Archive for the ‘Cairngorms’ Category

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

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Wild camping in Big Country Part 3   8 comments

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Sleep comes so much easier when the wind isn’t roaring and your mind starts to imagine scenarios of tents blowing down and trying to rescue everything in the dark of night. All we had was gentle rain to soothe us. By morning it had stopped and there were tentative glimpses of sunshine. Enough to tempt us outside for breakfast. Life was pretty good in a boil in the bag sausage and then porridge kind of way

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There was no urgency to head home so we took a walk back up towards Corrour. There was plenty of blue sky and sunshine but it was still windy high up and pretty chilly. On a whim I decided to head for the skyline to the south as it looked moderately interesting. A chance to make a summit

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TJS was less convinced by the bog and tussocks to reach it so he returned to the tent while I covered the ground more briskly than I thought

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Having crossed Creagan nan Gabhar, Sgor Mor didn’t look much, just a bare high point surrounded by heather

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I traversed over to the SW ridge and found it pleasantly rocky and a joy to climb very easily to its summit. The view became ever better as I ascended, both north to the main Cairngorm summits and south across Glenshee and Beinn a Ghlo.

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I got my reward for making the effort as my stay on the summit coincided with a lovely sunny spell. I grinned to the sky at my good fortune and sat on a rock to ponder

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I tried another attempt at panorama shots but I still haven’t sussed them. Either I’m moving the camera too slowly or quickly but there is always a break in them at 2/3 across. Not quite sure why. If you click on them you can see a larger version. The second one (looking south) is much better and there is a video 360 in the slideshow at the end

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I particularly enjoyed the views to the south as I hadn’t seen much of those the previous couple of days. It reminded me of a backpack through to Bynack Lodge many years ago, a trip remembered for very heavy showers, a very scary crossing of the Geldie Burn and two days of wearing shorts when I really should have known better

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I also thought of the many bloggers who I read and enjoy who will (about now in fact) be walking through this area on the TGO challenge. If any of them are camped up near White Bridge and get a decent day they could do worse than take a trip up this fine mountain. Sitting between the bigger ranges of hills its a perfect vantage point across some wonderful wild and remote landscape

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When  I got back I was further cheered to find out it was a Corbett. It doesn’t look high enough until you realise that all the valleys are already at 500m in these parts. Didn’t make the last few hundred meters to camp through some of the deepest heather I’ve ever seen any easier but at least I had another tick on the round of Corbetts that I’ll never finish

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All that was left was to have lunch in the sun outside the tent, pack up, and head back to the car. TJS resisting the photo call from dad to fall in for some extra blog novelty value

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The trudge down Glen Lui was just as long, perhaps a little longer with a heavy heart of great trip nearly over

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A last look along the Lui Water and we were back at the surprisingly empty Linn of Dee car park. Best part of 50 miles walked over the 5 days which we were both well chuffed about. As we finished getting ready to leave it started snowing!

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I commented on the previous post how I look back on this trip as an adventure in challenging conditions. By Cairngorm standards it was pretty benign but when I think of the fact it was cold, windy, snowy, that we were in some remote spots, that we saw few people hiking and almost no-one wild camping the feeling of achievement grows still further. This is especially true for TJS as he still has limited mountain experience and for me as I am ultimately responsible for keeping us safe (as opposed to leaning on the experience of friends). It would have been easy to bail out to a B&B or a campsite (and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it at a couple of points) but we stuck with it and got reward with some fine spells of weather, great views and for TJS one the UK’s great summits and another long trip into the mountains under his belt.

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Next years plan is already forming for more adventures. My friends that went to Arran had a good time but didn’t wild camp saying its too early in the year. What do they know! 🙂

I need to backpack while I still can as I don’t know how many I have left in me (private joke!)

Wild Camping in Big Country Part 2   8 comments

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The wind picked up overnight. Quite dramatically so. One of those winds you can hear coming before it batters the tent. My new Nigor Parula 2 tent is not classed as 3 seasons (by the manufacturer anyway) so my remaining concern was how well it would stand up to a Scottish gale. Answer is very well. It does flex quite a bit (as its supposed to) but withstood the battering flawlessly. It was a restless night but we woke to bright skies and decided to stick with our plan to move on, hopefully into the area below the Lairig Ghru. We left behind our home for the past few days and made tracks.

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We agreed to take the alternative path down the west side of the river. Inspired. We were out of the wind, the sun came out and the forest was stunning. This short stretch was one of the highlights of the weekend. Photos don’t really do justice to how gorgeous it was

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We then headed west into the strong wind along the upper reaches Glen Lui. I’ve walked through here a couple of times but hadn’t recalled how stunning it was

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We headed up towards the Luibeg bridge to avoid the ford but as we reached it the skies suddenly darkened and we were hit with an extremely heavy hail and snow shower. The wind roared and I felt the Lairig Ghru would be hugely exposed and I didn’t fancy camping there. I’d spotted a patch of green down by the ford and we headed down primarily to shelter.

It was a wonderful spot, an almost perfect wild camp site. I figured we could tuck the tent in behind some of the trees and gain a small degree of shelter so we pitched here on the spur of the moment. It was right next to the path but this is a remote spot en-route to even more remote areas so only and handful of people passed by while we were there

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The showers were nasty while they emptied but they were few and far between and when the sun was out the views were stunning. We took an afternoon stroll up the path towards the Lairig Ghru and Corrour bothy

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The views back down Glen Lui were sublime and up towards the massive peaks above the Lairig Ghru dramatic

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As we wandered back down the light became even clearer and the now abundant sunshine bathed the forest and heather in glorious colour

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When we reached the tent the wind seemed to have dropped completely and it was warm enough – just – to cook outside in the sunshine

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No better feeling than tucking into a well earned meal in the wilds under an evening sun. One of the joys of backpacking and wild camping

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We’d hoped the weather would be sunny the next day but it dawned rather grey and gloomy although without the winds of the previous day. We were well placed for an attempt at Ben Macdui with good paths around an obvious horseshoe. There was light snow in the air all the way up but the path and then the easy terrain had us most of the way up Sron Riach in great time

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The summit plateau is a wild and lonely place and deep snow cover still lay on the ground. It was an amazing contrast to the wild winds of the day before without so much as a breath of wind on one of the most notoriously windy places in Scotland. There were even wisps of blue sky to encourage us it might clear but it never did

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TJS was well chuffed to reach his second munro and the second highest peak in the UK despite the mixed weather

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After a celebratory cup of soup we headed on towards our second peak of the day. Its a long and tiring descent down the seemingly endless SW slopes of Ben Macdui

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Carn a Mhaim is a fine peak and different in character to most of the Cairngorms. Rather than the extensive plateau its a long ridge with a couple of moderately rocky sections and excellent views into the depths of the Lairig Ghru far below

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We stopped for a second lunch and brew on the summit to celebrate TJS third munro (only 280 or so to go). For a time it looked like the skies might clear and our ascent route and the summit of Ben Macdui was revealed. Alas this was a goodbye rather than a greeting. It began to drizzle on the way down which turned into a steady rain that lasted the rest of the day

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We had to cook inside again due to the rain but it mattered not. We’d earned our feast and slept well without the wind and with the patter of raindrops on the nylon

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It had still been a grand day, 10 miles and 4000 feet of climbing on some true big scale mountains from a wild camp base. Epic!

 

Wild Camping in Big Country Part 1   12 comments

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The annual Easter wild camping trip. We’d made some plans to meet friends and pay a second visit to Arran. However the weather looked more settled in the East and while they stuck to their plan for Arran we headed east for TJS first visit to the Cairngorms, Scotland’s Big Country.

An overnight in Perth, a hearty breakfast in The Bothy in Braemar and round to Linn of Dee ready for a 5 day trip into the heart of this wild and remote corner of the Scottish Hills

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We took the long walk in along Glen Lui, weighed down with 5 days supplies for a 4 night trip. Skies were threatening and spots of rain were in the air but never heavy enough for waterproofs

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It’s a long walk along the glen but there is a real sense of heading into the wilds. TJS has had a trip to Lochaber where long ridges predominate. The Cairngorms promise something different I told him. Long, deep valleys, high sculpted corries and extensive tundra-like plateaus.

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We passed Derry Lodge before turning north for Glen Derry. In my youth you could use the building for shelter, albeit a draughty one with all the windows and doors open to the elements. Its boarded up now with unfulfilled planning permission for something grander. There were a couple of people camping in the woods nearby, the only other wild campers we saw all weekend

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Our plan was to camp in Glen Derry. It’s a fabulous valley, broad, open, surrounded by towering summits and studded with natural scots pine

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I wanted to return to a spot I’d camped in around 20 years ago and managed to find it! It’s an idyllic spot by the river and we found a sheltered spot under a tree

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We spent a couple of hours making it our home and having lunch. It was more tussocky than I remember and the photo below from the first trip proves it was indeed a much flatter grassier spot (although it was late May rather than Easter). That was a memorable trip for many reasons. Good times

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I wonder if it was the time of year or whether the translation from grass to tussock is part of the natural evolution of the landscape.

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We took a stroll in the late afternoon with a view to reaching Loch Etchachan. It was sunny when we set off but we caught a couple of heavy, wet snow showers, the only time we really got wet the whole weekend

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We passed by the Hutchison Hut, clearly now much improved, as are most of the Cairngorm bothies. We got a good way up towards the Loch before the cold and wet sent us back down to the tent to eat tea and get cosy in the tent for our first night in the wilds. A day of 11 miles and just shy of 3000 feet of ascent. Off to a good start

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The next day dawned overcast but bright and cold. We had a vague plan to repeat a walk I done on the previous trip, down to Loch Avon and back via Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui. The walk over the Lairig an Laoigh takes you into some real wild and remote country and its a stunning walk even on a grey day

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We crossed the Fords of Avon without too much difficulty and took a peek in the Refuge. This has been massively improved to say the least. Last time I was here it was in effect, a small, squalid dark cave in a large cairn. Now its a wooden shelter (albeit with no windows) and rather snug and cosy for a couple of people.

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We pressed on to Loch Avon. One of the most dramatic locations in the UK if you ask me (I’m sure someone should). After a brief lunch stop at one end we walked to the other. The weather had dipped a little and it was snowing when we reached the other end

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We stopped for some soup and the sun came out! The beach is rather splendid and the water crystal clear, if a little chilly for a swim. There are plenty of spots for a tent so I must pay the place a longer visit.

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By now we’d decided that the main summits were out-of-bounds with the weather so unpredictable, so a circuit around Beinn Mheadhoin seemed better. Onwards and upwards to Loch Etchachan with snow flurries still in the air but gorgeous views across Loch Avon as we climbed.

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After a heavy snow shower we had one of the best spells of the day at the Loch. It’s a magnificent spot, a dark corrie and lake, one of the highest in the UK. I camped up here with TBF and my dog Harry many years ago and this visit rekindled some fine memories. I took a bonus circuit of the smaller lake to take it all in

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We had a spell of abundant sunshine and blue sky on the way down to Glen Derry and all was right with the world. I can handle a few brief soakings if the spells between are as good as this

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TJS seemed to be enjoying it despite the cold weather. The Cairngorms has miles of high quality paths and he hates off-piste walking. He soared ahead of me most of the weekend waiting for me to catch up and show him how to cross awkward rivers and the like!

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A view down Glen Derry. Our pitch is by the two dark trees in the right centre of the shot

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TJS feasting on his preferred snack of choice, Jaffa Cakes

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The day ended in fine fashion.  A few isolated showers and chill wind forced us to retire inside to cook.

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When we emerged for the usual post meal chores and ablutions we were treated a decent late evening light show for as long as our cold hands and other extremities could stand it before retiring

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A highly satisfying and enjoyable day out in wild, big country and another 12 miles and 2800 feet of climbing under our belts. Not bad for ageing and novice sherpas

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