Will we go sea kayaking in the Raasay / east Skye area or will we go hill-walking around Deeside? This was the question we discussed with our friends Chris & Barbara in mid-July. The weather forecast kept changing and we eventually decided on Deeside as it looked a little unsettled for the sea kayaking.
We based ourselves at the campsite at Ballater – but had a bit of a shock when we arrived as we were told they had ‘No space’ for tents as there were no keys for the loos left. After a bit of negotiation they gave us a key which is normally given to the caravan tourers (although there is no difference at all!). Once we were on the site, with a toilet key, it proved to be a lot easier to stay. Another advantage was that the toilets were altered to a number pad during the week so we no longer had to share the key between the four of us.
One of the aims of the week was an ascent of Lochnagar. We set off from the Spittal of Glen Muick on a warm sunny day. It was a pleasant easy walk up the track and then onto the path to achieve our objective. The views down into the corrie were good as we headed for the summit cairn. After that it was off to The Stuic and to grab the easy Munro of Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach. There was then a discussion as to what we should do. I proposed going round the circuit of Loch Muick taking in Broad Cairn. Barbara proposed heading up Carn an t-Sagairt Mor as it was also a Munro. Chris, Paul & I were not so keen on this as it looked a relatively boring hill and quite a lot of potential re-ascent to get back to the car.
So we went for Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn, with a descent from ‘Sandy’s Hut’ to Loch Muick by the ‘Streak of Lightning’ track. We were glad to arrive at Loch Muick but it was then another 7km back to the car.
Four tired (and well-exercised) people arrived at the campsite about 8pm. This was the longest day Paul & I had had on the hills for a while and we were pleased to find it had been OK except for some sore feet!
The next day was a ‘rest’ day so Chris & Barbara cycled to Aboyne while Paul & I ran around Loch Kinord and explored the Burn’O Vat, acquiring a handful of ticks while we did this (probably because we walked all the way up the Vat Burn and the path is indistinct).
Overnight the wind got up quite a lot and I was concerned about this if we went up a hill on the Friday so we decided to have another day of running and cycling. Chris & Barbara cycled up to Loch Callater and ascended Carn an t-Sagairt Mor from the west, reporting that it was a lovely day out. Paul & I drove up to just east of Braemar. At Victoria Bridge we started our run which took us past the Linn of Quoich, up the glen and then over to Glen Lui through the lovely pass of Clais Fhearnaig. Paul returned for the car via Mar Lodge while I ran to the Linn of Dee and then walked along the road until he picked me up. We were both pleased with this run as it was 16km for Paul and 13km for myself, distances we do not do very often! It was also very scenic and a good surface to run on. The reward was another coffee and cake at the Old Station in Ballater and I can recommend the spicy apple cake very highly.
Saturday was a little less windy so we decided to try Mount Keen from Glen Muick. The first part was easy walking up the stalking tracks; then we started out across the tussocky wasteland! We had expected the vegetation to be a lot less than it was so it felt like a long and tiring walk towards the final ascent of Mount Keen which was on the hazy horizon all the time. As it had been so dry the base of the peat hags and the marshes were the best walking. At the summit of Mount Keen we had a discussion about the return route and, as you might expect, there were four different opinions! In the end we descended the main path to Glen Tanar where we bathed our tired feet in the stream. We then turned west and took the path to the end. A short 1km strike across more moor land and we arrived at another stalking track which we could take all the way back to the car - with the small matter of about 200m of ascent as well. Yet again four weary hill-walkers arrived back at the campsite.
Sunday was a relaxing day to recover from the bog-trotting so Barbara & Chris cycled around upper Glen Dee while Paul & I ran around lower Glen Tanar. We all enjoyed a meal at the good Italian restaurant in Ballater.
Paul & I had to be back in Dunoon by Tuesday and the forecast was looking good for the west so we decided to drive home on the Monday. Chris & Barbara stayed and actually had the better weather as it was wet in the west the rest of the week!
On our return journey we took a quick trip up Ben Vrackie near Pitlochry. This is an easy hill with a good path all the way to the summit, 8km round trip and 600m of ascent. We went ‘light-weight’ wearing trainers and carrying only essential supplies. It was an excellent trip – a great viewpoint, if it had not been as hazy. 2 hours 30 minutes later and we were back at the car and driving home.
It had been a good week; we had achieved some good hill-walking and our fitness was not found to be lacking.
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