11TH DECEMBER Creagan Riabhach
Exactly two weeks before Christmas, and with very seasonal weather, thirteen members set out on the Monday Christmas Lunch Walk, with a starting at Ballater car park. Temperatures were below freezing with a light covering of snow, and relatively clear skies, perfect winter walking conditions. The route took us north eastward, along the eastern fringes of Ballater, across the "by-pass", and into the forest following a snow-covered broad track up to the telecoms mast on Creagan Riabhach. Wintery vistas were admired in many directions and the hardware at the mast offered convenient but cold seating where refreshments were taken whilst trying to identify hills to the south. With a sight schedule for lunch we were soon back on foot heading for the insignificant summit of Creagan Riabhach at 533m and the nameless 547m beyond. By now we had left the forest behind and a substantial snow shower gave us 10 minutes of a winter wonderland with good size flakes driven by an acceptable breeze, accumulating on hoods, hats, collars, packs, without any real discomfort. We descended and the snow ceased, giving us Christmas card views into Glen Gairn. With time tight, we short-cut through some sheep pasture, the beasties trotting away from a steel barrel containing a typical cylindrical straw bail. One sheep stayed on apparently feeding, but also appearing in distress, so, not for the first time, the "Culter Hillwalking Sheep Rescue Squad" went into action and managed to release the sheep, whose head had become trapped in a makeshift repair to the steel feeder barrel. We were soon crossing the north Deeside road, and walking on the beautifully engineered railway bed of the line from Ballater to Braemar, the rails of which were never laid on the instruction of Queen Victoria. But the well masoned granite stonework of the revetments, the views of the Dee flowing below, and the snowy scenes all produced a grand finale for this 12km walk. After a change of footwear and a stroll through Ballater we arrived at the Alexandra Hotel on cue for Xmas lunch, and a good fayre was laid on. Catherine had compiled a photographic quiz of the last 12 months of walks that taxed our memories but was not taken too competitively. The day was a fitting and rewarding end to a great year of Monday walks, skilfully put together by Catherine, and fully appreciated by all members who have participated. Catherine requested suggestions for 2018 Monday walks, and these can be sent to her by email over the next couple of weeks.
3RD DECEMBER Tom's Cairn
After some rather wet days' walking of late, the weather on this Sunday was very near perfect, a respectable temperature down below in the valleys and a nip in the air on the ridge, with lovely clear views and sunshine, as you will see from the pics. We set off from Finzean and made our way up the hill along the fields and through the trees, threatened at one point by a rather aggressive looking black sheep and his merry band, until we reached the parting of the ways when we were nearly on the ridge. Here we turned right and headed up to Tom's Cairn. For a wee hill of a mere 310 metres, it commands some stunning views across the Feugh Valley, with snowy tops to the west and the Dee the other side of the ridge.
So we admired the views and then turned back along the ridge until we reached the bench. Here we had our first stop overlooking the beauty of the Feugh Valley. As we turned back to look at our track down from Tom's Cairn, it struck me that it should perhaps be called Tom's Cairns plural, as there are not one but 2 cairns near the summit, one standing guard over the Feugh Valley and the other over the Dee. We then descended through the woods to Corsedardar where we stopped again to look at the War Memorial and the Standing Stones (see picture).
We crossed the road and followed a track winding through the woods and coming out again lower down the same road, which we crossed again. The next part of the walk was very muddy indeed, and we left the track at one point because it was so bad, but the anticipated deep bog was circumnavigated as well by going a little higher than the track and no wet feet therefore ensued.
Because we were early, we had a second stop at Birkenhill before taking the metalled road which leads to the Shooting Greens road, which we crossed. Very little of the previous Thursday's snow remained until we reached the Deeside Way, but even here, there wasn't very much. In fact, the most treacherous part of the walk was the car park at Potarch where the coach awaited our arrival to transport us to Finzean Farm Shop where we all enjoyed an excellent "xmas" lunch. A fitting way to finish off a successful year of CHC Sunday walks.
20TH NOVEMBER Morrone
With shortening days, this November walk was one of the tried and tested early winter favourites, Morrone, outside Braemar. The forecast was for wet weather, and after a good soaking in October (when James' leather boots EACH weighed 600grams more in their soaked condition compared to subsequent dry state weight), some walkers dipped out. The drive up the Dee was wet, and cool at 3.5C whilst low cloud in all directions hid the summits. By Dinnet, though, a line was crossed, the temperature was 1C and the rain was turning to sleet and snow, which was accumulating on the road.
So the walk started at the Braemar Duck Ponds Car Park with 3 inches of snow lying, temperatures just below freezing, and the poor ducks restricted to swimming in narrow lanes within the ice/slush on the ponds surface. And swim they did, vary raucously attracting our attention and hoping in vain for some food, just any food. We kept walking through the birch woods up to a cairned, early viewpoint by which time it had stopped sleeting, and the cloud had broken up and lifted slightly. With light airs drifting down the Dee valley, patches of low cloud drifted around the tops of the forest whilst occasionally a hint of brightness penetrated from above, illuminating the snow clad fields, forest and hills around a sleepy looking Braemar. We were immersed in the beauty of early winter.
Onward and upward we went in single file, following the line of the snow-covered path, and stopping frequently to examine animal tracks, for which one of us had recently been trained. Mountain hare tracks, or rabbit? Which way was it running (claw marks at the front of the foot prints)? Which were the front feet, which the back? More tracks, of a stoat maybe? Its tracks showed it to stop at a burrow through the snow, too small for a stoat, perhaps it was sniffing out a field mouse nest? Grouse tracks, or ptarmigan? And which way was it walking? Not in the obvious "arrow" direction of its footprint. And the sudden end of the grouse tracks, they vanished to nowhere, but with careful investigation the scraping of the snow by wingtips showed it had taken to the air at this point.
Tracking lessons learned and elevation gained, we entered the thin cloud and our views were blocked. We stopped for a refreshment break, resuming the walk as the winter chill penetrated our layered clothing. The 3 inches of underfoot snow was wet, and though hiding the path from us at times, our progress forward was not hindered and before long the tall telecoms mast loomed out of the mist ahead of us. It had gathered a coating of ice, but this was now dripping from every bracket and spar, temperatures were warming up a fraction. We decided not to stop for lunch amongst the clutter of the mast, not needing the shelter of the buildings in the windless conditions, so we forged on southward on the mast access track. Shortly though, we dug off south and west heading for the upper reaches of the Corriemulzie burn.
We picked up very old track heading down the burn, suspected to have given horse and cart access to some peat cutting, of which there appeared some evidence. Out of the main cloud again we saw a distant heard of deer, who didn't seem to be flummoxed by our presence, but anyway we stopped on a heathery bank, kicked off the snow and stopped for a good lunch, during which the deer disappeared over the horizon.
The old track led down to the very modern Braemar Community Corriemulzie hydroelectric scheme completed in 2016 from where a track through the forest lead us to the Braemar/Linn of Dee road. Wishing to keep the tarmac to a minimum, we took the next entry back into the forest, which led us steadily uphill, warmer temperatures allowing the snow accumulated on the pines over our heads to slip and fall in significant soaking handfuls onto our heads, shoulders and necks. Passing a small, damned lochan, we exited the forest finding ourselves on the waymarked Morrone Birkwood circular trail. The Birkwood is recognised by SNH as the "finest example of a sub-montane birch-juniper wood on calcareous soils in Britain". It made for a pleasant end to the walk, and as we took off our wet boots and socks back at the car, our morning ducks tracked us down again looking for food, again to no avail, how cruel it is to be kind, sometimes.
Some walkers went homeward, one carload stopping at the Bothy in Braemar for a cuppa and some of their delicious home baking.
5TH NOVEMBER Carn Liath
This was a second attempt at Carn Liath, 861m, out of Invercauld, after last year's walk was scuppered by foul weather. Today the weather and forecast looked much more favourable though overnight the highest hills had gathered a dusting of snow, and at the Keiloch car park the car was registering only 2.5C.
A brisk start up the tarmac roads of the estate soon fought of the cold temperatures and the sun shone down on the rather out-of-place Henry Moore statue Within the forest, just past Altdourie, our group divided, with those on the shorter walk heading on the track uphill, and the majority taking a rather ill-defined path through the trees and along a newly constructed deer fence until reaching another forest track heading due north. The scattered clouds were scooting by and the track became sheltered only on one side by the planted forest, so we stopped for a refreshment break. Back on foot we soon were in open heathland but still on a good track heading for the eastern slopes of Glas Allt Beag with some snow dusted hills to the fore. Before reaching the head of the sloping glen we decided to ascend out of it onto its eastern ridge, initially following good deer track with favourable ascent. Atop the ridge, the dusting of snow was powdery, indicating temperatures below zero, and off to the west we could see the steep crags of Beinne a' Bhuird's corries well covered in the white stuff. Indeed, some black clouds and wintry showers were blowing in from the west adding to the accumulations, but thankfully petering out before they reached us.
We threaded our way along the stony ridge, gradually gaining height, passing three Blairgowrie walkers coming the opposite direction, before we reached a very flat summit where the wind was blowing the powdery snow onto the leeward slopes. There were good views westward across many snow dusted peaks of the southern Cairngorms, and to the north, the dark tors of Ben Avon highlighted by the thin covering of snow. Eastward the lower hills remained dark, as did Lochnagar against the southern skies.
It was too cold to hang around, our homeward route was eastward, downward, and leeward to more comfortable conditions. A small group split off to investigate a minor summit on the way down, but the majority soon bedded into the heather for a comfortable lunch stop. Downslope heather bashing brought us to the landrover track south of Bealach Dearg, between our Carn Liath and Cullerdoch and along this track we all regrouped together. From there it was an easy and pleasant walk back down towards Invercauld house, passing though some open larch woodland carpeted with fallen, golden needles, before came back to the cars, thankfully having escaped all the showers and with dry boots and feet.
About 18km and 650m vertical ascent, a great late Autumn walk with just a taste of winter thrown in.
The shorter walk 7 miles
After splitting from the larger group, we made our way north east up the steepest hill of our day, looking back on lovely views of the Dee. We stopped at the top of the hill for a drink before continuing across open land to enter forest again as we reached the north/south track which our friends descended later in the day. Our way also lay to the south, but we made a small diversion to the north and out of the woods to admire the tops of Carn Liath (with snow) and Culardoch (without) and the homeward route that they would take from Carn Liath.
For about 2km we followed the track south but after another short break, we turned to the south east up to the Fog House and descended to the broad, open valley in which Felagie lies. All this was on very pleasant woodland track, I imagine put down when Invercauld House landscaped its hillside and complete with information posts, but we now reached a more substantial track which took us back to Keiloch and the cars. Our thanks are due to David who provided us with this very pleasant shorter alternative and James's comments on their walk also apply to ours - yes, despite our lower elevation, we also had our taste of winter in the form of a short hail shower.
23RD OCTOBER Glen Tanar
The scheduled walk this October Monday was a Strathdon hill, but for days the weather forecast had been consistently predicting the ex-hurricane Ophelia to be approaching Scotland during the day bringing plenty of rain. Thus the walk was rescheduled to a shorter, lower and less exposed route, in our usual wet-weather sheltered Glen Tanar. A later start allowed an extra hour in bed, but some of the original walkers decided, in light of the forecast, to stay in bed even longer, and dipped out of the rescheduled walk altogether. Only a hardy (or foolish??) eight who pulled up in the Braeloine Visitors Car Park. In the rain, donning waterproofs from the word go.
A brisk pace out of the car park and up the tarmac road, shortly to be met by an estate man keeping warm and dry in his Land Rover who, with much merriment, doubted out sanity. That was the only person we met all day (not surprisingly!). Off the tarmac we followed tracks through the forest where the estate has been sympathetically thinning the plantings to create more of a natural woodland. We stopped for refreshments, briefly discussing the driest place to sit, but it was futile, nowhere was dry. A couple of umbrellas came out of the packs, an unusual rain deterrent on a hill walk, but effective nevertheless, as, although the ex-hurricane's rain was falling on us, the system's winds had not arrived.
On the eastern flanks of Slai na Gour at 380m altitude, the path, now on open moorland and well into the cloud base, crossed the watershed from Glen Tanar, northward into the Dee valley, descending to another forest that was in the process of being thinned. We threaded our way over sodden, slippery brash, and, between derelict fences and their associated tangle of wires, a veritable mecca of trip hazards, escaped unscathed on to a proper track within spitting distance of the tarmac of the South Deeside Road, devoid of any traffic.
The track took us to the farmstead Netherton, where we saw the first real signs of the building work executed by Glen Tanar's greatest 19th century benefactor, William Cunliffe-Brookes, or WCB. A right turn took us through some well-masoned stone walls protecting two might Western Hemlocks, one of the walls having a "street sign" the WilCeBe Road. WCB obviously had a sense of humour, as well as plenty of money acquired through his profession of banking, no less. We also passed several of his drinking fountains where he promoted the benefit of drinking water rather than alcohol through carved sayings on the fountain stonework. One fountain still had a copper cup chained to it for partaking of the beneficial spring water, which some of our walkers did, noting the carved stone declaring "Well to know whether you are well off". WCB obviously was.
Returning over the watershed, we passed a solidly built complex gateway for the main track, a pedestrian side gate, and that to a house, Belrorie. Somewhat redundant now, the stonework and remaining gate ironwork was impressive.
Normal photography of "views" on this day were pretty pointless, wildlife was definitely "indoors" but there were plenty of soggy funghi to discuss and contemplate whether they were edible or not (no-one tested any of the very diverse opinions) and a wooden gate covered with fresh looking lichen showed off nature at its wettest best.
The rain continued, but it had not been particularly heavy, and apart from wet feet none of us appeared to be suffering. Descending into Glen Tanar's Juniper Walk close to the parked cars the low cloud and mist took on a strange orangey, yellowy tinge for a brief period of time. It was later learned that this had been widespread throughout the UK being caused by Orphelia, during its intense hurricane category 3 stage south of the Azores, whipping up into its whirling circulation sand and dust from the Sahara desert, and subsequently transporting it northward, to be dropped out in the rain it produced over the UK. The day after this walk James carefully observed his window frames (which he had very fortuitously washed two days previous) and found clear evidence of the very fine grained light brown Saharan dust deposited on the white PVC. (photo included in the walks album).
Back at the cars after about 13.5km, off with the wet waterproofs and boots and a quick dash down to Aboyne for a nice warm cup of tea/coffee and cake. A perfect end to the day.
1ST OCTOBER Cairn William, Green Hill and Pitfichie Hill
Due to an inclement weather forecast, Catherine decided not to go with the long drive to Glen Isla and Badandun Hill but instead to brave the elements on nearer hills instead, namely Green Hill, Cairn William and Pitfichie Hill. The shorter and longer walkers joined forces and followed the same routes for most of the way.
The cars were parked on the edge of Pitfichie Forest from whence a very boggy and narrow path, strewn every now and again with cut vegetation, winds its way gradually up to the main track around the hills. Here we turned left and enjoyed the easier going along the track until we reached an initially steep but pleasant path climbing through the woods. After a while we stopped for a damp break before continuing out of the woods, stopping for a photo shot and eventually reaching the top of Green Hill, 398m.
We were now enjoying (?) the pleasures of the mountain bike trail, a mixed blessing in places. From Green Hill, we made our way down this very obvious path, through the mud and the frequent puddles to a flat area from whence began the gradual climb towards our next summit. The forecast heavy rain and Catherine's warning of windy conditions had not yet materialized.
The path up was interesting. It was similar to our previous path, i.e. puddles and mud but some of the mud could be circumnavigated by large stepping stones strategically placed - stepping boulders would be a more precise description - and in places, particularly as we climbed higher, there were large areas of flat granite. After reaching the trig point on the top of Cairn William, 448 metres, the descent took the form of a wide ranging set of zig zags on a generally easier path known as the Devil's Staircase which leads down to the valley between Cairn William and Pitfitchie Hill.
Here the paths of the 2 groups separated, the faster walkers scaling Pitfichie Hill from this point (338m) and descending from there to our original track. The slower walkers (and James!) eschewed this extra little hill, turning right along the track in this valley, towards the end of which they enjoyed a rather late but nevertheless enjoyable lunch break before continuing down to that same original track. Catherine had thoughtfully made sure we could find the way down from here along the soggy path by arranging a pointer so there was no problem in retracing our steps down here and back to the cars.
But what of the heavy rain and howling winds you may ask? Well, the rain did come, but not for very long, and the wind did howl a bit while we were walking along the broad ridge from Green Hill to Cairn William, but the joy of the day was that the mist gradually cleared to give, would you believe it, some sunshine and blue sky, meaning that we had a very pleasant end to our day and arrived at the cars a little drier than we had been.
18TH SEPTEMBER Coyles of Muick
The late September Monday walk was promised as an easy day of around 16Km to the Coyles of Muick.
A band of fourteen walkers (well, fourteen plus Jess the Pointer) turned up at the designated RV - The Mill of Sterin, near the south entrance to Birkhall. The weather was overcast, but with little to no breeze and no forecast of precipitation, a pleasant stroll started at 9:50 to the waterfall at the Linn of Muick, for a quick look at the fish ladder, complete with solar powered fish counting station. This seemed a good place for a first snack and hot drink before heading onto the forest track and first gentle climb of the day.
As we approached the newly cleared plantation area, there was a short debate stop. Do we continue up towards the felled area, or head off down a track that potentially offered a better route avoiding the deer fence?. The words "do we go downhill a bit" seemed to be the clincher, and the consensus was to continue uphill, where we soon came to the new deer fence. The path alongside was pretty much non-existent, but relatively straightforward and after a short walk we came to our second and more serious debate stop.
We had found a large gate in the deer fence, which seemed a good idea to use - the snag being it led into thick new plantation and no obvious path through. The cleared area up the hill was tantalisingly close, but cooler heads prevailed and on we continued...sadly - downhill!
More debate! Do we continue down, or head back? Opinions were split, but as it was still fairly early in the day, there was no significant move to avoid the next downhill section - so on we pushed - we could see an obvious turn ahead and so it proved to be - after turning the corner, the first proper open view of the hills could be seen and the end of the deer fence was in sight. But - we were not alone!
On the Coyles of Muick - some 500m distance, were three figures - stalkers to be precise, and our turning the corner of the fence had spooked the herd they were stalking! We decided that to give them some space we would take the opportunity to break and have lunch, out of sight of the stalkers. This seemed to work, as after lunch neither deer nor humans could be seen, so we hope no damage was done to the stalker/walker community relations.
So the final assault on the summit was made - after a short section of fairly wet "almost-track", an easy walk across fairly dry heather and rock saw us at the summit of the first Coyle - views across the to the cloud capped Lochnagar, with rain showers sweeping in front of us. Also visible on the northerly Coyle, the ruined Prince of Wales cairn, this being our next destination. From here, there was a steep descent and search for the engraved stone that used to be on the cairn. To the uninitiated, searching for a lump of old granite on the side of a hill made of granite would appear something of a challenge, but at least two of our party had been here before and had seen said stone. So it should be easy, one would think.
Debate No. 3 ensued! "I think it's just up here" being one opinion, with "I think it is lower down the hill" being the other. The lower view prevailed and an excited "here it is" brought the intrepid group to study the inscription on the stone. This told us the cairn had been erected on the orders of Queen Victoria to mark the marriage of Albert Edward Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandria of Denmark, 10th March, 1863.
It remains unclear how the stone had ended up quite so far from the top of the hill! However, that objective achieved, and it being a little chilly, we pressed on to the final hill , the mighty Meal Dubh (563), at the foot of which we found a geocache set in a small stone-built bothy. After a few moments studying the visitor book (really!), we walked up to the top, with more views of cloud covered mountains, to the west the hills surrounding Balmoral and to the north, Ballater. The day was getting on, so we shortly resumed our march north towards Loch Ullach, reached after another relatively easy section at the edge of plantation. Here we gained access to a well beaten track which eventually swung south back towards Birkhall. A cheery wave to the cameras and the police constable manning the gate was followed by a cheery wave from Camilla Parker Bowles as she headed away towards Ballater to do her grocery shopping - or whatever.
The cars successfully reached, after a total of 16.5 km in around 5:30, we drove to Ballater for a scone and a cup of tea in the Bothy before saying our farewells - until the next time.
Another lovely day - Our intrepid leader had promised an easy walk - and so it turned out to be.
8TH-10TH SEPTEMBER Killin Weekend
Day 1 - Friday 8th September
Meall Corranaich and Meall a' Choire Leith
Our group of 6 set off from the Killin Hotel in 2 cars to climb the 2 Munro's west of the Ben Lawers Ridge. We parked at the entrance to the access road at the head of Lochan na Lairge at NN 595413, just off the minor road to Glen Lyon.
The weather was mild, damp (with midges!) and overcast with light winds but the forecast promised clearer skies in the afternoon. We walked 100m N along the road then headed E up a muddy path to the fence line. The cloud base had lifted sufficiently to see the summit and we followed the old fence line up the ridge over boggy terrain then rough grass and ascended Meall Corranaich (1069m).
After a short break, our group headed north and descended the ridge, along the rim of Coire Leith and ascended Meall a' Choire Leith (926 m) on rough ground with some boulders near the summit. We then headed SW from the summit and contoured round the slope to cross the burn then traversed across the rough grassy hillside to avoid the boggy ground. We then went past the Sheilings and through a small col before rejoining the path along the fence line which we used earlier and returned to the road and the cars.
Distance: 10 km Ascent: 760m
Day 2 - Saturday 9th September
Ben Lawers Ridge (Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh, An Stuc, Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas)
Our group of 5 set off from the Killin Hotel in 2 cars to climb the 5 Munros in the Ben Lawers Ridge. Parked 1 car at the Ben Lawers main car park (£2 fee, free to NT members) NN608377, then all continued in 1 car and parked at the Lawers Hotel (£5 parking fee), NN 677396.
The weather was mild and dry with clear views of the tops and a good forecast for the day ahead. We set off around 9:30am along the main A827 for 100m then took a good path along the Lawers Burn, initially a bit muddy through woodland then onto the open hillside. We continued along the burn then headed up a minor tributary, climbing steeply onto the ridge above Sron Mhor then picked up a path to the summit of Meall Greigh (1001m). We caught up with another group walking the first 3 Munros, otherwise the route was very quiet. Great views across Loch Tay and north to Glen Lyon and beyond with clear skies but cool in the fresh northerly breeze.
We then headed W along the ridge, descending to a col before climbing Meall Garbh (1118m) and descended the stony path to the col below An Stuc. Here we could see the steep ascent ahead and others walkers already on the uphill scramble! We ascended the steep NE face of An Stuc very carefully as the path had some loose rocks but all managed the scramble without incident, only pausing to allow walkers (and 2 hill runners!) coming down. We reached the summit of An Stuc (1118m) and enjoyed fine views of Ben Lawers.
We then headed SW over the interim top of Creag an Fhitlich (1047m) then a straightforward ascent of Ben Lawers on a good path. We reach the summit of Ben Lawers (1214m) and rested on the sheltered side, with fine views all around - a magnificent day so far! We were joined by several other walkers who had taken the direct route from the car park then descended the well-prepared path over Creag nan Gabhar to a col before taking the ridge for the easy ascent of the final Munro of the day, Beinn Ghlas (1103m). Despite being somewhat overshadowed by the bigger neighbour, Beinn Ghlas is a fine hill in its own right. It appeared more striking as we descended the prepared path down the ridge and into the pleasant re-generated woodland around Burn of Edramucky and back to the car park. From there we drove back and collected the other car from Ben Lawers hotel.
Distance: 16 km Ascent: 1400m
3RD SEPTEMBER Mount Keen
Short walk September 2017 in Glen Esk
A select group of shorter walkers set off from Dalblack on a very pleasant sunny September morning, although later it grew more cloudy. We followed a very clear and easy track climbing steadily to the bealach between Cowie Hill and Gariot and there resisted the obvious temptation to take in one of these lowly hills, leaving the climbing task to the longer walkers.
As we descended from here, we met a group of very nice teenagers, obviously on D of E business, before we stopped in a more sheltered spot (the wind was blowing quite hard at times) for a bite to eat. On reaching the southerly path, we decided that we would divert to see the Clash of Wirren, which was well worth the extra 2k and included a good view of ravens circling around the mini-cliffs facing us. Not long after, we saw an adder who disappeared rapidly into the grass, obviously annoyed at having been disturbed.
We returned to our original route and descended on a fairly steep path before turning westwards when we reached the North Esk river which we now had to cross. Here we were presented with a dilemma: as you will see from the picture the bridge at Buskhead was closed and we were not sure whether the next bridge farther downstream existed. It didn't. We therefore continued upstream on our good track south of the Esk until we found an obvious ford which we had no difficulty crossing and whose track brought us back to the main Glen Esk road and our coach, with rather damp feet but having enjoyed a most exhilarating walk.
Long Sunday walk September 2017 Mount Keen
The Club's September Sunday walks, both Long and Short, were supported by a coach. The Long walkers were dropped off at the Bridge of Muick, Ballater as the start of a through route over Mount Keen to Glen Esk.
Thirteen club members set off to tackle Mount Keen with this more interesting approach to the traditional slog up Glen Tanar. The route ascended steadily on track through the forest and onto open heath skirting the western flanks of Craig Vallich. The weather was good, the sun veiled by some thin cloud, and a moderate southerly breeze that, according to the weather forecast, could be troublesome at the elevation of Mount Keen. A bealach was reached at 580m, with the track descending the other side across the upper catchment of the Pollaigach Burn, a direct tributary of the Dee. A path clearly signposted "Mount Keen" took us off track with ascent up to another bealach at 560m, the watershed between the tributaries of the Dee and those of the Tanar. But before exposing ourselves to the southerly wind at the bealach, we stopped for a comfortable break amongst the heather.
Fully refreshed, we soon caught our first glimpse of the conical summit of Mount Keen, rising over the nearby horizon. Our target was in sight, but some distance away, and hazy on the humid southerly wind. The narrow path dropped down finally to the Waters of Tanar, where we again stopped for a break in the shelter of the ruined walls of the old sheep drovers staging post. Now on the regular path to Mount Keen we crossed the rather modern bridge and set off up the long ascent to Mount Keen, with the choice initially of a landrover track or footpath, both heavily eroded. As expected the wind increased with altitude but Mount Keen did give some lee sheltering. Views in the hazy atmosphere were extensive, if not particularly clear, across many ranges of hills to the west and north whilst the remaining hint of sunshine brightened the greenness of pastures lower down Glen Tanar to the northeast.
Approaching Mount Keen's summit at 939m, the large cairn gave shelter, but a brief scramble to the trig point gave full exposure to the gusting wind creating some difficulty in keeping full balance. However, a sunken amphitheatre in the large cairn proved to be an excellent shelter and most of us squeezed in like spokes of a wheel for a further bit to eat.
The descent southward to Glen Esk was on a well-constructed path and with some urgency altitude was lost in order to reach less blustery elevations. Now views of Glen Doll opened up and the path joined a landrover track which, at a zig zag, became very sheltered and proved to be a good place for our fourth and final snack and drink stop. From there it was a quick descent past the buildings of Glenmark to the unmissable Queens Well and another 4km down the glen to the Invermark car park at the end of the Glen Esk Road. The coach was waiting and, being ahead of schedule, there was time to nip down the road for a tea/coffee at the Retreat where we expected to meet up with the Short Walkers. Arriving only 10 minutes before closing time, we were uncertain if we would be served by The Retreat, but on the contrary we were made most welcome, and finishing off many of their remaining cakes, left at 30 minutes after closing time, but still without the Short Walkers. As we scratched our heads for a minute or two as to their whereabouts, they appeared in fine fettle making good speed down the tarmac, unfortunately too late to enjoy the Retreat. Fully reunited the coach returned us home in good time.
For the Long walkers, it was 21km with around 1000m of vertical ascent. For all it was an excellent day out and full compliments and many thanks to both walks coordinators who had cleverly utilised the coach to maximum benefit and skilfully synchronised the timing of the two walks.
21ST AUGUST Glas Maol
6TH AUGUST Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mhor
Shorter walk report Sun Aug 2017 Carn Mor
The short walk from Inverey via Carn Mor gave us the opportunity to enjoy the fine views of the Cairngorm range in good weather and walking conditions. There were views into Glen Ey with the Ey burn meandering its way along the base of the Glen, shrouded by trees. We did see a herd of deer in the distance on the horizon, but they may have sensed eight human beings and Shelia's dog Jessie disturbing their grazing, so they moved away. The heather was out in abundance and looked very colourful in the late summer sun. We made our way up to the summit of Carn Mor (706m) and then over to the subsidiary top. After admiring the views of the distant mountains of the Cairngorms we descended to re-join the track, retracing our steps to the pass at the base of Tom Anthon and going through it to Corriemulzie. We had previously considered going up Tom Anthon on the recce, but decided that it was too steep. The route along the burn seems to be one that is not often trodden as the track kept disappearing. We followed the burn to the wooded area, past some houses and then along a track which runs above the road in the woods back to the car park at Inverey.
Long walk report Sunday August 2017 Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor
The MWIS forecast for the long Sunday cycle/walk was probably looking the best that it had been for a few days leading up to the weekend, this being light winds, cloud free mountain tops and no rain in the morning. The afternoon wasn't quite so favourable with the cloud base due to drop in the showers as a weather front moved in from the south-west.
Eleven participants met at the midge infested Linn of Dee car park for a scheduled departure at around 9.30am. Those that were sensible enough to remember their midge nets certainly benefitted, as the rest of us were attacked by swarms of them as we left the cars.
The cycle route took us from the car park south-west following the river Dee to White Bridge. From here, instead of taking the usual route up Glen Dee for these hills, we crossed White Bridge to the junction of the Geldie Burn and the Bynack Burn. Heading west by the Geldie, the Alt Dhaid Beag had either to be forded or crossed by a footbridge slightly further upstream before reaching the drop off point of the bikes, this being where the Alt Dhaidh Mor joins the Geldie.
After a well-earned break from the cycle on the fairly rocky, bumpy track, we then climbed up the virtually pathless glen, keeping high at times to avoid the bog and peat hags to the 975m col between Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain. From this high col, the views over Glen Geusachan are dramatic.
Climbing north- west from the col, the terrain changed to desert-like granite grit without vegetation, before changing again to the more grassy slopes of the flat topped Monach Mor. The fantastic views of Devils Point, Cairntoul, Angels Peak and many more was short lived as the cloud suddenly dropped and a heavy rain came on.
It was now time to don the waterproofs and retrace our steps back to the col. From here it was south east up the boulder strewn slopes to the summit of Beinn Bhrotain.
The rain had stopped prior to leaving the summit, but unfortunately the cloud was still shrouding the summit so no views were to be had. A compass bearing was taken to allow us to make our way over to a hill that one of our fellow walkers wanted to visit, Carn Clioch-mhuillinn.
This hill was once on the Munro tables but was demoted in 1981 for having insufficient ascent from Beinn Bhrotain. It is probably better known for being the "one that got away". Hugh Munro had been keeping this for his last one, but unfortunately died prior to completing it.
From here it was a stiff descent down to collect our bikes and a very pleasant, albeit bumpy ride out to the car park.
A big thank you, and well done to all who joined me on this walk. A 20km cycle and a 16k walk is quite a strenuous undertaking.
24TH JULY Beinn Mheadhoin and Derry Cairngorm
The weather forecasts for the day were confusing, one gloomily predicting only a 40% chance of cloud free Munros in the Cairngorms while the other promising cloud free sunshine from 13.00 hrs onwards.
Eight of us met at the Linn of Dee car park at 08.30, disentangled our bikes from the clutches of bike carriers and headed off for Derry Lodge, starting the morning with a free bum massage on the rough track. Bikes locked up and off we went up Glen Derry in pleasantly cool weather with high cloud and a good view of our target ahead of us: Beinn Mheadhoin distinguished from other tops by its granite tors. Mheadhoin, I am told is pronounced "Vane." How do the Gaels manage to put so many letters into a single syllable word? I suspect it is we Anglophones who are at fault. (editorial note from Della: I have been corrected in this also but my mentor, a man who had done all the Munros and should know what he's talking about, claimed that Vane is far too easy and it should sound "Vayen")
[Note: Intermediate Wintergreen spotted in Glen Derry - a rare treat.]
The walk up Glen Derry was very pleasant indeed, with some scattered pines, good views and only a gentle gradient, but eventually the path turned westwards and uphill to the very well maintained Hutchison Memorial Hut, where we gathered to look in awe at the sheer rock faces towering above on both sides. The gradient steepened as we made our way up to the shores of Loch Etchachan. There one of our number decided to return via Derry Cairngorm. The remaining seven took a collective deep breath and turned northeast up the even steeper route to our target, hampered a little by a very gravelly path.
At this stage the more pessimistic weather forecast seemed to be winning and, on reaching the plateau, we found the granite tors wreathed in cloud, which would briefly part to give hints of the views we were missing. We dutifully attempted to summit all the tors. On the last but one, as if commanded by Cecil B DeMille himself, the stage hands pulled back the curtains in unison to reveal the full, sunlit, blue skyed, cloud free scene from Derry Cairngorm to Ben Macdui to Cairngorm and Bynack More, with Loch Avon at our feet and Strath Nethy pulling our gaze northwards. A couple of us, your reporter included, almost fell off the tor in astonishment and wonder (but possibly because of the wind).
After lunching we reluctantly dragged ourselves off the summit and slithered down the gravelly path back to Loch Etchachan taking the opportunity there to refill water bottles, remove some clothes and apply sun tan lotion; it was by now quite warm. Six of us (one more had turned for home) hauled ourselves uphill again, this time to Derry Cairngorm, the fitter amongst us taking in the top of Creagan a Choire Etchachan on the way.
The path to Derry Cairngorm here is vague to non-existant, not to be mistaken for the path to Ben Macdui, but we found it and made for the summit, boulder hopping on our way. There we stopped for afternoon tea. interrupted only by a friendly dog taking too a close an interest in my chocolate biscuit.
Thence downhill, with a bit of up, back to Derry Lodge and the cycle back to Linn of Dee; the end of very satisfying day.
4TH JULY Carn an Righ and Glas Tullaichean
The walks which took place on July 2nd were postponed from last year when the wind was forecast to be too strong (indeed it was). Rosie Hastings was responsible for one of the shorter walks, although they were numerous and varied but all started at Dalmunzie House Hotel. 2 members opted to climb Glas Tulaichean from there while the other 8 set off down the road from the hotel and up the gently ascending Cateran Trail to the bealach, stopping briefly for a bite to eat before reaching it, for it was now after 12pm. By this time, it was raining, not hard, but nevertheless wet. We turned up the steeper gradient along the ridge to the minor height of Creag an Dubh Shluic (728m). Now we were feeling a bit damp, so 4 members continued along the ridge and up to the top of Ben Earb (801m) as planned, while 4 members continued along the main ridge for a distance but turned off to the north east before the final ascent of Ben Earb to take in the even more minor height of Sron nam Meall. In fact, it's so minor (635m) that it isn't marked on the 1:50 OS map. From there, they descended into the valley, hopped across a small burn and ended up with tea and large scones at the hotel. 3 of the longer walkers descended to the valley from Ben Earb with one solitary walker continuing along the ridge.
The Culter July longer Sunday walk was an ambitious 32km through walk from Glen Ey, Deeside, to the Dalmunzie House Hotel, near Spittal of Glenshee, and was supported by a bus. The weather forecast was not favourable so at initial disembarkation at Glen Ey, ten walkers set off on the Long Walk, and 10 stayed on the bus to be taken to Dalmunzie for a shorter, circular walk.
Starting the walk in a shower, requiring waterproofs, the 8km of track up Glen Eye went quickly, despite battling some topographically induced, very occasional, strong and gusty winds, but the sun was out on a few of the surrounding hills from time to time. Altnour lodge, or at least the ruins thereof, seemed a natural spot to have our first break. Initially vague deer tracks were helpful in following the Allt Beinn Iuthurn burn southward, and some of the beasts were spotted on the hillsides, but ultimately our route was off path, through some peat hags and the resident mountain hares, till finally the beautiful Lochan an Eun came into view, perched on a watershed between the Dee and the Tay. Pretty as the Lochan had been in sunshine on the day of the walk reconnaissance, today it matched the colour of the sky grey, and with a touch of breeze we sought shelter for lunch, watched intently by two resident seagulls.
From the Lochan, a path emerges out of the heath, an unpleasant path of eroded heather and peat, interspersed with angular, slippery stones, of a size that offered no comfort. We paused for a standing break, and to catch our breath (and energy) at the foot of the final 1km of steep ascent to the summit of Carn an Righ (1029m), translated as "The rocky hill of the king". The summit was cloud bound, and not a place to dally for too long, so we retraced out steps some distance dropping down out of the cloud and easily working our way to the foot of the northern ridge of Glass Tulaichean (1051m) - the green, grey hillock". Not entirely accurate to be described a "hillock", this ascent was unrelenting, though the "grey" description was appropriate as the cloud dropped and some stinging showers rattled us on a wind increasing with height. At the summit, where earlier a couple of ravens had been seen playing in the wind, not even cameras were extracted and a quick retreat off the summit to try to find a sheltered spot was the unanimous decision. But the route down, a broad eroded scar, formerly a landrover track, ran a ridge exposed to the blustery wind, and the only comfort was dropping once again below the cloud base. It wasn't till the increasingly dilapidated Glenlochsie Lodge was reached that we actually stopped, and then well away from the building for reasons of our own safety. From the Lodge it was a splosh down the old railway track back to Dalmunzie House Hotel where we were greeted by the Short Walkers (and midges) who had devised many different routes for their day, and subsequently enjoyed a very comfortable afternoon tea and scones.
For the Long Walk it turned out to be 32km (20 miles in old money) and just over 9 hours of walking, one of the longest Sunday walks the club has arranged in the recent past.
19TH JUNE Dreish and Mayar
The June Club Monday walk was another attempt at the Angus Munros, Dreish and Mayar, having been beaten back by the wind on a previous year's attempt. This year though the route in was from Glen Prosen, an imaginative alternative. Thus nine walkers parked in a small space at the end of the tarmac road at Glenprosen Lodge. Five kilometres of track took us alongside Prosen Water through sheep pasture and then long ago clear-felled forest to the formerly ruined shepherds' bothy, Kilbo, from which the route we were taking, the Kilbo Path from Prosen to Clova, takes its name. The ruin was fully restored, still clad in scaffolding, plastic and busy with men and vehicles working away, the buzz of tools breaking the silence of a remote spot. We stopped for a break, trying desperately to identify birdlife that was hopping around us, and made good use of the workmen's Portaloo.
From this refreshment spot, the "stroll" was at an end as our way forward crossed back over the burn and the Kilbo path started a steep northward ascent through much more recently felled commercial forest. However a new track up the hillside was easier walking and no doubt the line of the original path will now be lost. The new track lead past a "humming" underground turbine and finally petered out to something more appropriate for the surroundings, which were intriguingly named the Shanks of Drumfollow. Almost before we knew it we were atop the bealach with a right turn eastward to Dreish, left west to Mayar. We took the latter in pleasant walking conditions, a little breeze, the sun shining warmly now and again and good visibility so that endless hills were visible from the summit at 928m. Turning our gaze from west to east we retraced our steps back down to the bealach and just kept going towards Dreish. In a further bealach we found a spot out of the breeze and a spot for lunch looking steeply down a corrie, flanked this time by the Shank of Drumfollow, to the distant Glendoll Lodge
Back on our feet, it was a short but steep ascent to finally conquer Dreish at 947m. Despite the greyish skies, there were plenty of daylight hours remaining and a good ridge lay ahead continuing eastward, a ridge too good not to be walked so before long we were atop the Hill of Strone at 850m. Here the group split with some dropping off the ridge down a southward spur through Glen Doll Forest and back to the cars, but four others were tempted by the next top on the ridge, Cairn Inks 769m By then time was running out so a jaunt southward took us over Mount Bouie 585m initially on a rough path, quad bike track and ultimately through a forest track back to the parked cars and 23km walked for the day.
10TH-15TH JUNE Loch Ossian
4TH JUNE Ben Macdui
22ND MAY Muchalls Coastal Walk
The Club Monday walk for May was scheduled from Torry Battery to Muchalls and nine cub members started out with a quick circuit around the Battery, built in 1860. Skies were overcast with just a hint of some possible sunshine. Eyes were peeled to seaward, for the subjects of the much publicised RSPB "Dolphin Watch" but none was spotted today. The Aberdeen Coastal Trail leads around to the Girdleness foghorn (silent now for 30 years) and lighthouse (automated in 1992) and once around the Ness, to Nigg Bay. Very disappointingly this is now a major construction area for the new harbour development with high safety fence and locked gates, the Aberdeen Coastal Trail being severed. We worked our way back around the equally "no-go" lighthouse grounds and hacked it across the golf course to reach St Fittich Church, the remains dating from the 17th Century but a church site since the 12th century. Passing the not-too-sweet sewage outflow we regained the Coastal Trail but the neighbouring inland green fields had recently been captured as the territory of construction contractors.
We could now enjoy the cliffs, the massive caverns, and sea once again as we headed south, weaving the way of the path through and around more agricultural pastures, passing map features named Doonies Yawns, Loong Slough, Altens Haven and Crawpeel Shore. As the walk intended, the land was adorned with the Spring flush of wild flowers, (and some garden escapees), whilst the cliffs and caves echoed with the sound of thousands of birds, kittiwakes, eider ducks, gannets, razorbills, cormorants and guillemots, some vigorously guarding eggs against the marauding crows. A few seals basked on the rocks. Flowers were too numerous to mention, but included primroses, concentrated on the warmer south facing slopes of the cliffs, marsh marigold, stitchwort, buttercup, sweet cicely, and many, many more. Bluebells abounded, but believed to be the invasive Spanish variety rather than the native British species, the distinguishing features being later confirmed as British/Spanish pollen - cream/blue, bell - very well curled tips/flatter tips, and parallel sides/conical shaped, scent - yes/no, leaves- narrow.
The path took us to Cove Harbour, very distant in scenery from the usual image of Cove as an overgrown, characterless, sprawling suburb of Aberdeen. The harbour was small, peaceful, and well kept, a good place for lunch. A steep path, rather than the road, was chosen up the cliff and into suburban Cove, where some road walking passed back gardens fenced off to hide trampolines, garden sheds and domestic paraphernalia, and then through a field of cows who closely, rather too closely, followed our every step. We passed commercial quarries and a clay pigeon range, followed some field boundaries back to the coast and into the road system of the scattered village of Findon. Exiting, a welcome path lead us back to the coast at Earnsheugh Bay, but not before passing an isolated industrial building hoarding, over several fields, scrap, bright orange lifeboats labelled with offshore oilfield names, many no longer producing any "black gold". Steps descended rapidly into the small pebble beach where the Burn of Findon, with its blossoming march marigolds, entered the sea. Shortly we were in the very small natural harbour of Portlethen with just a few boats pulled up on the pebbly beach. Leaving the coast again we entered the limits of the village before a track took us to England Farm, (didn't think we had walked that far!!) and onward through another farm littered for over 1km with redundant rusting farm machinery and building materials.
Downies was the next minor settlement, easily missed with a blink of the eye, and onward to the unusual heathland at Cran Hill. Away from fertilised agricultural land we were now, strangely, amongst heather, with familiar flowers of lousewort, milkwort, cotton grass and a couple of orchids. Cran Hill's trig point at 86m was left behind, unvisited, before we reached the mouth of the Burn of Elsick at Newtonhill Bay. In the last kilometre, we crossed the railway line that had often been our neighbour along the walk, and entered Muchalls, the walk completed and parked cars awaiting. The twist and turns of the days walk had clocked up 27km, slightly more than the A90 distance from Aberdeen to Stonehaven. Unlike the dual carriageway we had been able to admire Spring in all its glory, sea birds at their most active and prolific, a spectrum of flowers from salt lovers like scurvy grass to the heathland lousewort, normally at home in the higher hills of Deeside, and a history from modern day bustling industry back 900 years to religious peacefulness.
12TH-14TH MAY Fort William Weekend
The Club's first long weekend was in May centred on Fort William. Most members travelled up on the Friday, some slotting in a walk en route or on arrival, Saturday was the main walking day, and almost everyone managed a good walk before reaching back to Aberdeen on the Sunday. Weather was fair on the Friday and Monday, with showers, the Sunday being a little more cloudy and damp, but there were no soakings, and the midges were hardly awake. Good food and rest was had at the Clan Macduff hotel. With many different walk tackled here are intentionally brief reports of challenges conquered: Aonach Mor (Munro 1221m) and Aonach Beag (Munro 1234m) (some walkers direct, some using the ski uplift) Carn Beag Dearg (1010m), Carn Dearg Meadhonach (Munro Top 1179m), Carn Mor Dearg (Munro 1220m) Ben Nevis (Munro 1344m) via CMD arête Carn Dearg NW Top [Ben Nevis] (Munro Top 1221m) Devil's Staircase on the north side of Glencoe: Beinn Bheag (616m), Stob Mhic Mhartuin (707m), A'Chailleach [Aonach Eagach] (903m), Sron Gharbh (873m), Traverse of the Aonach Eagach arete over Am Bodach (Munro Top 943m), Meall Dearg (Munro 953m), Stob Coire Leith (Munro Top 940m), Sgorr nam Fiannaidh (Munro 967m) Stob Ban (Munro 999m) and Mullach nan Coirean (Munro 939m) circuit Glen Roy Corbetts - Carn Dearg [north of Gleann Eachach] (Corbett 817m) and Carn Dearg [south of Gleann Eachach] (Corbett 768m) Sgorr Dhonuill (Munro) from South Ballachuilish Stob a Choire Mheadhoin (Munro 1105m) Stob Choire Easain (Munro 1115m) Beinn Teallach (Munro 915m) Geal Charn from Spey Dam (Munro 926m) A very successful weekend. The Glen Roy Corbett's was my target for the weekend in Fort William by Graham Glen Roy accessed along the single track road from Roybridge, has a unique feature, the Parallel Roads. These parallel lines scored horizontally along the steep hillside are the old shore-lines of natural lochs created by dams of ice, as glaciers blocked the foot of the glen during the Ice ages. They are quite difficult to spot at this time of year with the new summer foliage, probably easier to see late in the year with a slight snow cover on the slopes. Another unique feature of the glen is that three out of the four Corbett's are named Carn Dearg! A real possibility for confusion here! Saturdays foray into the glen was to tackle the two Corbett's at the end of the single track road; both of course called Carn Dearg. After parking the car in the small car park close to Brae Roy Lodge, Rob and I headed for the picturesque Turret Bridge. This single span rubble bridge was built mid 18th century, linking Corrieyaiach Road with Roybridge and Glen Spean. Crossing the bridge, we walked along a four wheel drive track up Glen Turret keeping the low level River Turret in view all of the way. At the end of the track it was onto a AWD track up to the entrance of Gleann Eachach. Instead of branching off to the right and up this glen, it was up the steep grassy slopes of Teanga Mhor. From this summit it was a plod over many peat hags to the summit cairn of the first Carn Dearg at 815 metres, 6.5km from our starting point. From here you have good views of Ben Nevis and across to the Loch Lochy Munros. After a short break sheltering from a cool breeze at the summit cairn, it was now off SSE to the bealach at 570m to head up the relatively steep slopes of Carn Dearg (2). From this vantage point, there are lovely views down Glen Roy. From here it was down to the minor top of Sron a' Ghoill, then due east to pick up the track back to the car park. Time taken for this 14.5km walk, 5hrs 15min. On Sunday it was back into the glen, just myself this time to tackle Carn Dearg (3) and the steep Beinn Laruinn. After the slow drive up the glen to the parking spot for Beinn Laruinn, I found that another hill walker was occupying the single spot. Instead of parking in the next available spot and walking back to the start, I went further up the glen to the parking space for Carn Dearg. After crossing the River Turret by a wooden bridge I headed up to the headwall of Coire na Reinich. From here it was a steep pull NNE up the pathless, grassy hillside to the OS map 675 elevation point, down S to the bealach before a gentle pull up to the 735 point and then onto the rounded summit of Carn Dearg (3). It was quite cool at the top of this one with limited shelter, so after a quick bite to eat it was off NW to Carn Bhrunachain before descending the steep spur down to the floor of the glen and back to the car. The time taken for this 8.9km circuit was 3hrs 30min. By the time that I had driven back to the starting point for Beinn Laruinn it was 12.45pm. The thought of another 3 hour very steep, up and down walk, the drive back, followed by an early start the following day, I decided to leave this one for another trip back into the lovely Glen Roy. On reflection, it was a very successful weekend trip to Fort William for the Culter Hillwalking Club. The weather for the whole weekend couldn't have been better for us, and everyone had a great time on these lovely hills over there.
7TH MAY Longer Walk - Falls of Damff and Hunt Hill; Shorter Walk - Queen's Well
Long Walk - Falls of Damff and Hunt Hill
Distance 20km, 6hrs 15 mins, total acsent 600m, OS Landranger Sheet 44
The day started cloudy and overcast with light winds and 9 deg C but promised brighter weather and clear tops later in the day. The group of 9 gathered at the car park (258m) at the end of Glen Esk at 10am and set off with another 5 who then turned off for a shorter walk in the Glen Mark area. Our group headed west along Loch Lee on a good track then crossed the Water of Lee, passing a new mini hydro scheme at Inchgrundle then turned up a steep track. We stopped for a short break in the shelter of woodland before heading up the Shank of Inchgrundle. Once clear of the woodland, there were fine views east along Loch Lee although Mount Battock in the distance was still shrouded with cloud. We paused for a good view across the corrie of Carlochy then continued to the summit of Cairn Lick (682m), just north of the track where we had a clear view of Hunt Hill to the NW.
Our route then took us downhill along the track towards the Water of Unich then due north across rough heather moor land where we disturbed a number of grouse, spotting nest of grouse eggs and the first of many mountain hares (mostly grey but still showing patches of their winter coats). We continued downhill and crossed the bridge over the Water of Unich and on to the Falls of Damff where we stopped for lunch. The route then took us NNW along the crags below the Falls of Damff then across rough moorland to pick up a faint path through heather and we started our ascent of Hunt Hill. Eventually we picked a clear path along the crags and paused for a fine view of the imposing cliff of Craig Maskeldie above the Water of Lee before the final ascent of Hunt Hill (705m).
The weather had started to clear and we had good views of Mount Keen to the north and into the Cairngorms to the NW. We then headed downhill across steep grassy moorland, down to Glen Lee with many more sightings of mountain hares and crossed the Water of Lee via a narrow footbridge comprising a single steel girder with a wire handrail. Once all were safely across we had a short break in the sheltered glen before joining the main track along Glen Lee for the long walk back to the car park, spotting a beautifully marked adder crossing the track then sunning itself in the grassy bank.
The group arrived back at the car park around 4:15pm then went on to the 'Retreat' community cafe and folk museum near Tarfside for well-earned refreshments. Many thanks to the drivers and we all enjoyed a great day out with some fine views and lots of wildlife sightings but surprisingly few other walkers!
Short walk report May 2017, Queen's Well
Five members of the Club preferred a shorter walk starting at INnvermark, Glen Esk along with the Long Walkers.. After a 10 minute chat in the Car Park to catch up on latest gossip, and a brief combined walk of about 1km passing Invermark Castle, we short walkers turned right up the track to Invermark Lodge, a fine looking building belonging to the Earl of Dalhousie, who resides in Brechin Castle. A further track cut across pastures well away from the front of the Lodge where we were greeted by some friendly horses, no doubt looking for an apple or two. The track took us gently over the shoulder of a hill, soon to present a long view up Glen Mark, at least as far as our ultimate destination, Queens Well.
But even at this altitude a raw wind swept down the glen, and with overcast skies, the weather was politely described as "nippy". However, our first call of the cuckoo reminded us that spring was well under way. The track descended to a bridge over the Waters of Mark to its eastern bank. The wind was bitter, but a small plantation of Scots Pine offered some shelter and we stopped for a refreshment break, and a chance to pull out an extra layer of clothing, hats and gloves. We contemplated how the Long Walkers were battling the elements at considerably higher altitude.
Although the trees were bright with the fresh green of first foliage, especially the larch and birch, there was little at ground level to show. Distant patches of gorse showed up yellow, and early blossoms of similar colour were found in abundant examples of petty whin, and the occasional dandelion showed its face.
We were soon at Queens Well, slightly short of water after the recent dry winter, and certainly not drinkable as described in the commemorative plaque "Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, and his Royal Highness the Prince Consort, visited this well and drank of its refreshing waters, on the 20th September, 1861, the year of Her Majesty's great sorrow."
It was a quick scurry to the simple building of Glenmark, at the foot of the path ascending steeply to Mount Keen, where a picnic table was fortunately placed in the lee of the building, and a good spot for our full lunch. Many walkers passed us by heading up the hill, but this was our farthest point and our return journey was down the landrover track back to Invermark. Here the wind was tempered by the shelter of the trees. We spotted some primroses on a sunny bank, and eventually identified male birch catkins and, along with them, enjoyed increasing sunshine as the skies began to clear. With plenty of time on our hands we popped into the Lochlee Church, built in 1803, replacing previous churches on this site dating back to the 7th Century. The inside was small, well maintained with wooded pews, altar and gallery. One of our more talented walkers reverently, and very impressively, struck up an appropriate tune on the harmonium.
With the afternoon still young and the sun now shining it was decided to backtrack from the church following the tarmac road over the river measuring station on the Waters of Mark, then turning sharp downstream on the triangle of land (more very friendly horses), at the confluence of the Waters of Lee and Mark, the joined flow being the beginning the Esk. The purpose was to visit the decidedly rickety, Ordnance Survey marked bridge that has in the past been used with much trepidation by the Club to cross the Lee. Our search was successful, the bridge has been swept away, presumably in the early 2016 deluge, and practically no sign of it remained. With this definitive finding, we returned to the cars and headed for The Retreat for a cuppa and cakes.
17TH APRIL Ferrowie
April 17th and many of the CHC walkers woke up to a frost on the ground but with crystal clear blue skies, a promising day for a walk. The drive to the Spittal of Glen Muick car park was stunning for the views of a pure white, overnight snow covered Lochnagar, no photograph, no painting could ever do this brief scene justice, nature reigned supreme.
Thirteen club members departed in chilly, but windless conditions from the Spittal taking the fairly easy ascent up the Capel Mounth track watched by several red deer, to about 680m altitude, where a refreshment break was taken at the point the track forked. By this time the sky had become overcast, and a nippy wind had risen with air temperatures probably close to freezing. Taking the left hand fork, unmarked on the OS map but well defined on the ground and looking as though it had been there for decades, we curved around to the 801m summit of Ferrowie. At this point in time and geography wintry showers of hail pellets and/or snow kept passing by and were to continue on and off for the rest of the day, not requiring waterproofs as they bounced off clothing, but stinging on the face driven by the stronger summit winds.
Heading off track on an easterly bearing we passed over the insignificant Watery Hill at 764m, crossed the peat hags, seeing mountain hares loosing their coat of winter whiteness, and stepping over the headwaters of the Allt Darraire, to rise up the western flanks of the hill Murley. Here we searched for the wreckage of a Second World War plane crash, which was duly found in all certainty, and thus rubbishing one of the two grid references we had for it. The RAF Whitley EB384 bomber, on a navigational training flight, crashed on 26th May 1944 and burned on impact with the loss of 6 lives. Today, 73 years later, it appeared the impact site was still devoid of vegetation, a location according to ur reckonings at NO 333 803
Lunch was taken in the shelter of neighbouring peat hags, before heading north to the Black Hill of Mark at 774m then taking a bearing just east of North to drop down to the Waters of Mark which we followed downstream until falling upon our intended target of the lonely Sheilin of Mark, a bothy, clean and tidy inside and offering solid shelter from yet another stinging hail shower. On departure a north-westerly bearing took us heather bashing over a low ridge before we were back onto a tributary of the Allt Darrairie, which on descent lead us onto a well-defined and OS marked path down the steep sided glen of the Allt Darrairie itself, tumbling over and through beautifully smoothed pale or pink granite boulders and base rock. The glen lead us through the remnants of the old community at the Spittal of Glen Muick from where it was a short distance back to the cars where the temperature was reading only 3C.
A good tea and cakes was taken at the Bothy in Ballater. Thanks as always to Catherine for arranging the walk and to the drivers.
2ND APRIL Tom Trumper
14 Club members gathered under cold and cloudy skies in the car park at the start of the Scalan Heritage Trail in the Braes of Glenlivet. The first 30 minutes took us past the College of Scalan, of which more later, to the foot of a fairly steep climb up to the horseshoe shaped ridge joining Carn Liath with Carn Dulack. Given the weather this proved to be an excellent way of introducing some warmth to our muscles. At the top of the ridge we crept quietly past the spot height of 666m, lest we should disturb the Devil, although most laughed off this superstition. We rested for the obligatory tea break after one hour's walking, with two of us enjoying the comforts of a cosy, Flintstone-era armchair and its views to the snow-covered Ben Avon and Ben Macdui.
Refreshed by both tea and wind, we set off downhill to the north aiming for our objective of the day, Tom Trumper, crossing what turned out be, despite fears to the contrary, an easily managed bog. As we ascended Tom Trumper the sun appeared, necessitating several stops to allow some to "coost" their "duddies to the wark." Appropriately disrobed, we found our way to the 'summit', and attempted to mark this previously unmarked top with the birth of a cairn (three small rocks).
Thence directly west to the adjoining and 6m higher, un-named top of 588m, battling our way through awkwardly high heather. Breathless from the struggle, we immediately turned downhill to the north to join a track taking us down to more walker friendly terrain. Lunch was taken in glorious sunshine, enjoying magnificent views of the Braes of Glenlivet.
We made our way down hill and then across to the ruined cottages of Bolletten and Belnoe, up a short but steep rise (never welcomed close to the end of a walk), at the -top of which we were confronted by a week-old lamb determined not to let us pass until we revealed the whereabouts of its mother.
Before returning to the car park, we stopped at the College of Scalan, a former catholic seminary, closed in 1799, now a museum open to the public and containing fascinating information about its history and links with Blairs College near Maryculter (ref. scalan.co.uk).
Perhaps thanks to the afternoon sunshine and warmth, as well as walking in a relatively unfamiliar area, everyone seemed to have had a great day. Total walked distance and duration: 12.6 km, 5hrs 40minutes.
20TH MARCH Tops of Bennachie
A local favourite, Bennachie, and probably all of the 17 CHC members out for this walk had been up the hill before, but today's walk was Bennachie in its fullest form, 9 (or was it ten) tops - whatever the number, none was missed. Starting at the Back o' Bennachie car park the tall pines were swaying at their tops and the cloud was scooting by, it was going to be a windy day, much as forecast. A gentle climb out through the forest, past a couple of boundary stones and, when on the flanks of Watch Craig, we turned sharply right to deviate to Hermit Seat offering fine views down into Donside and far beyond. Winds indeed were blustery and temperatures cool, so barely stopping we continued to the most westerly double topped, Black Hill at a lowly 430m but complete with trig point.
With eyes now turned eastward a combination of squelchy narrow footpath, a dose of heather bashing, and some built path took us to the top of Watch Craig at 493m. We continued onto Bennachie's highest summit Oxen Craig at 528m, such dizzy heights accompanied by the worst of the winds but still allowing exploration of the tors and a brief inspection of the circular landmark identifier from which we could pick out Peterhead Power Station at 58km distant whilst in the southwestern quadrant the snow clad summits of Lochnagar and the eastern Cairngorms showed up brightly.
Our route headed due south passing a memorial plaque to two separate but fatal RAF plane crashes on the hill, the first on 3rd September 1939 being the first official fatality of the Second World War, which had been declared only three hours earlier. A distance on the well-groomed path of the Gordon Way was followed by heather bashing to the rarely visited Bruntwood Tap, a minor, most southerly appendage of the Bennachie "massif". But this "minor appendage" is very significant as the impact ridge of the two aircraft accidents.
Further east, on these southern flanks of Bennachie, another summit, Garbet Tap at 468m lay on our track and though un-named and warranting only a closed contour on the OS map, proved to be a significant tor. Next stop was the popular summit of Mither Tap at 518m. Here again the wind gusted uncomfortably but with good visibility the views were extensive in all directions. From Mither Tap we took a more northerly bearing on well made, but well worn "Maidens Causeway" (on the OS map,) before turning off west to "bag" the two separate tops of Craigshannoch numbers 8 & 9 of the day. It was here during a refreshment break (not our first) it was queried as to the distance of the clear horizon of the North Sea from our perch at 470m to be answered only on return to Internet access as 77km - a clear day for sure.
Only the minor Tor of Little Oxen Craig remained, and the real interest was the "Lintel Quarry" with the rock structure clearly indicating why it had been quarried for lintels, with some original samples remaining. It was a quick descent back down into the shelter of the trees and the parked cars after a strenuous 18km walked. Time had ticked by so there was no chance for the usual café stop.
Thanks to Catherine for organising a very imaginative, and all-encompassing Bennachie tops bagging trip. Many folk have "been up Bennachie" but CHC members have exhausted the hill's opportunities (until the next time).
5TH MARCH Ladylea Hill
Ever resourceful, our leader Catherine reversed the planned route to take account of the weather forecast which claimed that conditions would improve in the afternoon and so be more favourable to ridge walking. Instead, 19 walkers began in fine rain to make our way through the forest on the track which was originally intended to be our return route. It was a good track and took us upwards to our first stopping point where the trees dripped on us as we attempted to shelter from the rain and a number of people donned their waterproof trousers (allegedly in an effort to make the rain stop, which it eventually did).
Turning off the track later, we climbed up to the ridge, out of the forest and turned right to head for the summit of our chosen hill, availing ourselves of the stile crossing over the rather impressive deer fence. On our way up the hill, we met 4 other walkers, the only ones we saw today, and before long we reached the rather chilly and snow-dotted summit of Ladylea Hill, 610m. By this time, the clouds the clouds were parting and despite their hanging wispily round the nearby hills, we could nevertheless see snowy hills all around us in the distance, including the tors on Ben Avon and Morven closer to us.
Because of the rather chilly wind, we did not linger long here, but descended nearly to the col to enjoy our second break where it was considerably warmer. All this while, the clouds were dispersing and we experienced some very welcome sunshine. We were glad that the walk had been reversed as we trudged up to the summit of Clashenteple Hill, 579m, enjoying the open vista on the way.
Our next point of reference was Corlich Hill before we entered the forest where a good track took us through the trees and back to the car park. Our walk was finished off with a drink at the nearby Colquhonnie Hotel before returning home.
20th FEBRUARY Buck o' the Cabrach
The Culter Hillwalking February Monday walk started at Lumsden over which our target hill, The Buck (721m and thus a Graham) dominates the western horizon. Spring was in the air, with the previous day's UK warmest place being Fyvie Castle at over 13Celcius (average 7C) and today's prediction going for even warmer weather. Hence 14 club members started walking comfortably out of Lumsden along flat country lanes, passing a field of feeding geese (pink-footed? A wild guess), then a steeper incline briefly through Braeside woods. A brief gap in the woods with a sun soaked southerly aspect and wonderful views southeast to open lowlands beyond Kildrummy, was a definite incentive to stop for a break. The westerly wind was blustery however and the sunshine came and went as veils of rain passed swiftly by, comfortably far away to the south.
Soon the woods were left behind and the ascent became steeper on a mature landrover track heading up through the heather to Green Brow and behind that the looming rotor blades of the Kildrummy wind farm. The turbines were spinning steadily in the now gusting wind and brief light showers that made walking a little difficult for a kilometre or so. After negotiating a stretch of peat hags we reached the farthest point of the track and only 2km and 160m vertical ascent to the summit. A decision was needed as to whether to continue in the wind, hopefully gaining some shelter on the leeward flanks of The Buck, or to continue on the track, but downward in a circular route homeward.
Unanimously we pressed on upwards and, as hoped, we found some leeward shelter before finally setting foot on the mini-tor and the trig point of the summit. The rocks gave ample shelter for a longer lunch break with views to Tap o' North and Ben Rinnes. There was time to view the three fish carved in a stone of the summit, date of origin unknown, before heading back initially down the route of our ascent. A bit more heather-bashing found the mapped track near Scad Hill and that lead us comfortably down to the Burn of Glenny, through a vast, dear-fenced plantation of indigenous tree species, and back to the main road at Lumsden, 18 km from when we set out.
A brief drive took us to the Alford Bistro who happily "opened up" the back conservatory for our significant volume of business and we managed to severely deplete the contents of the cake trolley.
5TH FEBRUARY Ripe Hill - Prince Alfred's Cairn
The Culter Hillwalking February Sunday walk started at Easter Balmoral, with a good turnout of nineteen walkers. Weather was fair and cool with a reasonably good forecast of light winds, broken cloud and only 10% chance of rain/snow - the temperatures were certainly low enough for the solid white stuff.
A well-maintained Balmoral landrover track took us briskly away south-westward in the general direction of our target, Ripe Hill and its associated Prince Alfred's Cairn. Exiting the woodland in a more southerly direction gave us our first views of the snowy Lochnagar, capped with a solid bank of cloud, whilst behind us the smoother hill of Moven, wearing an extensive and unbroken white cap, sparkled in encouraging sunshine. We looked forward to the sun breaking through to brighten up the rock and crags of Lochnager, directly ahead of us. But, on the contrary as we were heading towards the comfort of the bothy Gelder Shiel, Lochnagar's grey cloud expanded towards us in a southerly breeze and within a short time, we were walking through a good snow shower of big fluffy white flakes falling from an overcast grey sky.
We looked forward to the comforts of Gelder Shiel, but arrived to find it occupied by two men and their dog, and even if empty the bothy would not have had room for all nineteen of us, so we found shelter around the walls of a neighbouring locked granite building.
Back on foot we retraced our steps a short distance before taking another track that lead to a good bridge over the tumbling waters of the fairly substantial Gelder burn. The forested Ripe Hill was off on our right flank, so leaving the track behind we bee-lined through the heather and into the fairly open forest, heading for the summit. The snow continued to fall and was beginning to accumulate on the ground (and our packs) as we threaded our way over wind fallen trees to suddenly burst out into the summit opening with the conical Prince Alfred's Cairn as centrepiece.
After all the photographs, we headed downhill in a northerly direction, disturbing a herd of deer and, with the tree top canopy keeping some of the snowflakes off us, we stopped for "lunch". Subsequently, as we emerged from the forest, the snow had ceased and it was easy track walking down towards the river Dee then estate tarmac eastward passing the front door of Balmoral Castle, with a few finely masoned granite water fountains, drinking troughs, memorial stones, estate houses and even the meteorological enclosure, the official weather observing site for Balmoral, before reaching back to the parked cars.
After this 17km of winter walking there was plenty of time left over for a good "cuppa" and scones at the Bothy in Ballater before finally heading home.
30TH JANUARY Hill of Fare
The Club January Monday outing was scheduled for the relatively local Hill of Fare, thus minimising any seasonal road transport challenges. As it turned out the only challenge was scraping frost of the windscreen before departing but those with a keen eye on the car thermometers noted temperatures as low as minus 7C in the minor glens on our way to the rendezvous point of the Café Treehouse at Midmar, actually the endpoint of today's walk. With some skilful vehicle logistics all thirteen of us regrouped for the start of the walk on the B993, on the western flanks of the Hill of Fare. Marked on the map as a spot height of 298m it was above the temperature inversions of the glens we had driven through and markedly warmer, but the well-used parking area was still an icy, hazardous spot.
However, we were soon briskly walking through open- planted forest on a track with an inch of powdery snow cover and good views over Torphins and up Deeside. We left the woodland behind following a narrow path, snaking through the heather, partially covered in snow and slowly gaining altitude. Though the line of the path remained clear under the snow cover, the actual underfoot conditions of the path were hidden, and several of us sank into soft ground hidden below the snow. But the sun shone hazily and the southerly wind, though cool, was not strong.
Without much ado, we reached the most western spot height of many along the backbone of the Hill of Fare, and indeed, though not particularly promoted, this is the highest point of Fare, at 471m. We stopped only briefly for photographic opportunities with the less snowy, south facing slopes of Bennachie constantly visible.
Some off path snowy heather bashing took us to the Hill's second highest spot height, Torramean at 458m and with the honour of having a trig point. There was also a substantial wall, a great sheltered spot to sit down and have a bite to eat. Back on our feet and following the wall downhill we past some commercial, impenetrable forest whose boundary we tracked for some time. On reaching a felled section we crossed over the wall and took a second break, now sheltered by the forest and the lie of the land. Sat comfortably warm, some low cloud coming over the top of the Hill of Fare was scooting across the sky at a good rate, indicative of the forecast of increasing afternoon winds that were not to trouble us.
Knitting our way through some unfelled forestry for just a short spell we picked up an unmapped forest track that gave us a good elevated view of Midmar Castle (privately owned by Tom Cross former CEO of Dana Petroleum) before leading us past the castle entrance itself, below the snowline and out onto the tarmac of the B9119 road. The brief tarmac walk back to the cars at the Café Treehouse was interrupted by a small side diversion to the historical Midmar Old Kirk dating from 1670 but with the original kirk documented as being dedicated to St Ninian.
A perfect January walk of 14km was capped off with some warming tea, coffee and cakes
8TH JANUARY 2017 Peter Hill Finzean
For some reason, the first CHC walk of the year is always a very popular one (all those calories we've consumed over the festive season may explain this) and the walk today was no exception. There were 21 members and one visitor on the walk, plus Jessie the Dog who was very well behaved. It also helped that the weather (always a good topic of conversation to the British) was very pleasant for the time of year - a comfortable temperature, no rain and no wind either.
We set off from the sawmill along the road which follows the Feugh upstream and followed the most obvious route up our chosen hill, the track which takes you all the way to the top. Before the final assault on the summit, we took our first refreshment break and then girded our loins for the last lap. We enjoyed excellent views from the top, particularly of Peter Hill's (637m) higher neighbour Mount Battock.
Taking the same track down the other side, we stopped at the end of this track for our second break. After this, we partook of a good deal of heather bashing before reaching another track, clearly visible from above, which brought us down to the woods along the Feugh. We all very much enjoyed the walk through these woods, although at times it was a trifle damp underfoot - testing out those resoled boots -, and came out back at the sawmill and the cars. White hares were much in evidence on our descent, looking totally uncamouflaged on the snowless hillside.
The day was finished off by a very pleasant visit to the Finzean Farm Shop.