Over two days, we were biking into the heart of the West Mounth and hiking up the many Munro summits in the area. Steven was guiding on this event, here's his tale....
On a fine settled morning, I drove up to Inverey, on the way beyond Braemar passing a few cyclists. Trisha was already in the car-park and we waited for the others to arrive. Well, of course the remainder of our group (Peter, Diane and Christina) were the cyclists we'd passed - very keen, Trisha and I were most impressed !
Kit sorted, we began our cycle down Glen Ey. Sun was shining, but still an early morning chill in the air. On the track, there's one hill to test thighs and it's not far after setting off. The challenge was to not get off our bikes and I offered a jelly-baby to anyone who could manage. at the top of the hill, many jelly-babies were devoured and we settled in for the rest of the cycle on more gentle gradients.
The ruins of Altanour Lodge were reached and after dropping of bikes, we hiked westwards in the direction of Carn Bhac, initiallly on a grassy track. The grassy track gave way to a path which eventually disappeared into the heather - we now felt we were in the wilds ! Onto the the bouldery summit, cairn touched, we 'hi-fived' and sat out of the breeze for lunch. Cracking views all round, we picked out the peaks of the Cairngorms. This was Serge's first Munro (see footnote).
Sharp change of direction, Beinn Iutharn Mor next. Trisha had done her homework, reading forums about the boggy terrain we had to cross. No problem to our group - we easily picked a dry route through and reached the foot of the hill. Above us a small section of scree needed climbed, then the remains of winter's snow - the sun reflecting onto our faces. Up on the hill's crest, deer galloped by in front of us. Nearing the summit, the northern slopes were still corniced over - the vast cornice looking precarious. We reached the summit cairn as two dour people approached from the south - they completely ignored us ! Oh well, each to their own. After a bite to eat, we continued on.
Some pleasant heather and grassy terrain, followed by a patch of snow lead us down to the bealach below Carn an Righ. It as getting busy round here, a chap on his own, then a group of 4 mates, then another two folk - everyone out enjoying themselves hiking in the sunshine. We chatted to most and from what we found out, we were the only one aiming to do all 5 Munros ! Up to the summit, some more cracking views, we returned to the bealach meeting yet more people on the way.
Glas Tulaichean next ! But not for Trisha - she'd done this before and opted to take the path up to Loch an Eun where she'd meet us later. So Diane, Christina and myself headed directly downhill, crossed the burn, then stuck up Glas Tulaichean's grassy slopes. A good few jelly-babies were consumed on the way to spur us on. In next to no-time, we were on the track that follows the western shoulder of this hill and quickly thereafter onto the summit with its trig point. Time for more photos !
One final Munro summit for the day - An Socach ! We three aimed down to the loch and caught back up with Trisha. We could see some guys on the other side of the loch - were they going to bivvi there for the night ? If so, what a blissfull place to do so. I thought An Socach, would really test the group, but I was so wrong ! Was the thought of food in Braemar encouraging everyone on ? We reached the summit and stopped for some final views.
Time was getting on, so downhill back to the ruin next. A large patch of deterioating cornice required a detour on the descent, deep heather now tugging at tiring legs. Back to the bikes, we found the cycle back easier (and quicker) than on the way in - amazing what a gentle descent can do !
Today we were starting from the Glenshee Ski Centre, and aiming up the 3 Munro summits to the west. Trisha didn't join us for this day (she'd done these before), so we were down to the four of us.
More cloud than yesterday and a nip in the air we started the hike with our waterproofs on. Carn Aosda was our first target - with less than 300m ascent from the car-park and an obvious track to follow, this is one of the easiest Munros to bag. With a couple of signs on the way it's made even easier ! You guessed it, we were on the summit pretty quickly, getting Serge to balance on a pinnacle on the cairn. No views and we hadn't broken sweat, so on we hiked.
Carn a'Gheoidh next, this was the furthest point today. The cloud rose and teased us with some views in the breaks. An Socach, our final Munro yesterday, looked suprisingly close ! A few ptarmigan clucked demanding our attention, cameras at the ready, we obliged ! Ahead we could see a large group reaching the summit, it was going to be busy up there. Up some snow, we reached the cairn, the group still there, all in good spirits. They were members of Dundee's BT Hillwalking club and had hiked to the summit from the south. They left us with the summit to ourselves and we promptly opened our sacks and tucked into lunch.
More folk arrived and after a chat, finding out where they were going, we set off back eastwards. A bit of fun on the snow on the way - Christina showing how to turn on her bum, Diane sliding at speed, Peter playing it safe. One last haul up our final Munro, the Cairnwell. We met a father and son duo on the way - this was their 8th Munro ! The boy's face telling it all - didn't matter about the mist, he was having a great time. Up to the buildings and masts, we posed for a few photos, then started back down.
A great weekend and well done all !
More photos are on our Flickr page.
Serge came with the car-insurance renewal and he's now decided he want's to bag all the Munros ! That's his first 8 done, but to do more, he'll need some proper kit !