After a few drinks in the bar the night before I was now on my way home from what had been a very quick 2 weeks working in Invergordon. I had went there with the full intention of hitting the gym and wall in Inverness but it never quite happened due to us being able to drink for free in the hotel bar. Always a disaster! As I got into the car I had toyed with the idea of the west coast since I was more than half way there anyway but then the nagging thought was the drive at the end of it all. I opted for the drive home instead.
As I was coming off the Kessock Bridge in Inverness I knew the turn off onto the A96 approached. So easy to take it and head home. Instead I continued onwards, the A9 my new guide. I told myself it was a quicker way to get back to my home in Cruden Bay but at the same time I had the option of turning on towards Aviemore and the Cairngorms. This temptation proved to much and after an hour of driving I pulled up in the car park at the Cairngorm Ski Centre. It was a little before 9am and I had just parked in the exact spot I parked in a few weeks ago. Im sure a lot of the walkers I could see were here then too.
I got out the car and was quickly surprised at the lack of midges.. Biss. That last time I pretty much ran out of the car park taking cover from them and forgot my camera! I opened the boot of the car and rummaged past all the work gear that was untidily packed on top of my walking and climbing gear. I was now faced with a dilemma.. Go with boots and a daysack or trainers and my camelbak. I opted for lightweight and packed the following;
Map, Goretex Jacket, Micro Fleece, First Aid Kit and Tom Patey's book, a well read favourite of mine. I then threw my iPhone in the top and filled the bladder with 1.5l of water. And I was off.
I skirted round the car park onto the path and already felt great. No slugishness in the legs or anything. I had a wee spring in my step! The refreshing tunes of Martyn Bennett starting me off well. Looking round as I left it was the usual morning in the northern corries. Low clag and humid feeling. It was a great feeling to be back where I belong and there wasn't a soul in sight. At this point I still hadn't decided on exactly where I was going. A few weeks earlier I had came up for a run and decided last minute on the Fiacaill Ridge around to Cairngorm and back down via Sron an Aonaich. Today I podded past the turn off to head up that way. Within minutes I spotted a dog running up and down the hill ahead of me. Then I spotted the owner, he was moving at a steady pace but I was catching up fast. As I neared him the dog came bounding towards me, he turned looking a little more tired than me. I gave him the usual hello and a wee blether about the morning. I carried on past him and decided I would head for Ben Macdui. I pushed on til I was handrailing around the side of Cairn Lochan. I stopped for a minute as the clouds began to lift and fumbled about cursing at myself for the lack of camera. My iPhone would have to do. One very unflattering self portrait later and I was on my way.
I continued, skipping over the boulder fields towards the slopes of the Ben. The music still keeping my legs moving well. My next worry with all this clag lying about was that the Grey Manny was going to be lurking somewhere!! I hit the summit and again the clag beagan to lift for a second. The phone was quickle wrestled from inside my bag to take some very poor snaps.
I also took a snap of the viewpoint which I think is going to be my new thing to do.
I sorted myself out and then headed back down. A change in music to a bit of Linkin Park to get me a bit more aggressive and running. Within minutes I was sprinting down the slopes and could see my friend from earlier approaching. I stopped for a minute to chat about the day so far. I told him it was quite windy up top and he commented on how nice it must be to have young legs. I wanted to know who's legs he was referring to, definitely not mine. I pressed on towards the back slopes of Cairn Lochan. Regretting my decision now to have taken something so bulky as a map but the mountain leader in me will not rest!! The clag had now almost all lifted so it was no longer a race to get a photograph. My other regret now was that yet again no decent camera had been taken (note to self, take one next time!!!) I was currently being treated to a great view of Beinn Mheadhoin and its stony tors. What a nice little addition to the walk that could've made today. Never mind.
I arrived at the edge of the rocky slopes of Coire an t-Sneachda and for a moment considered leaving via the Fiacaill Ridge but opted to push on to Cairngorm like I had the previous visit. I passed a couple carrying heavy packs and felt that I was in much better stead with my gear choice. Within about 10 minutes I was at the foot of Cairngorm and ready to head up the final summit of the day. I took a minutes rest to catch my breath so that I could hit the final stretch without taking a break. Then I headed on. Almost straight away I felt tired but being as stubborn as I am I carried on. Just as tiredness took over and I was about to stop I spotted a ;arge group heading down. Pride took over and I had my second breath. I was almost running up the hill. Stupid man! I passed the group saying hello but not hearing hteir repsonse as I was still listening to some great tunes. I bounded onto the summit which was busy with people lunching it. I looked at my watch 11:50. I'd been on the go about 3hrs. Not a bad effort so far.
I sat down taking refuge from the wind on the south side of the radio station. The sun was now peeking out through the clouds. I relaxed for a moment and took my head phones off. It was silent. Book out and I began to read. The silence was short lived as one of the tour groups from the Ptarmigan arrived. I continued to read, smiling to myself at what some of these people must have tohought to see a guy sitting on top of the mountain just reading a book. At least it was a fitting book for the environment. It's a book that ive now read countless times and love it more each time. I have an old tattered paperback that I take everywhere with me and at home an immaculate first edition. This is a book that I first read many years ago whilst still in the army when I got a loan of a first edition that spent its time in my possesion wrapped in about 4 bags and bubble wrap.
I stopped reading to listen to the guides story about the hills, filling her group with tails of the corries, shelter stone etc but failed to hear a mention about the viscious Grey Manny. Maybe she is luring them back so that he can get his feed.. I watched them for a few more minutes then decided it was time to leave. I packed my book away and tried for a drink. The camelbak was now empty. Time to head back to the car.
Again I opted for the sprint off the summit via Sron an Aonaich this time more because I was starting to get hungry. i got myself together, tightened my laces and bag straps then went for it. Bounding down the track off the back of the summit as opposed to the inevitable busy staircase to the top. Within minutes I was scurrying past another tour group, clearly surprised to see someone smiling and sweating at the same time up here. I passed the Ptarmigan and took a right again dodging past the many groups of denim dressed trainer wearing walkers. My bounding quickly became a quickstep as I hit the boulder like staircase. I was struggling to slow down at this point so instead of trying to dodge people I just went cross country to avoid them atogether. I attracted various looks, surprise, amazment, horror but mostly confusion which was probably due to my singing to myself and smiling like a cheshire! Within 15minutes I was slapping tarmac trying to brake as I had arrived in the car park.
Smiling even more now I passed a group heading up and a bus load of pensioners. I headed straight to the car. Opened the boot and grabbed my wallet. I had about £6 in cahnge so that was enough for what I desired now... A hot chocolate! I sat in the Cas Bar drinking it still smiling and now sweating, a lot. What a day and not a bad way to spend 3 and a half hours on your way home form work.
Shame the next job is in Egypt.....
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