3.26.2009

Cairngorms Revisited

The Cairngorms are a very special. Geologically and climatically the high plateau is like no other place in the UK. The Cairngorms are also very special to me personally. It was a trip to the Cairngorms that got me hooked on backpacking and wilderness travel. Although I've been involved in outdoors-sport in one way or another since I turned eleven I'd turned twenty-one before I went out and stayed out. For many years I orienteerd, ran and day-walked the fells from youth hostels, outward bound centres and camp sites. I didn't know what I was missing. In the middle of my finals, after weeks of nervous revision, couped up in a clammy cramped student house, between the piles of unwashed plates and underware, I was invited to join a group of friends for a midweek trip to the Cairgorms. The idea was to do a round of the 4000'ers and bothy and bivvy for a few nights. At the time not exactly my thing but given my circumstance the thought of the fresh air, space and freedom was irresistible. I didn't take a lot of persuading.

It's now eighteen years since that trip and I now realise, with a great deal more experience under my belt and garage bursting with kit, that we realy struck gold that weekend. It was June but we were treated to a dump of snow and the range was transformed to an addictive mix of winter mountain, blue summer sky and short-sleeve temperatures. As we walked back out to Breamar, resplendent in foul stinking Helly-Hansen base layers, I was carrying something I hadn't taken with me: the need to spend time in wild places. I still don't know exactly what threw the switch, not just the views, not just the company, not just the activity but something about the rhythm and simplicity of moving through and bivvying self-supported in wild country.

Considering how deep an impression the Cairngorms had made on me it still surprises me how long it took me to get around to going back. My list of things to do and places to visit is just too long. Fourteen years passed before I found myself sitting down with a (different) group of lads to plan a trip to the Cairngorms. By that time the first trip had been elevated to mythical status by the mists of memory and, in truth, I was concerned that the repeat wouldn't live up to the original. I needn't have worried.

I promised to post some of my trip accounts. I'm going to start with an account of that second Cairngorm trip. However, the fact that I'm incapable of keeping things short poses a problem: I think some of my ramblings, including this one, are just too long to post as blog. For that reason I've decided to upload and link to the files. For those who are still interested, the Cairngorm account can be found here: Cairngorms 2005.

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