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Home arrow News arrow Meet Reports arrow STMC Spring Meet - Ballater 2010

STMC Spring Meet - Ballater 2010

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Contributed by Stephen Kennedy   
The Spring 2010 Meet took a small band of STMC members to the east Scotland town of Ballater.  This village sits astride the River Dee and is well sited for trips into the southern Grampians and the Cairnwell, Glenshee and Lochnagar Hills and all these areas featured in the week's walking.  Sandy Gordon had taken on the task of organising the week and was the first to arrive, quickly followed by Carol Dacre, Julie Bowler  and Martin Parr, Sandy Gordon, David  Tait, Don MacAuley and yours truly. The start of the week also saw a welcome guest appearance from former member Paul Indoo before the world of work dragged him back to Glasgow.  

Our accommodation comprised two comfortable self-catering homes on a hill leading up from the centre of Ballater.  It was an attractive and quiet spot with an impressive collection of trees that did however leave anything standing outside covered with a fine coating of yellow pollen.  The village had a surprisingly large number of star-rated restaurants on offer, but despite our best efforts at scrubbing up we couldn't get into any of them!  So fish and chips or Chinese takeaways on the veranda became the norm.

The first day threatened poor weather conditions, but not being daunted we made tentative plans to tackle three or four of the Munros stretching west from Tom Buidhe.  Although Martin's week was to comprise a cycling and golfing extravaganza, the rest of the group headed to the Glenshee area and advanced upwards onto ground covered by a fresh dusting of snow from the night before.  As it turned out the elements prevented the planned progress and after we had reached the peaks of Carn an Tuirc and Cairn of Claise the snow and wind caused a retreat back to the cars.   It would be a slight exaggeration to suggest that the icy winds were akin to those that afflicted Scott's party on his retreat from the Pole, but not by much.  Getting my flask open during lunch was entertaining, but by the end of the day some feeling had returned to my fingers and no amputations were required.  Things looked up even more in the evening as Julie and Martin turned chef for the whole group and produced a fine curry to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary (a marriage demanded by the State, but that's another story).

The second day of walking was a stark contrast as, in true Spring Meet fashion, both the cloud and temperatures had lifted significantly enabling a full round of the Lochnagar group of Munros.  The climbs were usually gentle, but no less rewarding with the good visibility.  The day comprised a twenty mile horseshoe route with five Munros and the high point being Lochnagar itself at 1155m (3789 ft).  Indeed, this proved to be the highest point of the week and allowed fantastic views to the surrounding hills, especially north to the Cairngorms.  During the day we also saw a aerial duel between a golden eagle and what looked like a raven as the raven tried to encourage the eagle to leave the vicinity of its nest. During the walk of the circuit Julie achieved the milestone of her 100th Munro; only 180 odd to go!

The weather thereafter remained fine and often hot, especially at the lower levels when sheltered from any cooling breeze.  In midweek we again ventured to the southern Cairngorms for another long walk; this time taking in Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Chaorain, which formed a high plateau with a high point of 1081m (3553 ft).  The peaks again offered fine views across the Cairngorms and back down the Glen Derry which formed our route out.  Despite Cameron McNeish threatening boggy conditions the ground stayed largely dry and springy underfoot, allowing quick progress on the gradual ascents.  On the final ascent to Beinn Bhreac we also had a close up sighting of a Dottrell, which was in the process of crawling boozily along the ground with a pretend broken wing to move us away from his nest.  An impressive display that did the trick.  Meanwhile the Mrs.Dottrels of this world apparently head off to Scandinavia to breed with another male while hubby No.1 looks after the nest back in the British Isles.  The little strumpets!

On Thursday the group headed west to the small village of Inverey (small it may have been, but which nonetheless possessed re-cycling options that would have put any big-city megastore to shame).  From here we walked up to the peak of Carn Bhac.  This was probably the warmest days climbing during the week and on the way down Carol spotted a couple of amorous adders close to a stream enjoying the sunshine.

Thus ended the active part of the week for most of us.  Sandy, David and Don went up Cairn Leuchan behind Ballater on Friday, just making it back in time to do some shopping and join the others in soaking up the sun (yes really).  But Julie continued her mountain extravaganza the following week with a hike through the Larig Ghru to Aviemore and continued with some walks in the Torridon, no doubt putting a little dent in those 180 remaining peaks.

Steve Kennedy

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