Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

Bothie Shuffle

A 3pm start from Braemar for the less than 10km trek up to Glen Callater; the old military road up Glen Clunie had a least been cleared of snow making for an easy start. The ploughing stopped abruptly a couple of km’s out of town leaving 30 – 40cm of unconsolidated snow……..it took less than 10 steps to decide to break out the snow shoes (MSR Evo Ascent).


Crossing the footbridge of the Clunie at Auchallater I noted 100’s of Red deer congregated in lower glen, signs that snow had made the hills at bit inhospitable for them.

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I was prepared for a slow snow shoe shuffle the 5km up Glen Callater but fortunately a catapillar tracked ATV had got there before me making the trail a lot easier going than expected & a very pleasant wander up the glen; only a little slower than with a clear track.

The journey up the glen took around 1 ½ hrs & it was nice to arrive at the Callater Stables bothy & get out of the increasingly cold easterly blowing down the glen.

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I settled into the practiced routine; grab water, get a brew going, put on some extra lagging, sort out the bed, dinner, settle into the bag & plug into a podcast……..sleep.

Day 2

Even after an 8:30 lights out I still managed to hibernate until after well after 7am, consequently I wasn’t underway until around 8:30; out into the cold & on with the show shoes.

From up the hill the lodge & stables sitting next to a frozen loch looked a little forlorn within the landscape.

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Up the glen, towards Jock’s Road, showed the promise of brighter skies moving in from the east.

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Even with the snow shoes it was hard going & I was still sinking into the soft snow 10 – 15cm but it was a lot better than post holing up to the knees. A bit of lack of attention to the navigation saw me on the summit of Creag an Loch (836m), I should have traversed around it.  A bit of a deviation was necessary to avoid the steep rocky outcrops, finally descending 60m of steep snow down to the col.

Ahead the 300m climb to the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor beckoned, more & more plodding steadily upward into the cloud.  Surprisingly the cloud shrouding summit plateau cleared for a minute just as I reached the cairn; it’s usually the other way around!

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Time for a decision, the original plan was to descend south-east head over Broad Cairn & then cross the plateau to the Shieling of Mark Bothy but the ascent had taken over 3 ½ hrs & I wasn’t even half way along the planned route. I didn’t relish the thought of another 6 hrs+ plodding though the snow, nor did my old legs, time for a plan B; head over Lochnagar & down to Gelder Shiel.

The low cloud rolled in again; time for a bit of point to point navigation; first leg a simple descend north-east then up to the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Beag.

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The next leg a little trickier in the low visibility & little contrast between the ground & sky, 600m north-east towards a corrie rim then dog leg south-east, easy peasy; how many steps = 100m when shuffling along through snow? 100 double steps worked out about right……well I didn’t walk over a precipice.

I managed to stay well away from the corrie rim & the probably nasty cornices, passed the Stuic & made the ascent up to the familiar cairn at Cac Cairn Mor. No point to visiting Lochnagar’s summit when it was cloaked in clag so I turned south-east & started the descent. Picked up a fresh set of ascending 30cm ‘post holes’ near Red Spout which made for easier navigation to the descent to the Meikle Pap col when the clouds suddenly disappeared providing a clear view across the corrie.

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The target for the day was also clearly visible down the glen, an tiny island of trees in a white sea.

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A quick ponder; 4km in a straight line to the bothy, about 2km shorter than descending the normal route then turning north down the glen & probably similar snow conditions underfoot……….a no brainer really, the straight line won out. After a short steep(ish) descent into the corrie it was just turn north, plodding steadily through the soft snow with only minor detours to avoid ‘bumps’ straight to the door step of the Geiler Shiel Bothy.

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After nearly 8 hrs on the hoof & the only stop being just long enough to grab some snacks from the pack to stuff into pockets to nibble on the go I was well ready for a hot drink brew & something more substantial. Grab water, stove on, don extra lagging & flop into a chair with a ½ L mug of soup & a pork pie.

Before I had the bed sorted a group of 4 arrived bearing bags of coal & complaining about the soft snow on their 6km trek from Crathie. It ended up being a late night watching bothy TV & chatting before settling into the bag at around 10pm!

Day 3

After poor night’s sleep, thanks to being too hot, chainsaw snoring & folk getting up through the night it, was a bit of a sluggish breakfast then off down the track to catch the bus at Crathie.

I abandoned the snow shoes after picking up a snow mobile track about ½ km from the bothy, the overnight frost had done a good job of setting up the compacted snow, making for fairly easy going managing the 6km in under 1 ½ hrs with less than 5 mins wait for the bus.

Not all had gone to plan & I was off the hill a day early……..but that’s one of the joys of going out in winter & a lot more preferable than coming down a day late!

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This entry was posted on March 10, 2018 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .

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