I had expected the worst after yesterday’s rain but the weather was cloudy and misty rather than wet when I left my B & B on Sunday morning. I decided to take my FWA rather than go over Lochnagar – I’ve been up there several times – so I headed out on the path to Invercauld Bridge. Then it was through the woods, over the shoulder of Lochnagar past the Gelder Shiell bothy and down to Glen Muick.
There was a steady stream of Challengers heading to Ballater past the Lion’s Face and the lichens on the trees looked ethereal in the mist.
Then – another navigational mistake. I took the path before rather than after the bridge at Connachat Cottage and ended up in the middle of nowhere. Should I go back or simply flog through the forest to the main track. In those circumstances, it is nearly always best to stick on the track and go back so naturally I decided against this. I ended up spending 20 minutes in the bogs and climbing over trees before I got onto the main track to Gelder Shiel. I arrived at the Queen’s Bothy at Gelder Shield – the bothy for us plebs is a dark cheerless place at the back – some Challengers were lunching there but I preferred the bench outside the main building – perhaps it has also been graced with a royal bottom?
There were lots of Challengers around on the trade route over the the Spittal of Glen Muick and it was a social walk in improving weather. I walked with Paul from Ellon for a while and we enjoyed the spectacle of the mist clearing on Lochnagar.
I had planned 3 fairly leisurely days after today but, as my wife’s birthday was on the 21st, I thought I would gain lots of domestic brownie points if I actually turned up for her birthday dinner with our daughters. So I decided to make today a longer day then have 2 more long days to get to our house outside Aberdeen on Tuesday afternoon. My original route plan for today was to stop at the bothy at Glas Allt-Shiell but instead I decided to head down Glen Muick, camp there then go over the hills to Glen Tanar on Monday.
The Royal Estate, of course, discourage camping in Glen Muick. I understand that they don’t want hordes of Challengers camping around the picnic tables at the Spittal but, as a Scot, I fiercely defend our rights to wild camp anywhere in a responsible way. Paul shared my views on this and headed for a camp in the woods above the Spittal. I had a bit of a road walk down the Glen and found an excellent pitch at the foot of Drum Cholzie, by the Allt an-t- Sneachda.
Its only problem was that it was a wee bit too near the road but there wasn’t much traffic after 6 o’clock. I enjoyed another sunny evening camp and an excellent pork pie from the butcher’s shop in Braemar. Lochnagar in the evening mist was framed by the snow poles on the road.