I arrived in Glasgow in time and directly took the shuttle bus to the Buchanan street. Luckily I looked up the relevant stores before the trip and could directly buy the alcohol for my stove and one of the needed maps. Additionally I bought a new pocket knife and a head torch. Sadly only one of my maps was available in the store, so I needed to head over to Waterstones. I got it there and it was 4 pounds cheaper… Thanks to this fast timing I could take the earlier train which arrived at 15:40 in Blair Atholl. I mostly slept during the train ride and listened to music. In Blair Atholl the weather was awesome. It was a nice spring day with 7°C. Since I was not sure on how far I would get, I camped directly next to the River Iltsch. That gave me the opportunity to readjust my gear from its flight packing. After that I had a cup of tea and some ramen noodles. They tasted as great as I remembered them… Now I am freezing and will soon lay down in my sleeping bag. I am quite worried about the long night, since I camp close to the river. How cold will it be? I take the time to wait until it is dark, so I know how long I can hike (till 7PM). I think I will just take the bothies during this trip. There is still snow everywhere and it is quite boggy. Even the campsites are boggy. Cold!
The night was crap, it froze and the foam matress didn’t insulate at all. The sleeping bag was warm but it was cold from the ground. In the morning I walked into the winter mountains. 30 cm of snow and partial postholing during hiking. Accompanied by a decent scottish wind, that almost blew me over, and -6°C with snow falling down. But I just walked 2h to the next bothy. The next stretch, I got 2 to choose from, are either very demanding or very long. So I cannot do them today and take it easy and have vacation at Alt Scheichaechan. I collected some dead heather to make a little fire in the fireplace to heat up the bothy. That didn’t work, there is still only 1°C in the bothy. Tomorrow there will be a mountain for my birthday and the Tarf Hotel. I hope I will sleep better tonight.
Today was tough. After sleeping in (or freezing in, since it was cold again) I walked up on the Beinn Dearg at 1008m. On the ascend I had some footprints of a couple that I could follow. In the beginning I had a little bit of sun which pretty soon faded away. With rising elevation the temperature dropped, the wind grew stronger and it started to snow. Therefore I couldn’t really enjoy the view at the peak. It is really interesting on how different parts of the ground can be on snow. From sinking in to your knee, to rigid ice, everything was possible. I followed the mountain to the other side and walked 13km (+1400m elevation) of crosscountry with bad temperatures and weather through the snow. I was as slow as 3 km/h and it was the toughest stretch I ever hiked. And that on my birthday… I always sank into the snow up to my knees, broke through the ice into some rivers and got wet feet. Only the sliding down from the mountain was cool. When I arrived in the Tarf Hotel, I just got some water, ate Ramen and lay down. At 16:00…. The next day is a zero day, for sure!
Today is a zero day, no hiking. I sleep in in the Tarf Hotel and make a large coffee for myself. There is even a nice and thrilling book in the bothy, which is perfect. At some point I get out of my sleeping bag. The bothy is still cold with below 0°C. But outside there is awesome weather. The sun shines, no wind and it is warm. I put out my stuff to dry out immediately and take a chair to sit in the sun. That’s how I spend the day until I had to get back into the cold bothy. At 23:00 I finished the book and get to sleep.
Today the long 30k stretch from Tarf Hotel to Corrour is planned. Most of it is luckily at low elevation and could be good to walk on. Around 7:00 I get up and at 8 I start walking. During the night there was new snow covering all my footprints under a clean white blanked. Due to the clouded sky I slept all night and didn’t freeze. The first 4km are crosscountry postholing and take 2h. After that it is good going an hike easily. The weather is fine, light rain/snow coming down but it is quite warm (which might relate to the lower elevation). So I run down the first 20km at ease until it is almost 3PM. But the last stretch is really tough again. Crosscountry with bog and snow/postholing. It is really slow going again. Around 17:00 I finished the last 7km and arrived at Corrour Bothy. Now I am sitting here, drink tea and get cold fingers.
Today was an easy day. After sleeping in I got up to the devils point above the bothy at around 1000m. The ascent was difficult because there is so much ice. I had to climb up the stones because otherwise I would just slide down. Now I know why you need crampons. Descending the mountain was dicey and I did some buttslides. Around 300m of elevation was just sliding down. I needed 1.5h to get up and 30min to get down again. In the Bothy I met someone from S&R with his dog. Since a week a hiker is missing and they are still searching for his body. There are a total of 5 people gone missing in the Cairngorms during this winter. In the afternoon the bothy got crowded and we are now 4 people, the S&R guy was flown out by heli. After drinking whisky, telling trail stories and talking about gear I went to bed.
And another easy day. During the night it forze, but that wasn’t bad with 4 people in the bothy. Due to the low temperatures the stretch from Corrour to Derys Lodge was easy walking. The snow almost always carried me. The sun was shining bright and I could hike in my base layer for the first time. In the bothy at Derys Lodge I had Ramen as lunch. I met a 61 year old ship/asbestos worker in early retirement. He will be out here for about a month. After exchanging whisky and morrocon trail stories I hiked on. The weather was still good, but some dark rain clouds were coming in. After I left the valley I was postholing again until I arrived at the Fords of Avon. I totally missed the bothy and walked way to far. Thanks to my smart phone I finally reached it. It is really small, has now windows but offered fine protection. During the night the rain started…
It was warm during the night, despite the 670m of elevation. It even started to rain, which made hiking in snow quite bad. I postholed up to Loch Avon and postholed down to the valley. The best walking was on the frozen creek. I always hoped I would not break through the ice, but actually I didn’t care much since my feet were already wet. I was accompanied by a strong scottish wind and some rain. After the snow was gone at lower elevation I hit the worst bog ever. Now I am in Ryovan and wolf down my last food.
I had an easy stroll from Ryovan back to Aviemore. There I took the train+bus back to Galsgow to get a shower and clean my clothes.