Sunday 29 November 2009

Explanatory note

The camping at the weekend was long overdue, but it had been difficult finding a date that suited me Paul and Gordy. Various plans had been suggested including adventurous wildcamps, epic night walks and the like but eventually for a variety of reasons we settled on a couple of nights at campsites in Aviemore. As it then turned out, owing to my inability to retain even limited amounts of information as given to me by my beloved, I had to get doon the road for Saturday night anyway, so it was a pretty brief sojourn north after all!

I left work early on Friday and set off with the Wee Black Dug at about 5pm. The roadworks at Cumbernauld, with the new average speed cameras gets things off to a slow frustrating start. An hour and a bit to Perth. The A9 isny an enormous amount of fun at the best of times, and doing the whole trip in the dark fails to improve the experience. Spirits were kept high by listening to England getting horsed by Sath Efrika at the cricket - actually that's a lie; it didn't do anything for my spirits, but at least the reception you get on Long Wave doesn't cut in & out the whole way up.


We had decided to stay the first night at Glenmore campsite by Loch Morlich. The reason was dug-related, because the last time I was in Aviemore the only pub that let dogs in was Glenmore Lodge itself, which was just 10 minutes walk from the campsite. Arriving at the site in the dark was a wee bit confusing, but although reception was shut there was a helpful enough notice for late arrivals indicating you could pitch anyway, and report to them in the morning. The barrier across the gate comes down between 10pm & 7am, for future reference, but at least there was nobody chasing weary travellers away because they hadn't arrived by dusk. Unlike Fort Augustus.

Paul got there about 10 minutes after I arrived, and we found a relatively flood-free area to get the tents up and then waited for Gordy. There was no lack of space, certainly. It's a big site, but apart from a couple of folk in their toasty warm caravans - bastards! - the place was pretty much deserted. A few pints in Glenmore Lodge, which is pleasant enough although not really a "pubby" atmosphere, as it were. Quite a serious outdoorsy, fit-looking clientele, for understandable reasons of course, but it's definitely a quiet pint place rather than a get steaming place. Still, we were allowed to stay nonetheless.

Couple of cans back at the tents after the pub shut, and then a relatively early night. I don't know what time we turned in, but I know it wasn't 4am, so that's relatively early.

It was cold, mind you. Frost - fairly thick frost - round the tent in the morning but that PHD sleeping bag is a thing of downy wonder. Whatever the temperature is outside, it keeps you warm enough. Pure & simple.

Jorja surfaced about 7, and by half past it was light enough to struggle out of the tent for an energetic frisbee session against a snowy Cairngorms backdrop. Peaceful, and if the mist had cleared a wee bit, undoubtedly the views would have been beautiful. The Wee Black Dug had a good three quarters of an hour running about daft after her toys, which turned out to be fortunate as when the girl from reception wandered past just after that she pointed out that the policy on site was for dogs to be on a lead at all times. That's perfectly reasonable of course - but as the place was near empty and we were about 200 yards from the nearest other guests anway, I'm coping with my guilt about the early morning rule breaking.

The hill we had planned for the day was a Corbett, Meall a' Bhuachaille. The walk starts from the Lodge, down through the forest and past An Lochan Uaine (the Green Lochan) - which is undeniably green. It's green because the fairies used to wash their clothes in it. Seriously. I read that somewhere, so it's definitely true. They may not be quite so keen on using it to do their laundry in the future after Jorja spent five minutes swimming about in it chasing sticks, but them's the breaks if you're a fairy.

Just before Ryvoan bothy the path splits and we took the left fork, had a quick gander at the bothy itself and then up a very well engineered path which leads all the way to the summit. That's the first time I've been out on a hill for weeks, and I was labouring badly. It's pretty steep in places, yes, but didn't justify the meal I was making of it. I really need to throttle back on the beer again and start getting out more regularly. Really.

A bit of snow on the ground higher up - purple snow, as Stef pointed out! The mist threatened to clear away for a while, but as we got closer to the summit it thickened up and there was nothing by way of a view. That was a pity, as everyone says it's one of the best vantage points for the Cairngorms. Still, nothing to stop a return visit when the weather's better. It's a brilliant dog hill, so that's another reason to go back. In fact I don't know if Jorja's ever enjoyed a walk more, because at the top we met a couple of nice blokes from Manchester who chatted away and then revealed they had a surplus of pork pies, and could spare one for the dug if she'd like it. It'll come as no surprise to learn that the Wee Black Dug did indeed like it. Very much. I thought she was going to go back to Manchester with them, at one point.

It didn't take much more than an hour to get back to the car. Quick visit to the cafe at the Visitor Centre - but it was shut. So then we jumped into the cars and headed to the Rothiemurchus campsite where the lads intended to stay on Saturday night - but it was shut.

High Range to the rescue, though. I had been planning to stay and watch the rugby before heading home, but the campsite change meant that I didn't know a pub, with a telly, where they'd let Jorja in, so I just made my farewells and set off doon the road.

And it's definitely a less stressful drive in the daylight.

Home in plenty of time to fulfil my taxi driver duties for Marion's works night out. Camping, beer, hillwalking and Brownie points. A good weekend, all told.


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