clad Ben Avon. Archie took the opportunity to have a wind assisted trip to the summit of adjacent Corbett Culardoch, however, the journey back down into the teeth of the wind appeared far more difficult. The long walk back to Invercauld was less eventful, but, we were surprised to see many trees which had been literally torn apart by recent high winds.

Overall a great trip with some good company!

Peter Mann

Hastings Rock & Fell Winter Week In Scotland

Having missed the trip in 2011 I was keen to visit the Braemar area and to sample the accommodation, both of which had had glowing reports from last year.

One of the talking points from last winter was the attempted crossing of the Glen Shee pass in blizzard conditions, so that when, north of Stirling we started experiencing snow flurries and the forecast was for more, there was a concern that attempting this route might be a bit problematical. However we were lucky, and although the road disappeared under swirling spindrift at the summit, the crossing was accomplished and the descent into Braemar and arrival at the cabins concluded a long drive.

We quickly got settled in and a meal prepared in anticipation of the arrival of the team that had opted for the Aberdeen route. The chalets were as advertised, warm, spacious and well equipped. The only problem experienced concerned the attempt to cook haggis in the microwave. This conjured up visions of the Large Hadron Collider as pops and bangs were accompanied by flames shooting out of the machine. The only Black Holes produced appeared to be in the haggis so I think the Universe is not going to implode.

As the week progressed Munros, Corbetts, and lesser hills felt the tread of Rock& Fell boots, the weather going from cold with snow on the ground to mild but with strong winds on the tops. Every day parties headed for the hills in cars, on foot or on bicycles. However, some elected for at least one day off and a trip to Ballater on Wednesday proved a very enjoyable break. The town seemed to have had a close association with Royalty from up the road at Balmoral as several shops proudly displayed prominent “By Royal Appointment” coats of arms. These were gleefully pointed out to the republican members of the club. The return to Braemar however was a bit of a concern as Nick’s car started emmiting puffs of steam, however the local garage fitted a new water pump and the problem was resolved.

On a more domestic note Archie, our Caledonian friend, was part of my hut group and as the days went by, introduced us to some north of the border language, to the point that it was mooted to start compiling a dictionary. For example, what would you do if you were to “pockle” a saucepan?

On Thursday it was decided to have the evening meal in the Braemar Lodge, in the grounds of which the cabins were situated, and an excellent dinner was provided. The bar area was adorned with several stags heads and what seemed like a hundred bottles of different malt whiskies.

All too soon the week was drawing to an end and people started departing for the long journey home, by train, bus, and car, one even leaving on foot to walk through the Lairig Ghru to catch the train from Aviemore.

Even before this however, discussions were taking place as to where we were going next year. At least two suggestions have been put forward (Ardmair & Tyndrum), so if you have any ideas pass them on to a committee member soon.

Dick

P.S. If anyone has photos or wish to put pen to paper (an old fashioned concept!) with their own reminiscences of the trip please forward them to the newsletter editor.

Feel free to add a comment!

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