9TH DECEMBER 2019 Clashmach Hill
Well, there’s nothing like some old fashioned weather to transform a hill into a mountain.... A walk up Clashmach Hill, at 375m, was never going to make headline news, but black lowering cloud, hail and snow and a bitter north wind certainly made us feel we’d arrived somewhere as we reached the trig. Thankfully things improved as we left its long NW shoulder and began the extremely boggy descent down the new deer and rabbit proof fencing. But imagine not putting in gates where we needed them! One crossing of a BW fence and John F bravely led the way by the deep ditch, nearly getting flattened by two terrified roe deer in the process. Some amazing acrobatics got us over the next barrier of slippery wooden planks, and we retreated thankfully into peaceful sheep pasture before dropping to the river Deveron for the final stage of the walk. Castle Hotel Huntly did us proud with a lovely meal, Sandra won the quiz on where we had been this year, and I kept my speech short – what more could you ask for?
I must repeat my thanks to all who volunteer to drive, without whom we could not run this programme, and also, of course, huge thanks to everyone who takes the time and effort to get out of bed on a Monday morning to join us, it’s been a great year, best wishes for happy walking in 2020.
1ST DECEMBER 2019 Goyle Hill
Unusually, all 18 members walked together and Graham’s wish for a “slow, steady pace” was realized. It was very cold and frosty when we left home, and still the same in the car park, but in the trees and with the addition of the heat generated as we climbed out of Drumtochty Glen, the temperature was actually very pleasant. Quite a bit of height was gained as the road wound through pleasant woodland until the trees thinned out and we took a left turn along a path, icy in places, which brought us to the summit plateau (sounds a bit grandiose put like that). We soon reached the trig point at 464m and admired the panorama, a snow-covered Morven being much in evidence.
We noticed a bit of a chilly breeze so sought shelter behind some bushes not far from the trig point for our coffee stop. When we started our descent, the wind seemed somewhat colder and stronger so a fairly brisk pace was adopted to get us back to the shelter of the trees. We followed our upward route back to the car park, where it felt warmer than when we left it at 9.30, and all ready for an excellent meal at the Clatterin’ Brig.
This is popular walking country and we saw a number of people, families with children, couples with dogs and cyclists hurtling down the hill behind us but I’m not sure that any wildlife was spotted.
Thanks, as ever, to Graham N, our co-ordinator and lunch organiser for the day, and to the drivers.
18TH NOVEMBER 2019 Creag nan Gabhar
This walk went thru many versions before the Met Office convinced me Creag nan Gabhar would be the best choice - some snow followed by a period of settled low temperatures - should be good! After I repeated warnings of ice, we arrived in minus temperatures to a perfectly dry clear carpark at Auchallater, brilliantly blue sky and a snowline of about 750-800m. An easy track ascent was followed an easy walk south along Creag nan Gabhar's north shoulder, with easy crunchy snow underfoot as we climbed. Andy pointed out hare tracks, and we did see the animals themselves later, haring across the rough ground, clearly not used to many people around this time of year. The summit views were panoramic, lost count of the Munros shining with their covering of glossy snow.
Thanks to Andy again, for some tutoring in how to descend snow safely, the steeper slopes were fun, then across what would turn back to bog in the spring, and down to Loch Callater Lodge for our final break. The loch was ice-coated and sprinkled with snow, backed by white mountains, a very satisfying and beautiful sight.
As ever, many thanks to our brave drivers Geoff, John, Andy, Bill and Graham; it was a lovely winter's hillwalk in ideal conditions. Long may this last!
3RD NOVEMBER 2019 Mormond Hill
November Sunday walk to Mormond Hill
A white horse, a giant stag and the most gorgeous 360 views of Moray and up to the Grampians and beyond - well, on a dreich autumn day we walked over the white quartz rock animals, which we could just about make out from the road when driving into Strichen, but completely missed the views! 25 hardy souls set off from West Street in Strichen and headed up to the White Horse on Waughton Hill where we also found the ruined Hunter's Lodge. Both were constructed by Captain Fraser, Lord Lovat of Strichen, around the turn of the 19th century. The white horse, built in 1820/21, is a war memorial and tribute to Sergeant James Hutcheon of New Pitsligo who in 1794 saved Lovat's life in a battle in Holland by letting Lovat take his horse after Lovat's had fallen - sadly the brave Sergeant did not survive the battle. We then forged on through the mist past the Early Warning System on Mormond Hill to see the giant White Stag above New Leeds. This was constructed some 50 years later than the white horse by one W F Cordiner as a wedding present - bet that was just what the bride asked for… We had an adventurous day for wildlife, along with the more static animals we spotted deer running through the Mormond Hill forest and then came across a buzzard trapped by some netting further into the forest. We thought the netting was probably there to protect game birds feeding, and as we speculated we noticed the buzzard flapping wildly as it tried to extricate itself from inside the net. By frightening it along the net it was able to find a section of netting that was a lot lower and the buzzard was able to escape above this point and sail gracefully (and I am sure gratefully) away into the forest. We then walked back past the white horse returning to Strichen and the truly outstanding Café 1909, another highlight of a very enjoyable day where we made the best of pretty poor weather.
Sunday Saunter Report November 2019 - Waughton Hill
Oh no, not another wet Sunday! After the rain and mist of the October Sunday walk, surely the forecast of almost 100% rain for the November walk couldn't be correct. Well, no, strictly speaking it wasn't and we didn't get as wet as we might have anticipated, but it was still very, very grey, and very misty but wetter in the morning than later in the day.
Thanks to David Gair, the main walk leader, the Saunterers started the day with a nice large map and the intention of scaling the 234m Waughton Hill while the main walkers tackled Mormond Hill. We followed the main group up to the Hunter's Lodge where we stopped (as had the others) for a short break in the shelter or the ruin, as it was quite windy then.
Up till now we had followed a path, and signs to show the way to the White Horse, with warnings about bull(s) but the small apology of a path down from the Lodge eventually petered out and it was still misty. This did not deter the intrepid foursome. After checking the compass and the trusty Viewranger to determine that we were in the right place, which we were, we made our way with the help of the compass to the unprepossessing summit of Waughton Hill. Still following the compass, we then descended until the Lodge came into view again and confirmed that we were still on track.
As we had done last month in the Maspie Den walk, we decided we'd extend the route down, so we followed a track north down the hill turning back on another track which took us to the large quarry. We then walked along a pleasant grassy track which the signpost assured us would take us to Strichen and were happy to join our route of ascent to finish the walk in the village. We saw little wild life on our way, but we did make the acquaintance of a very low-baaed Texel ram and a magnificent Aberdeenshire black bull, thankfully on the other side of the hedge.
14TH OCTOBER 2019 The Convals
The October Monday walk was interesting before it even started with the drive to Dufftown passing through bands of fog pooling in the Glens under slight temperature inversions created by clear night skies. By Dufftown the sun was well up and the clock tower looked good against blue skies.
Eleven walkers, including a guest, set off northward out of town, past the local football pitch into open agricultural land before turning uphill towards planted forestry. A well -trodden firebreak allowed access to more open moorland with ascent leading us to the summit of Little Conval at 552m with a trig point set 100 metres off-summit at a slightly lower elevation. The sun shone warmly through well broken cloud and jackets had long been stuffed into our packs allowing us to descend 150m elevation quite steeply southward to a crossroads of tracks turning off on one labelled (on OS 50,000) as Glach-en-ronack.
This took us through an area of forestry felled several years back, but the drone of distant heavy mechanical plant indicating current operations of preparing the ground for fresh plantings. The stumps of the felled trees offered ample seating, so we stopped for lunch with views across to Ben Rinnes. Well nourished we left the ease of the hill-contouring track and, at a tangent, ascended off path through heather up the southwest ridge to finally reach Meikle Conval at 571m. The air was crystal clear, the sun was shining through still well broken cloud, temperatures mild and the wind light, a hill and conditions that allowed us to absorb distant views, to the northwest across Cromarty to Ben Wyvis, and at the foot of our hill to the south Glen Rinnes, home to the B9009 and rather strangely the burn Dullan Water (different from the name of the Glen) through which it flowed, one of the two rivers converging at Dufftown, the other being the Fiddich, of whiskey fame.
Our descent off the summit was northward, passing one of several boundary stones along the way, to agricultural land where the local farmer asked us to pass quietly through an area of breeding pheasants, and indeed there was a good population of the squawking birds. A minor metalled road with no traffic took us to Kirkton of Mortlach and its kirk, parts of the building date back to the 13th Century but on a site with a religious history dating back to the pilgrim Saint Molvag and the year 556. From there a short walk through the peaceful Dufftown suburbs took us back to the centre clock tower and the end of a great walk. Needless to say, a coffee shop that was still open was quickly found for refreshments before returning homeward. Distance travelled 18.4km in just over 6 hours.
6TH OCTOBER 2019 Lomond Hills, Fife
The October Sunday walk was a coach supported trip to the Lomond Hills in Fife, almost thwarted by forecasts of a very wet day and even "Yellow" weather warnings of heavy rain and potentially flooded roads. But after prolonged email discussion the day went ahead and the coach splashed its way down the A90 with fourteen walkers onboard to the pretty village of Falkland, nestling on the slopes of the Lomond Hills and home to the very royal Falkland Palace. The locals, from their cosy cottages, must have thought it madness to see a coachload of walker arrive at 10.00am, don their packs and set off walking in continuous rain with low cloud shrouding the Lomond Hills, but if so they miscalculated the hardiness and determination of their northern cousins who, according to weather forecasts, were expecting a significant improvement in conditions around midday. Thus, three walk parties departed, a full complement of Long & Short walks and a Sunday Saunter.
The long walkers initially snaked their way comfortably through the lanes of Falkland passing tempting places of refreshment, that would have been temptingly comfortable and dry inside if they'd been open. From the village a path of wooden steps took a direct and steep ascent upward through woodland, nicely sheltered from the rain sodden breeze, but underfoot was slippery and wet. We regrouped at the upper limit of the forest with the view to the open hillside ahead being wet and windy, but eventually launched ourselves into those conditions still going uphill till we reached the summit of East Lomond at 434m. The top was marked by a nicely dressed, columnular plinth, topped with an inscribed copper plate depicting the directions and distances of far flung peaks, none of which could be seen. The plinth however afforded shelter to one crouching walker. Fortunately, a steep descent off the summit was in the direct lee of the hill and a sheltered spot was easily found for a warming drink and refreshments. As we sat, clasping our warm mugs, the first breaks appeared in the surrounding cloud allowing is briefly to look down on lower levels and our route ahead and indeed as we set off that way, the rain eased and the forecasted improvement at midday was amazingly accurate. We followed a very old but well-defined roadway that ended at some disused quarries, then we descended to an oasis of civilisation, Craigmead car park and toilets.
A short ascent out of the car park put us back on a similar quarry track and exposed again to the wind and still occasional light rain. Ahead we could see the round hump of West Lomond at 522m as the cloud around it came and went, and off to our right glimpses of a steep descent to verdant fields of green. Before our final ascent we stopped for a refreshment break, a wise move as the additional altitude of the summit seemed to expose us to an unproportionally blustery, and wet, wind so shelter was sought behind any trig point or mound of slippery boulders that could be found. The cloud blocked our views and once our descent route had been identified there was no hesitation in leaving the summit behind. Although we dropped out of the cloud the contours of the hill funnelled the wind just as some heavier rain came on and we were descending a particularly steep and slippery section, - The Perfect Storm. But we all regrouped safe and sound in the shelter of a knoll at the bottom.
We were now walking across sheep pastureland with views across two reservoirs and forward to our morning summit. The sheep cropped grass was often flowing with rivulets of water and minor burns were at their brink. Eventually we re-arrived at Craignead car park where we made use of one of the picnic tables, not to sit at, but to deposit our packs, open them up, and have a last standing bite. Heading off in a different direction from the morning, this must be the first CHC walk where the route was a figure of eight, we entered Mapsie Den, a small gorge around the same-named burn, and planted around with a maturing planted community woodland and good paths both of which were clearly well maintained. A sidetrack, partially barricaded off, lead to a waterfall that was impressive because of the amount of water dropping over it from the morning rain, but impressive too for the rock structure that easily allowed passage behind the falling water.
Continued descent down the Den lead into a forest of planted firs and exotics, tall and at an age probably pushing 150 years. We soon re-entered Falkland and quickly located our colleagues warmly tucked away in a teashop which the eleven of us filled up with time for a leisurely tea and cakes. They tasted good. At 5pm, as we boarded the coach home, we could look up from Falkland and though the skies were damp and grey the lump of East Lomond stood proudly as the backdrop to the village. The same dampness must have followed us as the coach's engine faltered as we headed back north and the thought of being stuck in an un-heated broken-down coach had to be cast aside. Thankfully we did make it back to Peterculter bang on the scheduled time of 7.00pm.
Through good decision making and determination the most was made of the days outing and thanks go to the co-ordinators of the three walks. The Lomond Hills are different, and offer a lot more on a good weather day. We must return.
23RD SEPTEMBER 2019 Badandun Hill
Badandun Hill is a rounded heathery bump overlooking Glen Isla, a mere Graham at 740m, and the great Walk Highlands can't be bothered publishing a route for it. However, Monday walks often enjoy seeking out quiet rounded bumps - you usually have them all to yourselves if nothing else! For this one, we parked at the strangely named Ski Trails carpark near Kirkton of Glenisla and set off northwards, climbing another quiet hill, this one called Crock, with a heathery summit surrounded by conifer plantation. It is transformed by the unusually dark broad silent tracks strewn with needles that add mystery to the walk; not a place I'd like to be alone on.
From there, rough track led to the upper reaches of Glen Finlet, one deer gate to climb and then up through a lovely little meltwater channel to swing round on to Badandun, watched but not interfered with by some gamekeepers. The easy if steep climb brought us to the summit for open views south, then we descended to the Cateran Way, walked by the serene Auchintaple Loch and returned via Loch Shandra to the start. A very varied day out, followed by coffee at the reopened Kirkton of Glenisla Hotel.
Ladder Hills Report Sunday September 2019
A group of 20 set off by coach from Deeside on a fine and dry September morning. However, reports of heavy rain on the hills the previous day raised concerns about the planned burn crossing on the longer route so a change was made to a circular ascent of Carn Mor from Chapeltown.
As the coach struggled over the Lecht conditions became wet and misty which did not bode well for the day but by the time we stopped to get boots on in Tomintoul all was fine again.
Back on the coach twelve walkers on the marginally longer route were dropped at Braeval Distillery in Chapeltown before the coach carried on to drop Catherine’s shorter group at Glenlivet Distillery and the strollers at the Bridge of Avon below Tomintoul.
Those on the long route set off on road and track soon reaching the former seminary at Scalan where restoration work on the two mill buildings is well underway. One of the mills is being restored to working order and will be open for public demonstrations. https://cairngorms.co.uk/secret-buildings-restored-cairngroms-national-par
Fortunately, the seminary building was open and accessible and those who hadn’t been to the site before inspected the interior. The outside seats and surrounding walls provided the opportunity for an early break - a popular decision.
On to the Clash of Scalan where the route became more challenging with a stiff climb up a grassy track straight up the hill. Some welcome stops allowed fine views behind us over the Braes of Glenlivet, the Cromdale Hills and Ben Rinnes. After the steep section a long sweeping ascent by the fence line made for a fine approach to the Ladder Hills proper.
By now the wind had picked up and we sought what little shelter was available in a section of peat hags for a lunch stop. Minutes after lunch we were on the grassy 800m top with good views in all directions - including the trig point ahead on the main top. However, as we approached Carn Mor a sudden blustery shower arrived battering our left sides. Occasional hail stung any exposed flesh. At this point a subtle realignment of position was evident with a few individuals slipping discretely into the lee of their walking companions.
The trig point on Carn Mor was reached but photography in the conditions was largely unsuccessful. Leaving the top we headed NE towards Dun Muir and the shower passed as quickly as it had arrived. A hare was spotted on this section and a few grouse rose up but this was the only wildlife seen on the day.
To reach Dun Muir we had to snake through a section of deeply eroded peat hags. Surprisingly this was crossed without much difficulty. As we arrived at the top of the Ladder Pass another of the blustery showers arrived although this time the wind was in our face as we descended the faint path parallel to the Ladder Burn. By the time we had reached Ladderfoot the sun was shining, the wind and rain had gone and we were hopeful of a dry return.
The farm track to Chapeltown made for quick progress and good views but a light passing shower caught us just before reaching the coach.
We arrived in Tomintoul to discover that the recently returned shorter walkers had only seen a passing shower while sheltering under trees and Della and Dorothy appeared moments later without encountering any rain on their strolls.
Not only had the three groups arrived back almost simultaneously but the Old Fire Station was still open so we were able to enjoy refreshments together before a scenic drive home in early evening sun. A good day out. 15km, 600m ascent, 5 hours including stops.
Sunday Short Walk Report September 2019
After downpours on the Saturday, the Short Walkers were duly warned to come armed with waterproof socks, change of clothes, umbrella etc, as this section of the Speyside Way is notoriously boggy. We were therefore staggered to find the path repairers had beaten us to it: as we left behind Glenlivet Distillery, before us stretched the most amazing brand new path of shimmering blue tones. Well, it certainly made the walking far easier and faster and drier, and no worries about navigation, you could see the path for miles. Happily, the repairers eventually relented, giving a middle section of quiet brown earth, and further on, they deemed the existing worn path to be sufficiently sound. The benefits of new paths are clear, but I mourn the loss of wildness and sense of adventure – the moor is a different place now.
As we left our highpoint of Carn Daimh, the distant Cairngorms were shaded out in rain showers but we escaped most, and had an enjoyable stroll down to Tomintoul
Saunter Report Sunday September 2019 – Cnoc Lochy
The original idea for this saunter was to walk some of the Tomintoul Trails and we set off from the old Bridge of Avon, built in 1754, on the Bridge of Avon route and climbed steadily away from the river to head for the Tomintoul Circular walk. However, over our walking lives, we have taken such pleasure in ascending hills, that the thought of a hill – Cnoc Lochy (446m) – so close by proved too much for us and we diverted to this radio mast-covered hill. It is marked on the Trails map as a viewpoint, and it’s certainly an isolated prominence which gives an impressive view of Ben Avon and Ben a’ Bhuird particularly, the latter just covered by cloud.
We had a short stop on the top and then descended on a broad track, unmarked on the OS map, which is the way we should have gone up rather than the difficult ground we negotiated, and which is obviously the way engineers approach the equipment on the summit. We rejoined our original path, passing Campdalmore farm and stopped again at another viewpoint, the Victor Gaffney memorial to a father and another to his son. Soon we reached the road, but instead of taking the easy way into the village, we headed for the broad valley of Conglass Water and followed that until we took a turn to the right which now did lead us into the village and our lunch at the Old Fire Station, rather later than intended.
This was a most enjoyable walk. We only saw 2 people, both men with a dog each, so we had the hill to ourselves. We didn’t get wet at all, despite the odd scurry of rain and we saw 4 deer altogether.
9TH - 12TH AUGUST 2019 Fort William Weekend
15 members took part in the CHWC Weekend to Glen Coe / Fort William from Friday 9th to Monday 12th August 2019. 13 stayed in the Clan MacDuff Hotel, overlooking Loch Linnhe to the south of Fort William, 1 stayed in a nearby B&B and 1 stayed in their caravan in Fort William. However, we arranged for all 15 to have our evening meals at the hotel where we chose from the set menu in advance each day and this worked out very well. The hotel were not able to offer packed lunches but we were able to stock up at the nearby supermarkets in Fort William.
The weather forecast for weekend was mixed with the predication of showers and even thunder storms and indicated the better day for any big walks would be on the Sunday. However, in the event, the weather turned out very differently with a fine day on the Saturday, low cloud and rain on the Sunday and fine weather again on the Monday.
A comprehensive list of hills and walk opportunities in the area was sent out to the participants in advance and the group gathered each evening after dinner to plan the outings. Everyone wanted to tackle some of the Munro’s and Corbett’s in the area so we split into several different groups, see below for a summary of walks over the weekend.
- Ben Nevis from Glen Nevis, via Alt Coire Giubhsachan
- Cow Hill
- Buachaille Etive Mor (Stob Dearg and Stob na Broige)
- Buachaille Etive Beag (Stob Dubh and Stob Coire Raineach)
- Mamores (Am Bodach, Stob Coire a’ Chairm, Na Gruagaichean and Binnein Mor)
- Aonach Eagach (Sgorr nam Fiannaidh)
- Beinn Bhan
- Ballachulish Horse Shoe (Sgorr Dhonuill and Sgorr Dhearg)
- Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag (via gondola)
- Aonach Eagach (Meall Dearg)
- Aonach Eagach (Sgorr nam Fiannaidh)
- Sgurr Innse, Cruach Innse
- Buachaille Etive Beag (Stob Dubh and Stob Coire Raineach)
- Meall a’ Phubuill
- Beinn Laruinn
Total Munros: 15, Total Corbetts: 5
Buachaille Etive Mor
As Saturday was forecast to be the poorer weather day of the weekend, three of us (Sue, Sandra and Rob) chose a slightly easier walk - over the Great Shepherd of Etive. The two Buachailles stand symmetrically, side by side, guarding the Lairig Gartain, the valley running southwest from Altnafeadh, at the east end of Glencoe, to Dalness in Glen Etive. They're imposing lumps of rock, and rise up steeply 700m from the level of Rannoch Moor to over 1,000m.
As we set off the weather was improving and the clouds rose quickly off the tops. There was hardly any wind, and it was getting very warm - over 20deg; we were quickly shedding top layers and gaiters. We climbed the Coire na Tulaich and gained the saddle (870m) after a bit of a scramble up scree and rocky steps near the top. Then it was an easy 20 mins to the highest point of the day, Stob Dearg (1022m), which lived up to its name - being covered in pinkish rock.
We stopped for a sandwich and great views across Rannoch Moor, and had a hungry but friendly raven for company. The raven perched only a metre or two away from us - what a magnificent bird! High up we also saw flocks of small streaked brown birds, with distinct white edges to their tail feathers, later identified as twites; these are uncommon across Britain as a whole, but are breeding residents in the north-west of Scotland.
We walked WSW along the ridge, over Stob na Doire and down to the bealach which we'd later descend from. Then up Stob Coire Altruim, where we broke for more sandwiches, before strolling along to Stob na Broige (956m), our second Munro. More stupendous views, to Loch Etive, Bidean nam Bian, the Aonach Eagach and north to the Mamores. The only hill in mist was the Ben!
The descent from the bealach down Coire Altruim took us alongside a cascading burn, and there were a couple of 'interesting' rocky down-climbs. Then back along the Lairig Gartain path to the car, total walk time 7 ¼ hours, in time for ice creams from the petrol station at Glencoe.
The Ballachulish Horseshoe
Sunday was allegedly the better weather day, so we'd picked Sunday for the harder walk of the weekend. The weather of course turned out to be much worse than Saturday, and clouds were down to 500m all day. It was dry initially, but began drizzling at 11am, then continuous light rain all day till we finished at about 6.30pm. (Ironically it was dry for our car journey home!)
We decided to try the horseshoe by the route described by Nick Williams, anti-clockwise from the forest car park. Six set off (Geoff, John A, John F, Sandra, Sue and Rob) but John F was a bit weary after Saturday, and not enjoying the drizzle on his specs! So sensibly he chose to retreat back down the hill after the first couple of hours of walking.
The pathless walk up the ridge from Creag Ghorm was very challenging. In the mist it was very difficult to stay on a steady bearing, as there we were trying to progress against the grain of the land - successive crag-lines and valleys ran diagonally across our desired direction of travel, and tended to push us off the main ridge towards the west. We were continually stopping to check position. As we came across successive valleys, we had to find ways to cross them, avoiding slippery crags. This added up to a lot of extra climb, descent, and hard effort.
There was little or no shelter, but we had lunch near the 824m spot height 1.5km west of the summit of Sgorr Dhonuill, then found better walking up the final grassy ridge to the reach the rocky summit (1001m). We made it at 2.25pm, after 5h10min walking! No views and still raining, so no stop there, and we set off straight down the arête, which is initially steep and very narrow and exposed - quite exhilarating! We found the bealach (750m) and then the group seemed to get a second wind and made fast progress up the good baggers path to Sgorr Dhearg (1024m) at 3.45pm.
Still misty and wet, so straight off the top down the northern ridge on Nick William's route. There was a visible path and we descended fairly quickly. We crossed the wire stock fence on Meall a' Chaolais at 560m altitude, no path now and the route became vague. It was unclear where we should turn off the ridge into the woodland, so we kept going north until forced to enter the trees on an increasingly steep slope. After some deliberation we traversed west to a stream, the Allt na Leachd, and descended steeply through woodland alongside it. Somewhat to our relief, we reached the forest track without incident.
At the track, the Forestry Commission had placed a boot cleaning/disinfecting trough, and there were signs asking forest users to wash and clean their boots. The purpose is to prevent the spread of a fungal pathogen, phytophthora ramorum, which kills larch and other tree species. Search on the web to find out more.
The water levels in the river in Gleann a' Chaolais had risen dramatically during the day, and as we returned to the cars we stopped briefly to view the torrent. We were back at the car at 6.30pm after 9 ¼ hours. It was an epic day, nearly 20km with about 1600m of climb, in inclement conditions (though fortunately not windy). I'd like to walk it again ... but only in clear weather (ironically, such as we had the next morning!)
4TH AUGUST 2019 Lochnagar and Carn a Choire Bhoidheach
Lochnagar Sunday 4th August 2019
After experiencing some of the worst parking ever seen in the passing places on the Glen Muick road, members of the CHC met in the pay and display car park at the Spittal.
As the midges were out in full force, there wasn’t much of a chance to converse with the group that was doing the slightly shorter walk, but we all set off around 9.45am.
The walk along the Alt na-giubhsaich and past the Clais Rathadan ravine was pleasant with warm temperatures, light winds but unfortunately no views of the surrounding hills, as the cloud was well done the hillsides.
As we reached around the 800m contour it was decided to have our first coffee stop before heading up to the bealach between Lochnagar and Meikle Pap. Light rain started to come on quite steadily here, so waterproofs were put on by some of the members.
As two of the group were going to be heading up the Ladder and then onto Cac Carn Beag, this is where we had our first split of the day. On reaching the bealach, one of our group very kindly assisted an Italian family who were not quite sure of the route for climbing the circuit of 5 Munros. You can always trust a CHC member to show the way!!
At the bealach good views can usually be had of the north eastern corrie of Lochnagar, Lochan na Gaire, our intended route up the Black Spout, but unfortunately not today.
On heading down, over and around the wet slippery boulder field to the mountain rescue post, our group split again with a member heading round the lochan to climb the northeast ridge. Just before reaching the mountain rescue box, we met two climbers who had to abandon their intended route for the day as they couldn’t find the start of the ridge which they were going to climb due to the cloud! Their parting shot was “Hope you can find the start of the gully”. Not a truer word was said, as finding the gully was exceptionally difficult with the extremely poor visibility.
Anyway, the four of us slowly and steadily made our way up to the top, helping one another along the way. On reaching the rim of the gully we sat down for a bite to eat and had a small exchange of words with the two members who had climbed up the Ladder and were descending from the summit.
Now it was our chance to help two drenched forlorn looking walkers who were struggling to find the summit, carrying no map, compass or any electronic mapping aid, wearing shorts and light showerproof tops. We pointed them to the top and we told them the way down to the waterfall from the summit. Unfortunately, on our way to Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach we met them again as they had missed the path to Glas Alt!
From here, without any view whatsoever, we went over the second Munro of the day, zig zagged a little on the plateau and headed down to the waterfall path. By this time the rain had gone off and we were below the cloud level. We never encountered any of the thunderstorms which were forecast, so steadily headed back to the carpark.
Quite a few mountain hares were spotted on the route, also some stags, frogs, toads and a minute jet black lizard.
Thanks to all for your excellent company, on what was quite a challenging hill day due to the weather conditions. The stats were 14.99 miles, 1211 m ascent, 8.5hrs walking including stops.
Short Walk report Sunday Aug 2019
I have to heartily thank the brave band of short walkers who had signed up for a pleasant wander with great views down into Glen Clova, and instead endured hours of plodding through wind and rain, unable to see anything. In addition, we were well offpath, no tracks, no sign of any human ever coming this way. And following a bearing in these nil visibility conditions is very testing of mental and physical stamina, where every peat grough rears above you like Everest, or plunges below your feet like the Grand Canyon....the sight of Loch Muick gleaming beneath us when we finally dropped beneath the cloud was breathtaking. A good finish to a testing walk. Extra commendation to the wearers of glasses, who saw even less than the rest of us!
Sunday Saunter Report August 2019 Tarland Yellow Route
Yes, I know we weren’t supposed to be doing that, but the forecast didn’t look at all inviting and since we were meeting in Tarland anyway and one member really didn’t want to get wet, we decided to leave our planned walk of Dinnet to Tarland to another day and replace it with, first of all, the yellow route round Tarland.
So we headed west out of the village on the road before turning up off a track which took us through attractive deciduous woodland up to Burnside and the road down to Leys. Very soon we turned right off this road and made for the unfinished fort at 267 and the lovely view from there. Well, it would have been a lovely view but for the low-lying cloud all around. Retracing our steps, we followed the track north of Leys Wood, returning to the car park on the west of the village.
Here we stopped for a slightly early lunch since there were handily placed picnic tables and discussed our next move. Although there had been some misty rain earlier, that seemed to have gone so we planned to take the brown route to the south of the village, visiting the Tomnaverie Stone Circle and either returning on the brown route or extending our route by crossing the burn in the valley and returning through the grounds of Alastrean House.
And that was the cue for the rain to start in earnest. We considered the day’s forecast for Tarland and came to the conclusion that Angie’s Tearoom in the village would probably be a better option. (it was irritating that, when we drove home, there was no rain at all to the east) This was therefore an unusually short walk for the Saunterers, but at least we kept dry. In the café, we made plans for the saunters for the rest of the year.
15TH JULY 2019 Broad Cairn
This was a circular route taking in 2 Munros , but from a rather different start - we gathered in the Glen Clova carpark ready for the long walk up upper Glen Clova, basking in wonderful sunshine. The track took us all the way to the Bachnagairn bridge, where we stood in the shade to admire the burn and plaque.
A repaired path then carried us easily up to near the Stables, then a further haul won us Broad Cairn, thankfully with some breeze to cool us down. Deer and hares were spotted, then we strolled easily round Munro 2 (Cairn Bannoch), on to Fafernie with its various cairns, then the Knaps and finally joined up with Jocks Road at one of its undecipherable stretches - ie a dent in the grass - for a wonderful descent into Glen Doll, whose back lit cliffs and crags have never looked more stunning.
A great round on a superb day, many thanks to drivers for driving, and everyone for their company.
7TH JULY 2019 Stob an t’Sluichd via Beinn a Bhuird
The main walk was a long bike + walk excursion on the limits of pushing north into the Cairngorms from Deeside, the target being Stab an t-Sluichd at 1107m. Indeed only Cairn Gorm and its associated ridge and tops are at a more northern latitude and higher than Stob an t-Sluidch. Six club members set off from the Linn of Quoich end-of-road car park at 9.00am with bright but overcast skies and a forecast of fair conditions with a chance of afternoon showers. The track up the western side of the Quoich created only one challenge, the section washed away by storm Frank in 2015, but the trodden “desire-line” along the scree embankment was easily tackled with water levels pretty low. It was agreed to take the bikes across the main fording (boots on and no wet feet) of the Quioch, and ride the eastward extent of the track up the glen. Having ridden over 9km to track-end, the bikes were parked, and a refreshment stop was made before heading off on foot through the lush vegetation and tree regeneration of the Mar Lodge Estate’s Deer Management Zone where deer numbers are kept extremely low.
Leaving the Scots pines behind, a second crossing of the Quoich was required, again achieved with dry feet. Shortly after we joined the well-maintained track up from Gen Slugain heading due north and made good progress despite an unexpectedly blustery head wind. We stopped for a further refreshment break at the last burn crossing before the real altitude climb up the Glas Allt More to the Sneck. Just as we ate, a shower with curtains of falling rain blew in from the north, but was over before we got back on our feet, and this seemed to herald in some blue skies and developing brighter conditions. The altitude gain to the Sneck was constant, and on arrival it was extremely windy making it uncomfortable thus only a little time taken up in admiring the views of the path to the east heading up to the tors of Ben Avon, northwards the impressive, deep, steep sided narrow glen of the Allt ant- Sluichd draining into the Avon and to our left, our way forward a steep, gravelly ascent towards our first peak, Cnap a Cleirich at a not insignificant 1172m. With impressive vertical slab cliffs on its northern side, this hill funnelled the already blustery wind over a short, 200 metre section of our ascent out of the Sneck, to an extent that staying vertical was difficult and keeping to the path was impossible as the gusts swept us to one side. Once through this maelstrom it was easier going to finally top out on this first summit, where winds were acceptable and for the first time views could be admired with the terrain ahead to our destination laid out before us at slightly lower altitudes. There was no trodden path, but terrain was typical Cairngorm plateau, low vegetation struggling to survive amongst the granite gravel with occasional flushes of water emerging from the ground and or a remnant snow patch.
The Stob an t-Sluichd ridge was abundant with tors, arguably the highest concentration of tors on any Cairngorm mountain. As expected, on a bealach between tors, we came across the fairly complete remains of two engines and associated debris of the January 1945 crash of an Airspeed Oxford plane. http://www.yorkshire-aircraft. co.uk/aircraft/scotland/ph404.html A sombre spot, but we revelled in the mechanical technology of the seven cylinder radial engines. We finally reached the last true tor, probably the highest, though one further scramble led to a slightly lower outpost of the ridge before the terrain plunged into Glen Avon, and some of us took the extra five minutes to reach it. We regrouped at the tor for a good refreshment break with long distant views (Bennachie? 60km) in what had become good weather with the cloud base well above the summits.
Our return initially followed the outbound route but veered off southwest towards the corries of Beinn a Bhuird, still sheltering some good snow drifts. A brief diversion took us to the flat, North Top Beinn a Bhuird at 1197m, our third hill of the day, but we quickly got back to the cliffs to admire the corrie views. Distant horizons were also visible, Benin a Ghlo seemed remarkedly close, Schiehallion (65 km) was recognisable and summits and skylines beyond that were visible but remained unidentified.
Now it was pure descent on an unfrequented route, but relatively easy navigation got us down into Glen Quioch, with a quick walk back to the bikes, and a tired-leg peddle back to the cars for just after 7.00pm. It had not been a day for wildlife spotting (two mountain hares) but certainly a fantastic mid-summer day in the hills with about totals of 18 km on the bikes and 25km walking and 1200m vertical ascent.
Middle Walk report
Sunday’s renamed Middle Walk (quite long but, at 16kms, a lot shorter than the Long Walk) took nine of us up to Auchavan, at the end of the public road in Glen Isla, having travelled through very picturesque countryside in from Kirriemuir and past Mount (Tony?) Blair. The target for the day was Monamenach, a 807m Corbett, some 2kms distant and about 500m above Auchavan. Booted up, we gained height quickly on the vehicle track in relatively mild weather. We then turned north up to the summit of Monamenach into the forecast clear, cold and blustery weather, which discouraged any loitering around the cairn. Lunch was taken well down in the lee of the hill.
The planned route was to have taken us down Glen Beanie to Dalvanie, but, freshly fuelled, we all agreed on a detour up Duchray Hill, a 270m ascent from the bealach cradling Loch Beanie. As we soon discovered, it was a very steep ascent. After reaching the 702m cairn we split into two groups, one retracing the route to the Beanie bealach, the other group taking a more direct route to Dalvanie. The much warmer weather, the accompanying Wheatears and Stone Chats and the profusion of wild flowers made the descent very pleasant. In fact there was the usual verity of wildlife spotted including deer, a moth, a glimpse of a short-eared owl (consensus of option), toads, butterflies, a jay from the car on the way back (does this count?), and lots more! Various flowers were also seen, including orchids. Thereafter we walked back up the glen to where the cars were parked and then on to coffee at the Braemar Bothy.
The Sunday saunter
2 options were considered for our saunter, either round Loch Kinord or an A to B from Dinnet to Cambus o' May. IN the end, it was decided that the latter would be more interesting and that it was simpler car-wise to do the walk in reverse.
The weather was variable, but only a few spots of rain fell, and the sun sometimes made an effort to shine. Since we had a visitor from Surrey with us, we enjoyed the view of Lochnagar from the Viewpoint in the car park at Cambus o’ May first and then set off along the yellow route. There are many possible routes through the forest but we decided on the most northerly one.
We saw a few people on the way and a few dogs too, but this changed when we reached the area near to Burn o' Vat. The Visitor Centre had organised an event on dinosaurs and the paths were swarming with children looking for information. We went first of all to the Viewpoint of Loch Kinord and then fought our way through the hoards to get into the VAT - a bit wet but our feet stayed dry.
2 convenient benches provided a seat for our lunch near the Visitor Centre and then we headed off on the northerly route round Loch Kinord when the midges started their lunch on us. THis path was thankfully quieter and we stopped to watch a glider being towed high up above us. Before long, we reached the car park in Dinnet and our journey was done, in almost exactly 4 hours which is the time I took to complete the recce.
We then repaired to the Corner House in Aboyne and invited our visitor to return for another walk when she was in the area again.
24TH JUNE 2019 Glen Lethnot and the Clash of Wirren
The Devil's Point is a hill that several members were very keen to tackle, and, for a cycling walk, there were a fair number signed up - until the weather forecast indicated a day of heavy rain, high winds and possible thunderstorms...as usual, I waited until Sunday teatime before changing the route, but, quelle surprise, the Hill of Wirren in the rain didn't appeal to everyone, well, I was amazed it appealed to anyone at all, but a carload of walkers parked in Glen Lethnot and set off up East Craig in the clag and drizzle. No views, of course!
Visibility along the top was so limited we simply clung to that wonderful handrail of a fence to lead us to the trig, fortunately only 2m away so we could actually find it. The north wind didn't let up but the rain did, so we managed a stop, hunkered down behind an unpromising pile of earth supporting some medicated grouse grit. Optimistic because we could put our hoods down, we then descended north offpath past new butts to the valley bottom, when the rain began again - but at least the wind had dropped.
Met a DoE supervisor rushing up and down the track, keeping an eye on his charges, as we descended through the Clash of Wirren, another spectacular northeast meltwater channel, and, with a final burst of dry weather, had a pleasant stroll along the contours back to the start, passing a very happy group of those DoE kids, from Westhill, who'd had a wonderful time out in the Angus hills and obviously hadn't realised how much road walking they had yet to undertake.
Needless to say, the rain began again before we reached the car. More gear to dry out. But James, beginning preparation for his John Muir Trail, was happy enough - he'd successfully added training weights to his sack (not having thought of the more obvious solution of carrying all our gear for us!).
14TH - 17TH JUNE 2019 Arrochar Weekend
The forecast for the weekend was not optimistic, far too much unnecessary rain in the offing, so my hopes were not high: but, with tremendous panache, the 14 walkers were determined to get up hills regardless. There were some impressive feats of endurance – Graham M, Rob and John A all managed 2 Munros and a Corbett in a single day, many more ticked off 2 Munros or 1 Munro and 1 Corbett in a day, quite a few hillwalked for each of the 4 days away (Geoff, John A, Andy R and Catherine), and the cyclists managed their more remote mountain, only to be treated to an unpleasant hailstorm on the summit and that typically west coast experience of splashing all the way up and down the route. All in all, a very good time was had, and we were very well looked after by the Arrochar Hotel.
Mountain Flowers spotted by Sue and Catherine
Heath Spotted orchid (we think)
Alpine Lady’s Mantle
2ND JUNE 2019 Meall an t-Slugain and Loch Phadruig
Our group of 10 assembled at the Keiloch Car Park (NO188914) at 9:30 am, including 5 who joined after the Long Walk to Beinn Iutharn Mhor was called off due to poor weather. The weather forecast predicted strong south westerly winds on the tops with rain in the morning, clearing in the afternoon.
The circular route started in the Ballochbuie Forest and we tackled it anti-clockwise to have the wind behind us on tops. After crossing the historic Invercauld Bridge, we entered the forest enclosure and took the first track on the right, heading west then SSE up a gradual incline through the open woodland of this Caledonian Forest remnant. The forest is a mixture of mature and regenerating Scots Pine and we stopped to look at one of the older trees that had been blown over and the bare wood of the fallen trunk had a distinct twisted appearance. After approximately 2km , we reached a cabin where we took advantage of the sheltered porch for a short break.
Suitably refreshed, we followed a path across boggy ground, leaving the forest and followed the Glenbeg Burn steadily uphill, into the strengthening wind and driving rain towards the col at An Slugain. We took advantage of the relative shelter in a hollow below the col for our lunch break before heading into the full strength of the wind through An Slugain and on to the isolated Loch Phadruig. From there, our route headed E up the steep slope to the summit of Meall an t-Slugain (849m) with poor visibility in the cloud then gradually descended NE along the ridge. The strong wind was now at our backs and the visibility improved as we descended to the path in Feindallacher Burn, eventually joining a track at a convenient corrugated iron shelter where we took a short break.
Our route continued N following the burn, soon re-entering the forest and passing some rapids that were swollen with the day's rain. The rain finally stopped and the sun lit up the trees along the burn. The birdlife was more noticeable in the relative shelter of the forest compared with the open moorland but very little other wildlife was encountered. The track curved to the NW and we took a 'short cut' on a concealed path through deep heather, to emerge at the splendid green painted cast iron bridge over the Falls of Garbh Allt. We stopped for a while on the bridge and viewed the falls in full spate, sparkling in the dappled sunlight. After leaving the bridge, we met a a group having a tour with a ranger then continued to the Invercauld Bridge, returning to the car park around 4:20pm.
This had been a challenging but enjoyable walk covering some 14km with fine views across the Ballochbuie Forest and Upper Deeside. Our group stopped for refreshments at The Bothy cafe in Ballater before heading back to Aberdeen. Many thanks to all the drivers for providing the transport.
Sunday Saunter June 2019
We left Tarland on the southerly road, crossing the bridge and then turning immediately left to walk alongside the burn in the valley until we reached a good path where we turned right. We then crossed over the Aboyne road and followed the path that took us up to the Stone Circle. From here we followed the McRobert brown route through the Drummy woods to Glendeskry where we met a number of cyclists both young and old on the cycle track.
From this point, we changed to the Corrachree yellow route, climbing slightly south west to a wooden bench where we stopped for lunch. We then climbed more steeply to the farthest point away from Tarland on this route which is in Knockargety Wood from which it is possible to get a good view. However, the weather was against us (but we mustn’t grumble, the other walkers had it a lot worse; we had hardly any rain and no wind to speak of) so we retraced our steps and took the rather muddy track down to the road and back to Tarland, enjoying refreshments in Angie’s café before making our way home.
These 2 routes (together with the extra loop at the start) make a pleasant shorter walk, 2 members of the group logging 7.6 miles in total and, using the green route, it would be possible to lengthen it still further. The only nature items we saw were 2 buzzards soaring above us and 2 four leaf clovers; there is a well-known field of them on the Drummy Wood walk. But we did work hard at identifying as many wild flowers as we could and either there are a number of cuckoos around Tarland or we made the aural acquaintance of one exceedingly busy bird who seemed to follow us wherever we went, sometimes very close.
27TH MAY 2019 Cruden Bay - Newburgh (Coastal)
After the hard walking of the brilliant Kinlochbervie weekend, it was a small band that met for the Monday walk following. Small, but determined to wring every ounce of pleasure from the annual coastal stomp, this year along a stretch new to us, from Cruden Bay to Newburgh. The AWPR swept us effortlessly to the coast and we set off at the remarkably early time of 9.15am, almost immediately finding one of the Plants of the Walk - meadow saxifrage in considerable numbers – a real thrill for Catherine, who hasn’t seen it for years!
The 3km beach at Cruden Bay is a delight, especially in sunshine and light wind, and at its end we found the next Plant of the Walk, a beautiful purple orchid, most likely the Northern Marsh orchid, in amazing abundance, superb, and we were to see it on several occasions throughout the trip.
We then climbed the cliffs to pass the tiny village of Whinnyfold, and below us were many bobbing heads of the grey seal, watching us as we passed by. The tide was high at this point which may explain why they weren’t sunning themselves on the rocks.
And the seabirds now made a proper appearance , kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills nesting on the cliffs, with cormorants on flatter areas and herring gulls eyeing up the nests with a calculating glint. More astounding than the predator gulls was the appearance of a fox swiftly and easily climbing over a steep rock outcrop to continue hunting along the rocks at the base of the cliffs, so rare to see in broad daylight, and pointing up why these birds nest in inaccessible places.
Our route continued along the tops of the cliffs, with good views down, we were stunned to find a younger glossier fox on the steeply sloping grass below our route, but it heard us and vanished. Reaching old Slains castle was almost an anticlimax (I’m omitting mention of all the other flowers James photographed, and all the birds we inspected through binoculars), but a local kindly explained the castle dated from the 11th century and was destroyed from the sea by cannon fire in 1594, and she even had 2 of the cannons in her garden, which we duly admired.
Then a huge and unexpected treat in Collieston – a little cafe selling tea and snacks, so we just had to have a break, sitting outside in the sun licking ice cream. Wonderful! Highly recommended, if you’re around at the weekends, called the Smugglers Cone.
The final section south took the familiar sandy path through the Forvie Nature Reserve, another delightful stretch of beach down to the ternery, then back along the Ythan, accompanied by the cooing of hundreds of eider ducks. A lovely finish to the walk.
17TH-20TH MAY 2019 Kinlochbervie Weekend
Culter Hillwalking Club's long weekend centred on the Kinlochbervie Hotel is now history, but a great time was had by all. Hills were conquered, wildlife was spotted - seen or heard, and flora were admred. Heres a list:
Ben More Assynt 998m
Foinaven Ridge (summit, full ridg with 5 tops) 911m
Ben Hee 873m
Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill 801m
Meal Horn 777m
Beinn Spionnaidh 773m
Ben Stack 720m
plus a cliff top walk to Sandwood Bay.
Hairy Caterpillar (not identified)
Eagle (not confirmed)
Sheep x 1000 (they dont really count)
Orchids (of several indistinuishable vareties)
That kept us pretty busy and ceratinaly made a good weekend.
12TH MAY 2019 Culardoch
Nine walkers were dropped at the roadside near Gairnshiel Lodge to tackle the long route through to Keilloch traversing Culardoch. Spirits were high as the sun was shining and the forecast for the day was good. Crossing the Gairnshiel bridge, we headed immediately west following a good if sometimes boggy path to Tumochmacarrick where we crossed the river Gairn for the first of several times, picking up a substantial track. Following the track due west, we had our first sustenance stop at Daldownie where we could bask in the sunshine beside the bubbling brook.
Continuing on to Corndavon Lodge, we had a brief pause to view the frescoes through the windows, though the strong sunlight made it difficult to see these clearly. We then continued to the next footbridge to cross the River Gairn for the final time when we spotted a golden eagle gliding through the Glen. We watched this for a few minutes until it decided to move on. Abruptly we were faced with a steep ascent and then with the track ending, so now walking through short heather, we headed southwest towards our target summit visible in the distance. A high deer fence was in the way of our goal, though a conveniently placed gate allowed us to easily overcome this obstacle at which point we decided to have our lunch stop looking over the attractive Loch Builge.
After lunch, we steadily ascended the north east flanks of Culardoch to reach the summit, where we were rewarded with a stunning 360 degree view, including snow covered Lochnagar and Ben Avon.
Practising navigational skills, we took a bearing and headed on a 280 degree course from the summit through some pristine snow patches to pick up another good track. Now walking into a southerly wind, we decided to try and find a sheltered area for our final sustenance stop, eventually deciding to settle for sitting in a warm breeze yet again with good views.
The final stretch was walking towards the beautiful snowcapped Lochnagar in bright sunlight as we reached the bus exactly at the predicted 6 ½ hours having covered around 25 kilometres and 750m of ascent.
Short Walk Report May 2019 Morrone
The short walk set off from the well-known Braemar duck pond, climbing through Morrone birkwood to reach the start of the path up Morrone. This has been repaired so, lower down, it is an attractively narrow path winding up through heather. On a day of sun and high puffy clouds, the views up and down the Dee valley were wonderful – we could see as far as Creag Meagaidh, all 3 of its Munros and the Window, plus every Munro between. Morrone’s summit is not the most beautiful, but we were duly impressed, not only by the amazing panorama of possibly every Munro in the Cairngorms but also by the sight there of a radio ham, complete with aerial attached to fishing rod, exchanging Morse code with Germany (thanks for finding that out, Marijke!). Continuing on in the coolish breeze, we soon abandoned the track and took to the heather, making our way down to the Corrimulzie burn. An easy crossing then some rougher track led down the burn to the old dam and new community hydro scheme. On the way, we finally spotted some wildlife – 2 small groups of hinds, not disturbed by our presence at all. Possibly pregnant!
A final climb through conifers brought us out to the furthest corner of the birkwood, and we had a very pleasant amble through the rough heather , thriving juniper and burgeoning birches back to the duckpond and coach.
Sunday Saunter May 2019 – The Lion’s Face
We headed south from the centre of Braemar towards the golf course, which the path crosses to the Glenshee road, which we also crossed and took the path a little way along the road to the Queen’s Drive. This makes an easy, gentle ascent with views of Braemar and Ben Avon, to the woods round the Lion’s Face. We availed ourselves of the handy bench with a view of Culardoch for our first (rather early) lunchtime stop before studying the Lion’s Face which we came upon shortly after. From there, we made our way across bridges (one of them new) over the cascading burn to the road. The path winds through the forest near the road before turning left up a flight of steps to the Cromlins viewpoint, where we took our second break and enjoyed another good view up the Dee valley, including a snowy Carn an Fhidhleir. The path up Creag Choinnich was very enticing but we resisted the temptation on the grounds of time, and repaired to the Bothy for some refreshment before the others returned.
22ND APRIL 2019 Mount Battock
For the Easter Monday walk Catherine had a serious diary malfunction thus handed over the reins to James. Several members of the Club were also absent hiking the Southern Upland Way, so it was a small group of five that took on an A to B walk up Mount Battock from the Finzean/Forest of Birse side. With settled weather prevailing for some time back and forecast to continue, it felt like summer as we parked at the end of the road by Birse Kirk. We set off back down the tarmac for a short distance before crossing the burn over the bridge at Burnfoot, into pastureland with lapwings objecting noisily, and the subsequent burn crossing made easy with the hills dry and water levels low. It was soon a steady rise on the landrover track southward to the first named hill, White Hill. With an hour gone, and whilst still having some shelter from a stiff southerly breeze, we stopped for a rehydration break with hazy views down to Birse Castle, across to the topographical feature known as the Gwaves, and the long straight path of the Fungle disappearing at altitude behind Mudlee Bracks to the west.
The well surfaced track lead southward to the insignificant top of the 598m Cock Hill (number 1 – we had another Cock Hill in the afternoon to deal with). We were well into grouse shooting territory, and the track lead on, slightly down hill in the direction of Cammie Hill, our next target. At a vehicle turning point the onward track was not surfaced, just two tyre ruts in the heather following roughly a line of shooting buts. In the end the tyre ruts disappeared and with previous knowledge of the area, and minimal map reading it was just a case of using deer tracks or taking a beeline to the skyline ridge that lead up to Cammie Hill. Normally boggy and mossy the section was comfortably dry, with only a few damp spots covered in vibrant spring green moss, and a couple of peaty ponds, one with some frog spawn just hatching out. The area was alive with montain hares, perhaps out to enjoy the summer weather, but easily spotted with 25% of their coat still a winter white.
On the ridge, mapped as a county boundary, there was a fence and grouse estate landrover tracks on both sides, which we followed to the summit of Hill of Cammie 618m, another fairly insignificant spot but we had fun discussing which clump of grass was the very highest. It was breezy so we headed back down the track which looked like a twisting serpent to the bealach with Mount Battock and the hugely significant Loch Tennet, a red kite briefly following us at low altitude directly overhead. Loch Tennet is the smallest named lock in Scotland, and interestingly on the OS map detached from the Burn of Tennet that flows southward to Glen Esk but according to OS lying at the head of a northward flowing tributary of the Waters of Avon/Feugh. A perfect spot for lunch, and an investigation into which way the waters from Loch Tennet do actually flow. The decision was that some water seeped through the peat into the Burn of Tennet, but that there appeared to be an outflow channel through the peat into the Avon, though not actually flowing in such dry conditions. A man with a spade could easily change all this in a matter of a few minutes, and perhaps has done so in the past.
Fully refreshed, and the major question of the universe resolved, we set off up the steep track on the flanks of Mount Battock then eastward along the ridge to the summit cairn, trig point and shelter at 778m. Sheltering from the wind we had a quick break, admiring the hazy views all around before setting off along the ridge path towards Clachnaben, for just a kilometre. The route was along a line of shooting buts, which had been built simply with turf scoured off the surrounding land, which, along with the eroded track connecting them, was a disgrace to management and conservation of the hillside. We turned north off the ridge along a further destructive landrover track to the second Cock Hill of the day (544m). Ahead of us lay Baudnacauner 574m and along the ridge to the east Peter Hill 617m but we had yet to drop down and cross the upper reaches of the Waters of Avon. With such dry conditions we just forged a path of least resistance down to the Avon using patches of muirburn and deer tracks for easier walking, confident that the burn would be crossable.. The refreshing waters, and grassy banks were too enticing, and we stopped briefly before a heather bashing uphill plod towards Peter Hill, finally aiming for some shooting butts and a correct assumption of at least some element of path/quad bike track leading to the main track that was clearly visible. We ended up at a reasonably modern, octagonal, wooden grouse shooters refuge, locked but the hiding location of the key known to a couple of us. Once inside the old, but soft, sofas were again too much to resist and a final stop was made to drink the last of our liquid.
The home leg was the track upto the summit of Peter Hill, by now the wind had increased and we wished not to stop, then down the other side through the brightness of flowering gorse and the fresh green of silver birch leaves to one of our cars parked at the old sawmill at Finzean. We had unfortunately not made it in time for tea at Finzean Farm Shop (no serving after 4.30), but we had managed four stops during the walk. Two good hills conquered, 23km walked, and 1007m vertical ascent (figure dependant on software applicaation) were ingredients for a good hike. Plus, though the sun was hazy, not one cloud covered it for the whole walk, and we returned to car thermometers reding 24.5C, verified by semi-official observation from Inchmarlo of 24C, a record for April, and indeed the warmest Easter Monday ever in parts of Scotland.
7TH APRIL 2019 Catlaw
All drivers managed to reach the starting point near Westerton Farm in good time after navigating the confusing streets of Kirriemuir and with enough common sense not to head for the middle of Backwater Reservoir as specified by the coordinates given in the walks poster. The walks leader made it very clear in his briefing that, whilst summiting Catlaw safely was indeed the number one objective of the day, the critical second objective was to reach the café at Peel Farm before its closing time of 4pm.
The first three kilometres of the walk took us along Glen Quharity, over a somewhat dilapidated bridge crossing the Quharity Burn, before turning north-east uphill past the grouse butts along the Shank of Glendye and over the delightfully named, but featureless, Clinking Cauldron. We then turned north to the spot height of 517m at Tarapetmile where we might have had good views north over Glen Prosen towards Mayer had there been less mist.
Returning to the track we crossed over Cormaud and Monthrey, where we turned uphill to Catlaw and into cloud. Close to the top the cloud briefly thinned enough for us to locate the trig point at 668m and the nearby three stone shelters where we had lunch huddled together out of the wind, but still in thick cloud.
Our descent took us out of the cloud at about 600m and then over Bodandere Hill and Hill of Stanks at which point the sun made itself felt, so much so that by the time we reached the easily forded Burn of Dalry, below Tombay, we were casting off layers.
Thence back to the cars and the drive along the west side of the scenic Loch of Lintrathen, in time to reach the café at Peel Farm in plenty of time to partake of their excellent tea, coffee, scones and cakes.
Thank you to the drivers, Bill Davidson, John Wood, Sue Callan, Geoff Weighhill, Trevor Stuchbury and John Fowler and to John Fowler for his report of the day.
Sunday Saunter Report April 2019 – Dinnet to Glen Tanar and back
It was a question of glass half full or empty. The more pessimistic amongst those who walked said what a miserable cloudy day it was. The more optimistic then pointed out that at least it wasn’t raining. And each weather forecast I looked at had said something different so I’m pleased that the weather gods went along with the Met Office forecast and ensured that the weather stayed dry.
Just after 10am we crossed over Dinnet bridge to enjoy the very pleasant path through the woods leading to the track which takes us up past the Firmounth plaque and over to the gentle descent into Glen Tanar. Part of this near the end follows the Juniper trail to the car park and our first stop at the Visitor Centre where we appreciated seating accommodation, a toilet and the delights of the Centre.
Refreshed, we headed up Glen Tanar, choosing the upper road which eventually becomes a rather muddy track before we crossed another track skirting the hillside, and entered a large field, happily not occupied today by the bovine species which sometimes enjoy its tender grass. The path is not totally clear here and the ground becomes waterlogged as we made our way to the big iron gate which I couldn’t open on the recce but learnt how to open today.
We now followed an, at first, indistinct track which took us out of the forest and down a messy track past Newton and Netherton to the South Deeside Road and back to the Dinnet Bridge. It was a new walk to everyone apart from me and was much enjoyed by the participants, who commented on the variety of terrain and the good, if misty, views. They were, however, warned that the Sunday saunter wouldn’t always provide seating and toilets.
31ST MARCH 2019 Navigation Course
Seven members attended this CHC Hill Management and Navigation Skills course under the tutorage of Alan Crighton last Sundady 31st March. Bennachie was Alan's chosen venue as a hill that naturally provided a good environment for what was to be taught. We all met at the Visitors Centre for 9.30 to find it was on its last day of winter season closure, which was annoying as no coffee was to be had. Poor hill management already showing its head?? Some would agree in the affirmative.
But even without the caffeine intake we set off enthusiastically, with a laminated OS 1:25,000 in hand and, after a night time frost, the sun shining warmly on our heads. After a shortish time, Alan brought us to a halt, and asked us to indicate where we were on the map. First lesson learned, don't socialise and chat on an easy path in good weather to the extent that you don't know exactly where you are. Is there a difference between "being lost" and not knowing exactly where you are? The plethora of paths and junctions we had passed that were not all marked on the OS map were not an excuse to be confused. Confusion is detrimental to safety.
A further stretch of walking brought us to the edge of the forest, an easily identifiable point on the map, but here we investigated and explored to demonstrate the sometimes considerable differences between the OS map and ground truth and the dangers of making all factors fit the location you think you are at, rather the one you are actually at. (The author, solo, lost in the clag on Jocks Road, ascended Tolmount thinking he was elsewhere - a fact discovered within 5 minutes of map reading in the Fife Arms, 18km and 5 hours later).
In open ascending terrain we stopped many times to allow half the population of Aberdeen and their dogs to pass us by up the hill. We also stopped for tuition in scrambling up boulder fields, river crossing procedure (not relevant for Bennachie but always worth knowing) and magnetic variation, which lead to the possibility of the end of civilisation as we know it!!!! All topics were up for discussion!!
Taken very seriously was group management with Alan talking of leading a group of over 50 random folk in white-out conditions on Ben Avon. He seemed unphased by the experience, and although a situation the Club would avoid, the real experience raised some valuable information applicable to our outings. By the time we were within spitting distance (NOT a navigation term) of Mither Tap it was time for lunch and we managed to find a spot sheltered from the nippy wind and free from dog poo bags - excellent Hill Management skills. Post lunch we immediately practised good practice (there must be a better choice of vocab) for scrambling short but vertical crags, both up and down to reach the summit of Mither Tap (we ARE a hillwalking club) which was more crowded than Parliament Square during a Brexit protest.
11TH MARCH 2019 Lair of Aldararie
The AWPR has brought the Angus Glens so close! Clova Hotel now seems magically easy to drive to, where we performed the usual car shuffle to begin our route from the Glen Doll visitor centre. We were lucky – the Met Office had correctly forecast a weather window of sunshine and less wind, and we made the most of it – striding up Capel Mounth, the nicely shallow snow making the landscape sparkle, but barely inconveniencing us (that came later...). The summit of Ferrowie gave panoramic views of Lochnagar, Broad Cairn and the Glen Shee hills, and here we abandoned track to go offpath across the over 800m high plateau that stretches from Glen Muick to Glen Lee. Bill was appointed trail breaker in chief and set off in fine style for the Lair of Aldararie, apparently (and hardly believably) the site of Highland Games for many years. The snow was surprisingly deep in places, and those that didn’t tread carefully in Bill’s footsteps occasionally came to grief - I have promised to name no names.
The Lair was as flat as you might expect, we visited a number of potential summit stones, before heading south to the Lair of Whiestones, its adjoining cairn, and finally, the only rise with a distinctive shape, Boustie Ley, with the wonderfully named outlier Ben Reid.
From here we split, the gung ho types heading straight for the steep path repair on the Snub, and the others, obviously needing some more ascent and another 3km walking, continued around the rim of Loch Brandy, picking their way carefully thru snow and ice and admiring the steely dark waters below. Wildlife sightings were low – 2 mountain hares beginning to change, a possible ptarmigan and an ATV racing around the otherwise deserted hills. But the surrounding scenery was at its most stunning, the snow and ice not shrouding the contours but picking them out: never have Driesh and Mayar looked so good - just lovely!
3RD MARCH 2019 Mount Battock
Our group of 16 travelled to Milden Lodge in Glen Esk (NO 540789) in shared cars. Some parked by the phone box near the road and some parked further up the farm access road just NW of Mill of Aucheen. The weather forecast predicted strong SW winds, declining during the day and the early rain had cleared by the time we arrived, giving clear views of the hills for the rest of the day.
We decided to tackle the circular route in the clockwise direction, to have the wind behind us on the tops and set off at 9:45am. We headed NW from Mill of Aucheen on a good estate track and passed the farm at Blackcraigs, observing a flock of Lapwings swooping over the rough pasture, before starting the steady ascent toward Mount Een (529m). We took advantage of a sheltered hollow near some grouse butts for a short coffee break. Our route then veered NE and with the wind at our backs for the more gentle ascent of Bennygray (558m). On the way, we disturbed several grouse that were quickly scattered in the strong wind.
From Bennygray, the route followed the ridge with fine views across Glen of Tennett towards Mount Keen and Lochnagar with a covering of fresh snow and we observed some ravens flying below the ridge line. At the next junction, we headed E up a steep track to Wester Cairn (717m) then crossed rough ground to make the final ascent to Mount Battock (778m) at 12:15 pm where we had our lunch break in the shelter of the summit cairn.
The return route started off track through short heather and headed SE down a steep flank following the boundary fence, then across a boggy col to join a rough estate track across Hill of Saughs (656m). The route continued SE and steadily downhill with a good view across to Clachnaben and the wind farm near Kerloch to the east. The track then contoured around Hill of Turret, down to the ford across the Burn of Turret and on to the Hazel Burn, crossed by a foot bridge. Finally, we passed the farm at Mill of Aucheen to finish our walk back at the cars at 3pm. T
his had been a fine walk covering some 16km with great views into the Cairngorms, the Bennachie range and hills of Aberdeenshire. Our group stopped for refreshments at Sinclair's Larder cafe in Edzell before heading back to Aberdeen. Many thanks to all the drivers for providing the transport.
11TH FEBRUARY 2019 Corwharn
Culter Hillwalking Club’s February Monday walk took us south to the Angus Glens with the hill of Corwharn, a respectable 611m. After a frosty night the drive down was in clear blue skies and good road conditions so no major winter challenges and by 10.00 am nine club members, two guests and a dog were ready at the Backwater Reservoir car park to set off briskly further up the tarmac to Glenhead farm. A grouse butt track heading steadily uphill took us into open moorland and eventually we reached the first peak of Bad Buidhe at 524m from which we had good views around to higher summits clad in a blanket of overnight snow. Despite a windless start lower down there was a slight breeze at this level, and it had a fair nip, so we headed off track south-eastward dropping 100metres altitude, before turning northeast and heading up again to the next summit of Eskielawn at 607m. This summit gave us good views across Glen Prosen to snowclad Mayar, Driesh and Hill of Strone and behind that over Glen Clova to the hills encompassing Loch Brandy.
The sun was slowly disappearing in a veil of cloud, and the wind was a little more cutting, so down again we headed to find shelter in an open planting of old, twisted larch trees. An estate vehicle arrived on the distant horizon to the north, never moving, but we did get back onto our feet well replenished and ready for a third ascent to Corwharn, our target of the day. A semi-formal cairn was offset from the fairly indistinguishable flat summit on the other side of a stock fence, but it provided another chance to absorb the views, and, just as we were leaving, two other walkers arrived.
A south-westerly course took us along a natural ridge from Corwharn labelled as Mildewan Hill then pathless through some sheep pastures before reaching the morning tarmac road back to the parked cars. 18km walked, 750 metres climbed, was good reason to stop at Peggy Scotts café on the A90 to refuel on tea and cakes before the drive back home. Many thanks as always to Catherine for putting together an interesting circuit, perfect for a February day out, and to the drivers for transporting us a good distance.
3RD FEBRUARY 2019 Geallaig Hill
12 hardy club members ventured forth on Sunday and braved the elements to ascend Geallaig Hill 743m. After some amusing parking antics near West Milton burn we climbed up through quite challenging snow conditions in a south-easterly direction on a hidden vehicle track. Our first fuel stop was just short of Carn Dearg. The group then continued on to Creag na Creiche with a cold wind hastening the walking pace. Much credit goes to Bill, Graham N and David for taking turns in riding point and breaking through the virgin snow. Just before the summit a club member , who shall be nameless, lost their mobile phone, but a watchful Trevor ( one of CHC’s Laurel and Hardy duo!) recovered the item. Lunch was taken at the summit in the shelter of the trig point. The wind and low temperature, however, encouraged us not to prolong our summit stay. The descent was then made in improving visibility and sunlight. Making good speed, we arrived at Braenaloin farm and then crossed the river Gairn before stopping for the last fuel stop at Tullochmacarrick, a deserted dwelling. At this point one of the group looked into the sky and spotted a large raptor circling overhead. By common consensus it was decided that this was probably an eagle given the height and pattern of flying. By this stage the heavy snow conditions were slowing the pace and the Gairnshiel bridge was a welcome sight. We then strolled down the road to the day’s starting point narrowly missing being taken out by an ambulance! A slightly weary group then adjourned to the Bothy in Ballater for hot drinks.
Thanks to all the drivers who had to negotiate some testing road conditions. Finally, many thanks to Bill for leading a very enjoyable winter walk in fairly taxing conditions.
21ST JANUARY 2019 Coiliochbhar Hill
For once we had a luxurious parking area - off-road, picnic benches, shady trees. Just a shame it was snow and ice covered....
We had an easy start up the main Strathdon road before climbing up through trees then moor to the summit of Ardhuncart , a small rounded masted hill with good 360 degree views. A much-used cattle track, fortunately frozen, led us round above the Don before reaching the bridge and entrance to Brux estate. Clearly an active sporting estate, their lovely dogs were duly very excited to see us as we passed by, on our way though mixed woodland to drop down to an old track along the Don where Catherine was duly thrilled to see a dipper thoughtfully posed on an icy rock mid flow.
The track wound up amid old mixed plantings with the view across to Lord Arthur’s Hill steadily improving as we rose. Bennachie appeared and Tap o Noth too.
The cold wind blasted us when we emerged onto the high moor, with watering eyes we could admire Morven and the Ladder Hills, pausing at the flattened Coiliochbhar summit cairn (all that wind...), before dropping down into warmer air to walk along the Don for a final stretch back to the cars.
An attractive winter walk, giving beautifully pastoral views of the Don valley - and just the right amount of snow! As always, many thanks to our drivers (and to Alford Bistro for the wonderful bakes).
6TH JANUARY 2019 Conachcraig
2019 kicked off for Culter Hillwalking Club with a Sunday circular walk up Conachcraig, out of Spittal of Glen Muick, a walk originally intended for the less snowy months of November. Distance was short to fit with daylight hours, but summit height at 862m, though fine for November, was ambitious for early January normal snow conditions. But, despite some recent overnight low temperatures (minus 10-6 Celsius at Braemar) there was no snow encountered at the elevations of our whole walk
Twenty nine walkers, surely a record, assembled to start the walk on the level track across Glen Muick to Alt na Giubhsaich then up the tourist path towards Lochnagar. But at the first junction we parted ways with two walkers heading south across the lower flanks of Lochnagar, then dropping down Glas Allt to Loch Muick, whereas the bulk of the party headed north on an unmarked path ascending steadily to the first summit of Conachcraig, and billed as the Corbett at 865m. Weather was still air, no winds, with cloud hanging at many levels, but at this point some breaks gave glimpses to Meickle Pap and behind, Lochnagar with snow cover. But this twenty-minute window through the clouds was just a teaser as soon cloud enveloped the tops leaving us walking in drifting, damp cloud drops. We made our way along the ridge to Conachcraig summit two at 850m, examined the tors and progressed on to Caisteal na Caillich, 860m where we stopped for lunch amongst further tors, now slippery and wet. After lunch we retraced steps, and then with careful navigation took a more easterly route along the ridge towards Cairn an Daimh then from there descending on grass and heather which was becoming increasingly slippery as some real raindrops briefly fell. By the time we were back down in Glen Muick we were out of the cloud that had thickened further, and it was just a case of following the morning outbound route, back to the car park.
Little wildlife was spotted, merely a lone distant-horizon red deer from the car park, but nothing more. But a good walk to start off the year, and compliments to John and David who had thoroughly reccied the walk, and managed to keep the “flock” in a single walking group,
Sunday walk January 2019, shorter (?) walk Tourist route and across to Glas Allt path and down. Nothing more to report really, apart from patches of ice increasing the braiding of the path across Lochnagar particularly. We certainly experienced that welcome window through to Lochnagar itself but, as James said, the mist very soon returned. I did see a very small plaque on the side of the path, to Anne who was born in 1951 and died in 2017 put there by her husband Mike. And in the absence of wild life, I picked up a large black feather which I believe belonged to the wing of a raven.