Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The room with a view, but without a roof

Finally a detailed investigation of the ruin just in front of the spur that runs up the undistinguished hill opposite Gabhar. Among the shielings in the valley, this is the one with the best view, the entire floor of the former village spread out hundred meters below. It is a magnificent house, with two chimneys and spacious cupboards built into the walls. Probably a two room affair for up to twentyfour children.




I walk up and down in front of the house, talk to myself, and convince the sheep that I'm an idiot. Nothing to see here, people, just an idiot. Only the souls of dead Highlanders can hear me.

The loch, changed

In spring things are different. The peak of Gabhar still white and icy, the northern corries a wasteland. The views towards the north are not very inviting. White, white everywhere. Is that Antarctica or what. Nope, just Cairngorms. I think about April 2009 when I first found out that different rules apply to the Cairngorms.



On the other hand, the deer have finished their winter business and are roaming the hills in huge herds. I stumble upon a group of about twenty stag with antlers and everything. One of them, huge horns, looks back at me in anger. Evening of the same day: An army of female deer, many of them childish and immature, settle for dinner on the huge meadow just underneath the summit of Gabhar, directly adjacent to the loch. I count 130, plus minus 10. I count them again. And again. The error is statistically sound. Counting so many deers is not trivial. The herd is shapeshifting around the features of the landscape.



The moors are dry these days. Only trickles come down from the hills. The grass resembles straw. Only the best campsite in the world is green, as usual. Something is happening here.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The loch, unchanged

I haven't been here in ages. One year and six months, to be precise. And I have never been here in spring, never. Summer, autumn, winter were my five visits so far. And yet the loch is unchanged. The north end peaceful, with great campsites, and a steady outflow. The valve, the narrow connection between the northern and southern part, is ankle deep, as usual. One side is blowing over to the other side. This was just before the Great Wind arrived.


After the wind arrived, the waves were crashing into the southern beach with force. Foam everywhere. Crests, actual crests. I don't believe in lasting conditions, not after such a dull day, and pitch the miniature tent right there, at the end of the wind tunnel, just because. And, indeed, the air behaves, later that night.


It is the first bivy at the Best Campsite of the World. The little green thing is almost too small for my patch. In front of the tent: A half-burned log layed out over the fireplace. People have been there. Real people with wood.

The third way

The route from the east is not that long, but it feels much longer. I tried it on the way back, the wrong way around, but I suppose it works as well from the other side. Routes have this kind of feature, they work both ways, often enough.

Starting at Dalmunzie, just off the Glenshee road, up the old railway track to the ruins of Glenrochsie Lodge, where the path to Glas Tulaichan branches off, the nearest Munro on that side. Then across a ridge with deep heather and grass, rough and full with animals, lowest point about 700 meters. Then drop down to Daidhu, the point where I hide my bicycle when I come from the south. It takes more than two hours just for this part, at least, plus the useless hill. This is probably not a realistic option, if the goal is just to get to the loch as quickly as possible.

It is long and arduous, but it has its features. A series of swimming holes, waterfalls, and cataracts along the Glenlochsie Burn. A meadow with helpless birds on the ground and red kite hunting overhead. I walk right through them. On the path: Piles of sheep feet, cleanly hacked off. Daidhu always has the air of death. See that, lambs? That's your future. But I'm the enemy, sure.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The solution

The solution is of course to dig a cone-shaped hole into the sand, bury the water bottle in the center of the cone, make a hole in a plastic bag, and place the bag in the cone, fixing it with stones. Too late, too late.

The man above

The weather, spectacular. I had everything. The warm, quiet, wet atmosphere that midges like so much. If I ever start a rock band, I will name it 'Midges in September'. Rain, lots of rain. Rain without wind. Rain with wind. Sunshine, moments of sunshine, here and there. Good moments. And storm. Storm from the south, storm from the north. During the last night, the storm was blowing the waves right into the tent. Well, not quite. I've never listened so intensely to waves before. It's nice to be so secure in the assumption that the water can't reach you, unless you jump in of course. When the storm didn't stop, and I couldn't stop shivering, I packed everything together, thereby performing some weird free dance to hold tent and sleeping bag and mat and thousands of other things all in my three hands. The glen of the loch is a great wind tunnel.

Coire Mearach



It is always steeper than you think. I chose to leave the mountain through Coire Mearach, a steep funnel from the ridge straight down to the loch. Lesson learned: If you absolutely have to go down these 60 degree slopes, please consider their surface. Scree is terrible, cliffs are deadly, grass is acceptable, particularly if you can find some clean slopes where you can practically slide downwards like there is no tomorrow. Heather on the other hand is messy. You never see the ground, you slip on wet branches, you step into deep holes, you end up hating yourself. No fun. At the end I find a few mud tracks paved by my compatriots, a group of 20 deer, all male, all with spectacular antlers. It was a curious meeting. They stare at me, I stare at them. Do they already know that, a few weeks from now, when the hormones take over, they will wage war on each other, just for the chance to procreate? I reach the loch with holes in my feet.