In spite of a terribly convivial and overly imbibed preceding evening, I awoke fresh. Ok, well not fresh, but without any sort of pain. I had already decided to be more relaxed for today's yomp over to the Shielin of Mark and really just wanted to let nature take it's course and so it was.
The natural progression of the morning movements (yes all of them) carried me along like a fluff of down on the lightest breeze. The fabric of the tent was icy cold with a sugar-coating of frost which I disturbed unavoidably as I emerged from the opening. It was a truly beautiful morning.
|It was a beautiful morning. |
Above Loch Callater.
It was around about this point that I bumped into Alan Sloman, Andy Walker and Ian Cotterill. They were taking a break from the lung-busting climb out of Callater onto the slopes of Carn an t-Sagairt Mór. It was a VERY warm day. In spite of the heat I felt strong, and fitter than I ever had before. Nevertheless, this was still a brutal ascent. I paused for a while with the chaps before setting off with Andy up to the higher slopes.
Di Gerrard, 'Charles', Keith Leonard and Lynsey Pooler were leapfrogging us for a wee while up and around (but not over) 'Sagairt Mór, There was plenty of snow about and given my footwear, I took the decision, after a brief chat with Andy, to follow his route over the bealach and down to Dubh Loch. Lynsey, Keith, Di and Charles headed higher and up onto Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn. I think Lynsey was headed over to the Waters of Unich.
This point was the highest point I would reach on my crossing, at 968m. The views to the west across the Cairngorms were outstanding.
|Oh, get me - high altitude mountaineering.|
|Lynsey, Keith, Di and Charles - not necessarily in that order.|
|Rough ground between me and Dubh Loch.|
|The White Mounth, Dubh Loch, and Broad Cairn.|
Cairn Bannoch just out of shot to the right.
|Eagles Rock, on the White Mounth above Dubh Loch|
Taken from our 'rest slab'.
It wasn't all that long before Mr Walker arrived and we shared the sanctity of the slab and soaked up the sunshine and ancient surroundings. He inflated his little pillow and got comfortable. It became difficult to move on, not for any physical reason, there just wasn't a good enough reason to push on.
Andy remarked on the aircraft wreckage further up the Allt - "What wrkecage?" I replied - upon which comment he drew his camera and showed me the rather large chunks of aeroplane he had spotted further up the hill. I had completely missed them!
|Allt an Dubh-loch|
|The high falls at the western edge of Eagles Rock, on the southern flanks of the|
|Creag an Dubh-loch|
|Another bloody picture of Dubh Loch|
|Looking back UP Allt an Dubh-loch|
|The first glimpse of Loch Muick|
|The rugged descent|
As we sat, a chaffinch shat on one of our shoulders, I can't remember if it was mine - it was so long ago - right Louise? ;-)
Andy showed me to the facilities and to the bothy which secretes itself within the bowels of Glas Allt Shiel itself. Not a bad little setting, actually, and on a foul weather day, I don't doubt this would be an ideal place to hunker down. Google it and I am sure you will find some images of it.
I made use of the facilities whilst Andy sourced some water, upstream of the outlet - naturally.
Alistair and Eddy had set off a while before me and I felt that it was time to make progress again so headed through the woods and around the loch to the spittal and the visitor centre.
|Loch Muick - as stunning as I remember it.|
Several more challengers and day walkers were gathered at the spittal, and I had passed a few folk on the loch path too. I nattered a bit with some of them before making an energetic dash up Allt Darrarie. I was once again feeling super fit and was generally loving life. I caught up with Eddy and Alistair and slowed my pace for a time so I could chat some more. I naturally began to gain ground on them so I bade a temporary farewell and yomped on ahead. I was around about the point where the Darrarie darts off to the right when I remembered the bearing that Andy had confidently given me to assist in locating the bothy. I duly set my compass and stuck to the bearing - it was simple enough given the weather. The hags posed some challenge whilst crossing this high moor but I was actually beginning to like solving the problems that the peat presented. It was quite absorbing, and I was becoming better at it that I had ever been.
I popped out at the burn that I presume from the map is one of the source burns for the Water of Mark. No bothy.
I checked the bearing, and looked back from where I had come, yep - spot on. Of course, I checked again, and then worked out the actual bearing I should have taken, and it was 5 degrees out. I headed upstream and sure enough after a hundred steps or so, into view came the bothy at Shielin of Mark. I made a mental note to release a couple of guylines from Andy's shelter that night - such was the vitriol that coursed through my veins. Or perhaps I exaggerate. Either way - I won't ever admit that I should have checked the bearing myself before plodding across the hags.
I was not the first to arrive. A couple of chaps were already pitched whose faces I remember well, but names have escaped me now. In fairness, I only really met the legs of one of the chaps, for he was snoring like a drain with his pins poking out of his tent.
I popped my head in the bothy and popped it speedily out again. It is not a place to spend the night, especially with the weather as good as it was that day. Up went the tent in no time on a bit of damp ground and I set about making myself comfortable.
The hoards gathered one by one, and by the end of the evening there were alot of people camped at the Shielin.
|Just a Moment.|
|Eddy and Alistair |
I don't remember drifting off, either. But I must have done. Because when I woke up, it was another beautiful day. A day about which you will be able to read in a few months time.