10TH DECEMBER Craiglich
2ND DECEMBER Kerloch
This was a half day A to B Walk using shared cars for transport, followed by our annual Christmas Lunch at the British Legion in Banchory.
Our group of 18 met up at 09:30 at the parking space west of the Knockburn Loch turning (NO 699915) which was also the end point of the walk. We then shuttled the walkers to the start point at the track to Garrol Hill (NO 724912). The weather was better than originally forecast with light cloud cover, no rain, some thin mist in the hollows, little wind and temperatures around 3 to 4C.
We set off south on a good track down the flank of Garrol Hill and into Garrol Wood before traversing steadily uphill on a path along the flank of Shillofad. From here we had fine views to the NW across Feughside into the distant hills. Much of the lowland was shrouded in mist, sometimes giving a false impression of small lochans among the hills. Some of our group caught a brief sighting of a couple of pale coloured birds which could have been snipe but otherwise, the day was mainly devoid of wildlife.
We paused briefly at the junction with a path on the edge of woodland, disturbed briefly by an estate worker on a quad bike, then headed NW steadily downhill to the junction with the main track for Kerloch at Glenskinnan. We then started the relentless climb up a badly eroded forest track through woodland, which eventually gave way to open moorland where we took a direct path (somewhat muddy!) to cut off a loop before rejoining the main track. Further up the track, we paused to take in the view to the SE across the coastal plains of Angus and the large wind turbine development below Kerloch before taking the narrow path for the final ascent to the summit.
At Kerloch summit (534m), we had a short refreshment break and took in the fine views of the surrounding hills, including the distinct peak of Mither Tap to the north and Clachnaben, much nearer to the west. We were also rewarded with glimpses of snow cover on the distant Cairngorms and mist lingering in the valleys. Our group then returned down the same route to the junction at Glenskinnan and headed north along well-prepared estate track through new gates in the perimeter fence. We passed gravel quarry workings on the final stretch across the flat plain and arrived at the parked cars around 13:10. Distance covered was approx. 11km in 3.5 hours with 450m height gain.
We then made our way to the British Legion in Banchory where we were joined by 3 others and enjoyed a splendid Christmas Lunch in a private room with fine views across Deeside and Scolty Hill. This had been a great Winter walk with a fine lunch and good company! Many thanks to the organiser and all the drivers who provided the transport.
19TH NOVEMBER Peter's Hill and Crannach Hill
15 walkers set off around 09:00 from the climbers car park in the Pass of Ballater. It was noticeably colder at the car park than in Aberdeen and there was a little ice on the ground. The walk went west along the road for a short distance before turning north up a track which climbed steadily to reach the shoulder between Creagan Riabhach and Craig of Prony. There were interesting views back to the mist-filled Dee valley.
From the shoulder the track dropped slightly before skirting Peter’s Hill and a short walk took us to the top (568m), where it was cold and breezy. Heading NW took us back to the track for a coffee break. Refreshed, we set off north and then east below Morven until we turned onto the path heading for the Culsten Burn. Before long however we passed through a gate into an enclosure where small pines were struggling to get established. At the top of the enclosure was a stile and, just beyond, rocks that made an excellent lunch stop. We had made good progress up to this point.
After lunch it was a short walk to the top of Crannach Hill (602m). From here a sketchy path led south along the broad ridge. As we progressed the length of the heather and density of trees increased. The temptation of possibly easier options of dropping off the ridge to the east or west was resisted in favour of continuing along the crest of the ridge where rock outcrops and steep slopes added to the interest. We crossed a bridge over the Tulloch Burn and followed a path and the mast access road down to the Pass of Ballater. Some of the group continued along the road whilst others followed an off-road route back to the cars.
The day was cool and increasingly cloudy with just a little light drizzle at times.
Most of the party had a well-earned cup of tea at the Bothy in Ballater. 10.9 miles. 6 hrs 23 mins.
4TH NOVEMBER Lord Arthur's Hill
Originally the Lord Arthur’s Hill walk was envisaged as a shorter winter walk scheduled for January 2019. However, being rescheduled for November, it became an A-B walk, in order to extend the distance a little.
Therefore, a small group of walkers set off from Tullynessle Kirk, whilst another, larger group met in Rhynie, leaving vehicles there, in order to aid transportation at the end of the walk. They then travelled to Dubston Farm where all 16 participants met to begin the “walk proper”.
The first part of the walk was the steepest. As an alternative route to Fouchie Shank, we set off up Manabattock Hill, stopping just short of the tree-topped summit. Walking through a wood of lichen-covered trees, we proceeded on to the slopes of Black Hill, where we enjoyed a coffee break. Then it was on to the Cairn at the top of Lord Arthur’s Hill, the main target of the day. Enjoying spectacular views we could identify the Tap O’ Noth, the Buck, Morven, and the Bennachie Range, amongst others. There was a moderate breeze, but the weather was a great improvement on the actual forecast, and we enjoyed a good walking temperature throughout. A convenient ditch on the descent offered a pleasant shelter for our lunch break.
Thereafter we joined tracks over towards Edinbanchory Hill, before heading over the minor summit of Brux Hill towards Badinger Hill. We then began the gentle descent to Rhynie, passing by the multi-solar farm. The search for the Iron Age Fort at Cairn More not proving fruitful, we continued down the country lanes past Bankhead and Barflat. This was once the old route linking Tullynessle to Rhynie.
At Rhynie transport was arranged for everyone (and their vehicles) to be re-united at Alford Bistro, where the home-bakes were much appreciated.
This was a very pleasant walk of approximately 10 miles, offering some splendid views. Thank you to all the drivers who assisted with arrangements.
29TH OCTOBER The Socach
7TH OCTOBER Hill of Snowy Slack and the Buck
Our group of 13 travelled to Lumsden in shared cars and parked by the Square where we met up with 6 others who then set off on a shorter walk route in the same area. The weather forecast predicted strong SW winds on the tops but no rain during the day, although it was wet when arrived - not a promising start!
We decided to tackle the circular route in the clockwise direction, to have the wind behind us on the tops and we set off at 9:35am. We headed SW from Lumsden on minor roads and crossed the flat farmland on good tracks. After about half an hour, the rain stopped and the hill tops were clear with good views of the ridge of Green Brow and Hill of St John's Cairn to the west.
At Auchenmullen (NJ450194), we joined the gravel access road to the Kildrummy Windfarm and headed W through the plantation woodland in Glen Laff. Having walked for about an hour, we stopped for a short break in a roadside quarry that provided some shelter from the strengthening wind.
Refreshed from our break, we continued along the gravel road. The route became steeper as we curved NW and climbed towards the edge of the woodland and the boundary fence of the windfarm. At this point, we spotted a herd of deer running uphill along the boundary fence at the edge of the woodland. Two smaller deer herds were seen on the open ridge to the SW and we also observed two buzzards, circling above the glen.
After a steady climb, we reached the site of the Kildrummy Windfarm (NJ 422206), stopping briefly to peer into the locked works cabin and look in awe at the 8 giant rotating turbines on the hillside. Signs nearby warned of the risk of 'ice throws' from the rotating blades during winter and to keep a safe distance! We continued through the site to the end of the access road, then NW off path across heather moorland and onto the rounded summit of the Hill of Snowy Slack (596m).
The wind was now blowing very strongly from the SW as we bore northwards and downhill across heather moorland and peat hags, towards the wide col below Kebbuck Knowe. We then headed uphill across rough moorland and followed the estate boundary fence to the rounded summit of Kebbuck Knowe (672m). Our route took us through a gate, then north across the col below The Buck. We hunkered down for our lunch stop in the relative shelter of a dry peat bank before heading north for a brief stop at the summit of The Buck (721m), all the time being buffeted by the ever-strengthening wind! However, we did take time to observe the unusual Pictish style carvings on a stone near the summit.
We initially retraced our route south from the Buck into the teeth of the strengthening wind then gradually traversed around the head of the burn in relative shelter below the ridge. We crossed the deer fence at a convenient gate, joined the track below Scad Hill and descended towards the Burn of Glenny. We had a brief refreshment stop in the shelter of nearby woodland before continuing downhill on farm track and passing the ruined buildings at Crampstone. We finally joined the tarmac road and passed through the mixed woodland of the Clova Estate to finish our walk at the car park in Lumsden around 4pm.
This had been a fine walk covering some 20km with great views across The Cabrach and surrounding hills and we met no one out on the hills all day. Some from our group stopped for refreshments at The Alford Bistro before heading back to Aberdeen. We had a good attendance from the club despite the weather forecast and many thanks to all the drivers for providing the transport.
Shorter Walk Clova Hill
Both the Long and the Short Walk on October 7th started at Lumsden village green, so briefly, whilst donning boots and waterproof clothing, club members were able to socialise across the two categories. Being fewer in numbers, six and Jessy the dog, the short walkers were soon off the mark with some brief rain, not mentioned in the weather forecast, being of particular annoyance. Quickly off the main road through Lumsden, we were immediately walking amongst scattered dwellings, autumnal gardens, one with a plum tree begging to be relieved of its magnificent crop, and on through narrow lanes. A local pathway though woodland soon brought us onto a tarmac drive leading to the local ”big” residence, Clova House, a Grade B listed building originating from 1760. It was well hidden behind mature trees, so we continued past the “Home Farm”, past a derelict building that looked part chapel, part stables, to a boarded up dwelling attached to an extensive walled garden into which we could not spy. (Google satellite imagery shows it to be mainly grass, slightly ornamental). A landrover track took us reasonably gently uphill, the rain had ceased though the sky remained grey, and views enfolded the rich autumnal colours of agricultural Aberdeenshire towards Kildrummy.
Before losing the shelter of the trees we stopped for a refreshment break, a wise move as soon the onward track took us into open moorland and a chill wind blew. On track we passed by the totally uninteresting single closed 510m contour summit of Clova Hill, really the end of a ridge from The Buck, 2 km to the west. As our track levelled out we came to a wooden, but solid, stalkers bothy, with the key to the double doors hanging from a piece of string right next to the keyhole. Inside we found tables and benches to seat twenty or more, nothing fancy, but all immaculately clean, indeed the only other items in the room were an industrial roll of blue paper towels, a pistol grip bottle of cleaning fluid, a broom, and a paraffin stove. We comfortably had lunch and found ourselves brushing the tables clean of any invisible crumbs we might have left (Jessy hoovered up any that fell to the floor on the few occasions she sneaked inside).
Back out on the hillside the track ascended, useful in building up body heat again after out bothy inactivity. With altitude we gained views up to The Buck, one of the target hills of the Long walkers and at, our maximum altitude of 570m, our landrover track took a 300 degree turn and set us on our way back along a broad level ridge marked as Green Bow. Even at this lowly altitude it was exposed to the full force of the wind, illustrated vividly by the rotating turbines of the Kildrummy wind farm only 1km away to our south on the interestingly named Hill of Snowy Slack (596m) and THE target hill for the Long walkers. We were chilly and were reminded that winter is not far away, so did not stop to look for our fellow walkers, but marched along the flat ridge, anticipating the drop down from it to more sheltered locations. Off the ridge we descended into forest, where there was stillness and warmth and before long we were back amongst farmland and country lanes. A detour off the tarmac took us to a small, maintained “Alisons Wood” complete with replica stone circle, the stones of which afforded us good seating for a final break. Not having a human being (we saw no-one the whole walk) to recognise as “Alison” we gave the name to a single black cow, a healthy looking beast, that showed intense interest in us (or the equally black Jessy) from the field across the road.
An opportunity to get off the tarmac, we scrambled up an embankment onto a raised way that looked very much like an old railway, but it was roughly lined both sides with beach trees that probably predated railways. (Google satellite and OS maps would indicate this is a former grand driveway from the main road at Lumsden to Clova House). Indeed, the track ended in an elaborate stone and wrought iron gateway at its junction with the main road, the gates firmly padlocked but easy to walk around the stonework. After a brief walk along the main road, we dropped off it down to Lumsden’s “Sculpture Walk” which proved interesting but lacked any sort of explanation about “what” and “why” (subsequently found out its been there since 1985) And then we were back at the cars, 14km (9 miles), in just over 5 hours. We headed off to the Alford Bistro for a long and relaxing cup of tea and cakes. By text we learned our fellow Long walkers were still out there, on schedule to be at the Bistro at 4.30, but we couldn’t stretch out our stay that long and so departed homeward.
24TH SEPTEMBER Cooks Cairn and Scaut Hill
The September Monday walk was a visit to the “remote” Cooks Cairn, centred in the no-mans land of the Blackwater Forest between the whiskey centres of Glen Livet and Glen Fiddich. Its remoteness has been eroded by the ongoing construction of EDF Dorenell windfarm consisting of 59 turbines. The walk reconnaissance, in order to avoid the major ravages of construction, started off at the car park at the end of the road from Tomnavoulin in Glen Livet. The initial route was immediately finger posted as the “Livet Path” following the river of the Glen of the same name. It was easy walking on path along the gentle slopes of the lower glen, soon reaching a ford easily crossed thanks to low water levels. Back on a landrover track we reached a second more serious fording, and though an alternative footbridge was known to exist further upstream, it was also known the bridge was closed as being unsafe, but this did not deter one walker willing to test it out. The rest of us attacked the fording with a variety of techniques, all keeping our boots on, and all keeping our feet dry, whether it was careful stepping stone technique, with the stones often overflowing with a shallow depth of water, or the quick-run (aka mad dash).
Having survived the obstacles intact we reached the abandoned farm marked on the map as the Suie, relatively intact, but unmaintained and succumbing to the elements. It afforded us some shelter from a nippy wind for a snack and offered views across the broad former pastures of Glen Livet and southwest to the horizon, an interesting angle on the tors of Ben Avon. However, in the direction of our route ahead we noticed the flashing yellow lights of contractor’s vehicles, surely not the windfarm on “our” side of the hill. Apprehensively back on our feet, we came to a major fork in the path, left going up Glen Suie, and onward over the watershed to follow the Fiddich downstream, a walk for another day, or our route, the right hand fork along the ancient Steplar Road, a drove road from Glen Livet to the Cabrach - http://www.heritagepaths.co.uk/pathdetails.php?path=275 At this fork we encountered signs regarding the health and safety aspects of walking through the site of an industrial installation (ie windfarm) and shortly thereafter we encountered the flashing lights of some obviously brand-new diggers. On enquiring with the driver of one, a young lad with a strong accent from Stornoway, we learned they were engineering a new, but parallel, footpath for walkers, part of the planning gain of the windfarm, which also included walker’s car parks and full-time ranger service, part of an £8m “Community benefit”
We continued up the original Steplar Road happy to leave the diggers behind, but them met a Toyota pick-up negotiating its way towards us, the old road having been bulldozed smooth where centuries of erosion had made it impassable for four-wheel drive vehicles. At a bealach we had to divert off the Steplar Road and take a direct path ascending to Cooks Cairn, 755m. The northwest wind was chilly, and showers were passing us by on either flank, but apart from a few spots of rain we remained dry, and waterproofs remained in our packs. Now we gained a wider view of the Dorenell windfarm with some of the planned 59 turbines installed, but elsewhere just the harsh lines of the linking roads of the installation whilst in the wider vista we observed six other windfarms.
We dropped off Cooks Cairn down to the Dorenell vehicle park, an ugly sight, but with no trees around for shelter from the wind, contractors’ piles of sand and gravel work instead. Happily, after lunch the sun came out briefly and we could leave it all behind and ascend across open heath to Carn na Bruar, a twin summit peak, each with cairn, at 683 m. We descended from that into the valley of the Kymah Burn, a tributary of the Livet, and in the occasional spells of sunshine, enjoyed the expansive views across the former pastures to the Suie. Here we all inspected the closed footbridge, but all decided to return by the second fording of the morning outward walk, and we were soon back at the cars just as some more serious showery rain commenced. A fine Autumnal 22km day walked in just over 7 hours, a most enjoyable day out.
14TH-16TH SEPTEMBER Tyndrum
A small, but magnificent 7 Culter Hillwalking Club members went on this trip.
Some of the group climbed Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhcraig on the Friday and had mixed fortunes with the weather conditions.
On Saturday (this time) the weather was kind enough, and the level of the River Lochy was low enough to enable us to attempt Ben Lui (1130m) and Beinn a’ Chleibh (916m). We managed to negotiate the river crossing without any major problems, just some wet feet and socks in a few cases. Wellington boots with your gaiters over them is a good method of keeping things dry (thanks for the tip Bill). We fought our way through the boggy sections after the river and railway and up the mountain side. Some of us slightly detoured through the wood, the floor of which was covered with red and white mushrooms (‘amanita muscaria’).
We made our way up to the bealach where we did not get the blast of cold wind some may have been anticipating. Instead it was very pleasant and after splitting into two groups (faster and not so fast) we continued to the summit of Ben Lui where we were treated to good views and the added bonus of a Brocken spectre effect. You get this from a combination of mist and sun (in the right place) creating a small rainbow effect down the mountain side and being able to see your shadow. Some saw it more clearly than others, but a real treat!
We then headed back to the bealach and up to Beinn a’ Chleibh, which was misty at the top and sadly no views, but the rain and wind stayed off.
We made our way back down in fine weather and bog trotted again to complete a really enjoyable day’s walking. The faster group even saw a train go past before crossing the river. I think they waved to the passengers on the train, but the passengers did not wave back. If it had been a steam train they would have waved back - never mind!
On Sunday Catherine found a good low-level walk in Glen Ogle as the weather forecast was for strong winds and rain, not good for Munro or Corbett bagging! Glen Ogle is a combination of cycle tracks and the old railway line (part of the Callander and Oban railway). This was a good walk for not such a good weather day, but the weather turned out at this level not to be too bad, with the trees sheltering us from the wind. There was still evidence of the old railway line shut by that not so great railway enthusiast Dr Beeching in the 1960s. There is still the now overgrown station platform at Killin Junction, old permanent way huts, and a signal box converted into a house on the section we walked. There were good views of the distant mountains and members of the group tried to remember which ones they had climbed. A bird of prey was spotted at one point, but not sure what it was. A very good walk - thanks Catherine for finding it!
2ND SEPTEMBER Carn a Gheoidh
Less than 24 hours after the Royal Braemar Gathering, Culter Hillwalking Club’s Sunday September walk went one stage further starting off at the Glenshee ski resort car park, 650 metres above sea-level. Though the weather had been sunny in the Dee valley, the start of the walk was immediately in cloud with drizzle and a stiff breeze. Route finding up the scarred and eroded ski resort vehicle tracks towards Cairnwell was easy, but with no-one wanting to bag that hill in the gloom, we had more trouble finding the “short cut” off to the right. Once found it afforded some shelter from the blustery wind but warmth was to be gained by keeping moving. With this in mind, our fourteen walkers split into two groups, one forging ahead at a warmth-generating pace possibly to the scheduled Loch nan Eun and back down Glen Taitnach, the other focussed on the only Munro of Carn a Gheoidh, at 975m only 100 metres above our starting point.
Both groups with able coordinators gradually separated in the cloud and drizzle, the leading group reaching the Munro in the full force of the wind, though at least the drizzle had stopped. A summit cairn afforded sufficient shelter for refreshments and a group strategy meeting, the outcome of which was to continue along the ridge and reassess at a significant bealach, whether to drop down Allt nan Elgir into Glen Taitneach and onto the destination of Dalmunzie House Hotel, or complete the planned route by extending out to the remote Loch nan Eun and following its exit burn down the full length of Taitneach. At least from Gheoidh it was generally downhill, and though visibility improved marginally from tens of metres to a hundred or so it was decided to pass by Carn Bhinnein, renowned for its fine views (no chance today). At the bealach it was a clear majority that decided on the escape route down the Allt Elrig, which proved to be a pretty, narrow glen with plenty of deer tracks to follow, keeping us away from its gorgy lower reaches and its final tumbling cataract into Glen Taitneach. At this spot, below cloud level and comfortable in lower wind speeds, a full lunch stop was taken before the easy walk on land rover tracks to the lower glen. The final bridge was still missing though with materials for a new construction at site, so a fording was necessary, not difficult with water levels still pretty low.
We arrived back the Dalmunzie car park, which was thankfully midge free, changed footwear and headed inside for refreshments with 16km and just over five hours of walking under our belt. Within 15 minutes the rest of our group arrived, (having walked back to Glenshee and taken a comfortable coffee there), and, reunited, we drained the teapots before heading back home to find Deeside was still bright, sunny and warm.
Shorter walk Carnferg
An exclusive group of members set off at 9.45 from the car park at the end of the long and wiggly Forest of Birse road, heading past Birse Castle to the Fungle Road where we turned right and gained height. Towards the top of this ascent, we stopped to admire the depth of the Gwaves on our right. The weather was variable, quite windy at the car park but with a bit of sun, sadly only a bit, coupled with quite threatening clouds lowering down on us.
By the time we reached the hut, the threat of the clouds had become more serious and we could feel a misty rain falling before we had our break on the verandah. There was quite a large party on the hill opposite us but they turned Aboyne-wards and we didn’t see them again. (I only put this in because we saw no wild life whatsoever apart from one buzzard).
So after our break, we set off again, losing height before we turned off the main track on to the braided but pleasantly gradiented track up Carnferg itself (525m).
The wind had been pushing us up, but was much more capricious on the summit although the rain had ceased, so we quickly continued on our route down the other side until we found a handy dyke on which to park ourselves for our lunch break. From here, we dropped down to Glen Cat and the farm’s ferocious-sounding dogs (rather inappropriate for a feline-named glen) before slogging up the long hill out of the glen. We then dropped down again to the Birse Valley, admiring as we went the very, very green fields below, and back to the cars. But this wasn’t quite the end of the walk because we descended further to admire the lovely little church – an enjoyable end to a very pleasant walk. Thanks to Graham for his leading us at a most acceptable pace throughout. And my apologies – I completely forgot to take any photos.
5TH AUGUST Ben Avon from Delnadamph (longer walk)
The objective of this CHC outing was to cycle to Inchrory and then walk up on to the Ben Avon Ridge and make our way to the top, Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe, at 1171m. This route was changed from the programmed Corgarff start to a Tomintoul start because the road in from Tomintoul, although longer, was mostly tarred and therefore made for a faster, smoother cycle ride. Walkers had been asked to gather at the car park just outside Tomintoul before 09.30, so that we could make an early start. They excelled themselves and thus we started cycling 09.10 in promising weather.
The road following the River Avon upstream made for pleasant cycling, allowing us to make the 12kms to Inchrory in an hour and with the added benefit of warming up leg muscles. After parking the bikes and a short break, we set off uphill from Linn of Avon.
A short vehicle track took us up to a cleared area where, we assumed, guests of the Glenavon Estate would be dropped off to walk up to the grouse shooting butts. Wee walked past these on our way up to Carn Fiaclach where we turned SSW following a confusion of multiple paths heading for the foot of the first big tors at Clach Fiaraidh, where we sheltered for a mini lunch break. Then onwards and upwards past the tor at East Meur Gorm Craig, over the aptly named Big Brae, up the rather featureless Mullach Lochan nan Gabhar to get the first sight of the very grand tor of the 1171m Munro. We continued around the ridge marked at 1136m, with impressive tors popping up all around us, to reach the top by 13.20. Despite all of us having bagged this Munro previously, most clambered to the very top, after which, lunch.
The party split here for the return journey, one couple wishing to head down quickly, another group of three wishing to drop down to Loch Builg, via Carn Drochaid and Carn Dearg. Despite different return intentions, none could resist scaling neighbouring tors and so it was some time before the three groups actually parted ways.
The main party returned by the same upwards route. The weather was warm, pleasantly breezy and clear, which should have made picking our downwards route easy. Not so. In one section we had to use the top of Ben Rinnes as a bearing. In cloud the inattentive could easily get lost.
Back at Linn of Avon, we dragged our bikes off the ground and ourselves onto them for the return cycle run to Tomintoul, which the main party reached by about 17.40.
Good weather, cooling, but not cold breeze, superb views, 24kms cycling , 17kms walking, everyone seemed to enjoy the day.
5TH AUGUST Carn an Tuirc and Cairn of Claise (shorter walk)
A select group of 6 set off from the layby at the Sean Spittal bridge on the A93 and followed the Allt a Gharbh Choire towards Carn an Tuirc. After a short stop at ruined shielings, the route headed directly up Carn an Tuirc over mixed ground and boulder fields to the summit. The circular structure at the top provided shelter from the fresh breeze for those who could fit in. Heading on towards Cairn of Claise, the first of the runners competing in the ‘Glenshee 9’ hill race were passed as they headed for their 6th munro. Pleasantly soft vegetation lead easily to Cairn of Claise, on in the direction of Glas Maol, and then along the ridge to Sron na Gaoithe. After a brief visit to the summit, the very sketchy Monega path was followed back to the Allt a Gharbh Choire. Throughout the day the weather was pleasant and the pace leisurely. It was sunny at first but more overcast later and the fresh breeze prevented it feeling too warm.
12TH-15TH JULY Altnaharra
With commendable energy, members broke the drive northwards to Altnaharra hotel and achieved a swift ascent of Ben Wyvis; rain and low cloud kept stops to a minimum, there was barely time to admire the improvement of the summit plateau with jute mats to grow moss (they should visit my lawn...) but there were flowers for James to photograph and stinging insects to annoy June and Catherine.
Friday was thankfully fine, so Munro baggers attacked Ben Hope and successfully achieved an unusual and challenging descent to the east, while others drove some distance west to climb Arkle, a beautiful Corbett next door to, and a mini version of, Foinaven. Plenty of bare rock and a brilliant summit ridge gave a walk very different from our Deeside hills. The views west to the outer Hebrides and south to Assynt were stunning, we could even forgive the large biting insects lower down...
Saturday again split the group into Munro folk and Corbetteers: Munroists tackled nearby Ben Klibreck, again with an imaginative A-B route that included a lovely offpath descent by the hidden corrie lochan to an old pre-Clearance track that rises memorably over Bealach Easach before descending, amazingly enough, to the Crask Inn - what organisation, guys! While others drove to nearby Tongue and climbed Ben Loyal, a most impressive looking hill crowned with numerous tors almost reminiscent of Ben Avon, although the summit plateau itself is, contrastingly, pleasantly grassy. The wind speed was just slightly too high for us to attempt every tor, but it was still a very good day out, and some even had the wits to manage tea and scones after. Mention should also be made of Suzanne and Alistair's numerous cycling exploits, those of us who dislike walking uphill in high humidity were duly envious!
Sunday's forecast of rain was all too accurate, so we headed back after 3 days' great walking. Thank you to everyone who came and coped with undiminished good humour the somewhat random distribution of water for showers (fair enough, there had been very little rain for months...), thanks also to all drivers who gave lifts and also coped with that undiminished good humour those tourists who didn't understand single track roads and the concept of passing places. A great weekend in a very different country.
9TH JULY Lochnagar via Sandy Loch
After weeks of good weather, it was disappointing to wake up to grey skies for the CHC Monday July 9th walk, promoted as Lochnagar via Sandy Loch, certainly a different route to the top one of our local mountains. Seven members and a guest car-shared to Keiloch car park where the walk began, immediately passing over the attractive Invercauld bridge spanning, currently, a mere trickle of the River Dee. In Ballochbuie Forest, two walkers went off to revisit the Garbh Allt bridge, catching up with the lead group well before the track left the thick forest, and subsequently the final individual majestic Scots pines. A break was taken by an unattractive but presumably functional corrugated tin shed, the “pony shed” by which time the sun was poking through, though our ultimate goal, Lochnagar was still well covered in persistent cloud.
Over lunch the cloud began to break up and the sun was shining. The intended clockwise route up the northwest ridge to the summit of Lochanagar showed itself as a rock-strewn but walkable incline. However, temptingly the sunshine highlighted the Buttress of The Stuic, steeper, rockier and a definite scramble rather than walk. Democratic choices were made and it so happened that the three ladies decided to go up the northwest ridge to Lochnagar then clockwise along the top to The Stuic, while the men chose the scramble up the Buttress, then anti-clockwise to Lochnagar.
The cloud broke further to give some good blue skies. The Buttress scramble needed nothing more than common scrambling sense (and long legs helped) and offered some fantastic views of the various lochans left below. Once onto the plateau and joining the main path east to Lochnagar, a rehydration stop was made, whilst two walkers scurried off to bag the rather uninteresting Munro Carn a Choire Bhoidheach. After that minor excursion, it was full steam ahead to Lochnagar, inevitably meeting the ladies coming the other way. They notified us of a couple on the summit drinking champagne, in celebration of their summit engagement. We met them coming off the top and offered them our congratulations before we summitted ourselves. Visibility was reasonable, Schiehallion, 35 miles away being discernible. After a quick spin around the summit we headed down the ridge the ladies had ascended, ending up at a golden beach on the shores of the lunchtime Sandy Loch. With the sun fully , a quick dip from the beach was tempting, but instead we turned to heather bash back to the track and Ballochbuie Forest. Here we took the side path to the “Honka Hut”, but the path must be little used as it was difficult to follow, and for a while we went off course. However this section of forest is a conservation area and deer are not present. The heather was tall, the blaeberry plant foliage was tall, lush and green, and in places laden with sweet berries. All this and more ground cover were free to grow, rather than being nibbled, under majestic Scots pines towering up to the blue skies.
The Honka Hut was reached and its front veranda, soaked in sunshine, was the perfect place for the last stop, a place where we could watch numerous dragon and damsel flies skitting around the waters of the artificial ponds. It was a short track back to Keiloch where the ladies had been waiting for fifteen minutes, and after comparing notes, we jumped in the cars for the return drive back down Deeside.
A great walk, around 24km, and a very interesting route to the summit of Lochnagar.
1ST JULY Loch Muick to Auchallater
The Culter Hillwalking Club Sunday walk July 1st was a coach-supported Sunday event with both a long and short walk. With good sunshine for many days (if not weeks) leading up to it, there was a total of eighteen walkers turned out. Fourteen were dropped at the Spittal of Glen Muick car park for the start of their Long walk whilst four booted up and were dropped off for a Short circular walk from Bridge of Muick up to Cairn Leuchan (700m) and Pannanich Hill (601m) returning to the coach at Ballater in plenty of time for a relaxed hour or so of refreshments.
There was no relaxing for the Long walkers heading over three Munros out to Auchallater and the coach, all being well logistically. For most it was a familiar route along the eastern flanks of Loch Muick, but unusually the skies were a pristine blue, and the trackside and ditch were a show of varied and abundant wild flowers, both common – buttercups, bell heather, to the more exotic, mountain bistort. The loch itself was blue and serenely quite with little wind, conditions a large flock of (greylag?) geese were enjoying by lazily floating in group formation. Towards the end of the loch the group split, the minority preferring to take the zig-zag landrover track up from the bridge over the Black Burn, and the majority continuing along the loch to the Streak of Lightning path with its more uniform but never-ending ascent. Both routes offered fantastic views back down the length of Loch Muick under exceptionally blue skies now carrying small, layered, lenticular clouds.
We regrouped for seconds at “Sandy’s Seat” a shed (and seat!!) on the broad bealach between Sandy Hillock and Broad Cairn before heading up a recently constructed path ascending the latter. The construction ran out at a series of boulder fields involving a little scrambling before we finally reached the summit at 998m. With blue skies and sunshine, the views were extensive but at this altitude there was a cooling breeze, welcomed during the ascent, but requiring shelter for a stationary lunch break.
With the bulk of the altitude now gained, it was a relatively easy stroll along the flat ridge to Munro number 2 for the day, the slightly higher Cairn Bannoch at 1012m. To our right the impressive climbing cliffs of Creag an Dubh Loch unfortunately remained out of sight as we subsequently dropped some altitude along the ridge prior to the final ascent up to Munro No 3, Carn an t’Sageairt Mor at a lofty 1047m, Munro 83 in the height table. Our group splintered to investigate sites of the wreckage of a crashed Canberra, for which the mountain is well known, http://www.edwardboyle.com/wreck20.html but all regrouped back at the western cairn for a snack and to admire the distant views of the southern Cairngorm summits and Lairigs to the northwest.
Turning our direction away from Deeside, we dropped off the summit into Glen Callater with immediate views of the loch and our route ahead way below us. Further along but at lower altitudes we could turn eyes left to look up the glen into the Loch Kander corrie, hiding its loch, and to the head of the glen, guarded by Tolmont. Despite the dry weather the landscape was predominantly green and indeed we entered a different zone of wild flowers on approaching the valley bottom. With literally a bus to catch at Auchallater, and time being short, only a quick, but necessary rehydration stop was possible close to Auchallater Lodge before the long 5km track down the glen. But the end was not reached as effortlessly as expected as a tinkle of mobile phones as we entered reception area resulted in us learning from the short walkers, comfortably with the coach in Breamar, that the road to Glenshee, and Auchallater was closed due to a fatal road accident. Step by step we considered our plans A,B, and C, but very fortunately when we arrived at Auchallater car park, just twelve minutes behind schedule, we learned the road was about to be opened, and so it was, putting us an acceptable and manageable 30 minutes late. No time for refreshments though, so after 28km of walking, and nearly eight hours under the sun, we jumped on the coach and headed back to Peterculter after a very rewarding day.
18TH JUNE Carn Bhac
8TH-11TH JUNE Glen Affric
With the Culter Hillwalking Club barely returned from an active weekend in Skye in June, the next weekend quickly followed at Glen Affric with a final group of eight members, staying in Cannich at the very well-appointed and highly recommendable Glen Affric Holiday Park or at Cannich Woodland Camping.
On arrival at Glen Affric one Corbett in Glen Roy had already been conquered during the Friday drive up there. On the first full activity day, Saturday, six headed off in the hired “ferry”, captained by Angus, up Loch Mullardoch in order to tackle the four Munros to the north of the Loch (22km 1850m vertical ascent) whilst of the remaining two, one tackled further corbetts in Glen Farrar and one cycled in the woodlands of Glen Affric (25miles). The weather forecast for the day had been threatening afternoon showers perhaps thundery, and this proved to be the case with active, localised thunderstorms affecting the two solos, but the main group getting away with overcast with rain on and off accompanied by distant thunder in several directions. Despite the challenges all goals were achieved. All regrouped at the local Slaters Arms in Cannich for bar dinner, a few drinks, catch up on the days activities, plans for the next day, and some rest for the legs!!
The Sunday weather forecast was better, the walkers were reduced to five, heading off with Angus on the boat again but gunning for five Munros to the south of Loch Mullardoch (23km 2100m vertical ascent), two cycled to Beauly and back (35km) and one after another couple of Corbetts. Again, it was 100% success for everyone, though a long day for the Munro baggers necessitated a direct course to the pub just in time for last dinner orders. Two cycled to Beauly, a good 36km, finding a tea-house along the way for a comfortable break, and one solo’d two more corbetts, managing to fit in a quick lunch back at the cabins between the two.
As with every Club Weekend, there’s far too much to report in detail, suffice it to list the goals achieved:
North Loch Mullardoch Munros
Carn nan Gobhar (Loch Mullardoch) 992m
Sgurr na Lapaich 1150m
An Riabhachan 1129m
An Socach 1169m
South Loch Mullardoch Munros
Beinn Fhionnlaidh (Carn Eige) 1005m
Carn Eige 1183m
Mam Sodhail 1181m
Tom a Choinich 1112m
Toll Creagach 1054m
Beinn Iaruinn 813m (Glen Roy)
Carn a'Choire Ghairbh 865m (Glen Affric)
Aonach Shasuinn 888 m (Glen Affric)
Beinn a'Bha'ach Ard 862 m (Glen Farrar)
Carn a'Choire Ghairbh 865m (Glen Affric)
A fantastic weekend with remote, unspoiled scenery, reasonable but briefly challenging weather, fantastic accommodation, and good pub food, despite a rather miserable landlord. Many thanks to especially Judith for sorting the accommodation and the ferry, and to Graham for devising the Munro routes to maximum gain.
3RD JUNE Beinn a Chaorainn
Culter Hillwalking Cub's Sunday walk events on June 3rd attracted a near record attendance. Twelve walkers to up the Long Walk/bike-in option to Geinn a Chaorainn, whilst ten took part in the shorter, pure walk (no bike) option.
The Long walkers met up at Linn of Dee Car Park expecting the usual losing battle with midges, but they were almost entirely absent despite the weather being perfect for them with thundery showers the previous day. Today's forecast was for a good start to the day, but with a chance of afternoon showers and indeed the cyclists reached Derry Lodge in good weather. Bikes were locked and chained at the Lodge and footwork took us leisurely up Glen Derry. At a strategic point marked by a small cairn, easily missed as a random pile of stones, the route veered right traversing upward across the contours through scattered "Granny" pines and then onto the open moorland to the twin summits of Beinn Bhreac (931m). After a small descent, we skirted the minor closed contour of Craig Derry 865m on to the flat, pathless Moine Bhealaidh. Spring had arrived here though with good shows of the two cotton grass species, moss campion and the early line green leaves of butterwort, whilst wildlife was limited to a number of healthy frogs.
Returning to crossing the contours head on, we soon reached the secondary peak Beinn a Chaorainn Bheag 1017m. with a stop to admire the views. This is the most northerly summit of the Cairngorm plateau, reachable on a day's walk out from Deeside. Further progress northward is hampered by the significant gouge in the plateau that runs east/east west that is Glen Avon. Any summits north of this glen are tackled from Speyside, not Deeside. So around us we could glance across the glen and admire Bynack More and to the northeast look down into the glen as it trailed away ultimately to Tomintoul, Also from our lofty position, we could see the weather deteriorating around us with blackening skies in many directions hinting at the forecasted afternoon showers, and one of these approaching us from the north east. We turned our back on this one, descending westward to the bealach and its three attractive lochans, and then upward to the target summit, Beinn a Chaorainn, 1082m, hill of the Rowan Tree, though of course none was present. Our lofty new location afforded slightly different views with the multi snow patches of Ben Macdui showing against the dark clouds and the tors of Beinn Mheadhoin catching some shafts of sunlight.
We descended down the steep side of the Lairig an Laiogh, arriving at its watershed, with waters to our right running into the Waters of Avon, and to our left into the Derry Burn. It was to southward we turned with a stationary black cloud dumping a veil of rain across the southern end of the glen. Eventually we walked through the well-defined edge of the shower, and instantly needed our waterproofs, the raindrops were large and noisy. We were now retracing our morning steps back to the bikes at Derry Lodge, but some of the burns that had been low in the morning were now in good spate having been filled by more rain than we had experienced. By Derry Lodge the rain had eased, and the midges had come out, so it was quickly back on the bikes and a pleasant whizz back to cars at Linn of Dee. It was too late for refreshments so the group all made their own ways homeward. A great walk with thanks to Graham M for planning the event and for the drivers who accommodated both passengers and bicycles. Total distance 32km (20 km walk, 12 km bike) and vertical ascent 1050m
21ST MAY Catterline to St Cyrus (Coastal)
Everywhere in the UK was treated to glowing sunshine...but not on the Aberdeenshire coast between Dunnottar and Inverbervie on 21st May. The haar swirled around the castle and the crags, birds were heard (and smelt!) but not seen, the cliffs felt much higher and the sea much further below our feet – very atmospheric, we agreed!
In fact the birds were everywhere, packed on to the impossible ledges, swooping and gliding around the cliffs, sometimes so close you could almost stretch out to stroke them. Well worth a trip to Fowlsheugh just to see them. We, however, had much more to do, continuing south, avoiding the bunny holes, to arrive at the Creel Inn in time for a welcome drink with our packed lunches. Here, Andy, on a tight timetable, had to speed off while we enjoyed at a more leisurely pace the thrills of the ladder bridge, rounding the rocky headlands and threading our way round to a hidden cove with an old set of steps leading up to Todhead lighthouse. Here James, a man with friends in high places, introduced us to its owner who very kindly toured us round the lighthouse – very thrilling to stand on the glass floor and look all the way down the spiralling stairs below!
Still accompanied by seabirds and yet more sea arches and towers, we continued on past fields and pasture, rising up and down with the cliffs until finally the land sloped down gently to meet the fishermen on the shore and we followed the grassy path around the point into Inverbervie. A great day out; a shame there is no proper route along this stretch of coast, but it did mean we had it to ourselves. And, as always, many thanks to the volunteer drivers.
11TH-14TH MAY Skye
The Culter Hillwalking Club first long weekend was at Skye at the beginning of May, pre midge season.. As popular as ever 15 members set off by various routes to rendezvous at the Sligachan Hotel/campground Friday evening. Plans for the first walking day were established over dinner at the hotel with three professional guides booked for both the Saturday and Sunday. The weather forecast was good, so some excellent walking was anticipated over the weekend and this proved to be the case with different parties heading in different directions on both days - far too much activity to fully report but below is a list of summits gained.
Sgurr Alasdair 992m John A, Rob, Geoff, John W
In Pinn 986m James, Graham M, John A (support)
Sgurr a Ghreadaich 973m Jackie, Andy M and John F
Sgurr na Banachdaich 965m Chris, Anne, Catherine
Sgurr nan Gillean 964m Rob, John W, James, Graham M, Andy R
Sgurr Mhic Choinich 948m Rob, Geoff and John W
Am Basteir 934m Rob, John W, James, Graham M, and Andy R
Sgurr a Mhadaich 918m Jackie, Andy M and John F
Garb Bheinn 808m Graham N
Glamaig 775m Graham N
Beinn Dearg Mor 731m Graham N
Belig 712m Graham N
Beinn Dearg 651m Graham N
Dun Caan (Raasay) 441m Chris and Anne
Thanks to Graham N for arranging everything and for Skye Guides for providing us yet again with some excellent guides catering for our diverse needs, and pushing many of us gently beyond our comfort zones!!! For some it was the first Skye Munro, for others the first "roped up" ascent, some the first abseiling but for all a most enjoyable weekend made perfect with the forecast of good weather being correct.
6TH MAY Buckie to Portsoy (6 Harbours Walk)
A small band of club members enjoyed a very pleasant day along the Moray coast walking from the Portessie to Portsoy. We met at Portsoy and took the Stagecoach bus to the caravan park at Portessie, where we started the walk heading east. A straightforward walk as they go (13 miles), keeping the sea on our left, no problem.
The route took in the harbours of Findochty, Portknockie, Cullen, Sandend and Portsoy. The sixth harbour in the walk's name is Buckie, just west of our starting point. We saw fishing boats and some small yachts in the harbours and walked along the golden sands into Cullen and after Sandend. Some people were paddling in the sea, and there were some rock climbers just after Cullen. The coastal cliffs were populated with nesting colonies of seabirds such as cormorants and groups of eider ducks were seen at sea. A number of plants and flowers provided plenty of colour along the way in the spring sunshine including the bright yellow gorse bushes (mind the legs when walking through a certain section to avoid the golfer's fairway), primroses, and violets.
Overlooking Findochty harbour is a statue of a fisherman, known as the "white mannie". We had lunch at the Bow Fiddle Rock near Portknockie. You have to use your imagination to visualise a fiddle bow; some did and some could not, but who cares, it was a great place to relax and have lunch as the temperature increased and the sun was shining. We saw the climbers after descending from Logie Head (58m above sea level) down the Giant's Steps, which the plaque stated a local man built - without the aid of lifting gear or mechanical aids - in 1989. After this we passed Charlie's Cave, where a Frenchman called Charlie lived in a shack between 1920 and 1933. We had an afternoon break at Findlater Castle ruins, but there is not much left of these.
This was a really good enjoyable walk with fine weather conditions, great views, interesting places, beaches looking magnificent and of course good company - roll on Skye!
23RD APRIL Carn Mor (Ladder Hills)
Unforeseen squally rain meant an instant minor change of plan, when passengers were abandoned outside the locked Lecht Ski Centre while drivers took cars to the Well of Lecht. Then straight up the piste opposite, in a brutal but short climb to Meikle Corr Riabhach. Now walking the watershed between Glen Livet and Strathdon, we thought our troubles were over and we were lucky, I guess, the peat groughs could have been in worse condition, but for a while, it was up and down, up and down, up and down, the only consolation being a considerable number of mountain hares, just beginning their change to summer coat. Still, a relief to reach Carn Liath, say farewell to the fence and move easily over the short turf to Carn Mor, only briefly getting blown around.
The magnificent views of hundreds of familiar hills and mountains made it all worthwhile, a few discussions over which Cairngorm was which, of course, and then down through the heather to visit Scalan, the 18th century Catholic seminary, now open all year as a museum.
Another haul straight uphill following the grouse butts and then surely the final snow of winter, a fun ascent up a snow-filled gully before the beautiful ancient right of way arrowed its way down to the Well of Lecht and the cars.
1ST APRIL Sgor Mhor and Sgor Dhu
The 1st of April, Easter Sunday, a week after the solstice, surely a scent of spring in the air? But during the drive up Deeside to Linn of Dee the mountains were plastered in snow, and Lochnagar's norther crags were fully whitened with fresh overnight snow. Only the warmth of the sun through the glass of the car gave a hint of anything other than winter. The car park at Linn of Dee felt unusual, different, there was not a single annoying midge as the temperature hovered around freezing.
Thus, a group of eleven club members and one guest set off up the familiar track to white bridge, with just a sprinkle of fresh snow on the ground, quickly being burned off with the sun, well risen into blue skies. Turning off the track and up the path, Chest of Dee was quickly reached and the flat rock made a perfect refreshment spot, with the water falling over the rocky ledges of the river bed, and the still pools between at least partially iced over. Inspired by the scenery and fully nourished it was easy to follow the path alongside the Dee to the first incoming tributary which marked the point where our route took us more steeply uphill through open moorland. With increasing altitude and sub-zero temperatures, the patches of snow became larger, but with a firm, grippy and supporting crust, the snow offered easy walking. Threading our way between snow, beautifully dry granite outcrops and stretches of low heath we reached Sgor Mor (813m). Here we were able to soak up the views of the snow-clad Devils Point, through the Lairig Ghru, and along the ridge cornices of Cairn Toul to the distant corries of Braeriach. Beinn a Ghlo was easily identified to the southwest, and Morrone to the south east, but the hills in between, all well laden with snow, caused much debate, Beinn Iutharn More perhaps, An Socach?, Glas Maol behind?
It was time to move on a short distance to find a comfortable spot for a good lunch break, not a difficult task in such benign conditions. Onward progress eastward to Sgor Dubh (741m) was easy walking with some good snow patches and a couple of opportunities to "glissade" down the steeper inclines. But the main attraction was the views evolving to the north as we traversed the ridge - a clear view up Glen Luibeg into the eastern corries of Ben MacDui and subsequently up Glen Derry to the tors of Beinn Mheadhoin. Eastward the western slopes of Beinn a Bhuird were an unbroken white sheet.
From this last summit it was a heather bashing descent downhill taking in the minor summit of Carn an lc Duibhe to a small stand of elderly scots pine and the well reconnaissanced pedestrian gate through the Mar Lodge Estate deer fence. Back on the main track it was a short jaunt back to the Linn of Dee car park (still free of midges). 17km walked was followed by refreshments in Braemar to wind up a perfect day.
Thanks to the weather for being so kind, but many thanks to the volunteer drivers who made this experience possible.
1ST APRIL Aboyne to Kincardine o'Neil (shorter walk)
After what seemed like endless days of grey skies and rain, Sunday 1st April dawned bright and sunny, giving a spring in their stride to the 6 club members who left Aboyne this morning. The first part of our walk was along the railway line comprising the Deeside Way, rather muddy but with tantalising views of relatively lowly snow-covered hills on the way. After about an hour, we reached the magnificent bridge which spans the Dess burn and chose to have our first stop in the sunshine on the eastern side of the burn.
We then abandoned the Deeside Way, making instead for the sparkling waters of the burn as they cascade down the very attractive waterfall. Having taken the obligatory pictures, we continued towards the Activity Centre, but since they were fully booked for lunch, we turned up a barely identifiable path which rises steeply on a firebreak through the woods. When we reached the highest point of this path, we turned off to the south east and headed off track for spot height 215 on the map but rechristened by the assembled company Della's Dess Hill. This was our Hill of the Day, the highest point along the Dess Woods Ridge.
We turned back from here and returned through the woods to the ABoyne/Kincardine o' Neil path, stopping eventually just off our chosen route to enjoy another sunny break at Townhead. And then we lost the route in a little group of houses. This didn't matter, as there was a road out, which we identified on the map and which took us back to the Deeside Way which we followed down to the waiting car at Kincardine o'Neil.
12TH MARCH East Wirren
Due to poor conditions (the Retreat cafe was still closed for winter - things must be tough up Glen Esk...) we changed the walk for an easy start from the snow-clear Edzell and went for a wander up on to Wirren. After a pleasant stroll through farmland, collecting trig no.1 at the Crannel was a doddle, hardly any offpath really, and still just below the snowline at 291m. Then on to one of the (in)famous Angus Glen motorway tracks, handily built higher than its surroundings which gave us an easy walk up Hill of Corathro, where we celebrated Anne's completion of her 6th virtual Seven Summits - now only Puncak Jaya to go.
Our final highpoint was East Wirren (639m), where we did indeed have to plough through a reasonable depth of snow, and the GPS artists had fun trying to identify the genuine summit. Trig no. 2 was here, slightly below the summit, and we were startled to find a human head looking at us from the base of the pillar. Closer inspection revealed a waxwork head left behind when these bizarre mannikins littered Wirren last year in an attempt to scare away raptors. Some people have a strange sense of humour...
The views were limited by threatening clouds and we descended to marginally warmer levels to find a lunch stop. Then a different route down, still in that heavy wet snow on an invisible track before the heather reappeared on Black Hill and we were finally on tarmac for a brisk return to Edzell and a new cafe, Sinclair's Larder, a wonderful place that stays open til 5pm - brilliant!
Many thanks to the drivers and to all the walkers who didn't complain about the length of road we had to walk at the end!
4TH MARCH Mortlich
The advertised plan for this Sunday walk was to travel over 60 miles south-west to the Angus Glens, to walk up Catlaw (671m). However the snowy weather, which began on Tuesday and continued all week, inevitably forced a change. A last-minute replacement over Mortlich (381m) was chosen because driving would be entirely on the main A93 (which was clear of snow) and the walk itself was much lower and more sheltered, with woodland right up to the summit level. (And I hadn't walked it before!)
The temperature was about minus one degree C, as the group of eight of us set off from the shops at Aboyne, and followed the path north into the estate of Aboyne Castle, to the Coo Cathedral. The snow was about 6 inches deep in the valley and was quite dry and pleasant to walk through; it was "squeaky snow", it made a creaking sound when trodden on, and gave good grip. (By the way, that's very good snow for making snowballs, but everyone was most restrained and not a single snowball was thrown all day.)
Crossing Tarland Burn into the pine forest, it was tricky to find the right woodland ride and in a couple of places we just forced a route through the snow. But, as planned, we rejoined the Tarland Burn at the new wooden footbridge for the Tarland Way (grid ref NJ 521001) and stopped for coffee. With snow falling gently, we then followed the Tarland Way north for a kilometre, then good track for a further 3km, passing a large fishing pond (frozen hard - no fishing that day!).
A large forestry vehicle with wide tyres had driven up the track the day before, and so we formed into two columns to walk up the tyre tracks, making the walking very pleasant and easy. But soon after midday we reached the northerly point of the walk (NJ 527030) and turned into the woods to start the off-path section towards Mortlich summit. This felt quite adventurous and was distinctly harder going, as a path had to be made through snow 6-10 inches deep. But the fence line was very clear and kept us from drifting off course.
It was still snowing lightly when the group stopped for lunch, sheltering under the branches of an old Scots Pine. After a bit more woodland walking in the snow, we discovered a new (unmapped) vehicle track which helped make the final pull up to Mortlich summit much easier. The track is probably a rather ugly scar through the woods most of the time, but the snow covered it up nicely.
We climbed the summit rock-pile (the remains of an ancient fort) and found the commemorative stone slab which was lying just to the south side. After clearing the snow, the inscription read: "Charles, 10th Marquis of Huntly (died 18th Sept 1863). Erected by Mary Antoinetta his widow and the tenantry of Aboyne."
Descending to the south-west in deepish snow, on a nearly-invisible path, John managed to find a good-sized snow-filled hole to fall into! After a couple of kms of trail-blazing, we emerged at the northern edge of the Lodge on the Loch golf course and had a final coffee and snack stop. The main point of discussion was which tea-room to visit when we finished! We descended through more snow to Loch of Aboyne and finished the walk across Aboyne golf course, but with no need to worry about dodging any golf balls.
The walk had a different feel to it from many CHC walks - no high moorland trek or steep rocky scramble, rather an expedition in the arctic coniferous forests. We half expected to see a wolf or a lynx around each bend! Leader Rob would very much like to thank John and Geoff for driving, and Catherine for very helpful route-finding advice, as there had been no chance to recce the walk in advance.
12TH FEBRUARY Water of Aven & Airy Muir
16 walkers met near the AA box on the Cairn o' Mount road on a fine sunny morning. We followed the road that runs above the north side of the Burn of Greendams. This was through pleasant woodland and then over the open moor towards Airy Muir. The weather remained fine and there was little snow lying although the ground was frozen. Because of the good conditions it was decided to include Clachnaben in the circuit in addition to Airy Muir. Before long we branched off on a path heading towards Burn of Greendams and stopped for our first break. We then headed across the burn and up the path marked on the 1:50000 map to the top of Clachnaben where a light covering of snow and very good visibility gave excellent views. After scrambling to the top we set off over peaty ground above the head of the Burn of Greendams to the end of the road on Airy Muir and then west, eventually descending steeply to the Corlach Burn for a second stop. From here the road down the steep-sided valley of Water of Aven was followed. The glen was sheltered from the cool wind blowing across the tops and it became quite warm. Beyond the confines of the glen the road turned east and south past an area of heather burning to join the outward route back through the woods to complete a very enjoyable day. Most of the group had tea at the Finzean Farm Shop. Distance 12.2 miles.
4TH FEBRUARY Mudlee Bracks
Attendance of the Culter Hillwalking Club Sunday walk for February was affected by absentees due to ski holidays and sickness but still a lively group of thirteen members and one guest assembled a at the car park at the end of the Finzean road by Birse Chapel. A little snow had fallen on the past couple of days and temperatures were close to freezing so all the landscape had a white dusting, and our target hill Mudlee Bracks looked like it had good snow cover with, from a distance, an "ice cap" summit. But our low-level start of route took us past the farmstead of Ballochan whilst Birse Castle stood impressively to our right, the original building being a Gordon clan structure from 1600, but after more than 200 years in ruins, it was rebuilt in the early 20th century and is now owned by Viscount Cowdray of Dunecht. It was to our left, southward we turned on a long but gradual ascent of the Fungle. Across the glen on the flanks of Mudlee, a very visual black trail line through the white snow dusting lead our eyes to a heard of deer, heading in single file steadily uphill away from us whilst a couple of buzzards circled overhead. The weather was good, some sunshine and no wind allowing a comfortable refreshment break after the traditional one hour of walking.
Back on our feet and refortified, the ascent to the bealach on the Fungle at 600m seemed relatively easy and at a deer fence and tall gate we reassembled before veering sharp left along the double electric fence marking the boundary of the two estates, south being Glen Esk, and north Feughside. Th faint path along the fence was not discernible with the snow cover, but the frozen peat hags helped to make the ascent fairly painless, and emerging on the top of Mudlee Bracks, a flat heather (and snow) clad summit at 688m, was quickly achieved, just as the weather gave us maximun blue skies. With still air and sunshine, another break and a chance to absorb the stunning wintry views was imperative. Lochnagar's snow covered crags were clear in the distance, with the smaller groove of Glas Allt on its southern shoulder, then south of that the larger gouge of Allt an Dubh Loch and the similarly named crags. South of those were Broad Cairn and Cairn Bannock. So many white topped hills to be named in many directions whilst the lower elevations of the glens towards the east remained snowless and dark.
Time ticked by and it was necessary to leave, a solid but snowy stile taking us over the electric fences onto the Glen Esk grouse beating landrover "motorway". This nasty scar on the hillside was ameliorated somewhat by its covering of powdery snow, and offered easy walking, following roughly the watershed and taking us in a leisurely manner over the Hill of Cammie at 618m. Here we faced full on the western side of Mount Battock at 778m and its associated ridgeline lesser top of Wester Cairn, an impressive sight with our "motorway" continuing ahead as a white ribbon of snow up the hill. Invisible in the bealach below was Loch Tennet, the smallest named lochan in Scotland, and although not photographed on this day, pictures were taken during the reconnaissance trip in less snowy weather and are included in the album for the walk.
We needed to head off the watershed down towards Feughside, and with no track we had just over 1km of heather bashing, but the dusting of snow helped to identify convenient deer tracks and before long we picked up some faint grouse beating landrover tyre grooves in the heather which lead us to the foot of Cock Hill. Here a fully constructed track was to lead us back home, stopping yet again for a break and to admire the views, and for a couple of members to boost their vertical-height-gained by detouring and bagging the fourth named summit of the day, White Hill, 598m.
Continuing descent brought us back on to the Feughside tarmac at Burntfoot, from where it was a 15 minute stroll back to the parked cars where some walkers briefly visited the small but open Birse Chapel. The 18km was over but there was still plenty of time to visit the Finzean Farm Shop for a warming tea/coffee and some home bakes.
15TH JANUARY 2018 Hill of Foudland
Only a week after the Club's Sunday the first 2018 Monday walk to the slate quarries of Hill of Foudland saw only a hardy core of eight walkers turn out and park at Morgan McVeighs on the A96 south of Huntly. After a wet and windy night, the sun was now shining and with reasonably light winds it was perfect walking weather. A long gradual tarmac stretch from the main road past Colpy Farm and Jericho (no! the walls didn't fall down), over a bealach and onto the northern flanks of our target hill. To our right was the Glens of Foudland with the A96 and its Monday traffic and the minor burn known as the Glen Water, an upper tributary of the Urie. Behind that were the whirling blades of an extensive wind farm, and on our left the steepish slopes of the Hill of Foudland casting a permanent and chilling shadow over us, and topped by the silhouette of the spoil heaps of the former quarry.
At Clinkstone Farm a sharp turn to the south started our real ascent, a steady walk up a farm track and with increasing elevation came a cool breeze. An opportunity amongst some sheltering broom and former forestry was taken for refreshment before we headed out onto open heath. On a short stretch of uphill heather bashing we found an extensive badger set, eight large entrances (or exits) and signs of very recent activity, with fresh earth and moss at one entrance, a "spring clean" perhaps? The spoils of earth from their burrowing were large and well vegetated, indicating many years of past activity and habitation. Further uphill we entered the spoils of man's quarrying activity and picked up an old track across the hillside and then upward to the summit of Hill of Foudland 467m and its more modern trig point. Diggings and spoil heaps were abundant, the quarrying apparently being active from 1745 for over one hundred years and supplying up to 900,000 slates each year including those on the existing Balmoral Castle.
The views were extensive, to the north Knock Hill stood out strongly by its pyramidical shape, to the south the long east-west ridge of Bennachie and all tis summits, and to the west the Buck, dressed in many significant snow patches. Indeed, the weather had turned a little cloudy overhead, and westward skies were grey with precipitation, probably snow, falling. We kept our fingers crossed.
At summit altitude it was cool, and some of the former diggings were still harbouring snow and frozen ponds from the recent cold spell, so a brisk walk took us from the trig point to an even more modern twin telecoms mast, with its associated security fencing surrounding the usual random buildings, huts and clutter. From this modern facility it was a good trail down off the eastern end of the hill skirting a forest where we took shelter for another break. By now one or two showers of soft hail occurred briefly so we descended through the fields to the tarmac farm road we had walked in the morning approach.
But the day was yet young, and although a return to the cars was a simple option we all decided to take on the nearby Hill of Scares, partly to see if it lived up to its name, but partly to satisfy one walker's goal of ascending sufficient named hilltops to accumulate the equivalent altitude of the seven summits of the seven continents. Hill of Scares's 329m for her was effectively adding altitude to her virtual Mount Vinson, 4477m the highest summit of the Antarctic continent. The comparison was entertaining, if not scary. One commonality of the two was the difficulty of reaching the summit, those difficulties obvious for Vinson but Hill of Scares is covered in regimental commercial forest plantation of trees over 30 years growth, and such plantations take no account of spot heights on an OS map, Hill of Scares or not. We found one of the plantation furrows that was slightly wider than the rest and almost on hands and knees followed that to the summit of our Mount Vinson arriving with dead twigs and foliage either stuck in our hair or, for those follically challenged, down their backs to become very irritating under the pressure of the day packs.
It was not the easiest hill to get down off either, and after leaving a forest track we had to resort to gorse bashing, dead bracken bashing, and numerous barbed wire fence/dodgy farm gate manoeuvres. Some of the gorse was flowering and with the new year it was decided to rise to the challenge of photographing gorse in flower on club walks during every month of this year 2018, and thus we have bagged our January shot.
After 17km we reached the parked cars in reasonable daylight, it being agreed that the nights really are drawing out!! With no hesitation we dived into Morgan McVeighs and enjoyed their choice of coffee, tea and cakes. An interesting walk which evolved as the day progressed and offered much to keep the mind, soul and body fully active.
7TH JANUARY 2018 Benaquhallie
If you look on Landranger Map 37, you will find a large wood, Bell Wood, east of Aboyne and it was to there that the short walkers (sounds a bit like Snow White and the 7 short walkers) made their way on Sunday 7th January 2018. This wasn't the original plan, which was to do the 2 walks in the woods at Craigievar Castle prior to meeting the longer walkers at the Muggarthaugh Hotel at 3pm, but the road up to the castle looked uninviting on my recce on Saturday and all paths at present seem to be dangerously iced so we opted for the shelter of Bell Wood.
We chose the longest waymarked walk available at 2.7 miles but diverted from the waymarked path on 2 occasions for an explore. This is a strange area; it is obviously much loved by parents with small children, dogwalkers, bikers and joggers, and there are a number of entries to it with a number of maps, but nothing on any map to say "You are here" and, as so often in woods, extra paths popping up to fool the unwary.
However, we found our way without any difficulty even to the extent of moving away from the waymarked path on two occasions. The wood is in the rough form of a rectangle and we had our lunch sitting on a very comfortable bench under a shelter looking across the valley at the snow-covered fields at a point approximately half way round and just after the steep little hill one is warned about on the map boards.
After lunch, we made the first of our diversions which took us to the edge of the wood, where we had the pleasure of seeing a flock of fieldfare, after which we returned to the waymarked path. We then reached the most difficult part of the walk, where there is an open space, giving rise to a very icy path which we navigated with care. When we returned to the woods, we took our next diversion which led us to an orienteering course from where we were treated to a view of a shining show-white Morven in the distance, while closer by was Mortlich.
We then began the gentle descent to the valley, initially on a wide track, which took us back to our original entry to the woods and eventually the Black Faced Sheep. Yes, I know it was a very short walk, but we enjoyed our chilly day out in the sunshine and returned home safely, unscathed by icy falls.