Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
19th March 2011
A tramp in the snow up Culardoch from Inver near Braemar.
There had been a reasonable dump of snow during mid-week so we set off on Saturday to see just how much. Not sure if snow shoes were required I elected to leave mine in the van, Stephan however got it right deciding to take his along. Leaving the main road at Inver we followed the sign for Auchtavan but parked off the single track road near Knockan. After Coffee had been served up by Stephan we shouldered our packs and continued along the track, turning after a short while at Balnoe. The cows in the field at Balmore had previously given John a bit of trouble but this was probably because he had Chester his Collie in tow. Today they were too busy with their feed to show too much interest in our passing. Starting a steady climb up through the pines we passed the ruin at Ratlich before turning toward Auchtavan.
Lochnager from near Auchtavan
The buildings here were in good repair but seemingly unoccupied at this time of year. The sun was attempting to make an appearance and the wispy clouds occasionally let some blue sky through. The snow topped Meal Gorm shone in the brightening sun light, the pines on its slopes taking on a more vibrant hue.
Meall Gorm from Auchtavan
Stephan was now making good use of his snow shoes while John and I made variable progress along the snow covered track as the snows texture altered. Generally the going was OK and the snow in many places was firm enough for enjoyable walking. After we had rounded Creag Bhalh and Bhonic we headed deeper into Glen Feardar, a large group of deer stirred and turned away up toward Carn Feadar. The Feardar Burn was hidden for the best part but had parted its snowy cover at the point where our barely visible track crossed over. We forded via a couple of stepping stones our walking poles providing some reassurance to our teetering balance. Now heading up the South ridge of Culardoch the snow lying over the heathery slope was less supportive lower down dramatically increasing the effort required. As the way steepened things improved under foot but the increased incline ensured that progress was steady but slow.
Nearing the top of Culardoch
Onto the top we now had a strong wind to contend with as we made the last few meters to the summit Cairn. There was no shelter here so after a handful of nuts and dried fruit we dropped west toward Bealach Dearg. A lone dark figure below could be seen shuffling along but it was only as he approached that we could discern the reason for his walking action, his skies. A more level area before the bealach revealed a number of cages with Perspex side covers and a small weather station, apparently part of an experiment to monitor the state of alpine heathland. After passing some Grouse Butts we located a track that we followed on its course between Creag a' Chait and Tom na h-Eilrig before stopping at the bridge over Allt Cul for an overdue lunch.
Bridge over Allt Cul
From here the track now leads into the forest west of Meall Gorm, it continues down to Invercauld house but we turned left onto another track not marked on the map. This took us up to a bealach between Meall Gorm and Craig Leek at around point 528 before dropping toward some shieling’s west of Cnocan Mor.
Lochnager from near Meall Gorm
We decided to cross the Felagie Burn and then follow the track adjacent to Alltcailleach Forest along to Thistledae. From here it was a short walk back along the road to where we had left the van; a good 8 hours after leaving on what would normally have been probably a 6 hour walk.
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