Returning to the Cairngorms


This rock is old and dead. Not moving like things in the alps. Just savage rubble slabs and cracks.


Lock Etchachan – The UKs highest body of water, 927 m above sea level


Someone left Tibetan Prayer flags outside Bob Scott’s Bothy (scottish mountain hut). This was my first Scottish bothy that I stayed in during December 2016. I met some really cool old Scottish men who were best friends with each other and came out here over Boxing Day and new years to escape their wives and families to drink whisky by the fire. Friendship inspiration for sure.


Elliot Johnston – This year’s treasurer of Aberdeen University’s Lairig Club (aka best climbing, hill walking and general outdoors club on this island), also an apt farmer and student of the Law. An Englishman that looks like a genuine Scottish Hillwalker.


A dead tree that beat up it’s branches in Glen Derry.


The Hutchinson Memorial Hut. Also known as the location of this year’s midgmageddon.


Elliot finds Loch Etchachan. We had lunch here and set off on our own from this spot.


View from Derry Cairngorm. This is the River Dee which flows out into Aberdeen. A stones throw from my sardine spot in the city, but here is where the water starts its journey.


Eyeing up Ski zones about the Lairig Ghru. A last spot of snow from an exceptionally mild winter.

This is my first adventure since the winter finished (for me this was the 20th of June).

It was a day trip but it was still an adventure.

I left Aberdeen at 6:30 AM and picked up my friend Elliot Johnston, who is one of the first friends I made when I moved up to Aberdeen (from Devon) last year. It was pretty groovy how this company came about, as I had been trying to get to the hills for a few weeks, and the night before I was finally ready and able to do a sizeable day trip, Elliot posted that he was headed to the Linn of Dee, which was my destination of choice also.

This neck of the woods on the Edge of the Mar Lodge Estate was where I got my first taste of the Scottish highlands in December of last year. I tried to go ski touring but it was just way too warm. However it was a solid introduction.

We ended up walking up to the highest body of water in the UK, which calls itself Loch Etchachan. Elliot was keen to set off on his multi day munro exploration, and I was keen just to see where my legs were at at this point of they year. Having company after the solace of solo ski touring for a month was wonderful. On the way through the beautiful forest of Mar we got into some interesting discussion what are strengths and weaknesses are, and what we didn’t expect to come through when partaking in such activities. I’m obviously a very committed skier, and I got to explain things I had learned about communication, for example of how tone of voice and making your friends feel super comfortable around you is so important when you go and do anything. In terms of creating an atmosphere that they feel totally ok with putting their hands up and saying that something in their gut is telling you that a route choice is wrong or that bushwacking into a terrain trap is a bad plan.

It’s an incredibly fragile thing, communication.

Also we talked of the terms of grappling with the mastery of the lifelong pursuit that can become of being totally and completely obsessed with mountaineering/ alpinism/ crazy high consequence level skiing/ being a full out politician/ academic etc.

Risk. How much do you learn in the space of stupid risk? Like not the calculated sort. That’s blind learning. You can huge leaps in this regard. You can make huge loses also. On the other hand, monumental lessons can be learned when you learn to admit that you know less than you think, forget the shame that makes you fear looking like an idiot, and asking for guidance and help.

The spaces in which you learn. Not in terms of a prescribed syllabus, but the gentle pulling of really bizarre and unconnected skills together.

By the time we got into the fork in the trail that would lead us to facing the Hutchinson Memorial Hut, we also discussed what value is in terms of what happens between the ages of 20 and 26.

If you are lucky enough to be in a position to be squeezed into higher education, no one discusses whilst you are choosing a degree program what the ‘value’ of it is. I have much to say about what I think of my situation, but if I put that aside and just outline the train of thought we went through is that the really important things to consider when making a choice like this is often ignored.

Degrees allow the luxury of value to be found with in chasing materialism: choosing courses tactically in fields that give you a greater chance to chase the money. Absolutely nothing wrong with that if that is your final intention. I meet people who want to live comfortably and make sure their family is provided for. That’s a really awesome and selfless thing to do, if your career that you wind up in does actually fulfil you.

Then other value comes in the form of choosing something that ultimately winds up in you helping people. Lawyers, doctors, nursing. Professions that arguably forfeit your down time for something that is also wholly selfless at its core (if you dodge some streams of law that is).

What about the historians, the liberal artists, the politicians, the english majors. What about the kids that roll into higher education with no interest in receiving it. What are they gaining? What are they losing? Why are they putting themselves into education tax for the next 30 years by choosing something they are uncertain of.

Thats a heavy spot.

The walk was really chill, I set a turn around time of 3:00 pm and I found mysef atop of Derry Cairngorm looking across the Lairig Ghru that has a tonne of amazing skiing opportunities when the conditions get good. I accidentally walked 20 kilometres. My legs felt it and the four by four tracks were solid. I still have my legs on me, I ave much of a base to consolidate and rebuild for the coming winters but, really happy I made the most of a day off in the Cairngorms.




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