Cairngorms Women Contributions



Any time of year, preferably with a reasonable weather forecast!

Walking mainly and occasionally cycling. I enjoy visiting all year round from the long summer days to the clear crisp winter skies – it is never the same twice.

I enjoy hillwalking (Munros, Corbetts or any other hills) and the Cairngorms are the closest mountain range to where I live (near Fraserburgh). I also enjoy photography and bird / wildlife watching while out walking.

Went on a family holiday near Aviemore (Kinrara) in the summer in 2009 when I climbed Cairngorm, which was my first Munro. I think I had previously visited when I was younger and we had gone for a day trip to Loch Garten (possibly the year before?) but our week at Kinrara was my first proper visit where I spent a bit of time in the area.

The landscape is very different to where I live with all of the mountains, forests and heather and it was fantastic to see the different wildlife (we regularly saw Ospreys near the holiday cottage). I also did a lot of other walks around the area during our holiday and went fishing in the Spey. I would say that the landscape made quite an impression on me and certainly contributed to me catching the hillwalking ‘bug’!


Too many to choose from but I had an amazing winter day on Monadh Mor and Sgor Gaoith in March 2013 – perfect clear blue skies and not a breath of wind with the mountains carpeted in snow. The view down into Glen Einich was spectacular and the vastness of the mountains seemed to go on forever.

This was also a memorable day since I had forgot to take suncream and got very badly sunburnt with blisters on my face the next day with the sun reflecting off the snow so learnt my lesson to always have suncream in my rucksack!

The vast plateau and skyline really makes you feel quite insignificant compared to the landscape and the dramatic cliffs and corries are very beautiful. The snow also adds to the scenery, I remember there was avalanche debris down into the corrie beside Loch Einich and you can almost imagine how it would have been in the ice age with the glaciers carving out the glens between the mountains.

It is always great to see the wildlife, which you would never see unless you visit the mountains (ptarmigan, mountain hare etc). The scots pine forests down in Glen Feshie also add the perfect start and end to a day walking in the hills, I love it in summer when you can smell the trees in the warmth of the sun.

The Braeriach traverse was a very rewarding walk, it was the longest walk I had done and the views were stunning, Angel’s peak was a particular highlight. It was amazing to visit the source of the river Dee and good to walk on the mountains I had seen when I did Ben McDui previously. (I keep a record of all my walks on my WH blog).

I went to the Loch Avon basin and shelterstone last year and it almost feels like entering another world after you cross over from the ski centre car park.

Lochnagar is one of my favourite mountains. The first time I went I had just started hillwalking and got a bit lost when the mist came down but this was a good learning experience and I was very glad to see Loch Muick to reassure me that I was on the right track! I revisited Lochnagar last year in June and started walking at 4am – it was beautiful summer’s morning and it was very special to have the hills to myself – absolutely calm on top with the sound of the golden plover for company, views to the Cairngorm plateau and a bit of a cloud inversion towards Glenshee.

I also had fantastic weather on the Corbetts Creag Mhor and Meall a’Buachaille – still a fair bit of snow for May and it was great walking back through the Scots pine.

I love any walk in the Cairngorms area – seeing the ptarmigan, mountain hare, reindeer and other mountain species is always a treat and I feel very lucky considering you would never see these animals or plants without visiting somewhere like the Cairngorms.

I remember reading in a guidebook about Queen Victoria’s visits to the Cairngorms. I’m interested in the history of the area and how it would have been for those who first lived in and visited the mountains.

It is always interesting to see the ruined sheilings in the remote glens and I imagine it would have been very hard for the ordinary folk living there – nowadays I’m able to visit and enjoy the Cairngorms in my free time but I know it would have been very different in the not too distant past. In Hamish Brown’s book, he tells about a family living in the Glen Clova area (I think?) who were starving and only managed to survive the winter when an avalanche brought down a deer carcass near their home. I probably share Queen Victoria’s romanticized views of the Cairngorms but I can imagine that on a bleak winter’s day the people who lived there in the past would have gladly swapped it for our modern comfortable lives.

I always consider myself lucky that I’ve got good waterproof jackets, boots etc rather than a tweed jacket and the long skirts, which you see women wearing in the old photographs!

I also went to a winter safety talk last year by Heather Morning and she talked about her work in the Cairngorm mountain rescue team. The reality of how harsh the mountains are was brought home when she told us about some of the rescues in the Cairngorms – there was a woman in a survival bag they found alive whereas there was a man who didn’t have a survival bag and was found dead.

I often walk alone but sometimes go with my friends or family.

Especially when walking alone I would say that you take in the landscape and wildlife around you. On a calm day, it is fantastic to hear the golden plover, grouse, ptarmigan, red deer etc.

When I was on Lochnagar last year it was very still and calm at the top and I heard a rock tumbling down a crag somewhere (possibly from a deer walking over it). It was around 6.30am on the summit and it was quite eerie in a way since it felt like I was the only person there for miles (since I probably was!)

I love the smell of the moorland and pine trees when the sun is shining and in contrast the cold bite from the wind in winter reminds you how harsh the mountains can be and makes you wonder how the wildlife can survive in such a place. Overall, I’d say the weather always heightens your senses when outdoors.

Sight is always important for moving through the mountains and taking in your surroundings – in winter you only notice the mountain hare and ptarmigan when they move since their camouflage is so good and it makes you realise how perfectly adapted they are to living in the mountains. Also for observing the views and watching how the weather is changing sight is important.

I would also say that the smell of the trees and heathery moorland adds to the experience of the Cairngorms, especially so in summer time.

Most definitely – by walking through the mountains on rough hill paths or pathless terrain you have to concentrate on where you are going as well as being physically fit and able to stay balanced on the terrain. I’m definitely fitter than I was before I started going into the mountains and it has also helped mentally since I have been studying for university and my professional accountancy exams so a trip to the Cairngorms always gives you a boost since it is like a mini holiday even if you are just going for a day walk.

Very important since you need to look where you are going (I always remember to take plenty of photo stops and breaks to enjoy the scenery too!) Also hearing the birds and other wildlife helps you to spot the animals which would often be difficult otherwise since they are well camouflaged.

On Monadh Mor and Sgor Gaoith as mentioned above I got very badly sunburnt on my face – perhaps not a particularly good memory but it didn’t detract from a stunning winters day in the mountains and served to learn me a lesson to always pack my suncream even in winter!

Also the general tired legs at the end of a long walk and being hot walking up the hills then cooling down when you stop at the summits is always something you experience in the Cairngorms.

I love a good long walk, you always know you are in the Cairngorms with the classic almost lunar arctic terrain with the rocks peeking through the mossy and heathery ground. The granite tors are also a feature I enjoy exploring and I always like to climb up to the tops.

I would say both are required. I have learned a lot about navigating and you start to learn to identify the different summits by visiting the area. In planning routes you need to balance the two by having the knowledge to reach a particular summit for example and being physically able to do so and there is no substitute for actually going out and visiting the Cairngorms to get this experience. Also, you need to be prepared to adapt plans as you go along and intuition and the physical conditions on the day probably play a big part in this.

(walking at night) Not yet but on my to do list.

The lighter days in summer certainly give you motivation to keep going for longer and start walking early in the day.

The weather is so changeable as you move higher into the hills and even in summer time it has rarely been hot at the summits, although I have been lucky enough to have had a few days where I haven’t needed more than a T-shirt.

When I did the Braeriach traverse, I remember there was a light snow/ hail shower in June at the top.

The stronger winds across the mountains add to the feeling of remoteness.

I love the calm clear winter days, which make you appreciate the short daylight hours and add a freshness to the landscape. When I went up Carn na Drochaide in January this year it was a beautiful winter day and it makes you feel very positive.

It makes you appreciate simple things like a nice bath at the end of the day and you learn not to take things for granted. I would say it is generally good for your well being and the sense of achievement gives you a positive outlook – it’s great when you are driving past the mountains and can think to yourself ‘I’ve been up there’ and I’ve certainly got some fantastic memories from exploring the hills.