Me and Simon had a few days away from the hostel to start building up routes for our new business which will be guided mountain walks through remote wild parts of Scotland. (mostly the Cairngorms) As the only sub arctic part of the UK the Cairngorms offers a lot for many different abilities or interests. Many people come here to search out the rare wildlife (wildcat, golden eagle, capercaillie, red squirrel), learn new skills (navigation, multi day trekking, climbing, bushcraft), stress relief from the hustle and bustle of city life, arctic training, confidence building and so much more...
We decided not to plan a route but simply wander the hills and glens working with the land and weather... As the weather turned out to be as predicted, a wet and soggy few days with poor visibility (great weather reports can be found at http://www.mwis.org.uk), we decided to stick to valley walking checking the conditions of bridges, bothies, tracks and paths along the way. It is very important to have good knowledge of the valleys, if bad situations arise they can offer a means of shelter, safety, and in bad weather make for easier navigation.
Our trip began following up the River Avon, towards Inchrory...
Game keepers hut (Glen Avon Estate).
First nights camp (Glen Loin) looking towards the peaks of Ben Avon.
The night was full of the noise due to the Red Deer rutting.
Crossing a bouncy wire bridge to the Pony Men's Hut
With no windows, half a floor and a door that wouldn't close, it was as cold as it looks. Still a great spot to keep out of the rain and have a brew... wouldn't like to spend the night though.
Bridge crossing over rocks on route to Faindouran.
Faindouran Lodge Bothy.
A bothy in repair... the chimney stack has collapsed resulting in significant damage to the roof and walls. We had arrived not long after a recent work party who had boarded up most of the exposed areas, the only problem was with no chimney meant no fire. Thermals were out the bag for this night.
It's surprising how much light can be generated from a couple of tea lights and foil.
A good spot to dry off the tent...
Fords of Avon Refuge (M.B.A)
It is worth emphasising that Fords of Avon is not a bothy in the conventional sense. It does not have a stove or sleeping area for example. It provides emergency accommodation for those who require protection from the elements.
The bothy book can make for very good reading. Sometimes reading others mis-fortunes makes the rainy cold day seem a little effortless in comparison.
Loch Avon is a remote freshwater loch set deep within the central Cairngorm plateau.
Looking into Strath Nethy.
Our last night was spent at Ryvoan Bothy. A well visited bothy not far away from Glenmore Lodge. Simon pitched his tent up but as the night closed in, and we were very lucky a visitor had left us a bag of coal we decided to make use of this warmth.
The morning brought a great end to the trip. Out of the window about 12 Black Grouse were facing off about 100 meters away. Unfortunately my camera skills through mucky windows was poor so I have borrowed this image to show you as an example. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/iucnweb/6941155938/sizes/z/in/photostream/)
As I opened the bothy door the grouse flew off which was a shame, but as I looked to my right I was redeemed as a pair of Reindeer were peacefully feeding on some lichen. The Cairngorms offer the perfect conditions for Reindeer and I have started to get to know their keeper Tilly quite well.
(You will only find Reineer living wild in the Cairngorms, and almost every Reindeer seen in towns, cities, for shows and Christmas will almost certainly be Tilly's)
The final part of the journey through Ryvoan, passing natural Caledonian Pine, Birch, and Juniper woodland.