England ! Thy beauties are tame and domestic
to one who has roved over mountains afar.
Oh, for the crags that are wild and majestic !
The steep frowning glories of dark Lochnagar.
So there we we again (the fifth ascent for each of us) on top of Lord Byron's celebrated 1160m summit, slapping on the suncream on a warm afternoon.
Our route had been tortuous. A last-minute switch from south-west Scotland to the north-east highlands swerved us round the back of the rainy weather. Unusually, this time, we approached over some nine miles from Balmoral to the north, taking in on the way, the ridge of Caisteal na Caillich (862 m) and the Corbett of Conachcraig (865) before descending to the col and up again to Lochnagar plateau.
For the descent back north, we chose to cross the outliers Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe (974 m) and Craig Liath (861 m). The former is a Munro Top, but very few people collect these compared to the main Munros. The hills gave very rough going on deep heather and boulders, no path.
And so at last, in the early evening, we came down the moorland track and over the roaring burn, to the standing of trees which folds around Gelder Shiel.
Time to get the kettle on. Then we swiftly organised our meal “al fresco”
(Vegetable, asparagus, or tomato)
Fried chorizo slices
on a bed of mediterranean cous-cous with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic
Apple crumble and custard
Coffee and biscuits
Selection of red wines.
Gelder Shiel, we both agreed, is the best-kept and best equipped bothy either of us knows.
It's an easy walk-in from Easter Balmoral on a good track. It has:-
8 comfy bunk beds with raised lips to keep all your stuff with you
a TOILET round the back, with a WATER TAP !!!
The Balmoral Estate (much thanks to them) left a plentiful supply of firewood
The stove pulls like a train
attractive wood-panelled interior (following a 2015 refurb)
There are all sorts of nice little touches (toilet paper, clothes hooks, tools hung up etc) which are an enormous credit to the MBA bothy team.
A splendid little place and very warmly recommended. Pass the wine.
Couln't quite say the same about the weather next morning, though, with cloud down almost to the bothy itself.
We were shortly back at Easter Balmoral, and took the car round to Glen Shee where the mist was more broken and the local Munros came and went in and out of the veil.
The east side is least cluttered by the ski industry. (But even so, it would be nice if they learnt to tidy up sometimes).
So for a Sunday morning stroll, we headed up Glas Maol (1068), as a simple out-and-back leg stretch. On the extensive flat top, the mist closed around us, and we almost reached for the compass. Then came a smattering of rain.
“You've had yer lot for now” said the Cairngorm hills. “Go home ! (But don't forget Gelder Shiel)”