12TH DECEMBER Ben Newe
4TH DECEMBER Pittenderich
On the last 2 xmas walks, last year to the Lion's Face and the previous year over Hill of Fare, we had very good walking weather, sunny and dry, so was it too much to hope for that it would be the same? Well, despite a rather gloomy start, it was dry all day and, true to the Tarland Met Office Forecast, the sun came out at about 12pm and we enjoyed glorious views over the Tarland Valley, the only mountain missing being Lochnagar, shrouded with cloud.
A very pleasing number of 19 members, including 3 relatively new to the club, set off from Tarland at 9.30, passing Allastrian House and turning left to pass over a bridge, climbing gently along a long avenue of young trees, after which we stopped briefly to admire the view, and eventually crossing over the A9119. After an hour, we stopped for our first break, enjoying the increasing panorama as we climbed higher. We continued to climb, entering a wood which covers most of our hill and from which we finally emerged, turning off the main path to reach the summit. The summit of the hill is a very large mass of stones, so big in fact, that it can't surely be a recent cairn but is probably more likely to be an ancient cairn, of which there are many in this part of the world. Here again the views were magnificent, but the wind was a bit cold, so our stay on the summit was curtailed and we had a brief stop for a drink farther down before we got out of the woods.
We headed in open country at first down the "ridge" towards Tarland, meeting one couple who claimed to have come across a couple of bulls (whom we happily missed) and then coming once more to trees and another long avenue of beech trees, older than the ones on the way up. Unfortunately, this wasn't quite the avenue we should have been walking along but this didn't matter as we easily found our way back to our intended route and Tarland village.
This walk was put together from the book of Macrobert Tarland walks and was easy to find. My personal thanks go to James who came on the recce with me and provided maps from that.
11TH NOVEMBER Dead Wife's Hillock
This was a walk we were unable to do in September so it got reinstated on Monday. Now how can you resist going up a hill with such a name? Well, 17 of us couldn't so 2 very new members, a guest, 14 members and our new canine recruit Jessie the pointer, set off on a rather chilly day from the Grouse Inn north of Cabrach. We climbed steadily up a path which skirts the woods and finishes (on the map at least) at Meikle Firbriggs, 539m which is where we had our coffee stop. Already the views were opening up.
We continued along the ridge, hardly losing any height, to the most superior hill of the day, Round Hill at 571m. You may well ask, why haven't I titled this report "Monday walk, Round Hill" but would you remember this compared to Dead Wife's Hillock? It became a little warmer and some of us actually divested ourselves of items of apparel. After all, we were walking in full sunshine.
And now we descended slightly to the Hill of the Day. Here we found a lovely place for lunch, on top of large tyres, obviously to do with stalking. They were very comfortable, there wasn't a breath of wind while we were sitting down and therefore we didn't chill off too much.
We then took a track going almost due west down to the valley of Black Water, diverting briefly to view the ford across the burn before turning north on a track along the Black Water glen which took us into a wood below Meikle Firbriggs. Emerging from the wood, we continue to follow the course of the burn back to the Grouse Inn and excellent refreshment in the warm, as the temperature by that time was dropping and clouds were appearing which presaged the rain which arrived in the evening.
Two points of interest were, firstly, numerous deer sightings. We kept on seeing these stationary antlered heads peeping up over the horizon, obviously wondering where we were going next, keeping a wary eye out for our movements. And this was happening often during the day in different locations with different groups. Also, on the west side of the Black Water, there were interesting vehicles parked high up the hill and even 2 stranger blocks higher than the vehicles.
The weather was perfect, when you got used to the cold, with no wind chill factor whatsoever, cloudless blue skies and lovely broad sweeping views. Mention should be made of the most hospitable Grouse Inn who had freshly baked scones, shortbread and tea and coffee awaiting our return.
6TH NOVEMBER Invercauld
As the weather closed in, the number of intrepid Culter Hillwalkers dwindled from 19 signed up on Friday to 14 on the day - the absent 5 probably made the right decision... the recce walk just a month beforehand had been in glorious mid autumn, and this walk really should be a late autumn treat - but not in mid winter. However, as billed there are lots of forest walks at low level, so in driving rain followed quickly by driving snow the brave 14 embarked from the car park at Invercauld on a 10km walk in the woods, with a maximum elevation of 500m. The first glimpse of wildlife was a horse which looked like it had frozen to death outside Invercauld House, but it turned out to be a very impressive classical statue to complement the very modern one nearby - attached is a snap of the modern sculpture, but unable to find details, answers on an Email please.
Heads down, we ploughed on up towards Meall Gorm where after stopping for a spot of refreshment 3 brave souls decided to tackle this 600m monster. They were last spotted by Captain Noel Odell as they crossed the North Col and disappeared into the mist. (Actually that is a little romantic, they were last spotted heading into The Bothie in Braemar later that afternoon). The rest of the party headed east and would have enjoyed walking across to Middleton of Aberarder had it not been for some terrible navigation by our so-called 'leader' resulting in a much shorter walk back to the car park via Felagie. But here is the great thing about hillwalking - the weather broke as we headed south on a decent enough track and we had the most glorious views framed by rainbows down the valley - romantic if you weren't soaking wet with frozen digits. (Another prize to anyone who can recommend truly high quality waterproof walking gloves.) The crowd which later assembled in The Bothie were never so glad to be tucking into their hot chocolates and fresh scones. We will return! This walk is too good to leave frustrated by the weather, so look out for it in the next couple of years, with a decent navigator and better weather it will be loved by all. Wildlife report - one horse (frozen); 3 horses being led by someone driving what looked like a golf buggy; one red squirrel en route to car park; that's it folks, most wildlife had sense enough to be tucked up at home.
17TH OCTOBER Culblean Hill
Culblean Hill in Cambus o' May was the target hill for this Monday walk, and with Aboyne having been the wettest place in Britain just two days previously, the twelve club members and one guest setting off were not expecting to keep dry feet despite a weather forecast giving only a 10% chance of showers.
Suitably shod however we left the Cambus o' May forest car park following a mature track through the wood which was displaying some fine Autumn colours, until we reached a small burn, crossed by a good leap or use of one slippery looking stone in the middle of the flow. We all reached the opposite bank unscathed and followed the track up a gradual ascent along the valley of the burn, northward. Reaching the upper limits of the planted wood, moorland opened ahead as the southern flanks of Morven, hidden all day long in low cloud. It was a good time to stop for a refreshment and to view the false peaks of Culblean.
Lack of sheltering trees allowed a chill wind to force us back on our feet and we now turned due east, off path, over land suffering from the past few days of wet weather. But soon we had an uphill slope, better drained and leading up to flat slabs of granite amongst a low growth of heather, relatively easy walking. The flat summit appeared to have multiple cairns and the first, western one, was visited, offering good views up Deeside, the verdant green pasture below highlighted in a beam of sunshine and backed by a falling shower of rain. Turning eastward again took us along the ridge of Culbean and several more cairns were visited with ongoing debates as to which was the highest. Deeside, both upper and lower, continued to attract the sunbeams, whilst solid cloud to the north darkened the ranging hills into mere silhouettes. Loch Kinord to our southeast reflected brightly in the sunshine, and Tarland looked cosily tucked away amongst lower hills.
Eventually Culblean's ridge at 600 metres elevation ran out and we dropped down the contours along the hill's eastern extension to reach a trig point at a mere 477m. Even at this lowly elevation, it commanded long sight lines around lower Deeside and later investigation found it to be "completed 13th April 1956 costing £36.17s.10½d". Despite not being aware of that at the time, this significant spot dictated another refreshment break, though wind and temperature were certainly not comforting and extra layers, hats and gloves came out of the pack along with the thermos flasks.
A return to a more westerly bearing and a beeline downhill took us back into the forest and alongside the early waters of the burn that flows through the Burn O Vat. The dampness of the burn and forest offered some good flora specimens for the keen sighted. Eventually we came across the path that emerges out of the top of Burn O Vat to the east, but we headed west through very pleasant planted, but open, scots pine woodland interspersed with golden birch giving a gentle end to a 12km Autumnal experience.
With the sun far from setting there was plenty of time to head to the Loch Kinord Hotel at Dinnet where we were well looked after with tea and scones with whipped cream and jam, a perfect finale to a good day out in the hills.
2ND OCTOBER Water of Saughs
The Club has offered a number of different walks in Glen Lethnot over the years, there being many hills from which to choose, and today's walk was the latest, by Jackie and Andy. The glen is sandwiched between its bigger brothers, Glen Esk and Glen Clova, and there is plenty of room for parking at the end of the road. From this car park, the track winds up the Glen before turning north steeply upwards. We took our first break after we had left the track and when the gradient became less steep.
After this we continued to the summit of the rather pleasantly-named Cairn of Meadows (687m) and then turned along the "ridge", off track but following a fence to climb to our highest point of the day, Cruys at 741m. Here we took our second break, admiring the views of the sea and the hills which border Glen Clova.
We continued along the ridge, turning south eventually to descend steeply to the Shieling of Saughs, an interesting edifice with a very green roof and sturdy stone work. The track up the glen finishes here and we took it to make our way back to the cars. It is high up above the bottom of the glen and affords lovely views down the glen to the Shank of Donald Young and beyond, on the opposite side. To reach the bottom of the valley and to cut off a corner, we took a zigzag path beside West Burn which then led to our original track and the car park.
26TH SEPTEMBER Tap o' Noth
4TH SEPTEMBER Loch Bulig
Our group travelled to Strathdon by bus and dropped a party of 13 at the Corgarff Castle Car Park for a through walk to Braenaloin, on the B976 near Gairnshiel Lodge. A further 4 continued in the bus to Braenaloin for a shorter circular walk. The weather was mild, damp and overcast but the forecast promised cleared skies in the afternoon.
We set off around 9:45am, westwards along the track beside the River Don, passing a small reservoir at Inchmore before turning south and heading up a track with a steady climb along the Meoir Veannaich burn. We were in need of a refreshment break but the still conditions were ideal for midges so we plodded on until a slight breeze gave us a chance for a quick stop.
Our group continued to the end of the track below the ridge linking Little Geal Charn and Meikle Geal Charn. While the group gathered we observed several deer on the skyline, heading up the ridge ahead of us. We then struck out across open heather moorland to the fence line on the ridge then on to the summit of Meikle Geal Charn - the highest point on the walk at 802m. At the summit we were rewarded with clearing skies giving fine views of Ben Avon to the west and Loch Builg in the glen below. After a break in the refreshing and midge free breeze we crossed the deer fence via a convenient gate and headed south west downhill across heather moorland towards the southern shore of Loch Builg.
The weather improved and we paused for a welcome break in the sunshine with fine views of Carn Drochaid and across to Lochnagar in the distance. Setting off again, we disturbed several mountain hares, still in their summer coats, and numerous grouse taking advantage of a shooting-free Sunday! We finally reached the boggy terrain between Loch Builg and the group of Lochans clustered near the ruin of Lochbuilg Lodge, and joined the estate track.
The walk continued east along the track following the River Gairn where several sections had been planted with young trees as part of a conservation project. The river valley was mostly populated with sheep although we did see the remains of flattened frogs and one dead adder. At Corndavon Lodge, the group paused for a break and rested on the manicured lawn in the sunshine. We then set off along the track for the final stretch to finish the walk at 5:00pm and join the others waiting in the bus at Braenaloin, just as the weather turned damp again.
A fine walk with a real sense of the remoteness of that part of the Grampian Mountains and we met no other walkers that day, despite it being a weekend in late Summer!
22ND AUGUST Beinn Bhreac
A party of 12 started from the Linn of Dee car park after judiciously placing cars for the walk end at the foot of Glen Quoich. The walk up Glen Lui on the Derry road soon left the midges behind, and turning off at the Clais Fhearnaig path onto the slopes of Meall an Lundain picked up a pleasant breeze. This mitigated the warmth of the day and kept away the dreaded midge. At this stage a number of small rain showers were about but missed us and the day lived up to its forecast by gradually clearing and giving us sunny spells and good views. The climb up the hill gave us various plants such as Eyebright, Bog Asphodel and of most interest, numerous Dwarf Birch trees. The cairn on Meall an Lundain was reached on its dry plateau. The hill name means the lump at the green marshy place, obviously referring to the lower slopes. We descended into a green marshy place as we crossed the old meltwater channel in the dip heading to the day's target, Beinn Bhreac. A good walker's path took us to the summit with its speckled scree, giving the hill its name. An interesting feature on the upper slopes was the presence of a few Juniper plants. Some of the party took the purist approach and summited the higher top of the two. Others expended the extra energy and did both tops. An excellent rest was had on the top with Beinn Mheadhoin showing its tors particularly well in the sunny spells.
We then descended back to the meltwater channel and followed it east down a very entertaining gully with rocks, ferns and a small burn to Poll Bhat. This is said to mean the pool of the drowning but fortunately we passed it without incident. From there we crossed the hillside among the old pines of the Dubh Gleann woodland to reach the Glen Quoich track. This was followed down to the public road and the cars. The damage done in the glen by Storm Frank was apparent, with a short section to be crossed on a rough path where the track has disappeared. Some of the group finished the walk by the Linn of Quoich and some on the main track, but all had an excellent day out and thanks go to Catherine for an imaginative route with some of it well off the beaten track.
The walks planned for Sunday August 7th, which included two Munros, had to be cancelled due to the forecast of gale force winds and completely new walking routes were constructed at lower levels to satisfy members wanting a short, or a long walk. As a result, all sixteen walkers met together at the car park at Bellabeg and set off briefly on tarmac past the solid looking Strathdon church built in the 19th century primarily from funds from the local Forbes family. Leaving the tarmac behind, we headed south southwest with views down on to the Don and a circling buzzard on our left, and forest to our right which we shortly entered. This gave us some shelter from the correctly forecast windy conditions. Soon, however, we found recent clear-felling exposed us to the wind, but with the sun shining and no hint of rain we stopped for the "one hour" refreshment on a pile of recently felled logs, which we didn't climb.
Here it was decided to split into two groups, eleven on the long walk and five on the short. Our forest trail, muddied by felling vehicle activities, was blocked by four or five mature wind felled trees. It appeared that they had fallen very recently, if not the same morning in the blustery winds, and one of the trees still standing was no longer vertical. Some of us went around and some under the fallen trees but we were all listening carefully for the cracking sound of new timber falling onto us. (the shorter walking group experienced some worrying cracking sounds at their later stop).
We had turned more in a south westerly direction on a track between the mere knolls of Craig an Bunzeach and Bad an Teachdaire before entering unfelled forest on an old overgrown track. Here we stopped for a lunch break gaining shelter from the trees but also enjoying the warmth of the sum. After lunch we were on open heath, going uphill in a south-westerly direction, head on to the increasing wind. On an increasingly steep southbound track to Mullachdubh (681m) we battled hard against the winds, the forecast was correct. Gusts were blowing us bodily off-track, and conversation was impractical. We came to a chain-locked gate in a deer fence but it was too blustery to go over so, as many had done before us, we squeezed through a gap in the fence. Then it was found that though the heavy, rusting chain was padlocked, one of the links in the chain was a karabiner, so our tail-enders were able to walk comfortably through the open gate.
It was now too uncomfortable to stop so we just kept walking in a straggling group to an insignificant cairn on the flat to of Mullachdubh, immediately turning around and heading back down, regrouping at the karabiner gate. Turning west of north from our outgoing route we ducked into a very old overgrown forest track where we had to weave between long-fallen timber. It was here we spotted a roe deer, surprised by our presence and probably not hearing our approach for the noise of the wind.
Exiting the forest for the last time we were looking north over the farm Birkford towards Strathdon, and after a further snack on soft grass in the shelter of some juniper bushes, we threaded our way down the hill, past the farm, an old gravel pit, and along some sheep trails, in order to avoid the farm's tarmacked road. During the final easy walking along the road back to the parked cars we considered the strength of the wind and mean speed around 40mph was agreed upon. This ties in well with the Beaufort wind scale (devised by Admiral Beaufort for vessels at sea, but land-based effects added later suggest there would be twigs broken from trees - which there were - and progress on foot would be seriously impeded - which it was).
We had learned by phone the short walkers were settled over a cup of tea but last orders were 4.45pm, and we would not quite make it so we went to the Colquhonnie Hotel where we were able to get drinks and crisps.
It was agreed that the change of walk from a 1000m+ Munro to a lowly 681 metre bump was the correct decision and this is verified by the Cairngorm summit weather station (which some of us set eyes upon during a recent walk) which showed winds gusting to 100mph at around 1300 hours.
25TH JULY An Socach
By mutual consent the assembled company changed the route from the proposed one up Carn Aosda and An Socach to An Socach and Sgor Mor. We still left the 2 cars at Baddoch but instead of heading for the ridge, we followed the track which snakes its way beside the Baddoch Burn, turning off for the real climb up the Allt Coire Fhearneasg. After a short distance, the path took us away from this burn and towards a prominent cairn ahead of us, where we stopped for our first break. Oh dear, what could we see but rain clouds bearing down on us! And it had been such a pleasant day. But no problems, although we did have a shower, and could see during the day a number of evil-looking clouds dropping their contents in the vicinity, we couldn't complain about the weather, with the high clouds and fair amount of sunshine.
We then made our way up to the long plateau which constitutes An Socach. At the higher westernsummit (944m), we stopped for our second break and to admire the panoramic views of the Cairngorms, very few being covered in cloud. Here we met a party of 4 intrepid Munro baggers, one just finishing his 5th round, one with 3 rounds under his belt and the last 2 having only done all the Munros once. They asked us to take a picture of them, which Catherine duly did, and then they went on their way. Only afterwards did we learn that one of our number had also completed all the Munros.
Retracing our path along the plateau, we reached the lowest point when the party divided, 2 to descend along the clear path which follows the Allt Boruiche back to our first track and the other 3 to continue to the east summit (938m) from where they continued high to conquer Sgor Mor (887m) and from there to drop down to Baddoch. And, amazingly, the 2 parties met up here. What timing!
Not that much wildlife but we did see a hare near the summit.
9TH-10TH JULY Loch Carron Weekend
Beinn Liath Mhor
Saturday morning with breakfast eaten and weather forecast digested Catherine suggested Beinn Liath Mhor with an option depending on actual weather to continue round the horse shoe to Sgorr Ruadh and a river crossing back. Seven of us headed out in lightish drizzle from Achnashellach station. After negotiating the forestry track and dripping trees the path opened up onto the moorland trail and the sky opened up with heavier drizzle/ rain. A gentle slog to the vantage point showed the river crossing was just possible but the clouds were low and opinions were for an ascent to Beinn Liath Mhor summit and return back the same way. Continuing along the lower slopes intermittent views of the 867m first peak could be seen together with a scattering of lochans, moorland flowers and a well prepared path. A steep ascent entering the clouds followed and we were cut off from the rest of the world. The zigzagging path of loose rocks and muddy heather tufts with surprised frogs leaping away from our bootsteps lead us to a scree slope to the first summit, a rest stop and higher winds. After putting on some warmer clothes and waterproofs we moved onto the horse shoe ridge with visibility down to 30m. The first rock stack appeared and a path out of the wind for a welcome break and the group was reduced to 5 hardy souls. Catherine lead us onward to the middle peak and rain reduced back to merely drizzle. False summit after false summit beckoned out of the mist before we reached the true summit of Beinn Liath Mhor 926m and our lunch break. We had thought that we were the only people out in this weather but two young gents appeared out of the mist on their way beyond us. Shortly we started the return journey along the ridge with improving weather turning to mist and clearing for our first and only good views down to the valley. Returning mist and reduced visibility followed before reaching the last (or initial peak) and more steady rain. The steep descent back to the plateau saw our first slip and a sit down on my boot otherwise no mishaps occurred. The prepared path from there to the car park was trouble free except for rain. Several plants, flowers and some lovely juniper were seen before entering the forestry tracks above the railway line. Just over 8 hours there and back and a pint waiting back at the hotel. With thanks to Rob who drove us.
On the same day as the previous group were battling with mist and rain on Beinn Liath Mhor, a group of 6 decided they would conquer a Corbett situated on the way to Applecross village. However, when we arrived at the parking point, we were already in mist and, not wishing to spend the whole day surrounded by the white stuff, we continued by car to Applecross and parked at the Applecross House Gardens. From here we followed a trail round the village, up east, along and down to the river Applecross, back along the river to the bay and along the bay, partly on the beach and partly on a very well made path (where there was a profusion of tall yellow irises), to the pub, where we partook of some non-alcoholic liquid refreshment. We then continued south by the sea, taking a path to Milton and turning to the left of Loch Mhuilinn before climbing up the hill and into the woods to the road. Before we reached the road, however, we visited an interesting roundhouse for which we had a talk by an enthusiastic local gentleman. We crossed the road and, after another climb, we descended gently to the path whence we had come as the precipitation became less like a shower and more like a prolonged period of rain. For a number of us, this was a first visit to the famous Applecross Peninsula and although the weather wasn't at its best, we nevertheless did enjoy some views. Our thanks to Geoff and John F who drove us safely on the hairy hairpin-strewn roads. Lochcarron weekend - Day 1 report Everyone was paying close attention to the weather forecast in the few days leading up to the weekend. It was generally pretty grim but varied from day to day over which day might be the best; so it was not until Thursday evening that a plan was made to tackle Maol Chean-dearg (933m) on the Friday as that seemed to offer the best chance of some dry spells and low winds.
This meant an early start from Aberdeen for the 10 members of the weekend group who opted for the walk. We set off in dribs and drabs as people arrived at the parking spot, and followed the river Fionn-abhainn into the glen, past the beginnings of construction of a new hydro scheme. The river was running fast after a lot of rain in the previous few days, and crossing some if its tributaries required some fancy footwork on the stepping stones.
After an hour or so we reached the very smart Coire Fionnaraich bothy, which provided a good location for a snack and regrouping of the party. Two had gone on ahead, and soon after leaving the bothy, another two decided not to go for the summit, leaving a group of six to make the ascent together. A target time of 3.15 was set to reach the summit and leave enough time to get down and make it to the hotel in time for dinner at 7.30.
Soon after leaving the bothy we passed a large stone Clach nan Con-fionn - reputedly where the giant Fionn tethered his hunting dogs - and shortly afterwards a stalkers path turned upwards on a gentle zig-zag ascent towards the bealach a Choire Garbh. By this time the clouds had closed in and waterproofs been donned, although at the bealach the mist cleared enough to give a fine, if brief, view of the Corbett An Ruadh-stac and its lochan nestling below.
From the bealach, the path steepened through the scree, vague at times with several possible alternative routes. Catherine reported it much improved from her previous visit some years earlier. The final pull up was over sandstone boulders to the summit, which we reached just before the 3.15 deadline. Walk Highlands promised a fabulous view to Loch an Eion and the Torridon hills beyond, but this was not forthcoming for us and we had to use our imagination. Also at the summit were a young boy of about twelve and his father, who had set out a little after us - it was his first Munro!
We returned by the same route, Catherine expertly picking the route though the boulders and scree to see us safely down without incident. As we descended the weather improved and some of the surrounding hills were revealed, and after a few hours with little real rain, the burns were noticeably lower on our return than on the way out. We comfortably made it to the hotel in time for a good dinner!
The name Maol Chean-dearg means 'bald red head' - the sandstone boulder summit lies above a lower band of white quartzite. Once some watery sun came out in the afternoon, the quartzite on the surrounding hills showed a fine sparkle.
Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean - Sunday 10th July
For some unfathomable reason, I couldn't persuade anyone to go walking with me on Sunday; perhaps it was something to do with the low clouds and intermittent drizzle. Anyway, I decided not to waste the day, and do the (relatively short and easy) Moruisg loop on my own.
The route sets off from the lay-by on the A890 at grid ref NH 080520, crosses the River Carron and goes under the railway line. A rather faint path takes a fairly direct line south-eastwards. The path is quite boggy as it passes through a deer-fenced enclosure, then dries out as it follows the bank of a small stream uphill. At about 500m altitude, the slope steepens; it levels off again at about 670m. After this the path ends, and you walk straight up the fall line on short cropped grass and moss.
The ridge was reached after about 80 minutes of walking (the last 30 minutes in cloud), and it was only 5 minutes more to the rounded summit of Moruisg (928m). Just before the summit I saw a small flock of half a dozen ptarmigan, and a hare. Till now the weather was reasonable, but it started raining as I arrived, so I didn't hang around and set off SSW along the whale back. It was very fast and pleasant walking, gently downhill on smooth, firm, mossy ground. This was a popular place for meadow pipits to congregate and I saw 20-25 in quite a short distance.
The rain stopped as I descended the spur to the broad col at 725m between Coire an Tuill Bhaain and Coire Toll nam Bian. A small path climbs west up the spur opposite, bears south and leads upwards through some rock to the summit of Sgurr nan Ceannaichean. In 1981 this shapely hill became a Munro, when it was described at 915m, but it was re-classified in 2009 as a Corbett after being re-measured at 913m.
The views are said to be excellent, but I could see nothing. The rain had started again, so I descended briskly to the north down the spur in the direction of Creag a' Chait. Once I'd lost enough height to get below the uppermost crags, I turned right and yomped eastwards in the mist, down grassy pathless slopes into Coire Toll nam Bian, and reached the stream called Alltan na Feoala at about 525m altitude.
The crossing is easiest high up, where the flow is less, so I crossed immediately and followed the right bank downhill, below the cloud, passing a beautiful series of cascades and crossing many side-streams. So far the descent was easy going and very enjoyable. I found the valley bottom path; this excuse for a path is full of muddy puddles and is mildly unpleasant. It leads through a fenced area of re-generating native woodland, and out into Glen Carron. After about 3km it returns you to the railway underpass. Total walk time for 12km and 978m ascent was 4 hrs 5 mins, and not a single other person was seen!
Walks report addendum. Loch Carron W/e. Sunday 10th July. Sgorr Ruadh 962m.-John
As I was the only one left staying over at the hotel on Sunday night, I decided to walk on that day as well. It had been disappointing to miss out on this Munro the previous day so I set off into the deteriorating weather and reached the path junction for Beinn Liath Mhor where I made a decision not to cross the river Lair due to the amount of rain in the previous 24 hours . One thought was to descend south-east via Loch a' Bhealaich Mhor and follow the loch outlet down to Loch Coire Lair but in the end I decided to go up and down the same way. A 2 hour slog up Coire Lair to a small lochan and a nicely placed cairn indicating the start of the ascent to the summit ridge. The heavy drizzle continued almost unabated and visibilty was virtually zero. I was longing for my gps which I had given an almighty crack with the boot lid of the car on Friday-the poor thing is now in the gps graveyard!! The only point of interest on reaching the summit was a laminated piece of A4 with a tribute to a young man called Ian Mcneilage. I found later that there is an online debate about the number of these tributes appearing on the summits. Some mixed views. The return was uneventful apart from occasional glimpses of the magnificent cliffs of Sgorr Ruadh. Time out 6 hours 30. Was back in the hotel in time to watch Murray's victory with Nigel and the dogs. My question is who ate my packed lunch?!
3RD JULY Cairngorm
20TH JUNE Craigie Thieves
A disappointingly few people turned out for this very enjoyable walk. It couldn't have been the weather (admittedly we did have a prolonged period of rain in the afternoon, but otherwise it was bright and sunny and we all dried off afterwards anyway). Perhaps it was the distance, or the late return and I do know a number of people were away but our select band had a great day.
Glen Prosen is probably one of the lesser of the Angus Glens, not as well frequented as its bigger neighbours Glen Clova and Glen Esk, but nevertheless with its own merits. The Glen does provide a very good route over the Munros of Dreish and Mayar on its north east side, but yesterday, we were heading to the south west where there are a number of smaller hills which still make a good circuit.
We left the cars past Glenprosen Lodge where a path winds uphill to the North West. We didn't take this path but instead headed along the long track which leads up the Glen to Kilbo (marked on my map as a ruin, which it is no longer), where we stopped for a break. Last time some of us were in the area, it was a veritable hive of activity here, as work was taking place on a small hydroelectric scheme, but today there were only a few walkers ahead of us and 2 deer who appeared to have got on the wrong side of the fence. We also noted the loss of the forest on the opposite side of the Glen.
We then went off track up the rather steep and wonderfully named Glack of Balquhader (from Irish: Glaic, meaning "hollow") which, after turning south east, took us to our highest point of the day at 689m, Craigie Thieves which is the 2470th highest peak in the British Isles and the 2052nd in Scotland. (I thought you might want to know this!). Our route followed the ridge from where we had a good view of a large herd of deer, over The High Tree, 604m, although no trees were in evidence, and Bad Buidh, 524m. Where do they get these names from?
The track now descended to a burn crossing and, the rain having stopped, we took another break here in the sunshine. Just after this, we came upon a large number of beetles enjoying themselves on a pile of dung before we plunged into a lovely wood as we followed the path down to Hole. I wonder why they didn't call this one Glack as well?
Our way now took us up through Drumshade Plantation, passing Eskielawn and Hill of Strone, from where we had a lovely view of Dreish, Mayar and the hills the other side of Glen Clova, the bowl of Loch Brandy being particularly easy to identify. From here it was downhill steeply back to Glen Prosen and the cars. Items of note seen (or heard) on the way were a sandpiper, curlew and lapwing in the Glen, a miniscule frog, lots and lots of tadpoles and a brown hare. But to me, the crowning glory of the day was a proliferation of the delightful little white flower, Chickweed Wintergreen, and I shall remember this walk as the Chickweed Wintergreen walk.
5TH JUNE An Sgarsoch & Carn an Fhidleir
After a very successful bike trip to Beinn a' Bhuird and Ben Avon last year, this year's trip was to the very remote Munros of Carn an Fhidhleir and An Sgarsoch, and what a cracking day out we ended up having.
These two hills are two of the most remote on the Munro circuit, being 14km from the nearest public road as the crow flies. This makes it a big day out by anybody's standards.
Nine very keen participants had signed up for the challenge. Unfortunately our co-ordinator for the day became ill prior to the event, so that was us one down before the start.
Four participants decided to leave earlier than the others, as they thought that they may have been slightly slower on the approach cycle . Unfortunately one of the bikes wasn't quite so enthusiastic as its owner, and expired not long after the start from Linn of Dee car park. So now we were down to seven.
The 13km cycle into Geldie Lodge was much rougher than I remembered from a few years ago, and took us 1 hour 20 minutes to get there, with very easy burn crossings. The weather was sunny, warm with no wind at all, so there was quite a lot of sweat lost before the walking section.
We all met up at the lodge for a break excluding one member who started earlier, he was well on his way by this time. Two others continued at a slightly slower pace.
The track from the lodge to the Alt a' Chaorainn is in excellent condition, but after crossing this burn it was a pretty tough slog up the heather -clad, pathless hillside to reach the north ridge of Carn an Fhidhleir. From here it was much easier, and a gentle stroll took us to the summit cairn.
After a well deserved break we carried on southeast to bypass the 906 point on OS maps, and then east to the bealach between the two Munros. From here it was another pull up the pathless hillside, passing a small stone shelter to the large summit cairn of An Sgarsoch.
On the way up we came upon two very young grouse chicks hiding in a hollow in the heather. At first there was no sign of mother grouse, but it wasn't long before she came on the scene, feinting a broken wing, acting as a decoy to lure us away from her offspring.
Another well -earned break was had at the summit, prior to the descent northwards, to reach the path which we used on the way in. On the descent we came upon a large snow- field that was crying out to be crossed. We were all quite surprised by the amount and depth of snow still there at this time of year, especially after this warm spell of weather which we have been experiencing.
Geldie Lodge was soon reached with a brisk pace along the path. From here it was back on the bikes for a bumpy but pleasant cycle back to the start.
On reflection, it was a great day out on the hills, with fantastic views of the surrounding hills, superb weather, and of course the company to match.
P.S. Our colleague who couldn't do the cycle did have a good day on Beinn Bhrotain instead.
5TH JUNE Carn Aosda and Cairnwell
Whilst the main walk on Sunday June 5th was a combined cycle/walk from Linn of Dee to bag two distant Munros in the Cairngorms, the short walk had the same aim, two Munros but by taking advantage of the high level starting point of the Glenshee Ski resort car park, our intention was to bag Cairnwell and Carn Aosda.. Nine walkers left Peterculter in overcast conditions but with a favourable weather forecast of blue skies, and the good weather appeared as we drove up Deeside, giving a fine view of Lochnagar.
With hats donned and suntan lotion well spread we followed the unsightly, ill maintained ski resort vehicle tracks up from the car park through the ski mountainside paraphernalia to the bealach between our target Munros. Turning our backs on the resort we dipped down to the head of Loch Vrotachan, and in the sun had our first snack perched on a small beach by a fishing hut, the raison d'etre being proven by two large shoals of small fish swimming by, almost as if welcoming the infrequent human company. We retraced our steps back up from the loch, passing again through some moist ground that was obviously home to a large number of frogs of all sizes. Here too cloudberry was flowering abundantly, with butterwort showing its bright green leaves and some early flowers, lady's mantle here and there, marsh marigold in a wet spot by a trickle of water, and tormentil starting its summer long flowering season. Away on the peaty hillside numerous mountain hares, now without their winter white coats, were active.
The ski vehicle tracks and ramshackle snow fences directed us along the ridge, passing the shiny new Cairnwell ski chairlift, up a steep incline to the telecoms hardware-cluttered summit of Cairnwell at 933m. We took an early lunch using the concrete base of the telecoms mast as a comfortable bench to sit upon from which we were able to enjoy good views all around. The slight breeze blowing was comfortably warm, and, unusually, there was no need to bring out any extra layers of clothing. After lunch we retraced our steps back to the bealach before heading up to Carn Aosda, its rocky strewn top shining brightly in the sunshine and home to a ptarmigan which jumped and fluttered around on our approach. At 917m another Munro, another reason for a refreshment break, again in a warm breeze though some afternoon cloud was spreading across the skies.
Turning our sights northward we followed the ridge between Glen Baddoch on our west, and Glen Clunie and the main Glenshee road on our right. The ridge offered colourful views of the verdant green grassland flanking the Clunie burn in the distance, and the various shades of brown at our feet and on the hills to our right and left. It was relatively easy going with a semblance of a path here and there, but otherwise short, dry heath amongst which we spotted starlets of colour from the flowering creeping azalea. At lower levels the temperature rose so we stopped for a refreshment break before finally reaching grassland, with the noise of a lapwing which took a dislike to our presence. After 11.5km of walking we were back to the cars and down the road to Braemar with car thermometers indicating 23C. We stopped at the Bothy cafe for some further refreshments and delicious home bakes before all heading down Deeside with the thermometers gradually dropping to a mere 15C in Aberdeen, chilled by a breeze off the North Sea.
23RD MAY Gardenstown - Troup Head- Hell's Lum
While many of you may have bemoaned the fate of the Monday walkers yesterday as the rain bucketed down on Deeside, those very walkers were enjoying clear blue skies, reflected in the sparkling blue seas, with the sun beating down on them, forcing them to ditch articles of apparel because they were too hot!
This was Catherine's annual flower and bird walk and an excellent one it proved to be. In fact, it was fortunate that it wasn't a long walk because there was so much to look at in the way of flora and fauna. We left 2 cars west of Pennan and took the third one to the road west of Gardenstown. At first we followed the track towards the beach, but turned off to go to visit St. Johns Church, now a ruin but used from Neolithic times. There was a very good view here of the village (also known as Gamrie) and also its small neighbour Crovie. We turned back to the beach path and passed through Gardenstown, following the path over the beach, which could be covered at high tide, to Crovie itself. From here, we climbed the steep hill out north out of Crovie, stopping for a break (we had after all been going for nearly 2 hours) to look back at the cliffs west of Gardenstown.
As we headed for Troup Head, we saw many sea birds but the main attraction lay ahead of us - the gannet colony on the Head itself. There we enjoyed wonderful views of these impressive birds wheeling and soaring over our heads and nesting on the cliffs. It was down from here to the car park, but we enjoyed on the way a stop and visit to Hell's Lum, a fascinating piece of geology, and the fort nearby.
This was a walk where we were looking forward to flower and bird naming activities and you can see from the following list how successful this was: of the animals/birds we saw kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, a few puffins, eider ducks, pied wagtail, rock pippet, skylarks, a solitary brown hare, a very furry caterpillar, a microlight and lots and lots and lots of gannets. Of the flora - the rare spring squill (a very exciting find), campion, thrift, small violets, sea campion, rose root, geum rivale, kidney vetch, tufted vetch, bush vetch, speedwell, birds foot trefoil, tormentil (out already!), primrose and greater woodrush. A veritable feast!
12TH-15TH MAY Skye
It seems that the weekends which are most enjoyed and therefore best remembered are those when the weather is kind to us and this weekend was no exception to the rule. 17 club members, the largest number for a weekend for some time, drove over to Skye on 12th May hoping for better weather than we had experienced last year and indeed they weren't disappointed. Because it was quite a large number, the groups fragmented so a number of walks took place by different members.
Thursday 12th May
Blabheinn (928m) on Friday: Alistair and I (Suzanne) arrived at the Blabheinn car park at 1.30 on Thursday and started up the path, being so late we decided to walk for 2 hours and assess whether we had time to go further. We slowed the pace as we started up the scree to the col, the path was not so clear. Then up the rocky ridge, being careful to make a note of how we would return. 3.30 and we could see what we thought was either a false top or the top so decided to get to this point and reassess the situation. False top!! but so close to top continued on. At the South top we met 4 others who were about to scramble across to the North top and the Munro. They encouraged us to follow as they recommended the route down from North top much easier and straight forward. Beautiful clear day and great views.
Friday 13th May
Blabheinn was a guided walk for 6 different members along the "tourist route". We drove over to the west side of Loch Slappin and parked the car in the forest car park. From there, we followed the John Muir doctored path gently at first up to the burn crossing and then more steeply on a less well delineated path to the corrie where we had our first break. The way from here to the ridge was tricky and we felt we deserved our second break on the ridge, with a fine view to the north. We then followed a well-defined path to the summit from where we enjoyed a spectacular view of the Cuillin Ridge and of islands including Eigg, Muck and Rum. Our guide Neils then helped 4 of the party across to the south summit, an exciting experience. We returned on the same path. The weather was perfect for mountain walking, a comfortable temperature, high cloud and sunshine. We were all very impressed with our guide too who made us feel very competent, even if at times we may not have thought we were.
Saturday 14th May
The following day, 4 members from that group of 6 drove north to tackle the Storr. We took the very good path up to the Old Man where we stopped. Our way then took us up to the ridge, round the curve of Coire Scamadal and back along the ridge to the summit. We descended quite steeply from here to Bealach Beag where we followed a challenging path down the burn to the fields, the road and back to the cars. Again, it was a perfect day for our walk and we enjoyed a view of Harris, and the Trotternish Ridge spreading away from the mountain.
Saturday 14th May
We started walking on the same path we came down on Friday, to a fork, where we veered off to the left. We arrived at a steep narrow scree slope leading up to a notch An Dorus (the door) between Sgurr a Ghreadaidh and Sgurr a Mhadaidh. Before starting up the scree path we put on our harnesses and helmets and split into 2 groups, 4 lead by Steve and 4 by Roary. There was some concern about the snow at An Dorus because we didn't have crampons or ice axes, but as we approached An Dorus it was clear it wasn't too icy and we planned to approach Sgurr a Ghreadaidh first. Before crossing the narrow gap with snow we roped up, with Steve leading followed by John, Andy, Alistair and Suzanne, then Rory and his group Rob, Graham, Bill and Geoff. We stepped over the snow and climbed up An Dorus, staying roped up a little further on to ridge. Lots of good hand and foot holds, a nice scramble, took rope off and walked to the summit, not windy, great views, happy to have completed another Munro. Back down to where it got steeper and roped up again but in reverse to climb down, Steve last and Suzanne in the lead!!!!!! Back down to An Dorus across to the other side and back up with Steve once more in the lead. Another enjoyable scramble to the top of Sgurr Mhadaidh where we stopped for lunch. Not nearly as cold as the previous day and amazing views (munro number 2). Back down and again as we roped up to go through An Dorus Suzanne was leading. Back down the scree, varying degrees of comments on the descent of the scree but it was much shorter than our scree of the previous day. Took harnesses off at the base and the walk out to the cars - back at hotel by 5pm
Saturday 14th May Raasay Report
We caught the ferry from Sconser (Skye) on Saturday morning (14 May). Once on Raasay we walked past Raasay House and through a forest area, some of which had lost its trees which were now just stacked, as the Forestry Commission had been at work. We then reached the moorland and followed a faint track over the moor to the narrow Loch na Mna just south of Dun Cana ('hill of the bucket'), which is 443 metres, the highest point on the island and has a noticeable distinctive summit. The zig-zag path up to the summit cone is obvious and after a short steep section we were rewarded with fine views. Dun Cana is surrounded by steep cliffs and the scenery to the east drops dramatically 400m to the sea. The cliffs hide the deserted old crofting settlement of Hallaig. The hill has a good shapely summit with a flat area where we stopped, had lunch and enjoyed the views. A fantastic 360 degree panorama - Kintail, Applecross, Torridon, the Outer Isles and the Skye Cuillin. Also a yacht out at sea for a bonus. There is a trig point at the top. We descended and followed a good track, which starts between the two lochs (na Meilich and na Mna), over the moorland and down to the road. There was a 3 mile walk along the road to the main village Inverarish then a pleasant walk along the side of the bay back to the ferry terminal. A very enjoyable 15Km circuit on a warm Saturday.
1ST MAY Sidlaw Hills
Eight walkers, including two new club members, made the journey of approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Culter/Banchory to Charleston. The walk commenced through Charleston Woods, travelling wsw, to pick up the single-track road. After 1.5 k the first climb of the day was up Denoon Law, to view the grass-covered remains of the well-preserved, probably timber-laced, hill fort. Back on the road, we picked up the 4x4 track at Wester Denoon. A great deal of snow had fallen in this area during the latter part of the previous week, causing copious amounts of water to run down this track, due to the snow melt. A break was enjoyed at this stage at the first derelict building after Wester Denoon, offering some respite from the prevailing wind.
As we approached Auchterhouse Hill, the track was filled knee-deep in places with drifting snow. Unfortunately the views from the top of this hill were impaired due to low cloud. After dropping down out of the wind, we enjoyed a lunch-break on this hill.
From here, we continued on a very wet path, over to Belluderon Hill. At the top of this hill is a cairn and indicator, dedicated to the famous hill walker and writer, Syd Scroggie, who still enjoyed the hills despite losing his sight and part of one leg during WW2.
From here we walked on to the "masted" Craigowl Hill. By this time the cloud had lifted, so excellent views over Dundee were enjoyed. The Tay Road and Rail Bridges were clearly visible, and we could see over Fife to St Andrews.
From here onwards, we walked off-track, descending nnw, and then ascending to the 321 point, over 315, through deep heather, to the windfarm on Arc Hill. Another break beside one of the numerous small quarries was had here.
After descending this hill, we then ascended Carlunie Hill, and then proceeded over to the final climb of the day, to reach the trig point on Berry Hillock. This was followed by a gentle descent through a firebreak in a small wood, to pick up the track leading back to Charleston.
The wildlife which we were fortunate enough to encounter included 2 buzzards, a kestrel, a lark, 2 deer, and 2 mountain hares, with very little left of their winter coats.
This was an enjoyable walk, worth travelling the extra distance.
18TH APRIL Wolf Craig
Fourteen club members set off on the April Monday walk, along with Leo the dog. First steps were from the car park at the end of the Glen Esk road on a cool but bright morning with a very blustery westerly head wind. Rumours abounded of summit forecasts with gusts over 60 knots but our target for the day was the modest 715m of Wolf Craig, sandwiched between the Water of Mark and Water of Lee.
After only a couple of kilometres the decision had to be made between crossing the Mark to its southern bank by the bridge and hacking a route upstream with nothing marked on the map, or continuing on the landrover track and when that forded the Mark, hoping the fording could be made on foot. The split went 11/3 hackers/forders. The trio of Forders had an easy stroll on good surface taking ample time to visit the Queen's Well, frequently looking back to check on the slower progress of the Hackers who were finding it a little rough and boggy in places. The Forders headed up the glen, leaving another walking group to take the right turn up to Mount Keen, and soon reached their challenge of the day, the actual ford. Despite relatively low river levels it was immediately apparent that it was way beyond a challenge, perhaps the winter floods had reshaped it back to its natural riverbed character, certainly no longer a spot to cross on foot.
Thus the Forders, with endless optimism, wandered further upstream looking for the perfect river crossing point. Contact had been lost with the Hackers, but after a series of unplanned tactical moves the Forders made it across, (boots off - wet feet) with a good margin of safety (and even a towel to dry said feet!!).
The Hackers had a relatively uneventful walk to the ford, taking there first stop there in the hope that the Forders would turn up. Since they didn't see the party across the burn, they continued up the valley.
Further upstream the Water of Mark has gouged its way through some solid geology, resulting in three unnamed waterfalls. The first encountered was one of awe, the water loosing considerable height through a twisting caldron of rock, hollowed out into bowls and pools after millennium of abrasion. The upper two falls were more open, the brown peaty water sparkling in the occasional sunshine.
Between the falls was the well-hidden Balnamoon's cave, a semi natural feature that served as the hiding place of the local laird in days gone. Easily missed by the Lairds pursuing soldiers, it was located by the eagle-eyed club members this time.
At the point of leaving the Water of Mark, lunch was taken, after which the group split again with three returning by the outbound route, the rest tackling a steep slog up heather and grass to the target summit, Wolf Craig, home to an abundance of cairns for no apparent reason. It was less windy than expected so there was comfort in stopping long enough to enjoy the distant views of snow clad and corniced Lochnagar round through Beinn a Bhuird and Ben Avon, Mount Keen all the way to Bennachie and the coast.
The route off the top was not subtle, just a straight bearing down the less steep ridge to the southeast but still offering grand views down Glen Lee and across to the black cliffs of Craig Maskeldie and the long ridge, more attractive in name than nature, the Shanks of Inchgrundle. Close to the bottom an old planted larch forest provided different and sometimes difficult terrain, but after that it was an easy and enjoyable walk down Glen Lee, along the loch, on which the wind, now in our backs, was creating some good waves, and back to the cars. Unfortunately this was too late in the day for a cup of tea inside the cosiness of the Retreat, but the establishment generously offered us one outside in the still blustery wind, with an evening chill thrown in, which some of us accepted.
An excellent April Sunday outing of 18km, with only a few signs of spring. The mountain hares were turning brown, deer were spotted on the skyline, and tadpoles in the puddles. There were a few clusters of primroses on south facing slopes, and dogs mercury (Mercurialis perennis) showing green under the less acidic soils of the hedgerows near the parked cars and of course plenty of lambs with, very enviably, boundless energy.
3RD APRIL Carn a' Bhacain
Today started with that sinking feeling when the bedroom curtains are pulled apart to reveal grey mist shrouding whatever landscape could be discerned through a window running with rainwater. The weather optimists heading out from Culter were convinced of significant improvement in the skies the further west we travelled, while the weather pessimists muttered sardonically from the back seat "It's still raining." Indeed the rain may have been clearing further west, a lot further west.
Having parked our vehicles in some interesting poses opposite the entrance to Glen Gairn Church, we headed off down the road to start the walk proper at the northern end of Gairnshiel's Ferrari killing hump backed bridge. Mud. A lot of mud. In fact more mud than track. However not quite as much as expected. And the rain had reduced to a mere steady, but persistent, wind blown drizzle. So without too much pain we reached our mid-morning stop at the Tullochmacarrick "café." Thereafter straight uphill to reach the track which took us to the top of Tom a' Chatha, with no mishaps crossing the Allt Coire nam Freumh. Thence over the peat hags to lunch at the head of Coire nam Freumh from where we could contemplate our route up through the mist to the top of Carn a' Bhacain. By this time the rain had turned to snow.
Thanks to a fence running all the way up, navigation to the top was easy, easier than on the way down. The cairn at the top of Carn a' Bhacain was annoyingly on the wrong side of the fence so only a few had enough remaining energy to give the cairn the traditional touch. With little enthusiasm for hanging about at the wet and windy top, we followed the fence towards Moine Bhuidhe, but when the fence turned west we passed through it and out into the heather and mist, with only our own navigation skills to guide us. OK, we didn't actually get lost, but it took rather a long time for our leader to find the track down. As we reached the A939 that was to take us back to our vehicles, the rain stopped. Thankfully the Bothy in Ballater was warm, its coffee hot and its scones wonderful.
It was a very good turnout for the day, 21 walkers. The walk was quite short, just 12 kms, and the weather, while wet and windy, was not unbearable.
21ST MARCH Mona Gowan
I read a great quotation the other day in TGO about how British walkers obsessed about the weather and indeed, I often start my walks with such comments, so I'm going to break this habit and say that we left what seemed to be an inordinate number of cars on the A939 and headed towards the ruin of Glenfenzie. From here, it's a long slog up to the top of Scraulac (741m) , actually the start of a fairly level plateau which includes Cairnagour Hill (744m) and finally, the highest point of the day, Mona Gowan itself, coming in after a bit of a dip, at 749m. There is a wide track up to Scraulac but after this no path marked on the OS map. However, we followed a new-looking fence all the way over the 3 hills, in which the erectors had kindly placed gates in strategic places, on the top of Mona Gowan for example so we could reach its cairn, where we had good views of Mount Keen, Lochnagar and Ben Avon and, of course, Mona Gowan's big brother, Morven.
We found a fairly sheltered spot from the rather cold wind on the side of the hill for a bite to eat and from here we descended to the Slacks of Glencarvie, climbing steeply up again to spot height 681. We stopped again in complete shelter on our descent and noted the proliferation of grass and juniper ground cover, unusual in this area.
We were initially heading for the Morven Burn valley, but, after turning right uphill on a track, we turned left off path, taking a line north of the wood called The Tom. Now we turned south to skirt this old pine forest (I was informed, good for orienteering) and made for Morven Lodge where we picked up the track which took us back to Glenfenzie again and our cars.
This was a very pleasant circular walk up a mountain which a number of us had climbed before but not necessarily from this angle, with relatively easy off-path walking and tracks and paths, the new fence giving an easy pointer to the way we took. And, wait for it, the weather was good. When we were on the top, the mountains were clear but later cloud covered the top of Mount Keen. The wind was a little cold on the top but not strong and there were some large patches of snow still clinging to the hillsides. Wildlife sightings included a snipe and a lapwing, a possible raven and many hares in various states of dress. But the most interesting perhaps were the puddles near to Morven Lodge which contained vast quantities of frogs all enjoying the onset of spring in the way that frogs do! (see John's photo for proof)
6TH MARCH Morven
First of all a big thank you to Graham and Judith Metcalf whose recces for this walk were not straightforward and we never knew whether we would be walking in the snow - we were, as you will see when the photos come out. It was the first time they have been co-ordinators for the Club and a bit of a baptism of snow!
There were a pleasing number of 19 on the walk and we started off from the waste ground north of Bridgefoot, taking the track which follows the course of the Coinlach Burn. The wind had been quite cold by the cars (forecast temperature on Morven from the Met Office was -14 but Mwis was much closer at -6) but by the time we had been going a little while, we were comfortably warm, if not a little too warm.
We turned off this track to follow the spur up to the main ridge, stopping not long after for our break. Lochnagar in the snow had looked most impressive, and here we also saw a mountain hare (more were spotted during the walk, as were a couple of ptarmigan and solitary red kite and various grouse). We carried on up the ridge, meeting 2 people descending, and eventually reached a chilly summit as one lady left (she'd probably seen our motley group approaching).
From the summit, we took a due south bearing heading steeply downhill with another stop, towards the track which leads past Roar Hill and which took us back to our cars.
It was generally agreed to be a most enjoyable walk, taking exactly 5 hours.
22ND FEBRUARY Fashielach
It was a perfect winter's day for a walk. Despite the clouds which bubbled up at one point and the earlier threat of rain, we stayed dry, although the wind was quite chilly. But, as is normal with lowly hills, there was a fantastic view, particularly of Lochnagar and its satellites.
Catherine as usual sorted out what seemed to me a complicated arrangement of cars for not one but two A to B walks so that we parked cars at 3 separate points on the way to Loch Muick. We all started off where the trees thin out to moorland on the Loch Muick road taking a track up towards Drum Cholzie (668m). If you look carefully on the map, you will see the sign for a small building and lo and behold, it was a welcoming hut with just enough room for 13 of us (yes, there were 13!) to sit down and have our first break, well away from the chilly wind. It was then only 70 metres height gain until we reached the summit (perhaps rather a grand title) of Drum Cholzie and the spectacular view.
From here, across the plateau, we were able to see our next hill and the most important one of the day, Fashielach, 772m. This involved now going off path but not losing much height before we reached the rather cold summit of Fashielach. At least it had a trig point this time, making it look more of a hill.
The group separated, with 4 members making for Hunt Hill. As we approached the hill, we saw these apparently small vertical white rocks which soon revealed themselves as a large number of mountain hares, sitting on their haunches and surveying the hillside. First one moved, and then another, until all of them were careering all over the moorland with gay abandon. We of course realized our error as we headed for them and soon they had all disappeared.
We were off track at this point but after Hunt Hill, we descended to a track which took us back to the cars. Despite the cold wind of earlier, we found a delightful sheltered spot when we reached the track where we sat in the sunshine and admired the view. We nearly lost one member of the party on two separate occasions, as she disappeared into snow drifts but all of us made it back to the car and subsequently to the Bothy in Ballater.
And for the rest of the party: Nine walkers left Fasheilach on the route of the full walk following the featureless flat watershed between the Muick on the west and the Waters of Mark/Glen Esk to the east. A southerly bearing was required, and the sun, only fleetingly behind the clouds, allowed us to walk in the correct direction. At close to 700m elevation the temperature was just below freezing, and the deeper snow was firm for the feet. What would normally be peat hags had been levelled by earlier drifting snow with some beautifully shaped natural sculptures, and so the going was probably easier and more rewarding than in summer. The chill wind was not inviting for a lunch break however, so with navigation refined by use of map and compass some shelter was found where a hot drink and sandwiches put an end to the stomach rumblings. With the final headwater crossing of many minor tributaries of the River Muick we descended quite steeply into the significant glen of the Allt Darrarie, dropped below 650m and into softer snow. The steep sided V-shaped glen displayed numerous ice formations both as water-splash on the rocks within the burn, and as icicles either side. Apart from slippery wet snow and some ice on the semblance of a path, it was an easy walk down the glen, past the back of the Spittal of Glen Muick Ranger's Centre, and the long abandoned settlement, to the familiar landrover track between the Centre and the car park, which, on the approach, entailed the crossing of the equally familiar Allt Darrarie, the bridge however having suffered some major foundation scouring in the recent floods. A great walk of just over 11km in challenging but manageable and comfortable winter conditions.
7TH FEBRUARY Bin of Cullen
Culter Hillwalking Club's February Sunday walk was unusually out of a Moray coastal town, Cullen, famous of course for its Cullen Skink soup. The walk was threatened by an approaching but weakening storm that had the potential for frost and icy roads, snow at higher levels, and a strong southerly gale. The Club group of eleven met up in the Cullen seaside car park by the rather majestic limestone and brick eight arch former railway viaduct constructed in 1884 and now part of National Cycle Network 1. After a brief trot across the active golf course our route took us along the viaduct, with splendid views over the town and out to sea, briefly through the back lanes of the town then quickly into the grounds of Cullen House, traditionally the seat of the Earl of Seafield and dating back to 1602. We included a brief tour of the very small grave yard around the Cullen Kirk, with a history quoted as ".... a grand example of a pre-Reformation kirk - one of few still in regular use after 700 years. In the year 1327, King Robert the Bruce of Scotland endowed a chaplaincy in memory of his wife - Elizabeth de Burgh - who died on a visit to Cullen."
The next piece of historical architecture was the house's beautiful single arch West Bridge of 1774 spanning a gorge of the Cullen Burn. Following the burn upstream took us through some former gardens, now overrun with invasive rhododendrons, but offering fine views back at the house and bridge. Upstream we found another bridge, which, on post-walk investigation, proved to be a "Single span cast-iron basket-arched girder" bridge at the site of a former sawmill and dating back to 1863. Here we stopped for our one-hour break as a few spots of rain fell. (note from Della, James means they had been walking for an hour, not that they stopped for an hour)
Leaving the environs of Cullen House, we headed up a recently used forest track twisting and turning alongside Cullen burn and it was pleasing to see that the earlier shower had cleared the air a bit and the sun showed its face briefly. Turning off the moderate gradient of the burnside our track started to head more seriously uphill until it came to the edges of the forest on the southwest flanks of Bin of Cullen. The pines, scattered amongst the heath, were bent and twisted by decades of fighting the elements of this exposed location, albeit at an altitude of less than 300m. Here in the open we realised that the stormy southerly gale was indeed blowing, though it was no worse than a little chilling and we all reached the target of the day, Bin of Cullen, with a trig point, at 320m. Its reputation of offering extensive views all round were well founded and with a patch of sun highlighting Buckie to the west, Portsoy and Banff to the east and 80km away northward the clear horizon of the Sutherland hills.
Our descent was heather bashing on the Bin's northwest slope, losing altitude quite quickly and at the bottom onto forest trails once again. These led us back through forest, choked with more rhododendrons, past a couple of farms before finally exiting onto the main road under the same railway viaduct we had walked along about five hours earlier. Wildlife had been scarce, a robin checking us at our first break. The only flora were some snowdrops, escaped from Cullen House no doubt, and the early heads of white butterbur just breaking ground (and at this early time making it difficult to distinguish from Japanese butterbur).
A quick change of footwear and it was just a couple of hundred metres to Cullen Bay Hotel who catered for us admirably with a set table, and a menu of tea, coffee, scones & jam and of course Cullen Skink, a menu to suit everyone's needs. Surely you can't get better Cullen Skink than at the Cullen Bay Hotel, and I think they proved it so.
18TH JANUARY Scolty
Due, yet again, to inclement weather conditions and concerns about going up to Cairn o' Mount, a safer venue was chosen in the form of Banchory's much-loved little mountain Scolty. We set off along the south side of the Dee, going upstream to Blackhall Forest. This proved to be an excellent choice as it gave us the opportunity to view the damage caused by the floods earlier this month. The group found it amazing to see the height the water must have reached in Banchory and farther on debris was discovered, including a window frame and a number of trees. The track along this south side of the Dee had been washed away in places by the strength of the water, making it impassable for a vehicle at times.
We stopped at the very old fisherman's hut just past Cairnton House on the other side for a short break and then continued along the track until we reached a good path rising on the left hand side of the track and following a wall uphill until another wide track which we followed to take us to the Feugh Valley side of the Scolty ridge. We stopped here to admire the view across the valley and noted the still-lying water on the valley floor, after which we plunged into the forest where it was wetter than usual to come out on the col between Scolty and Gouache Hill from where we ascended to the tower. Here we stopped again. There was a little breeze here, but generally the weather was ideal, very still and not too cold. We took the Strachan path first of all and, when we reached the forest, we turned left and took the tracks back to the Scolty car park and to Banchory for a well-earned cuppa!
The club did a variation of this walk on a Sunday in February 2011 but that time we did it the other way round, and we agreed that it was interesting to see the scenery from a different viewpoint. Thanks as ever to the leaders and the drivers.
26TH JANUARY 2016 Correen Hills
This walk was originally scheduled for 3rd January, but had to be postponed due to the (now) infamous weather at that time. Thankfully the 15 walkers on this occasion enjoyed very mild and dry conditions, surprisingly pleasant for this time of year!
We set off from the car park on the Old Military Road, between Tullynessle and Clatt, walking east past the Suie Cairn, marking the parishes of Clatt, Leslie, and Tullynessle. Tradition asserts that a criminal was sentenced to be tied to a wild horse until he died, and it was here that the first part of his body fell! South-East of the cairn we paused to look at a granite boundary stone. On its North-east face was cut the letter J, and on the South-west face, the letter W. The conditions for this first part of the walk were rather icy and boggy underfoot. We then followed the Gordon Way over the Suie Hill, before descending through Woods to the bealach between this hill and Knock Saul. After ascending Knock Saul, we stopped for a well-deserved break, enjoying views of Tap O' Noth and the Buck. Ben Rinnes could also be seen in the distance. We then continued on the Gordon Way, branching right at the second landrover track, which led us out of the woods, to join a single-track tarmac road. After one and a half kilometres we re-entered the Suie Woods, travelling south, and then north, past Coldwell, to the second sheltered stop of the day. This set us up to tackle the final part of the walk, which was over a very boggy, churned-up area, leading us back to the car park. Despite the lack of wildlife, this was a very pleasant walk, the merits of which were discussed immediately afterwards, accompanied by refreshments, at the Forbes Arms Hotel.