Standing on our lodge terrace in Aviemore with a cup of tea in hand, I look over toward the distant mountains, shrouded in a grey haze. After a day of non stop rain yesterday, I’m hopeful for a clearer day. I’m in Scotland with family and friends (my Mum and Aunty – Geordies, and their two Scottish friends Pearl and Kathy who are also sisters and seem to have their own Scottish dialect!) for a few days and want to make the most of these mountains I’ve never been to before.
My Aunty kindly drives me up to the Cairngorm car park with my surrogate and slightly worried aunty Pearl in tow! On the way up we drive out of the fog sitting in the valley and all of a sudden I’m surrounded by beautiful blue sky and vast mountains I hadn’t seen since my arrival two days ago! It was like an adventure in ‘The Faraway Tree’, and we’d just entered the Land of mountaineers dreams! Two deer ran out across the road right in front of us, reminding me of the wilderness you can reach so quickly. They were amazing to watch, so swift and graceful.
We arrived at the car park, and I waved goodbye to my two aunty’s as I headed off down the path. Wandering down the path I hear a voice and turn to see Pearl right behind me, eager to walk a short way up the path with me. A keen walker, I think she would have liked to have done the whole route with me but knee injuries were holding her back. She walked up until we hit a stream and then hugged me goodbye. A tear in her eye, I was unsure if this was because of the wind or because of bitter sweet memories of times gone by.
I set off again in mix of apprehensive excitement. I was walking solo, the route was fairly long taking in Ben Macdui, Britains second highest mountain and then onto Cairngorm via Loch Avon. The views were more than impressive, a white blanket covering the valleys below, reminding me of my time climbing Mont Blanc and looking down the valleys to such similar views.
The path was straightforward, and I smiled all the way up, admiring the beauty of the Cairngorms. I couldn’t quite believe my luck, the weather conditions were perfect and there wasn’t a soul in sight. I climbed the meandering path until I eventually caught sight of the summit, coming into view in between the moving clouds. Heading up to the summit I finally passed two people coming down, and I stopped to talk for a few minutes before heading off. It was a great feeling to reach the top, there was nobody else at the summit but me, and I sat in one of the many shelters and ate a sandwich.
The cloud was coming in now and there was no obvious path off the summit so I took a bearing and headed off in that direction. I had a slight moment of panic when I reached a steep drop which didn’t seem to be in line with my map reading, but I calmed down, retraced my steps until I found the last cairn and took another bearing. I finally found the path I probably should have been following since the summit and started to relax again as I descended the valley towards Loch Avon, a spectacularly long loch with a beach at the mouth of the river. The views down the valley were stunning, as I attempted to cross the river whilst keeping my feet dry but soon gave up as most of the stepping stones were under water with the previous weeks rain!
The final ascent from the loch up to Cairngorm was steep and tough but I took regular water stops and time to take in the views – you could now see across to Ben Macdui, the cloud having lifted completely off the tops. I carried on up and eventually reached the top of Cairngorm with views down over Loch Morlich and all the way beyond to Ben Nevis. I was surrounded by mountains, the sun was shining and the forests were glistening with the light. It was perfect.
It was an amazing feeling of achievement to reach Cairngorm after 5 hours of walking and to be rewarded with magnificent views was even better. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of being at the summit of a mountain looking down at the beauty, it’s peaceful, magical and calming all at the same time.
I hopped back down the short path to the car park and was met by four relieved and happy faces. By now the sun was starting to set over the mountains, we went to the cafe and I was treated to a hot coffee and biscuits before we headed back down into the still fog covered Aviemore. We stopped at Loch Morlich to watch the sun set – it was crimson red with the reflection of the mountains in the water.
As the last of the sun sunk slowly beyond the mountains, we fed the ducks the last of our sandwiches, laughed and took photographs. I realised how lucky I am. The Cairngorms really is a beautiful part of the world, and I for one, will certainly be back.