Tag Archives: snow

Over Easter I stayed with a whole bunch of friends and their darling children in a large country pile just outside of Nigg, to the north and east a bit from Inverness. As a hapless singleton I’m quite used to being utilised in an uncle capacity, but these days the kids are all a little older and look after themselves pretty much, so there is less pressure to be entertaining or get involved in family activities. I do still try and help out with the cooking – and this annual event has a reputation for some fine dining – though this year even the kitchen operations seemed to be running like clockwork, so much so that I was even able to ducked out of these duties. Free loading? Moi? Think I’m using this entry as a bit of a confessional.

Anyway down to business. In my car-less world the location was always going to present some challenges, but with a bit of motivation and a rudimentary grasp of the train timetable, I was able to get all the way to Glenbeg bothy and back in the space of the daylight hours. In fact it wasn’t as big an expedition as I feared, the final off road miles were on a veritable motorway, and I was back in the pub in Bonar Bridge with a pint of Guinness waiting for the service back to the Cromarty Firth by 5 o’clock.

Reflection in Abhainn a Ghlinne Mhoir on the walk in to Glenbeg

Reflection in Abhainn a Ghlinne Mhoir on the walk in to Glenbeg

Glenbeg bothy

Glenbeg bothy

The next day I planned to put my feet up but I was enticed to join the girls on a hill walk over the Fannichs. This turned out to be an excellent decision as not only was the company very convivial, the weather in the west coast was much better than the unpromising low cloud that hung over the house. My only problem was a lack of kit, and I had to skitter round the snow plastered hills in my running shoes without a pair of crampons.

Sgurr Mor, Fannichs

Sgurr Mor, Fannichs

An Teallach

An Teallach

Surveying the scene at the top of Sgurr Mor in the Fannichs

Surveying the scene at the top of Sgurr Mor in the Fannichs

View of Sgurr Mor from Meall a Chrasgaidh

View of Sgurr Mor from Meall a Chrasgaidh

Last of the light over An Teallach

Last of the light over An Teallach

My visit was almost over before it had started, and after a lazy outing with the kids the following afternoon, it was time for everyone to start packing up and heading home. However, I still had a few days to spare and having said my fond farewells I headed back up north on the train. I then cycled west in an increasingly persistent snow shower over to Oykel Bridge and on to the bothy at Duag Bridge. From there the next morning, I walked on to Magoo’s bothy at Coiremor and spent a long evening huddling up in my down bag wishing that someone could helicopter in some coal. The snow scuppered any plans to climb Seana Bhraigh so I was somehow back on the road to Lairg the next afternoon, having made a quick dash to Knockdamph on the bike to complete the tick list. A speculative phone call to a mate in Inverness got me a bed for the night, and in a fit of fine efficiency I knocked off Ruigh Aiteachain the next day before travelling back to Edinburgh.

The Schoolhouse, Duag Bridge

The Schoolhouse, Duag Bridge

Creag an Duine and Coiremor bothy

Creag an Duine and Coiremor bothy

Knockdamph bothy

Knockdamph bothy

Ruigh Aiteachain bothy

Ruigh Aiteachain bothy

Fireplace left in a textbook fashion

Fireplace left in a textbook fashion

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jelly legs

Now I have no one to blame for the over ambitious nature of my first outing of the year. I think the deluded memories of last summer, sauntering over the summits like some puffed up domestique, were just too fresh in the memory to dissuade me from starting with something simpler. And it all looked pretty straight forward on map my ride, but I still seem to be blind to factoring elevation into the equation when planning a route. Anyway, I can safely say that the B974 Fettercairn to Banchory road over the Cairn O’Mount is bastard steep. Normally when you start on up a slope and begin tapping out a rhythm (cough, cough), you can at least fool yourself that the top of the bealach is within reasonable distance. But this slope just kept on going and going. And just when I thought it must be levelling out soon, I realised to my horror that  the road went straight over the freaking mount, and there was to be no relief. Man I barely made it to the viewpoint without toppling over and asking for mercy. It was intense, all two miles of it…. So where was I off to? Can you not guess? Oh yes, that’s right I’m the bloody bothy bore who knows about all these obscurities. House of Charr my friends, House of Charr. The most easterly of the MBA’s as I’m sure its becoming clear, even further east than Mount Keen, which is almost in Aberdeen as it is. And that is about as interesting as it got. The bothy is in some nondescript old territory and it doesn’t even have a fireplace. I was lucky to get some sunshine. And the shame of it is that I had to walk the final 500m back up over the summit on my return. Yes walk. I can barely type the words. After a whole year of not getting off the bike on a tarmac road, I had to admit defeat.

House of Charr bothy

House of Charr bothy

The next morning I was filled with not a little apprehension as I got a lift to Glen Shee with my bestest friends John and Katherine, who were absconding from child care duties for the day. The plan was to scoot down the hill towards Bramaer, and trot across to Callater Stable while they went skiing. But obviously that meant in the afternoon I would have to cycle back up to the ski station, and just to rack it up a bit John had to be back for a meeting, so there was a cut off time to contend with. It was a beautiful day so it wasn’t really a hardship, but I didn’t have so many spare minutes for lunch and I was already feeling my legs when I got back to bike. Safest to say, despite my fears that it would turn out to be something like the torturous experience of Tour de France competitors finishing up the Col de Tourmalet, I made it without incident. But I have made a mental note to plan something a bit more sedate for my next adventure.

Callater Stable

Callater Stable

View over Loch Callater

View over Loch Callater

zen bothying

Rounded off the year with a trip to Ben Alder Cottage, dusting down my 80 litre rucksack and walking boots, which certainly have been neglected of late. However, such is the habit forming routine I am now experiencing, it didn’t stop me from booking a cycle berth on the train, not even realising til I got to Glasgow and looked through my tickets. Doh! The plan was to hitch down the road from Rannoch to Bridge of Gaur, and then yomp north through the forestry and on up to the bothy. There used to bus a daily bus service to Pitlochry but now it only operates on a Wednesday in the winter, and only three times a week in the summer. And I got lucky, cadging a lift from a guy delivering building supplies to the house next to the station. The binmen were also in attendance, but according to this bloke, who had made the trip a few times, they were supposedly a particularly grumpy lot. A bit more local knowledge to add to the mix.

view west on the walk in to the bothy

view west on the walk in to the bothy

The walk in was certainly as long as I remembered and it took the rest of the day, but I was happy in the knowledge that with a bit of coal in the pack, and plenty of trees near the bothy, a comfortable evening was in store. And so it came to pass. The left hand room has recently been transformed into very plush accommodation, with full wood panelling, a sleeping platform and a substantial, and very welcome, wood burning stove. In fact I had a moment of complete zen like peace warming my wine by the heat of the fire, before starting to get spooked by the inevitable creeks and groans coming from the roof, as the temperature dropped outside. The  ghost stories associated with the bothy are hard to shake from your consciousness.Pan (3438) cover

In the morning it was absolutely freezing, so much so the river had iced up overnight, and I was glad I didn’t have any particular plans for the day. In the end I forced myself up to the first summit before Beinn Bheoil to take some photos, but I was too lethargic to do anything else. I think I deserved a bit of a break from what has been a very enjoyable but at times quite relentless year. The next day I walked out to Corrour via the Bealach Cumhann and Loch Ossian, stomping my way through 3 miles of undisturbed snow before I got to the lodge. I haven’t been so relieved to make a bridge crossing in my life, and almost kissed the railing in gratitude. I was also pretty ecstatic that the bar/cafe at the station was open despite the lateness in the year. A fellow traveller even bought me a pint. Having a bit of a charmed life at the moment.

Ben Alder Cottage

Ben Alder Cottage

view north towards Beinn Bheoil and Loch Ericht

view north towards Beinn Bheoil and Loch Ericht

View east from Sron Coire na-h-Lolaire

View east from Sron Coire na-h-Lolaire

On the walk down back to the cottage

On the walk down back to the cottage

Sun setting over Loch Ossian

Sun setting over Loch Ossian

cheers for the lift

On a bit of roll at the moment. After my trip to Mark Cottage last Thursday, got an offer of a lift at the weekend from my mate Phil, who was off skiing at Aviemore. It looked like it was going to be a great day for taking photos so I was hoping to get a few shots for the archive, as well as entertaining the main objective of the trip which was a quick tour of Ryvoan. We got to Glenmore pretty early, so I was able to pose with my tripod on the shore of Loch Morvich for over half an hour, before giving the reindeer a nod and heading on up the hill. The plan was to stop off at the bothy for lunch and then venture up Meall a’Bhauchaille, hoping to dawdle long enough at the summit to be able to catch the sunset. I can’t believe I’d never done this walk before but I suppose the focus has always been on skiing or climbing whenever I’ve been up this way.  In the end I also spent a good couple of hours in the freezing cold at the top of hill waiting for the big moment, and in the end it wasn’t quite as spectacular as I’d hoped. Anyway it was all good, and in actual fact I’m pretty happy with my days work,

Loch Morich, Glenmore

Loch Morich, Glenmore

Meall a'Bhuachaille

Meall a’Bhuachaille

Ryvoan bothy, Glenmore, Cairngorms

Ryvoan bothy, Glenmore, Cairngorms

Sunset from Meall a'Bhuachaille

Sunset from Meall a’Bhuachaille

Cairngorm and Byack Mor

Cairngorm and Byack Mor