A week in the Cairngorms…

To say that I am excited for my week in Aviemore, which begins on Friday, is an understatement to say the least!

For the last few years, JP and I have been to Glencoe, and in more recent trips my dad has come along too, not so much for the winter walking, but for a free week in a cottage, in a lovely corner of Scotland! Anyway, this year’s trip is a slightly different dynamic again…

My wife and I welcomed our son, George, into the world on 7 February 2017, and he is nearing one year old now (not sure where 11 months has gone!), and as a result of this my wife has been on maternity leave, and remains so until early February. So, I asked my wife if they would like to join us on a trip up North for the week. She said yes!!

My wife will happily enjoy a walk, but is a reluctant fell walker and Glencoe in winter offers little to those who do not enjoy the winter fells. We decided upon Aviemore, as there is a bit more going on for them, whilst JP and I were walking. There were obviously compromises to be made to have my wife and son with me for the week, but these were worth it for me. Following some hard fought ‘negotiations’, we have decided that 3 days winter walking for JP and I, along with 3 days of ‘other’ activities as a group was a fair compromise. This balance will give us some time to venture around the area and visit some of the lovely places in the Cairngorm region, whilst also letting us explore some of the lowland valleys, which I would not normally take them time to discover – instead heading up, up, up into the mountains! So, I am looking forward to this slightly different balance in all honesty. I have also packed the sledge, and we would like to take George up Cairn Gorm on the funicular and have a play in the snow, which he will love (as will I)!

It is our fourth wedding anniversary when we are away, so I definitely need to take her out for a meal to say thanks for putting up with me in general, but also thanks for letting me enjoy a few days in the Scottish mountains. : )

Whilst trawling Twitter and seeing the copious amounts of photos of the adventures of the folks that I follow, there were plenty photos of their Cairngorm adventures to wet my appetite. With its white winter coat well and truly on, and the forecast for snow, snow, snow, it looks like for once my timing will be just right! However I am nervous about trusting weather forecasts, especially not for the best part of a week into the future!

The BBC Weather app is suggesting lows of -6 degrees Celsius in the night, which should make for some good snow conditions, although, can also present other significant risks. There have been avalanche warnings and so it is always important to check the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, www.sais.gov.uk/ before heading into the hills. I also like to use a few different weather forecasts, and look at the local mountain forecasts, in addition to standard weather forecasts, but it is personal preference. There is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing/equipment, so it is always worth ensuring that you have the right gear, it is in working order, and you know how to use it. It is safe to say though that the snow is coming down HARD!

Just as an aside, and whilst we are on the topic of safety in some guise, JP and I, did a fantastic Winter Skills Course, in Glencoe, a few years ago, which I would highly recommend for any relative newbies to the winter fells. You can find out more about the course on an earlier blog post that I did. I considered (and still do consider) myself to be a competent and experienced mountain goer, but having done a bit of winter walking prior to the course, I learned a lot in that week, and still use and continue to hone much of what I learned, during every winter trip out (navigation tips, subtle techniques of using ice axes and crampons, and safety on the winter fells (interpreting forecasts etc.). I’m not sure who said it, but ‘Education is the gift that keeps on giving’, and that is certainly true in this case!

JP and I, have not fully discussed the three walks that we will be doing, and so this will no doubt be a topic of conversation on the drive up, whilst sifting through the maps! One thing that is for certain is that we will be heading up to the Munros above Aviemore, probably setting off from the car park at the Ski Centre no doubt. I will obviously be doing blog posts, as usual, for each of our walks and so watch this space…

Most of our walking (both winter and in other seasons) tends to be in the Lake District, as you will have seen from my previous blogs, which is due to the fact that it is only an hour’s drive from where we live (lucky us!). It is also very handy that my dad has a static caravan, near Ambleside, which offers the perfect base from which to enjoy the Lakeland fells. But….Scotland is that bit different. It is wilder, more rugged, exposed and you really can find your own piece of wilderness there. It does however come with slightly increased risk due to this remoteness in my opinion, as you can quite often not see anyone on the winter fells, due to sparsely populated areas of Scotland. That is not to say that you cannot also do the same thing in the Lake District, but due to the more compact nature of the Lakeland fells, and the increased accessibility of the area to large cities, you tend to find that as a rule, you are more likely to see others on your Lake District adventures than those in Scotland. Both locations however, require respect for the environment and the changeable weather that you can find yourself in, so it is important to be prepared ahead of any trip, as you can easily get into difficulty in wither setting.

The best thing of all about Scotland, is that there is so much to explore, and in the same way that I completed the Wainwrights the first time (now on my second round) to explore all the corners of the Lake District, I am already doing the same thing with the Munros to explore Scotland. I was brought up visiting all over Scotland in our little ‘tourer’ caravan, which we used for dozens of family holidays north of the border – exploring all areas of the Highlands. My dad enjoyed fishing, and so we used to wander up finding hill lochs, in what felt like the back end of beyond when you are a young lad. These trips gave me the love for those wild places, and wet my appetite to explore them further, and so the Munros are helping me do just that and I can’t wait! I am looking forward to discovering them again with my own family now, and creating our own little adventures that George will look back on fondly, as I now do.

So, with another couple of days left at work, it just leaves the job of packing, which I still haven’t started. It is usually just my own ‘outdoors’ gear to sort, but this time this part is likely to be the easy bit, with George’s gear being the real challenge! The lad doesn’t travel light, and no doubt there will be a truck full, which will no doubt include the kitchen sink!!!

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