The forecast for the hilltops in my cross-hair was pretty bad, including high winds. So I turned my attention to low-level walks nearby. A couple of months ago I’d spotted a car park outside Tomintoul, strongly suggesting a possibility for the existence of walks there. So last night I checked Walk Highlands website and found a good one. A bit challenging because of its total length, but otherwise well within my ability. At the far end it required crossing the river Avon, and that was a question mark hanging in the air.
I started at the car park around 10am, following the farm track heading south. The sun was shining most of the time, the sky was blue, the wind was blowing alternatively into my face or my back, the winding track was leading down gently. It was a pretty nice walk. My humour soured a bit when I reached the bottom of the glen and noticed the water level in the river Avon. I still had some distance to cover, but I started pondering on shortening my planned walk. I don’t mind wading in water when necessary, but up to my knees, not my waist.
In the meantime the farm track suddenly turned into a tarmaced single lane road; a bit surprising in the middle of nowhere. A sign up the road warning about ‘estate vehicles’ was a sort of giveaway. Another sign was an automatic solid metal gate across the road.
Following the tarmac road I reached the spot where the circuit began. I also reached a conclusion to shorten my walk to climbing Cnap Chaochan Aitinn and returning the same way rather than taking the risk of facing impassable river at the far end of the route. So I crossed the river, left it behind and started climbing a gentle slope along a farm track. The higher I was getting, the stronger the wind became. There was also an increasing amount of rain droplets carried by the wind despite the sunshine. At one point it was so unbearable I reluctantly pulled out my jacket. As it turned out, I kept it on until I returned home.
The track led me up to a featureless moorland, scarred only by farm tracks (well maintained) and shooting spots. I guess it’s a popular place for grouse shooting. Many of those stupid birds took to the air almost from under my feet with their screechy cry. A miracle I didn’t have a heart attack… In the meantime the dry rain (frozen drops) turned into wet, forcing me at last to put my waterproof trousers on. It’s never easy with walking boots on, in rain and on wind, and this time was no different. When finally I had the waterproofs on, the rain stopped and the sky was blue again. Is it just me? I didn’t bother to take them off, just kept climbing towards the summit. The wind got stronger the higher I went, and near the summit I could barely stay upright.
There was a wee cairn there and a meteo station with two wind-meters (I guess), each with a propeller. Strangely enough, one was completely motionless while the other was spinning like mad. Only by taking a photo at 1/8000 I know the latter had three blades. The container provided some shelter on the otherwise windswept summit, so I could quickly have my packed lunch.
In the meantime the views of the neighbouring range of Ben Avon completely changed. When I had been reaching the summit it could hardly be seen through the mist. When I emerged from behind the meteo station after lunch it was clear and really impressive. That was the closest I’ve ever seen the range from the north. After taking some photos I headed back down the slope against the wind. What a battle it was!
The return leg of the walk was less eventful than the first one, partially because I knew the route, secondly because the weather was more stable. Near the car park I made a very short excursion to Queen Victoria Viewpoint. The name was grander than the reality…