Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Iain’s Cairngorm Micro-Adventure Friday 19 June 2015


With my eldest home for the summer I decided that he should join me on a micro-adventure to the Cairngorms. Iain has never wild camped before and had experienced life under canvass only at the occasional music festival or teenage get together at the Bennachie picnic site.

I have more than one of most bits of kit so fitted Iain with suitable clothing and a 1980s Karrimor Rucksack but the plan was to travel pretty light. We would drive to the Auchallater car park and then walk the ridge leading to Creag nan Gabhar (which would be Iain’s 1st Corbett) and return via Lochallater Lodge to the car park. From here we would take the car to the Linn of Dee car park and walk to Tomnamoine to camp for the night before returning home the next day.

I didn’t know until Thursday that Creag nan Gabhar was a Corbett but the ridge walk, decided on after a quick look through the Walk Highlands website, would be a gentle introduction to the hills for Iain and would provide some enjoyable father/son time. Setting off from the car park at 1330 we followed the track towards Loch Callater for just over a km before turning right to follow the landrover track to the top of Sron Dubh. Sadly this track , marked on the 1:50k as a footpath has, like many tracks in the highlands these days has been badly eroded by vehicles as stalkers have become lazier than their predecessors. The map shows the track leading only as far as Sron nan Gabhar but in fact it continues all the way to the top of the Corbett. At least it makes getting lost hard.

Today the changes of getting lost were unlikely as though it was cool and , on top, windy as well as overcast the tops were well clear of cloud. It was great to see 2 large(ish ) red deer herds, crossing our path but too far away to get a good photo by the time i had faffed around getting my camera. As we made our way along the ridge we had good views to the south and as we got higher towards Lochnagar , though the summit was for the most part in cloud as was that of Ben MacDui to the North West.

The top of the Corbett was easily achieved and Iain added a small rock to each of the 2 cairns that inhabit the top. The descent form the top is to the east and although a little steep at 1st, navigation was simple – just head towards Lochallater Lodge. On reaching the Lodge we were invited to stay the night but made our excuses in order to follow my wild camp plan. Iain was a little unaccustomed to the boots he was wearing so the walk back along the Callater Burn was a little uncomfortable for him though reasonably short. Picking up the car, in which I had left our tent, part 2 of the plan came into effect. Being lazy I decided that I would do without a stove and meals, other than snacks. Instead as we would need to go through Braemar, my cunning plan was to get a beer and a bar meal. Arriving at the Moorfield House Hotel I inadvertently parked in a neighbour’s parking area. At this point the proprietor of the hotel made us aware of my mistake. ‘No problems’ said I ‘I’ll move the car, we’re just coming in for a beer and a snack’. I was a little taken back by the proprietor’s response which was a very brusquely delivered ‘No you’re not; we’re closed for a private function’. Surely a tourist based business could have at least said ‘I’m afraid were closed’ instead it came across more as a ‘Get tae F**K!’. Never mind I can go somewhere else – Permanently! We went instead to the Invercauld where we had an excellent Sirloin Steak washed down by a delicious Cairngorm Gold.


After dinner I drove to the Linn of Dee from where we walked along the Geldie to arrive just after 2100 in time for me to pitch the tent on an ants nest at Tomnamoine – where I had had a wonderful evening on this year’s TGO. Moving the tent took no time at all and we soon had all the kit stowed. At this point we were ready to enjoy a couple of whiskies from Iain’s hip flask and to wander around the ruins and consider the lives of those who had once lived there – perhaps victims of the clearances ?


We woke next morning at 0830 after a rather late end to the night. This being only a day from the solstice we had stayed up until midnight without it getting really dark. Iain had slept well =, in fact seemed overly comfortable wrapped in is sleeping bag. Today was an easy walk out to the car and to finish off our micro-adventure a freshly baked fruit scone at the Old Bakery in Braemarjust after opening at 1000. Iain’s verdict on this introduction to the hills and the micro-adventure concept – ‘I loved it, when can we do it again?’

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