I’d gone to bed having made the decision to use my FWA this morning but, when I woke up, the voices in my head were bickering. Voice 1: “Go high! It’ll be great up there!”. Voice 2: “Stay low…. it’s windy; it’s going to snow; that hills looks steep; I’m tired….”. I felt like I needed excuses not to go over the top of Cairngorm. I’d planned the route but was now using the slightly iffy weather as an excuse to use one of my Foul Weather Alternatives. Yes, one of my FWAs; I had two. The wind was a bit frisky, that’s true, but really I just felt too weary to face 30km and 1225 metres of ascent in anything less than perfect conditions. Besides…. I couldn’t find the start of the minor path from Rothiemurchus Lodge and I took that as a sign that Cairngorm could wait.
I took the forest tracks North to Loch Morlich with vague hopes of a second breakfast from somewhere near the visitor centre and Youth Hostel. I wasn’t disappointed. Tea, toast and jam from a cafe with a remarkably active bird-table. I also chatted with a Challenger whose name I have now forgotten, unfortunately, with whom I had walked a short stretch a few days previously. On our first meeting he had literally walked right round me so that he could examine every piece of visible kit and clothing and then interrogated me on it for the next mile(!) He seemed to have mellowed in the last 4 or 5 days. In fact, he looked quite tired… just like me. I don’t think the soggy weather was helping either of us.
I was taken aback at the colour and setting of An Lochan Uaine but I’ve searched online and it is that bright bluey-green colour in other people’s photos, too.
Most of today’s walking was on tracks but I was confident that the weather wasn’t so bad to force me to miss out my cross-country section. I climbed up towards Ryvoan bothy ….
… and it was a bit strange to turn East and not visit it.
Rather than follow the track all the way down South to Fords of Avon and then all the way North again, I went cross country in as straight a line Eastwards towards Faindouran Lodge as I could manage. Better reading of the map and the terrain would have prevented me from having to drop all the way down to the Glassath…
…. but the sun was now shining and it was nice to shelter from the wind and have a sip of icy water and a break.
About 45 minutes later, Faindouran Lodge appeared down the hill. Even with a map, compass and GPS it’s always good when the place I am aiming for comes into view.
I knew I’d be walking on tracks all the way now so, in the bothy, I took the opportunity to change into dry socks. I knew that the bothy had suffered some significant damage so I was appreciative of the work the MBA had done to make temporary weather-proof repairs. The gable end was shored up with wood and there was a large notice ordering “NO FIRES!”.
The walk along Glen Avon was pleasant. It was going to be about 9km to my planned camp near the bridge at the junction of Glen Loin and Glen Avon but ideally I wanted to get a couple of extra km under my belt to shorten the next day. I always like to feel I have a couple of miles in the bank just in case the weather turns nasty or I just can’t be bothered walking any further.
At the bridge, I probably could have found somewhere to camp but it wasn’t the idyllic spot I’d hoped for so I kept walking. This may have been a mistake! At about 6:30pm, and now needing to camp as I’d had a long day, this is all I could see…..
… a mix of uneven, heather-covered, rocky, bog. Yes, it is possible to have all of those features in the same Laser Competition-sized patch of ground.
I eventually found a slightly raised tussuck in the middle of a bumpy, rocky flood-plain at NJ174072. It would have to do. I couldn’t take the risk of walking any further. I needed my dinner and some rest.
Exhausted, I slept well. In the morning I took a photo of the view from my door. I’m not sure if the haziness in the top right corner is due to my lens being misted up or to the steam rising from the bog in the morning sun!
I packed up with a slight disappointment at having had to camp in such an awful spot. My disappointment was only increased by what I found just around the corner…..