Although we all had a good social night in Aviemore the lingering tiredness from the previous long days had taken their toll and so when Tony suggested we change our route from Ben Macdui to the lower Lairig Ghru, none of us really protested.
So after a large breakfast at the Cairngorm Hotel we slowly made our way along the cycle path towards the Rothiemurchus Forest and the start of the climb.
Every time we leave Aviemore we suffer the same issues. We’ve had a large breakfast, the food parcels have been added to our packs along with random shopping and there seems to be a lethargy linked to the amount of consumption the previous evening.
Plus our memory is beginning to play tricks on us all. We have walked this route togther many times and each time we assume it is just ‘an hour or so to here’ when in actual fact, it is more like 2, or more hours to wherever. So much so the day strated to drag out and this combined with fine walking conditions of bright sunshine and a light cool breeze meant the destination of Derry Lodge was not going to be the early finish we promised ourselves.
The Lairig Ghru is a boulder field which needs to be passed with care. There’s no quick and easy route. The higher you get the larger the boulders become. As the boulders get bigger and more unstable, concentration is required to cross and not fall between the cracks, or off onto another equally unstable block. At one stage Tony slipped and his pole dropped between two rocks as he fell, the pole naturally took the pressure and bent. It could easily have been his leg. He was slightly rattled but no harm done. After this simple slip we all took even more care.
Once across we then started to descend to Derry Lodge. Another ‘its only an hour away’ became 3 or more and the day did feel like it dragged on until we finally arrived at 7pm all feeling very weary, looking for a good spot so we could watch the last few minutes as the sun went down. However it had dropped behind the hills along with the temperature just as the gas was fired up, so there wasn’t much to do apart from eat and sleep.
There were a good handful at the Derry Lodge, but no one appeared to be in a chatty mood, so the evening was a quiet one, aside from the DoE group who were noisily enjoying the same location as teenagers do, a few hundred yards away.
The following day was the Royal Wedding and we all set off early for Mar Lodge in the hope of a decent cuppa to fortify us for the 6 mile road yomp to Braemar.
Mar Lodge did not disappoint and it was here we actually met a good number of Challengers over tea and biscuits. It also appeared to be the wedding day of one of the Ghillies too so the place was a hive of activity.
I walked into Braemar with Heather and conversation covered the many topics that time and distance like this encourages. We both were surprised when the bend in the road appeared and the signs led us into town. We soon all piled into the little cafe and slated our hunger and thirst with a few others, before we all went our own way looking for accommodation.
Once again Tony and Lee had booked ahead for some luxury at the Invercauld hotel and so Heather and I headed to the campsite in the hope of finding space. They were very accommodating and placed us near the play area. You couldn’t wish for a finer or flatter spot.
That evening with the Fife Hotel still closed everyone headed to the Invercauld hotel. Sadly the way the room is laid out meant it was hard to socialise. The food service was terribly slow too and several nationalities seemed to be involved in taking the order, cooking it and serving it. However it still tasted good and set me up for a good nights sleep back at the campsite.