The Club had previously enjoyed a couple of meets at the Milehouse Hut in Kincraig south of Aviemore. In the same area, a short distance away is Mill Cottage, wonderfully secluded in the forest just north west of Feshiebridge where our November meet was held on the 17th and 18th. This is a “National Hut” available to Mountaineering Scotland affiliated clubs and has superb facilities including showers and a solid fuel stove. A couple of members had visited previously but for most it was a first-time experience.
Joining the club on this trip were a couple of European enthusiasts who have chosen to make Scotland their home for a short period of time – Caroline from the French Pyrenees and her partner Javier who hails from the Spanish side of that wonderful range of mountains.
Raymond Evenden, James Fraser, George Henderson, Neil Morrison, Ian Pollock, Norrie Shand, Lorn Smith
Caroline and Javier
The weather on the Friday was not very promising and nobody chose to do any walking that day on the way up to hut. The exception was George who revisited the fine Corriehabbie Hill from Glen Rinnes on his quest to complete his 2nd round of Corbetts. He was fortunate enough to miss the worst of the weather as he arrived at the summit cairn with its peculiar capped trig point. He wasn’t long in scampering back down and managed to fit in a quick tour round the Cragganmore distillery before heading round to the hut to get the stove lit for the others arriving later.
During the course of the evening everyone arrived safely despite the hut not being the easiest to locate. Lorn though had commitments at home and wouldn’t be arriving until Saturday and planned to do some hillwalking on his way north. A pleasant few hours were spent regaling our Continental visitors with some old stories and making plans for the following day with James in particular relishing the opportunity to put his schoolboy Esperanto to good use.
James, Neil and Ian decided they were heading for the more southerly Glen Feshie Munro, Mullach Clach a Bhlair. They parked their car a few miles down the Glen at Auchlean and headed south along the banks of the River Feshie where the extraordinary impact of some ferocious recent erosion was evident. Their initial target was the bothy at Ruigh Aiteachain which is currently being extensively renovated by Glen Feshie estate. They were hugely impressed by the work that was being done elevating the bothy to 5 star standard – but were a bit cynical regarding how long it would remain an open shelter.
Soon they were headed east up the track that leads on the high plateau that reaches over to the Cairngorm giants of Cairn Toul and Braeriach. Although very cold, the day had turned out much better than initially forecast but with a fair covering of snow above about 700 metres. On the arctic landscape James was being extra careful to avoid any unwanted encounters with the dreaded “bear blanche” which had been the subject of his discussion the previous night.
There were no problems locating the summit and they had an enjoyable descent to the glen encouraged by the prospect of refreshment at the Loch Insh Watersports bar.
Norrie, Caroline and Javier (and their trusty collie Lobo) also headed down Glen Feshie but their target was the more northerly Munro Sgor Gaoith – or Peak of the Wind. This was to be Norrie’s fourth ascent of this peak but a first walk in this area for Caroline and Javier. A very pleasant tramp through the forest saw them head up initially to the top of Geal Charn before turning south east and making for the summit of the mountain which sits precariously on the cliff edge overlooking Loch Eanaich and Braeriach beyond. There are notorious cornices north of the summit in winter time and care was taken not to venture too close to the edge.
Caroline and Javier were used to taking clients out into the Pyrenees and their hill fitness saw Norrie having to grit his teeth to try and keep up with them. Caroline had her work cut out though trying to talk to Norrie in English, to Javier in Spanish and to Lobo in French.
They headed south from summit before descending an wonderfully constructed path back down to Auchlean before a 3k tramp back up the road to the car park.
George, with his repeat Corbett tucked under his belt from the Friday elected to have an easier day and headed down to Kingussie to tackle a “relative” in the area, Creag Bheag, stopping to photograph the iconic ruins of Ruthven Barracks on the way. As much as he enjoyed his stroll up the hill, the highlight of his day was to come later as managed to pick a very decent pair of 2nd foot Scarpa boots in the Kingussie Charity shop for not much more than the price of a pint in some of the more expensive parts of the country.
Raymond had taken his bike up with him and chose to cycle for 10 miles down Glen Feshie on the west side of the river. Despite the cold this was very enjoyable – well apart from the moment when his bike slipped on some ice and he took an acrobatic tumble along the road. Neither he nor the bike were seriously damaged fortunately and he continued down to the end of the glen before ascending the steep slopes of the Corbett, Carn Dearg Mor. From there he dropped a couple of hundred metres west before climbing again to another Corbett, Mullach Mhor, nearly 4k away from the first summit. As is often the case the views of the higher mountains from these slightly lower hills were magnificent.
Driving up that morning, Lorn stopped off just north of the Drumochter pass to tackle the four Munros on the west side of the A9 from Balsporran Cottages. These hills don’t feature in many peoples lists of favourite Munros climbed but it is still a decent day out, particularly as Lorn did when you add on a little extension – in his case the subsidiary summit of Creagan Mor north west of Balsporran.Pleased with his bag for the day Lorn continued his drive north later in the afternoon to meet up with others at Mill Cottage.
A very enjoyable evening was spent in the hut with the stove keeping everyone nice and cosy. Caroline and Javier were “treated” to a few songs by the 45 Degrees choir, led off alternately by Raymond and Norrie on guitar. Our European friends appeared to be enjoying the ambiance – but perhaps that was less about the music and more about the glasses of whisky that they were invited to sample. Later in the evening though it became clear that the excitement was just too much for Raymond and Lorn.
Sunday dawned in similar fashion to Saturday and most of the party decided that some sort of leg-stretcher was required, although Norrie was obliged to head straight back down the road. Ian Pollock’s walk was limited to a five-minute hike round the Sculpture Trail which begins only a few hundred yards from the door of the hut. It is quite entertaining though with some weird and wonderful carvings manufactured from the remains of fallen trees.
Caroline and Javier though were determined to make the most of their weekend and, having been bombarded with advice the night before, made a decision to head a few miles north to Glenmore Lodge and try their hand at the fine Munro, Bynack More. This involves an engaging walk past the well-named An Lochan Uaine – the Green Lochan before heading east then south up the steep snowy slopes of the 1090m Munro. Unburdened by Norrie’s funereal pace they made fairly short work of the ascent and celebrated with the usual photo-shoot. On this occasion though the managed to produce the first photo in 45 Degrees history of a summiteer wielding an umbrella.
Lorn’s journey south saw him bag another couple of hills, this time east of the A9 – the Munro of Meall Chuaich and its neighbouring Graham Creag Rhuadh. Lorn was lucky enough to get some fine views from the Graham summit but suffered the infamous Chuaich Clag when he reached the top of the Munro.
Raymond and James enjoyed a couple of little leg-stretchers on their drive home with a stroll by the Falls of Bruar and an amble up Struan Hill.
Neil completed his weekend by following in (some of) Lorn’s footsteps from the previous day by shinning up the Munro of Geal Charn from Balsporran Cottage and also taking in the subsidiary summit of Creagan Mor.
Finally, George decided to put his new boots to the test – although not that much of a test – by going for an amble by the Falls of Truim and ascending the fine little craggy hill, Cruban Beag soth of Newtonmore.