No 497 – The Cairngorms Strikes Back Pt1

Nine years ago, yes NINE, in 2010 I released a short 3 part series entitled Three Men In The Cairngorms which recorded an audio diary of Lee, Tony and myself as we headed into the Cairngorms for a weeks walking and wild camping.

At that time we walked a circular route from Aviemore to Blair Atholl and back, via the Cairngorm Plateau, Glen Feshie, the Minigaig, Glen Bruarm, Glen Tilt, Derry Lodge to the Cairngorm ski centre and back to Aviemore.

Those three podcasts can be heard here.

They were a very popular series of just three normal guys going for a wander and so when lee called me in summer this year asking if I wanted to join them again for another mini adventure I didn’t hesitate.

The usual suspects outside of their natural environment

Once again Lee was in charge of the router and the plan was to spend the first 2 days up on the Cairngorm plateau at the Wells of Dee and then drop back down via Loch Eanaich back to Aviemore. Pick up our second rations and then catch the train to Dalwhinnie and head for Ben Alder Lodge, round to Lock Ossian and then walk into Fort William along Glen Nevis.

Storm Lorenzo heading our way

However this planning was scuppered somewhat by Storm Lorenzo, which threatened to make the particular weekend rather wet and windy. So we sat in the Cairngorms Hotel in Aviemore starting across our pints of Guiness to the brooding skies wondering if we should risk it, or change completely and make the Dalwhinnie section last more days.

The weather during the night wasn’t too bad and we were still undecided in the morning. However the forecast seemed to be confusing depending on which data you referred to, so we thought Dalwhinnie might be the better option.

Loch Ericht

The walk along Loch Ericht was dark and overcast and it was only when we arrived at lock Pattack, that the weather actually became more threatening. Camping spots were in short supply and the best place we could find was near the end of the loch on decent ground, but it was rather exposed. I wasn’t happy here, but there wasn’t much option and so we pitched tail in to the wind. Lee and Tony each with their Scarp 1 and me with my Vaude Power Lizard.

I pegged it down well as I suspected it was going to be windy and used to juicy V pegs at each end which held the maximum tension of the shelter as tight as possible. Everything was guyed down and I knew this little tent was capable of taking a good hammering.

Which ultimately it did. During the night we heard many Stags parading and bellowing thier ‘roar’ for the mating and rutting season. This served to be the intro soundtrack before the wind and rain which started early morning and then by 5 am felt like it was becoming hurricane force.

It was still dark when I looked at each corner in the tent to ensure everything was still okay. Althouth the fly was flapping and my inner moving around I actually slept okay, but then I hear a little ‘pop’.

It wasn’t a loud one, but it was followed by another and then with an almightly rush of wind the final ‘pop’ and the end main pole fell on my head and the tent started to gather up around me.

Suddenly it was a case check the damage, prevent more damage, asses the options and then pack and move. Lee came out to see what the rouble was and his door got whipped by the wind and jumped out of the zip. Two tents down.

Bob put that camera down and give us a hand!

We all agreed we need to pack and aim for the bothy to recoup if we could. Even though we heard it was closed, there was always a possibility….

Mine came down pronto, Lee next and then Tony. Each of us helping the other keep the material from flying away and counting all the pegs.

Then an early wet walk to Culra Lodge Bothy and we arrived to find it painted with large letters stating ‘Closed – Asbestos’. However at that moment we saw movement inside, so the three drowned rats pushed the door and met 2 German guys who sheltered in their the night, due to the weather.

Two generous germs who shared their Whisky. Sorry can’t remember names

Dripping though we were after a hot drink or two and some good chat between us all, one of them produced an unopened bottle of Dalwhinnie’s finest and offered us all a tot. Well it would be rude to refuse eh? Lee took this opportunity to repir his broken zipper so it would hold and I sewed on the guy to my shleter as best I could and just hoped it would hold for the night and rest of the trip.

We stayed there for several hours and once the rain and wind had eased, we all set off for Bealach Dubh, where we parted company and they headed up Geal Charn, while we continued to Benalder Cottage. Lee and Tony had stayed there during the 2019 TGO Challenge and they showed me the photos of glorious pitch, bright sunshine, fabulous weather and calm waters. All in all a perfect spot.

The skies were dark, the wind gusting and thankfully I had brought my Kindle with me. I didn’t realise then what a life saver it would be at that stage.

However on this day it was the opposite and we just managed to get our tents erected and in once again, before the heavens opened up and started once again.

The rain stopped for 10 minutes and I manged to grab a quick chat with the guys in the podcast, but sadly in the whole trip that was the only time.

To be continued

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