A welcome return to the Carn Dearg Mountaineering Club’s hut at Braedownie in Glen Clova, where the 45 Degrees Club AGM and Burns Night was also held back in January 2019.
Gerry Weir; Raymond Evenden; Norrie Shand; James Duncan Fraser; Alyn McNaughton; George Henderson; Susan Henderson; Adrian Mowat (Sat); Ania Borg (Sat); Tom Monaghan; Fran Nicol; & Lorn Smith
Malcolm Russell; Donna Fraser; Dougie Reid; & Elizabeth Smith
John Calder; Bill Dallas; Wallace Booth; Pete Smith; Louise McCulloch; Jim Aire; Duncan MacLeod & Tina MacLeod; Ian Pollock; and Alan Orr.
Gerry and Malcolm were early arrivals on Friday and set off up Jock’s Road bound for Corrie Fee, only to find their way barred by fallen trees from Storms Arwen and Barra, ultimately forcing them to beat a retreat to the hut, though not before Gerry had sustained a calf injury.
George and Susan had a wander up to Loch Brandy from behind the Glen Clova Hotel, before the short hop along the road to the hut.
Raymond, meanwhile, was in Glen Prosen for a leg stretch around a circuit that included Finlet, Hill of Adenaich, Cornwharn, Tarapetmile, Cormaud & Cat Law (a Graham).
As everyone arrived in dribs and drabs throughout the course of the evening, Norrie, Gerry and Alyn kept everyone entertained for a good couple of hours, during which, the stragglers continued to arrive. The possible highlight of the evening was Gerry, clearly recovering well from the calf injury, giving his egg shaker maracas an airing, cutting some shapes and busting some moves (and maybe a blood vessel or two) in the process. The maracas were upstaged though as Norrie paid a musical tribute to the very recently departed (from this mortal coil, not Breadownie!), Meat Loaf.
The forecast had been for more high winds throughout Friday night and Saturday and so it proved. Confidence was low for much in the way of hills for Saturday, but a few hardy souls prepared to set out, more in hope than expectation. It was a leisurely start though and the sight of Norrie slaving over a hot stove first thing ensured no-one left too early, for fear of missing out on a fortifying ‘45 breakfast of Bacon, Sausage & Egg, with buttered rolls…a Vegan’s dream!…a sterling and much appreciated effort. As ever, nothing went to waste.
Not before couping a tub of cream from the fridge over the floor, The Fraz, Sherpa Tom & Breagh the spaniel (who’d spent the night in the car & was like a coiled spring) set off for Dreish, via the Kilbo Path (aka The Shank of Drumfollow) and hoped to avoid the devastation in the forest by doing so (The Fraz had been stalking the Glen Clova Ranger Service all week, for the inside track on the deforestation).
Meanwhile, George, Susan, Alyn & Dougie set off together along the South Esk towards Bachnagairn, into a brutal headwind coming down the valley that offered little respite. After 3km or so, on reaching the footbridge beneath The Strone, three of the hardy quartet beat a retreat back the way they had come and Alyn elected to continue on up towards Bachnagairn, with a view to attempting Broad Cairn and Cairn Bannock if conditions allowed…more in hope than expectation!
Later, Lorn set off up the same track for a run (though the headwind made the word “run” something of an exaggeration) and found himself on the opposite side of the river from the returning dry-shod trio and had to ford the river to continue (never the best just 2km into a potentially long run). Alyn and Lorn battled on separately into the wind up the glen to Bachnagairn and, once at the head of the corrie, found some respite from the wind and Alyn continued on towards his original goal of Broad Cairn. Lorn had set out with no intention of going high but, surprised at the relief offered from the wind beneath the corrie headwall, decided to carry on at least to the old tin hut on the Coyles of Muick that lead to Broad Cairn. It was at this point that Lorn and Alyn’s paths crossed and, with just strong, blustery winds here, both intended to press on towards Broad Cairn. Lorn went on ahead in an effort to stay warm, as his attire wasn’t really for the tops today. Broad Cairn itself provided a degree of shelter all the way to the summit cairn, where the true ferocity of the wind revealed itself and it was impossible to remain upright for long. Seeing a way out down between Cairn and Craig of Gowal towards Loch Esk and the Glittering Skellies, Lorn pressed on into the wind before finding some respite on the flanks of Cairn of Gowal, followed by an enjoyable trot round Loch Esk on various trods, until the main path up from the glen was located, and followed this down and back out the way he’d come in. Alyn experienced the winds for himself on arrival at Broad Cairn’s summit and decided, wisely, not to proceed to Cairn Bannock, which would have meant another 2km directly into the teeth of a wind that was capable of lifting you off your feet and another 2km back in an equally hazardous tailwind.
Meanwhile, over by, the intrepid duo of JDF and Tom had a wind-assisted ascent of Dreish where, on arrival at the summit, had several attempts just to get into the shelter cairn there, beaten back by the wind each time, before finally finding some respite there. That was a flavour of what they could expect on the descent and found themselves on all fours at times (good practice for their roles later that evening!).
Norrie had a wander up Glen Doll to Corrie Fee, finding several timber obstacles along the way, but this track was passable with care (though sad to behold, it was actually quite good fun negotiating a way through).
Gerry and Malcolm also headed up the South Esk track, finding the plantation along here had also been devastated and, talking to a member of the Carn Dearg club at the hut on Sunday morning, he confirmed that this is in fact Balmoral Estate land and that they’d already had to have over 1000 tonnes of timber cleared, JUST to regain access to the track, there are still thousands of broken trees by the side of the track.
Everyone was back at the hut relatively early and just as well, for there was work to be done to prepare for Burns night. Even moreso however, when the power in the area failed during the afternoon and it looked very much like the Burns Supper may not be possible. Some of the troops had been down at The Glen Clova Hotel when their power went out too. The Ranger from the Visitor Centre came round between 3 & 4pm (probably under the guise of a chinwag with his new bezzy mate, The Fraz, who had yet to return) to say that it wasn’t fixed yet and may be some time!!
What followed was something of a loaves and fishes moment, as the great minds of the ‘45 got to work and began an attempt to cook a Burns Supper for 17 hungry folk … on a wood burner! By wrapping the haggis in foil and sitting it on, and then by, the wood burner, cutting tatties and neeps smaller and putting them into smaller pots atop the burner and then heating soup and the whisky sauce for the haggis on there too, it somehow came together and worked out perfectly in the end, all done by headtorch, fire and & candlelight. It was a valiant effort all round and, probably the best compliment is that, if you hadn’t known how it had been prepared, you’d have been none the wiser.
The power eventually came back on again about 9.30pm, after Supper had all been cooked and devoured, just in time for hot water for the washing-up! Another herculean effort ensued, to get through these in record time. The Fraz admiring his reflection in the window whilst on dish duty…
The AGM was postponed, partly due to the effort required to put food on the table and partly due to missing committee and club members. This would be rescheduled for a later date, perhaps online.
The Burns Supper did proceed though, pretty much as planned, and interspersed with breaks for starters, mains & dessert. After El Presidenté’s inimitable Intro and George’s finely enhanced Selkirk Grace, Fran delivered the March of the Haggis, with Alyn “piping” it in on the chanter. Norrie then gave a rousing address to the haggis, somehow more pertinent than ever, given the effort to get it prepared!
Such was the effort involved in getting us to this point, most didn’t bother to change into their traditional garb, not Tom though! Tom brought his Robert Burns show to town and rattled through more costume changes than Celine Dion during her Las Vegas residency, the enforced candlelight only serving to add to the occasion.
Absolutely tremendous renditions of Tam O’ Shanter, Holy Willie’s Prayer and We Three to a captive audience followed, enlisting the help of Fraz & Raymond in the latter, where the skills practised on Dreish earlier in the day, were put to good use and set the tone for the rest of the evening!
A mightily hard act to follow! Lorn provided the Toast tae the Lassies and, in a change to the advertised programme, the
coven, sorry, ladies put their heads together and produced an inspired response.
Once both power and energy levels were restored, the music from Norrie, Gerry and Alyn ensured the merriment continued long into the night. Others attempted to emulate Gerry’s prowess on the egg shaker maracas, failing miserably! Gerry then paid his own tribute to Meat Loaf.
It dawned bright and calm on Sunday though, another storm front was expected to roll through by lunchtime. Fran took over breakfast duties from Norrie, before the usual clear-up and folk started to pack up and head homeward.
Elizabeth & Lorn had a good walk up to Corrie Fee in the morning, retracing Norrie’s steps from the day before, clambering over, under and around the trees to get that view.
Dropping into the Glen Clova Hotel to settle the previous day’s power-cut tab, they found The Fraz treating Donna to a romantic lunch by the open fire. Less romantic was finding their way home barred for a spell by more tree-felling on the way out of Glen Clova!
Raymond went for a wander around Kirriemuir on the way home to pay homage to a couple more Scottish legends.
On their way home, Susan & George had a wander up to Airlie Monument on Tulloch Hill, above Dykeyhead and then, after a short drive to the edge of the Sidlaws, up to the ruined observatory and trig point on Kinpurney Hill, on their way back down the road.
Huge thanks to all concerned for pulling together on this one out of the bag. Much has been made here of the efforts to put the Supper on the table. There is however a Herculean effort behind the scenes beforehand in preparation from Raymond and the rest of the Committee from getting the event programme produced; transporting tables, pots and other equipment to the venue; enlisting
victims volunteers, no strong-arm tactics were required! The Burns Supper also relies on people’s generosity, with various donations made and, for that, may we all be truly thankit.