A perfect day…
… well perfect to me ... almost. The first day of my five day backpacking trip around the Northern Cairngorms started well. It started with an on time arrival of the train at Aviemore and then a lift out to the Allt Mor car park just beyond Glenmore where I had decided to start my walk from. Clear blue sky, a light northerly breeze and the sun shining strongly.
As ever I was armed with my alternative low level routes, but for once I didn’t need them. The actual route for the day was -
Apart from a slight bit of going off course when following the path up by Allt na Ciste when the path headed for higher ground and I didn’t, necessitating a bit of improvisation to get myself out of the rapidly steepening sides of the burn on to higher ground where I re-discovered the path, the early part of my walk was uneventful.
Through the trees I could see the tops and the clear blue sky…
I cut across to Lochan na Beinne and then started the climb up on to the ridge – the views back to Loch Morlich and Aviemore in the distance were excellent.
Reaching the ridge line Strath Nethy came into view.
It was a steady pull up the ridge until it started to ease off as I reached Sron a’Cha-no at about 900m and the route up to Cairn Gorm appeared.
No visible path and the fairly wide expanse would have made for interesting route finding in any sort of cloud, but today it was all plain sailing, or rather, walking.
Looking northwards to Meall a’Bhuachille, the sky was absolutely clear and even here close to the summit of Cairn Gorm I was still yet to meet anyone on the hill.
That changed on the summit where I met my first fellow walkers of the day, and I would continue to meet more people on the trade route to and from Ben Macdui, but for those first few hours it was great to have that feeling of solitude. To the south the cloud was also starting to build.
The views from the summit of Cairn Gorm were breath taking. West to Carin Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Braeriach …
North to Loch Morlich…
South to Ben Macdui…
Descending off Cairn Gorm the next stop was the small top of Stob Coire an t-Sneachda with great views back to Cairn Gorm
and into Coire an t-Sneachda.
After that I followed the trade route across the plateau to Ben Macdui, having to cross a number of snow fields the first of which bought me my first sighting of the Cairngorm Reindeer herd. I knew there was a Reindeer Centre in Glenmore but I hadn’t realised that they roamed free up on the plateau.
As I headed for Ben Macdui, the clouds to the south were darkening and starting to threaten with rumbles of thunder making themselves heard.
To the north it was still cloudless and Ben Macdui was at the edge of the mass of dark cloud to the south. I experienced a few drops of rain, but nothing more however, it was obvious that over the Linn of Dee there was rain. Away to the south east Lochnagar was still in sunshine.
Taking a final photo on the summit
I then started the descent down to Loch Etchachan, looking back to Cairn Gorm where I had been some hours earlier.
In the light winds Loch Etchachan was very peaceful nestling under the crags of Carn Etchachan.
Pitching my tent by the loch, I spent a glorious evening in perfect solitude before drifting off to sleep to the sound of ptarmigans calling to each other from their vantage points.
Almost a perfect day except for the heavy clouds and rumbles of thunder away to the south, but one thing I know from experience … if you get a day like this, savour it.
If you are interested to read about the rest of trip, Day 2 featuring thunderstorms and lightning can be found here.
The full five day route was -
and the trip profile was -
Read Day 2 and Day 3 here.
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