I last saw fellow Dornie starter Dave in the shooting hut on the way up the Monadhliath, but now he is sat there at breakfast. I join him and we discuss routes for the day. We’re both headed for Braemar – via the Lairig Ghru in his case and via Glen Feshie in mine. Having considered the Lairig Ghru in my original route plan, and then discarded it in favour of the Feshie, there is a certain attraction in restoring it to the itinerary. Or at least there would be if I’d brought the maps covering it. This is neatly solved by Dave, who does have the map, suggesting I accompany him. I download the relevant OS map tiles anyway, call Control to let them know I’m going the other way, and we’re off. The Lairig Ghru it is.
A quick calculation reveals that the Lairig Ghru will cut in the region of 11 miles off my route, and will therefore give me back some time in hand. I can’t help feeling that this will be useful to have.
Whilst allowing me to accompany him, it’s agreed that Dave will set off when he was ready, and I’ll attempt to catch him up with my speed road walking. Somehow I manage to lose half an hour in faffing about so set off without much expectation of catching him. I power along the road to Coylumbridge and see him waiting where the track leads away from the road. And he’s not been waiting long. Or at least that’s what he tells me.
We make our way along the track and paths through Rothiemurchus Forest. After a couple of days solo it’s nice to have some company again, and moreover to not have to worry too much about the navigation. The path becomes more rugged and progress slows. Various groups of people pass us.
The scenery is stunning and clearly the most dramatic of the trip so far. I can see why this is a popular route. Plenty of stops are taken under the guise of photo opportunities. We stop by a stream to replenish our supplies and take a break. The number of people catching and passing us seems to stir us from our slumbers and we continue up to the crest of the pass. Plenty of boulder-hopping takes place as we try to find a path through.
A further stop is taken for afternoon tea (this really should be compulsory on all walks) and then we negotiate the Pools of Dee and begin the descent down alongside the infant river. At the same time as admiring the cloud-wreathed and snow-capped mountains on either side, we’re also trying to spot where the bothy is. This is our minimum target for today. In the event, we approach the bothy, seeing one tent pitched right outside and a couple of others nearer the river. We cross over and look for places to pitch, finding a spot near the bridge alongside the baby Dee.
No sooner are the tents up than the rain comes and we hunker down inside. At each break in the rain, I look outside and see another tent. This continues until we run out of light.