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Day 37-41

May 9 /10 2023 – Day 37/38

May 9

Since the first day of the above was a rest day – the “rest” element was important and necessary for Euan’s body and mind and meant no mountains, but the commander didn’t seem to notice much difference except that Euan was around the van more and maybe he would notice what the commander did or more importantly not do during the day. Early morning sun – the first for several weeks – meant trying to retrieve the camping chairs from the boot. The commander had to move rucksacks – three, a container containing shoes, boots too numerous to count, boxes of dried food, spares to shame an Amazon warehouse – two, before he eventually found the chairs. Euan was doing something important on his laptop while the commander moved his chair and the spare chair with drying gear to places around the van where they and he would catch the most sun and remain out of a light spring breeze.

He was also trying to research material for the next blog (This stuff is researched? – The Editor) but was often distracted by fellow campers, their dogs and a particularly fastidious neighbouring camper who was preening his campervan. Even Euan, who the commander thought was deeply engrossed in his work remarked over a coffee - prepared by the commander - that this camper had oiled all the locks in said van! The commander for some unknown reason had not noticed this fetishist behaviour but was not in any way surprised to hear this. It is a well-known and established leisure pursuit of all campers – watching other campers and wondering, “Should we be doing this as well?” For those interested, Cr282’s locks have not received any WD40, Three in One or any other unbranded lubricant. (Sometimes, no quite often this blog goes to the heart of an issue and then way beyond what is needed. – the Editor). However, Ch282 found fellow campers invariably cheerful and welcoming. Our neighbours, for example, donated generously to Ch282 after a brief chat about what it was all about . The early sun turned to heavy rain by evening which prompted a regular reader to describe how the local bowling green was closed due to the regular downpours. This was supportive on two counts – firstly the rain gods were not just picking on areas where Cr282 was located and secondly the blog had attracted the class of readers who frequented bowling greens.

To return to the matter of “rest”, it should be noted that despite being booked into the Braemar campsite for 2 nights! – the commander although given a credit card for business use only had no control over the budget – rest only involved a slightly later morning reveille – 7.00am. The “maggots” were quickly cast aside and breakfast was spent poring over maps, digital versions thereof and reference books as the next few days into the Cairngorms proper begins. “What did Hamish do?’ was the recurring phrase. To remind readers, the “Hamish” in question was Hamish Brown who in 1974 was the first person to complete all the Munros in a continuous round by bike, kayak and walking. His meticulously planned route described in a well thumbed book would largely be followed by Euan with tweaks to accommodate more bike and kayak use. His timetable was also scrutinised regularly because Euan wanted /had to complete the round in fewer days.

Just to prove that the writer does indeed occasionally do some research for blogs – ok only when the sun is shining in Scotland so not often then – found what Queen Victoria wrote of her experiences on Lochnager. She said, “But alas! Nothing whatever can be seen; and it was cold, and wet and cheerless. At about twenty minutes after two we set off on our way downwards, the wind blowing a hurricane, and the mist being like rain, and everything quite dark with it.”

This blog writer recorded Euan’s views on the same climb – “It was awful but then it changed to being just crap.” To be fair to Euan, he did not have an entourage of helpers or maybe the strong and loyal John Brown to assist him in the climb and carry the picnic. They both endured the same conditions. (Readers may wish to substitute Euan’s description of crap with the Gaelic “cac” which is more in keeping with the tone of this blog – the Editor.) Following another failed set of gloves on Lochnager, a new pair were purchased at the local outdoor shop. To the writer’s knowledge, this is set number four on this trip. A deeper analysis of some painful childhood experience is needed to explain all these purchases or he just keeps buying the wrong gloves!

May 10 Day 38

The start point for the foray into this set of big Munros in the Cairngorms was near Invercauld Bridge, a short cycle ride from Braemar. Euan had packed a big rucksack for a planned overnight trip but as ever he had pared down the gear to reduce every ounce he had to carry. A mixture of dried food and homemade energy giving rations was there, as was a really light weight tent and spare wet weather gear. From previous experience, he debated over the need to carry a sun hat. The start led into Gleann an t Slugain meaning throat or gullet. Indeed it seemed that the Cairngorms were about to swallow up Euan for a day or two.

The first Munro was Ben Avon – pronounced Ben A’an – meaning the Bright One – the top is Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe – Bed of the Yellow Stag

Beinn a Bhuird – Hill of the Table

Beinn Bhreac – Speckled Hill

Beinn a Chaorruinn – Hill of the Rowan

35km covered; 44611steps

Total Munros – 106.

Euan would spend the night at the Hutchison Memorial Bothy. This is a 5 Star bothy and Euan enjoyed a peaceful night. As readers will have become more expert in hill names, in fact you can do a better job than COHN does, it is worth noting how Beinn or Ben is often reserved for the higher or bulkier mountains in a group. In the Cairngorms ben or beinn is assigned to Ben Avon or Ben Macduii, the second highest mountain in Scotland.

Ben Avon is famous for its granite tors and each has its own name. One large tor, Clach Bhan – Stone of the Women – where as late as the 19th century, pregnant women would come and bathe in its hollowed-out rock pools in the hope of easing their impending labour. Even the gauche commander knows better than make any comment on this custom.

Hill of the Rowan or Mountain Ash appears on several ranges which is not unusual since this solitary tree was often planted as a deterrent against evil. It is often seen near the doorway or corner of ruined crofts. It seems strange then, that witches use rowan branches in their actions and spells. Maybe early crofters believed in fighting fire with fire.

Much of this area of the Cairngorms – Mar Lodge Estate – has been owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland since 1995. Nature conservation is very much the focus including protecting what remains of the Caledonian pine forest, reducing the numbers of red deer to help regeneration and the restoration of paths instead of bulldozed tracks across hillsides and through glens.

Before making his way round to the next meeting/refuelling point – Cairngorm Ski Centre – the commander made a morning trek up the nearby Corbett – Carn na Drochaide - Hill of the Bridge – its 12k made a bit tougher with thick heather to its summit of 818m. He could see Ben Avon and much more besides. By coincidence, Euan was on Ben Avon at this time as well. Given the distances involved, it was no surprise that we did not see each other.

Given the early morning departure from the campsite, the commander also had to return their electricity card and obtain any refund due. Once this was satisfactorily completed, he thought that since they had stayed and paid for two days camping, he would ask as a courtesy if he could get access to a shower. (The early morning climb had been hot and sweaty.)

Campsite receptionist – “You checked out this morning?”

Commander – “Yes, but I just thought..”

Campsite Receptionist – “But you checked out this morning.”

Momentary stalemate when both speakers just look at each other. Then next move, Receptionist goes to back office leaving door open when the following is heard.

Receptionist – “There’s a gentleman at the front who wants a shower but he checked out this morning.”

Manager – “He checked out this morning?”

Receptionist – “Yes, he checked out this morning.”

Manager comes to reception.

Manager – “You would like a shower but you checked out this morning?”

Commander – “Yes, please”

Etc, etc…

(This script was not difficult to write was it? – The Editor)

With access agreed, the commander enjoyed a long, hot shower thinking of a favourite old Matt Lucas character who every day sits at a workstation. To every different request, Matt Lucas taps the keyboard and then says, “the computer says No.”

May 11 2023 - Day 39

Today’s Munros are

Beinn Mheadhoin – Middle Hill

Derry Cairngorm – Blue Peak of the Oak Thicket

Bynack More – Large Cap or Chimney Pot

Cairn Gorm – Blue Hill

Total Munros – 110; 30.5k covered in 7hrs 58mins; 6118ft ascent, 6637ft descent, 37867 steps

The day started for Euan in comparative overnight luxury since the Hutchison Memorial hut is a jewel in the wide range of accommodation in the hills of Scotland called bothies or huts. He even saw some welcome sun and blue skies during the morning. The commander received a text from Euan at 10.15 in the morning with Euan having completed 2 Munros and enjoying a cup of coffee in the sun – a first in the hills this time round. He met a Dutch runner, Lotte and a companion who was going to run/bike around the Munros mainly unsupported over the next few months. A regular reader also informed Cr282 that an American woman living and working in Scotland, Jamie was starting her attempt this month. The commander cannot decide whether these fellow Munroists just proves that Euan is by no means alone in his challenge or that this activity is becoming contagious! Euan quietly noted that if successful, he will be the oldest person by some way who has completed this challenge. As a more senior citizen, the commander nodded in agreement.

Cr282 had found a pleasant parking spot at Castle Roy on the outskirts of Nethybridge. Flanked by a castle on one side and a church on the other, Cr282 had found both physical and spiritual protection with only a donation to the Castle Roy Trust needed. There was also a Highland cow and several sheep in an adjoining field who also expected to receive some reward for sharing their space. To be nearer to the Cairngorms and getting a reliable signal was to prove difficult. Not even the customary Americano, this time at the Glenmore Centre Café proved fruitless, they had no wifi. The commander wondered if he could claim the coffee on expenses even though no connection to Euan was possible. Euan has since informed me that the “plastic” which he entrusted the commander with to cover legitimate expenses – fuel, food, site fees etc – is running low. Euan is not mean, just careful!

The early good weather did not last for Euan, and he remarked that he put on and took off his Gore-Tex over trousers four times during the day. He reached his last Munro, the Cairngorm at 2.30pm and invited the commander to join him up the track alongside the now working monorail. He added that if the commander was coming, he might add some of the gifted sausage rolls to his pack. The commander, predictably ungraciously, wondered if Deliveroo operated in the Cairngorms as he donned his own wet weather gear. Despite himself, he enjoyed the short hike up the track and accompanied Euan down it while Euan demolished the delivered sausage rolls. The commander and Euan both noticed a fellow hiker with several children who had obviously walked up from the carpark. The children had cagoules etc, while he wore a thick woollen jumper as the rain teemed down. Poor children.

Cr282 sped down the ski road to Glenmore Forest Campsite for the obligatory showers and refuelling. The stay was made even more welcome when the campsite manager voluntarily waived any site fees for our stay when he heard about Ch282. An unsolicited gesture, Thank you. That evening a malt – Loch Lomond by name - was enjoyed.

(The naming of particular products in this blog – specifically malt whisky – should not be interpreted as a desperate and probably unsuccessful attempt to appeal to any distillers, malt or blend, who may wish to sponsor or donate to Challenge282. – The Editor)

May 12 – 2023 – Day 40

Well rested and fully prepared for an overnight amongst the remaining Munros in the Cairngorm range, Euan was as eager as ever to make an early start from the Ski Centre. There was a debate whether Gore-Tex was needed from the off since the mountain and carpark was shrouded in heavy mist. With no Gore-Tex on, Euan set off on a 8k trek to Ben Macdui. He would travel up ridge at Coire an Lochain and then take the well-trodden path to the summit at 1309m second only to Ben Nevis in height in Scotland. Carn a Mhaim would then follow before Euan would drop down into the Lairig Ghru at Corrour Bothy. He would not stop over here in this popular “howff”. (The term “howff” is used to describe a favourite shelter or sometimes public house in the Scottish vernacular – The Editor) Euan had planned to see off the Devil’s Point and Cairn Toul before an overnight camp at the Wells of Dee but was able to include Braeriach as well before stopping for the night.

Ben Macdui – Macduff’s Hill

Carn a Mhaim – Cairn of the Large Rounded Hill

The Devil’s Point – The Demon’s Penis

Cairn Toul – Hill of the Barn

Sgor an Lochan Uaine – Peak of the Little Green Loch

Braeriach – The Brindled Upland

Total Munros – 116

Ben Madui was thought to be Scotland’s highest mountain until as late as 1811 and then confirmed by Ordinance Survey in 1847 with erection of a trig point. There was widespread outrage at this downgrading despite the legitimacy of it. Ben Macdui is 30m lower than Ben Nevis. Apparently, the Earl of Fife wanted to erect a burial pyramid of stones 30m high at its summit to re-establish Ben Macdui’s top place. It is mooted that he wanted his soul to be that much nearer to Heaven – a little presumptuous of the Earl thinking that he was destined there. The hill is likely to be named after the son of the black one – the family of Duff who until the 1960’s owned much of Ben Macdui. Its also well known for the legendary spectre – Am Fear Liath Mor – the Big Grey Man. Walkers have fled in terror once they saw him. Euan saw nothing.

Regular readers will not be surprised to discover that this writer just had to investigate further the thinking behind the Devils Point name. Extensive research which inadvertently may have brought the writer to the attention of the online porn police, discovered that the translation of its original name, Bod an Deamhaim or demon’s penis was too explicit for one early dictionary compiler who used a Latin translation – membrum virile. (The declining use of Latin in everyday parlance is a source of much sadness and a practice which this writer should employ no matter the confusion it may cause – the Editor) Victorian clerics used the present term ‘point” so that demure walkers would not be embarrassed by naming a male body part in conversation. To counterbalance any prurient thoughts, one Victorian expert suggested that a nearby peak should be renamed “Angel’s Peak”. It didn’t catch on.

The Editor wishes to make it clear that blog policy and practice absolves the owners of any legal or moral repercussions which may result from the research as outlined above.

While Euan was deep in the Cairngorms, the commander was on something of a nostalgia trip since he had visited the Glenmore area many times in the past. So, he was able to revisit the campsite, walk around Loch Morlich again, do the same on Loch an Eilein the following day and climb the Corbett Meall a Bhuachaille – Hill of the Shepherd. The climb was completed in glorious weather, no wind and no midgies. Things are meant to have a rosy tinge when looking back but this revisit did not disappoint. The commander thought that he did not have any shepherding duties with Euan but he had mentioned how he needed a haircut several times. If only this shepherd had a shears…..

May 13 2023 - Day 41

The Munros in Euan’s sights today are –

Monadh Mor – Big Hill

Beinn Bhrotain – Hill of Brotan (a mastiff)

Mullach Clach a Bhlair – Summit of the Stone on the Plain

Sgor Gaoith – Windy Peak

Total Munros - 120

From his lofty overnight camp at the Wells of Dee, Euan reflected on how this was the source of the river Dee which eventually flows through Aberdeenshire to Aberdeen where Euan was born. Monadh Mor, the first Munro means big hill – aren’t they all? The fine weather of the previous day continued as he continued to Beinn Bhrotain which is named after a big jet black mastiff belonging to the mystical Fingalians. The hound was used to hunt the white fairy deer, naturally enough.

Cr282 was waiting in Glenfeshie at the base of the final Munro of the day. The peace of the glen was interrupted regularly by the drone of a plane as it towed gliders taking off from the nearby airstrip. The warm weather must have been ideal for creating thermals on the granite tops of these hills. Euan later described how he had “granite scabs” on this forearm and knee when he tripped on the many granite slabs. Back at base, the camping chairs were retrieved from Cr282 – one as a seat for the commander, the other for notes, reference books and oh a cup of tea and drying socks.

From a sedentary position, the commander was speculating on life as one does with some time to spare but also thought that if Euan completed the above round today, he would be approx. 6/7 days ahead of the legendary Hamish Brown timetable. This steadily improving tally for Euan was important due to his need to be home well before the finish date of Hamish Brown’s schedule – 24thJuly. Euan was accompanied to Sgor Gaoith by a mixture of family and friends. They returned to Cr282 in dribs and drabs to the welcome tea/refreshment stall which Cr282 temporarily became.

The van’s logos – St Mungo’s in particular - attracted the attention of two passing walkers. One of the walkers, it transpires, worked for St Mungos in Oxford and she was intrigued to see her employer’s logo in such a remote part of the Cairngorms. An interesting conversation and photos took place around Cr282. Euan made the cycle run to parking spot above Newtonmore ready to start tomorrows journey.


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1 Comment

May 21, 2023

Great to see how you are doing and glad it’s going well. From your neighbours at Braemar.

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