Scotland - Day 2 : First hiking day
We got up around 7:30.
First, we went to get breakfast at the supermarket. We bought three small propane tanks, enough to cook dinner and make coffee. In the store we kept walking into people. Because everyone in Scotland walks on the left side of the isle we kept deviating in exactly the wrong direction.
We walked back towards our camping spot and then followed the adjacent road. In the distance we could see the snow covered mountains. Bart was already feeling cold in the clothes he was wearing. We wondered how cold it would be up there and what it would be like in the rain. After leaving Aviemore we first followed an asphalt road for about 5 kilometers and then took a gravel road into a forest.
José, Nic, and Bart
We walked along a river, in between trees. There were a few small bridges for pedestrians. We took a break at a crossroad after walking for about 1,5 hours. Near the crosroad was a bin with poles in it. Some poles had scoops made of chicken wire at one end and the others slabs of rubber. We had no idea what those were for, but thought it might be to extinguish bushfires. Nic was already developing a blister.
We were still below the tree line
The path went uphill and became a lot narrower. We still occasionally met other hikers. An hour later we left the forest and entered a wide valley. It was drizzling and not very warm. We took a break at a stream.
José en Bart.
I had planned the route and shared it with Bart. He was surprised it actually seemed possible to finish it in the available time. I suggested to take a short cut away from the marked path.
We took a left turn up the mountains
It was a lot harder now we were not walking on a path, as there were bushes and large boulders. After struggling up hill for half an hour we took a break so I could check the map.
It turned out I wasn't fully used to the map's scale yet, we were a bit further then I thought. The quickest way would be to keep climbing up the mountain in the other direction. The rest didn't hesitate to remind me it would have been much easier had we just followed the path, but that would've been boring. Nic had a hard time with all the loose rocks and his ankles hurt. When we reached the path close to the summit we still went slow, there were too many rocks and it was hard to see the markings. We took a lot of breaks and Nic and Bart said they didn't believe me anymore when I repeated we were 'more or less' at the top.
Taking a break to enjoy the sun
From here it wasn't far anymore - although nobody believed me - to reach a lake where I had planned to camp. It lay behind the mountain ridge we were climbing. As it was a lot lower than our current position and sheltered from the wind it would likely be a bit warmer as well.
The grass was comfortable
The grass was so soft you could sleep comfortably, apparently
Meanwhile it started to get late, it was around 16:00. First we needed to descent and then climb up again. It took much longer than expected. Once we reached the top of the mountain there was no lake in sight. The rest started to believe there was no lake at all and I had been wrong, but I knew better.
Two weeks ago it still had been snowing a lot here
The sun started to set while we were walking over a mountain plateau covered in snow. We had a nice view over Ben Macdui, the highest mountain in Cairngorms National Park. and the second highest in the United Kingdom. It was quickly getting colder. We were close to the lake, but it would take a long descent to reach it. After some deliberation we decided to camp on the mountain plateau sheltered by some hills.
I took a photo of the promised lake while the rest was pitching their tents
We quickly pitched our tents and put on all the clothes we carried. It would 'only' get down to -3 degrees Celsius but there was a strong and ice cold northern wind. This seemed uncommon, as all the grass and plants had grown in a different direction. Bart and I both carried a stove, which didn't turn on right away because of the cold. After keeping the gas canisters in our tents for a while we could finally cook. We all ate freeze dried meals that tasted well. It was only 19:00 when we went inside our sleeping bags. After playing some harmonics we (tried to) sleep.
The windy plains
Bart's tent turned out not very well suited to camping on a windy ice plain. Its inner tent was made of mesh instead of fabric and the wind blew straight through. He said he wore two pants, three jacks, two hoodies and a hat and still didn't feel very warm. I didn't feel cold in my tent, but José and Nic also weren't super comfortable. Suddenly we heard "BRaaaAAAAp", it sounded like a frog. Nic immediately termed it the 'ice frog'.