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Low-level in the Cairngorms - via Ullock Pike

Low-level in the Cairngorms - via Ullock Pike


Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Mon Mar 18, 2019 8:34 pm

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Craigendarroch

Date walked: 18/01/2019

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Stuck in Sussex, so here's an overdue WH entry. Uni lecturing down south means 2019 started with a couple of desperate grabs at some Highlands scenery & wildlife.

The first was Fri 18th - Mon 21st Jan. (Lovely in spite of my solo days not going at all to plan.)
The second was Sat 23rd - Sun 24th Feb (students' reading week, so-called... pff...).

Friday 18th Jan:
Coming up from the south coast sometimes means getting in a quick hill en route. This time I drove up to Bassenthwaite, the only Lake in the Lake District, with the intention of doing a Skiddaw round via Ullock Pike. But, with strong winds and biting hail, it ended up just being a very gusty walk up the Pike and back down. Still, nice to have my feet on a higher hill than the Downs.
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Skiddaw and Ullock Pike on a cloudy morning, with just a dusting of white.

Wildlife reward? Just one meadow pipit, and one sparrowhawk. Fair enough - it was a hard day for standing upright, let alone flying...

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Ullock Pike on the left. Then Causey Pike, right to Grisedale Pike.

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Longside and Carlside were tantalisingly close, but the wind put paid to my having the time to do the lot. 450 million year-old Ordevician rock apparently. "Noble", as Wainwright has it.

Couldn't stand up at the Pike summit, so I put my feet up, supped some hot coffee and peered over my boots to the lake below..
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Putting my feet up over Bassenthwaite

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Back down through the sleet, over the lumps and bumps ... and on to Scotland.

Saturday 19th Jan:
A day of two halves, and again, not the day I'd intended. Complicated arrangements in order to catch up with a pal meant I ended up staying in Ballater. From there, I thought, with likelihood of fairly low cloud, a Hunt Hill day might be fun. But OS and Royal Mail between them took about five days to post the relevant map, so I didn't have one. Nor could I get one for the area until about 9am. Well, the day I wanted would mean an earlier start, so I shelved it for another day and made a plan B.

Plan B turned into an explore round Loch Kinord followed by a nip up Craigendarroch. Since I've never gone on a wintery lochside walk in the area, Loch Kinord would make a change. A compromise, since in my heart I wanted a hill day - (not one adorned with ski paraphernalia) - but it turned into a really pleasant compromise! That's serendipity.

The morning sunlight was gorgeous, no one was around, the snow softened every footstep through the mossy-birch wood down to the loch, and the trees were all a-chirrup with coal tits and blue tits.

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Impressive head turn and catkins. (Apparently "catkin" has been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. I think that's sad. Mind you, juniors presumably Google/Ecosia I s'pose.)

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Sunny view across Loch Kinord.

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Lovely chaotic trees, warm sunlight and calm. (Not the intended hill-day, but who cares - this was beautiful!)

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Treecreeper foraging just above the water

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Nunatak aspirations

Duck island in the middle was mostly host to mallard and wigeon
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(I ain't got a twitcher's lens.)

and there were goldeneye about too.
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Walking round the south side of the loch I was pretty bewitched by the light, and not expecting what was to come. Now and then through the trees I had a glimpse of the massif, but it was mostly hidden and the loch itself was stealing the show. A fella appeared, walking clockwise round the loch (I'd chosen widdershins) and we swapped a cheery hello.

On the north side I followed some animal tracks which might have been otter, leading to what looked like a holt, and when I looked up the world had disappeared.
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So the morning half of my day of two halves had just turned into a half-day of two halves. If you follow. Balmy sunlit morning half, and eerie gauzy morning half.
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The birches implored the sun...


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.. the ducks did their thing...

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and everything took on a different beauty.
The fella from the sunny side reappeared out of the mirk and gleefully enthused: "Changed, hasn't it!"

Away from the water, I came across a Pictish cross, fenced in, so it wasn't escaping any time soon like the crannog in the loch has.
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Craigendarroch
, above Ballater

After a bite to eat back in Ballater, I looked over at pretty Craigendarroch rising above the town to the north, its south face glowing in the now-returned sun and its trees looking a bugger site more birchy and natural than the plantation and mast feel of Craig Coillich opposite. So that was an easy decision. I didn't know whether there's a particular way up but walking towards it sorted that out and an opening appeared behind the school.

The walk up through the trees was lovely, easy and sun-kissed again, like the early morning. And at the top it was a joy to look over to Lochnagar and co which I'd really enjoyed last winter.
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Sun-kissed winding stroll to the top.

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Frozen lochan in Craigendarroch upper woods.

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Lochnagar from Craigendarroch

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Ballater and Lochnagar pano

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Mount Keen

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Mounth?

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Craig Coillich and Pannanich Woods - there be capercaillie apparently.

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West to Creag Ghiubhais

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Deer coming in for a scratch

Off to circumnavigate the hill - very pleasant.
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Horsehoof fungus (like they found with the Iceman - presumably his portable fuel).

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Craigendarroch's dark side

Sunday 20th Jan:
The next day was an impromptu visit to Loch of Kinnordy with bins - no camera - and catching up with my pal. Lots of whooper swans, more goldeneye and a bullfinch. But the first thing that caught our eye was gnawed tree stumps. I didn't know the beavers had made it here, but that was a great sight to see (IMO). I realise now they were reintroduced here a couple of years ago and started taxing the RSPB a bit to come up with solutions to keep them from damming up all the outflow from the loch. The RSPB fitted "beaver deceivers" a year ago to surreptitiously leak water out without having to dismantle the beavers' dams. (We saw the pipes but didn't know what they were at the time - now I understand.) Nice thinking!

Monday 21st Jan:
Just in case I hadn't had enough reeds, I dived into the Tay's vast reedbeds on my way back south to see if I could find bearded tits (no sniggering at the back). And after making like a bittern through the reeds, there they were.

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Beautiful morning at Tay reeds

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Morning tufties

After a walk through the trees, the huge expanse of reeds appeared. Ah. This was possibly going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack, albeit a needle that tweets (in the old fashioned sense). A notice informed me that it's the largest continuous area of reeds in the UK. No kidding. There are acres of them. They were planted originally by C16 monks as a defence against coastal erosion, and then extended by local landowners using Napoleonic PoWs.
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Yikes - somewhere in here...

Flocks of geese flew overhead and three roe deer emerged from the edge of the field to my left.
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If pictures could honk...

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Roe deer - this trip's only deer.

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Making like a bittern

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Ta daah - a little flock of five.
Never seen them before. They were making a great little pinging sound. Their wings look mad and stubby, and that tache is great. In fact...

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Escape from the Downs 2
Sat 23rd - Sun 24th Feb
- one for another post.
User avatar
EmmaKTunskeen
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 183
Munros:25   Corbetts:17
Grahams:9   Donalds:4
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:49
Wainwrights:41   Islands:12
Joined: Aug 19, 2016
Location: West Sussex

Re: Low-level in the Cairngorms - via Ullock Pike

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Mar 25, 2019 12:00 am

I absolutely love somewhat left-field reports like this, to the point that I can almost forgive the absolutely disgusting tally of interesting birds you clocked up there. I think I would swap a few munros for views like you got there of a bittern and bearded tits!! Keep reports like this coming :thumbup: :clap: :thumbup: :clap: :thumbup:

PS I wonder what you mean by Bassenthwaite being the only lake in the LD?? There are other natural lakes, like Coniston, so I suppose you mean something else???
User avatar
Alteknacker
Scrambler
 
Posts: 2692
Munros:167   Corbetts:29
Hewitts:205
Wainwrights:78   
Joined: May 25, 2013
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)

Re: Low-level in the Cairngorms - via Ullock Pike

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Mon Mar 25, 2019 4:41 pm

Alteknacker wrote:I absolutely love somewhat left-field reports like this, to the point that I can almost forgive the absolutely disgusting tally of interesting birds you clocked up there. I think I would swap a few munros for views like you got there of a bittern and bearded tits!! Keep reports like this coming :thumbup: :clap: :thumbup: :clap: :thumbup:

PS I wonder what you mean by Bassenthwaite being the only lake in the LD?? There are other natural lakes, like Coniston, so I suppose you mean something else???


Very kind of you, thank you! At the risk of going off-thread (even more than I already have by posting LD stuff in the Scotland forum), Bassenthwaite's the only one called Lake - the others are all "water"s, "mere"s and a wee shower of "tarns". I loved the bearded tits - they were such a joy. But, much as I wish that "bittern" pic was a picture of a bittern (so close!!), it isn't - it's just a bird-like reed. Even though it's my photo I did a bit of a double-take when I saw it screen-size though! Hope your shoulder's nicely on the mend. :D
User avatar
EmmaKTunskeen
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 183
Munros:25   Corbetts:17
Grahams:9   Donalds:4
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:49
Wainwrights:41   Islands:12
Joined: Aug 19, 2016
Location: West Sussex

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