A welcome return to the Cairngorm Club’s Muir Cottage for the March meet, where the Club had previously enjoyed stays in May 2018 and August 2015. Those who’ve had the pleasure will know that it is a very comfortable, well-appointed hut in a stunning location, with a mouth-watering array of hills in the immediate area and within easy striking distance.
Members Attending: Norrie Shand; George Henderson; Raymond Evenden; James Duncan Fraser; Bill Dallas (Friday); John Calder; Alyn McNaughton; Duncan MacLeod; Jim Aire; Gerry Weir; Adrian Mowat; Ania Borg and Lorn Smith.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not quite so mouth-watering and suggested once again, that Saturday’s conditions could prove challenging at best.
Fortunately, for those who were in a position to do something on Friday, conditions were more favourable.
Enjoying a rare couple of days off work, not knowing he’d soon be having several more, Lorn headed for Glenshee having been on Buachaille Etive Beag the day before (in place of Beinn Fhionnlaidh, which could not be accessed due to an impassable Glen Etive road) and there’d been fresh snowfall in Glenshee too, which ensured the ski centre at The Cairnwell was exceptionally busy on Friday when passing through. Lorn and Fraz had a quick chat here about respective targets, having earlier met in Blairgowrie at the petrol station. Due to a lazy start for both, time was now short and Lorn was bound for An Socach, while Fraz was mulling over the drive round to Glen Muick and Lochnagar.
Lorn then parked-up by the roadside at Glen Clunie and walked in via the usual route up the Baddoch Burn, there was little or no snow in the Glen, but plenty from about 600m and a breakable crust soon after that, which made for easy going. It was a bright, sunny day, but the cloud was thickening from the South and the wind picking up too by the time he made the summit of An Socach.
Fraz: Oi, Norrie!
Norrie: (pretends not to hear)
Fraz (bellowing): NORRIE!
Norrie: Ah, didn’t see you there, James.
Fraz: Where you headed?
Fraz: There’s no need for that, I was only asking!
And with that, they ventured off up Morrone (aka Morven) together, via the lochan? Fraz twisted Norrie’s arm to return via the Old Military Road, by which time, Lorn had arrived in Braemar and, on seeing Fraz’s car, called to see where they were. Having just spoken with Raymond, who’d managed a quick jaunt up Mount Blair on his way North, plans were quickly hatched for him to collect them both and rendezvous at the impossibly posh and seemingly overstaffed Fife Arms Hotel, where refreshments were enjoyed before heading along the road to the hut.
Duncan was first to arrive at the hut, having made good use of, first, his bus pass to get to Braemar, then, his thumb to get to Muir. The others then arrived in dribs and drabs and soon, the place was abuzz (not with the flies that seemed to have commandeered the place?!) with various concoctions being put together in the kitchen, followed by various discussions on what to do on Saturday, given the forecasts.
On Saturday morning, the rain fell steadily and the wind had picked up overnight. Everyone decided to stick with their original plans, with the exception of Gerry, who’d realised he’d left his boots at home!
First out the door, were John, Alyn and Duncan, who set off together for Linn of Dee and the goal of Derry Cairngorm. It’s a long walk in and out of course and, it would be a testing day on the hill, with concentration and navigation key, and so it proved.
Next off, were the larger group of Jim, Adrian, Ania, Raymond, Bill and Fraz, who were driving round to Glen Muick for Lochnagar. The plan was to check on the potential of a climb for at least half the group, however ground (and overhead) conditions ruled this out. Brief respite on the ascent was replaced with incessantly high winds on the summit plateau, where the cliffs and corries were given a wide berth, and with crampons donned, the group soldiered on to the summit, where Fraz and Bill traded photos of one another.
George had come armed with a few potential routes and, with one of Lorn’s intended targets being Carn Bhac, they settled upon a circuit that included it. So, waiting a little for the heavier rain to subside, walking from the back door (arguably, the front door) of Muir Cottage, before Back Door Walks became a “thing”, they set off down the road towards Inverey and George used is nose to navigate up, into and through the woods to gain the ridge opposite Carn Bhac. The weather wasn’t too bad and, aside from the strong wind, it was quite pleasant over Carn na Moine & Carn Liath. No doubt having a nose for bad weather, George headed into the glen along the Allt Cristie Beag from the approach to Carn Liath and headed out on the good track there back to the hut. Lorn carried on and soon the weather worsened and, much like the others, spent a good four hours inside a cloud, being blasted by increasingly strong winds, bringing a mix of snow, hail and rain, while trying to navigate to Carn Bhac and safely off the other side.
Norrie & Gerry (sans boots, but having approach shoes at least), after a drive to the shop in Braemar and a read of the paper back at the hut, also set off from the back door for a wander along Glen Ey to Altanour Lodge and back.
Following a quick, cold shower and change back at the hut, Lorn headed for Braemar and Farquharson’s Bar & Kitchen (on Bill’s recommendation), to find George in front of the fire there holding court. Not content with one Geordie, he’d enlisted another two and plans were hatched for them to enjoy the traditional club festivities, before retiring to their B&B in Braemar, courtesy of the sober, but fearless, Adrian.
The party swung on to the small hours and Sunday’s weather was no better, so everyone made their way home (though there was an impromptu breakfast meet-up in Blairgowrie), where Covid-19 would soon put paid to many of the freedoms we take for granted. So, until next time, whenever that may be!