Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Cairngorm Caper Part 1

Saturday: A change of scene.
I get to Glen Shee in six hours from Leeds; its three in the afternoon so don't feel like setting off on a big one. Fortunately The Cairnwell is probably the easiest Munro in the book as you can drive to about 670m on the A93. Those last 300 m are brutal though, straight up the steep mountain side to a rather tatty summit covered in a load of communication equipment and electricity cables. The buildings are strapped down against the wind that barrels through here in stormy weather.

Standing with you back to this however the views down Glenn Shee towards lowland Scotland are quite impressive. From The Cairnwell I traverse round onto Carn a Gheodih before retracing my steps onto Munro three Carn Adosa which has been horribly scared by the Glenn Shee Ski Centre. The fences, lifts, and land-rover tracks are unsightly, ugly, and completely out of place in summer and the wind makes bizarre and spooky noises in the metalwork.

Thinking about it I don't think I have a problem with sacrificing a few hills to the ski industry and I wasn't complaining last winter carving down the runs. The ski center is now providing mountain bike uplift in summer with the chairlift adapted to whisk you and your wheels to 900m before you race back down to the valley in a blaze of gravel and smoking brakes.

Feeling like a cheap night I wild camp the night beside the river in Glen Clunnie.

Sunday: In praise of patience.

Taking advantage of the A93 uplift I drive to the ski centre. Horrible weather this morning, strong gusts of wind, cloud-base down at about 600m and heavy rain. The forecast suggests things may improve later but as I sit in the car whilst the rain pours and the wind howls things don't look promising. I argue with myself about going out, visibility is about 30m and although navigation will be an exciting challenge I don't really have the motivation. My main reason for walking is to enjoy the views from the mountain and experiencing an interaction with the landscape. Walking in poor visibility or a white-out is just ticking off hill with no real enjoyment you may as well go to the gym.

A few chapters of my book and plenty of tea later the cloud begins to lift, the odd ray of sunlight brakes through and flits across the car park. I leave the cocoon of the car being and head off up Glas Maol taking advantage of the ski center access roads (hypocrite!). There is a huge amount of life about the sides of the mountain are covers in small flowering plants and on many an occasion a scare a clutch of birds or a hare from the undergrowth. Apparently this is due to the geology of the mountains which are primarily composed of limestone which allows for a much richer soil to accumulate than on the barren granite hills of the main Cairngorms
Dropping off the rounded dome of the summit leads to a broad ridge which then climbs swiftly up onto the summit of Munro number two for the day Creag Leacach. By now it is almost a really nice day with great view in all directions. Content and rested but feeling the need for more tea I make my way back from the car a good day salvaged from a very poor start.

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