Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
10th January 2010
A journey by snow shoe to view the mountains of the central Cairngorms.
Although the roads had improved sufficiently to allow me to get down to the Linn of Dee I wasn’t convinced that I would be able to extract my car from the snowy car park if I put it in there. I managed to turn around but the road side verges where banked high with snow so I ended up back in Braemar and headed back out on foot. Scores of deer that had remained relatively undisturbed during my first passing in the car moved with greater haste away from the roadside as I approached.
Deer at Morrone Birkwood
It was a nippy -10’C but the clearing skies promised more warmth for when I would eventually make it out of the shade. Patrick a fellow walker stopped to offer a lift over the final mile to the Linn of Dee. He too thought it a bad idea to venture into the car park so bade farewell as he sort an alternative place for parking. It was very still and calm and there was hardly a soul about as I meandered through the pines with branches heavy with collected snow.
Snow Laden Pine in Glen Lui
I was debating whether to enjoy a leisurely stroll but was enticed by the thought of more aerial views into the heart of the Cairngorms. Patrick had mentioned that he may try Sgor Mor and I also decided that this was maybe a good choice. Leaving the relative firmness of the land rover track I was soon sinking knee deep in soft snow. After a few wobbles while balancing on one leg I managed to fit my snow shoes and continued on a shallow rising traverse toward the gap between the crags and wood below Creag an Diuchd. The shoes helped but the varying degrees of firmness dramatically altered the amount of effort required to work up the hillside. A group of deer peered with interest at my occasional wallowing progress before making off with apparent ease. After reaching the top of Carn an ‘loc Duibhe a brilliant white plateau lay before me stretching out unblemished toward my ultimate goal Sgor Mor.
Beinn A'Bhuird from Carn an 'lc Duibhe
The hills all around sat under a soft white blanket, the bright vista only interrupted by huddled groups of snow dusted pines. I had expected and hoped for firmer ground over this exposed expanse but the hard work continued and progress seemed slow as I pushed toward the ridge line that stretches between Sgor Mor and my more immediate target Sgor Dubh. Conscious of the fact that I had limited time and that every step now was another step I would take during my return I toyed with turning round, but the anticipated views and an inner stubbornness to reach my goal drove me on.
Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm
Sgor Dubh provided the first icy surfaces of the day and the metal studs on my snow shoes scraped the surface but gave a reassuring grip. The central Cairngorm summits now lay before me; pines in Glen Luibeg dwarfed by the bulk of Ben Macdui which appeared to be linked to Derry Cairngorm by the snow plastered cliffs above Coire Sputan Dearg. Carn a’ Mhaim held centre stage seeming more rounded than my memory of its narrow ridge line suggested.
Carn a' Mhaim
The wind was now more noticeable and provided a reminder of the earlier biting temperatures as I moved over a couple of false tops to finally gain the rocky summit of Sgor Mor. I took in the views down the Lairig Ghru while having a warming drink and a bite to eat; watching wisps’ of snow being lifted from the mountain tops. I didn’t linger too long before starting down the southern slopes en route to white bridge. As I began my descent I spotted a dark figure further down and wondered whether it was Patrick. I followed on tracking the deep footprints in the snow. The walker ahead paused for a while at white bridge before heading out along the land rover track that leads back to Linn of Dee. The last 5km gave me time to reflect on the magnificent but hard earned views I had enjoyed earlier while I also realised that I may have another 10km to walk from the Linn of Dee back to Braemar. Fortunately the walker ahead had been Patrick and realising that it may be me following had kindly waited to offer a me a lift back up to my car. I accepted thankfully without hesitation, it was a welcome relief as the extra km’s would have been tough going on top of what I had already done.
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