Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

Bothy nights

I had just to get out of the house! Lots of fresh snow in the hills, flooding still seemed to be impacting any significant stream crossings, the road to Braemar still had restrictions & was closed at Invercauld bridge but there was a good midweek forecast; clear, cold with moderate winds, time for Plan A: Gelder bothy; a wander up & over the ‘Gar (Lochnagar) down into Glen Callater; onto Braemar & then somehow get back to the car.

3:30pm saw me headed off across the old Invercauld bridge & off into Balmoral estate, despite only carrying a couple of day’s food & no tent the pack felt fairly heavy probably down to adding the ice axe, crampons, snowshoes & additional goose down loveliness. This probably increased the load by nearly 4kg but that’s one of the ‘joys’ of getting out in winter.

Despite the impending gloom I decided to take the higher level footpath through the woods rather than the ‘trade’ route via Connachat Cottage; slightly longer with more ascent but in my opinion a nicer route. The soft snow cover increased gradually with elevation, not deep enough to impede progress but enough to hide the boggy ‘holes’ lying beneath; just a bit of a pain. The first real obstacle was the cross of the Garbh Allt.

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The floods had created a new channel completely avoiding the bridge, a bit of teetering across snow/ ice coated boulders was needed to gain access to the bridge. I climbed out of the woods as the light started to fade, the snow cover increasing to more or less obscure the path.

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With only a sliver of moon behind a veil of cloud it was headlamp time for the last hour to the Gelder bothy, unsurprisingly there was no-one at home; shock, horror……..there was a stove!

It took less than ½ hr to be sitting in front of the fire with a pot of tea………….luxury.

Day 2

6:30am alarm!  Really nippy outside (-6C) but the bothy was still above freezing, but not by much.

While fixing breakfast my Petzl MYO RXP headlamp failed, the light flickered a lot then switched itself off, repeatedly.  I suspect a cable fault which was quite common with the earlier XP models but it needs further investigation; a great light, over 10 yrs old & it’s had plenty of use but I’m still a little disappointed.

I was on the road around 8am trudging up the LRT towards the Conachcraig bealach, less than 1km above the bothy it became increasingly tedious going, the overnight frost had firmed up the snow but only enough to take 50% of weight then crunch! On with the snowshoes, a lot easier going but the 0.9kgs on each foot soon had me thinking how weak the old legs were…..but the ‘Gar beckoned.

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The snow cover became increasingly troublesome with elevation, even with the shoes I was sinking 10 – 12cm & sometimes 25 – 30cm. On reaching the Meikle Pap beallach the gentle breeze had increasing to a blustery 35mph with blowing snow, not very pleasant at all, head down & make for the summit.

I dug in on the leeward slope of Cac Carn Beag & got the Caldera Cone going for a brew around 1pm, it had taken around 5 hrs for the ascent from the bothy, probably 11km, hardly race pace but still considerably quicker than a couple of guys who I’d seen coming up from the Glen Muick side post holing all the way. I did meet up with a fellow snowshoe’er on the summit who’d over taken them testifying to their struggles.

Having arrived much later than planned, I mulled over options, it would probably be dark for the descent to Glen Callater which I didn’t fancy with just the Petzl +e lite (& to a cold bothy to boot). I plumbed for a descent to the north & a X-country trip direct back to the Gelder bothy, I reckoned about half the distance of the approach & all downhill.

I plodded off NW for 400m before taking off the snowshoes & pulling out the axe for the steep 150m descent (~40deg) to the bealach. I ascended Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe before swinging NE & down to join the Allt Coire na Saobhaidhe; 3pm the sun had dropped below Lochnagar & the temperature had started to fall with the fading light.

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I reached the bothy before 4pm.

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I considered heading directly for the car (~2-2 ½ hrs) but after being on the feet for 8hrs & having the food it took less than 15 mins to get the fire going, pot on for a brew & get settled in.

Day 3

A late set off & the quiet 11km dawdle via Connachat Cottage back to Invercauld.

Gar map

The equipment highlight of the trip: the Pacerpole Overmitts

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The first time I’ve used them & I was very impressed, the design is very simple but effective; the 3-piece construction from 4-5mm neoprene ensures they stay open when fitted to the Pacerpoles making it easy to get the hand in & out; surprisingly warm, even without a liner glove my hands stayed toasty despite -5C & 35mph wind; easy to fold back off the wrist or complete hand to adjust the temperature.

The only minor niggles I could level would be; the tags denoting right & left poles are on the underside (out of sight), using different colour edge bindings would seem a better idea; on descents the overmitts seem to have a habit of working forward, off the wrist, requiring a stop to pull them back into place. I thought about putting a tag on the wrist to be able to pull them back into place with the teeth or something inside to attach to the pole handle may work.

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This entry was posted on January 17, 2016 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .
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