Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿: Family trip to Edinburgh & Cairngorms National Park

I remember fondly the time Laura and I spent in Scotland just one year ago. What great memories of the Fringe festival, Jen & Sean’s wedding in Dunkeld or our three week hike on the Scottish national trail. This time we came here to belatedly make good on a birthday present for Bodo … a present we gifted more than one year ago yet group dynamics prevented an earlier trip.

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Checking out Edinburgh: Friday for Future Fun

While the masses of the fringe festival held throughout August had left town, it was still pretty busy with tourists. And there was Greta Thunberg and her climate movement. And it was Friday.

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So amidst ~20,000 of people joining the global Friday for future climate strikes, thus neatly avoiding school, we visited Edinburgh on a mild and sunny late summer day. Castle, Grassmarket, Greyfriar church, Royal mile etc. I used a few notes of last years blog to share the stories of Edinburghs most famous dog Greyfriar Bobby, of Maddie Dickson and how the term “shit-faced” came about (see Edinburgh: Beauty. Tales. Art. Friends.).

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In the afternoon we hiked up to Arthurs seat to enjoy the splendid views of Edinburgh and the North Sea. Many others were likeminded and hence it was quite busy up there.

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Nightlife in Edinburgh is always worthwhile – lots of pubs and bars with life music (and lots of more upmarket options if it tickles your fancy). So we enjoyed everything from Scottish folk songs by a group of brothers from the North of the country, improvised fiddle & accordion music and more.

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Dalwhinnie Whiskey Distillery: Getting the taste of it

Saturday we left the city behind us and headed north into the Highlands and Cairngorms National Park (by now easily the park in visited most on the island). Never-mind the destination, the way up there is lovely with stunning scenery wherever you turn your head. You can even spot deer, pheasants, foxes and rabbits … so mainly dead on the roadside. Sadly.

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After two hours we reached the distillery with its beautiful building and distinct roof construction. Dalwhinnie distillery is the most elevated in Scotland (~400m) and facing the coldest conditions (6 degrees average annual vs. 12 in London and 13 in Dresden).

Scotch single malt – What makes a scotch a scotch

  • Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (and yeast)
  • No added ingredients
  • Matured in an oak cask for at least 3 years in Scotland
  • Minimum 40% alcohol

The guided tour takes about 75 minutes and is very informative. At Dalwhinnie they produce 1.5m liters of whiskey per year, most of which becomes the trademark 15y Dalwhinnie scotch you can buy in most duty free shops in the world.

There is, however, also a “winter gold” edition. This one is produced, as you might have guessed, in winter times as the chilly conditions from October through March cool down the alcohol vapour in such a way that its not conducive to producing the standard brand. And i guess the owner Diageo didn’t want to have the factory idle half the year!

 

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Hiking the Ruthven & Glen Tromie circuit

It was still only early afternoon and the weather still splendid. So we hit the hiking trail for a 11km circular hike (viewranger link to route) with about 250m ascent. The path, while well visible, is wild and takes you through a range of different scenery. We even briefly got lost. Barren hills, farm land, deserted houses, rivers, forrest… the trail really offers a bit of everything. Start and finish is marked by the Ruthven barracks.

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After 3:40mins we made it back and headed for the nearest pub for refreshments.

 

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Frances rediscovered her love for horses it appears. Male ones mainly.

 

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Kingussie: Mostly quiet with a bit of disco light

Last year Di picked Laura and myself up from the pub in Kingussie and treated us to a lovely dinner in her house (Scottish National Trail: Crossing Cairngorm National Park & Dinner at Di’s (days 9, 10, 11)). This time we had a little time to explore this 1,400 soul village. Well, there is not that much. We enjoyed a dinner in the best rated restaurant (mc Innes) in town (well, partly best rated as they give you 10% off your bill if you review the restaurant before paying … but it was genuinely decent).

We tried the local pub again (which at the time of our visit didn’t serve food) only to find some crazy old Scottish dude entertaining the locals with disco lights and music mostly suited to the older generation (and in a very random order). We didn’t stay long and rather retired to the hotel after an exhausting, but fun day out.

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And Sunday it was time to head home – naturally not without a short hike around Pitlochry and its hydro power station.

 

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Scottish National Trail: Crossing Cairngorm National Park & Dinner at Di’s (days 9, 10, 11)

Today: 100km | Total: 336km

The three-day trip through the Cairngorm National Park took us past the 300km mark and close to halfway. We finished this stage with a super pleasant reunion with queen of the hills Di Gilbert. Thanks for having a ♥ for hikers and the amazing Scottish hospitality (and for giving Laura a bit of time to recover 🇨🇴 🙏).

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Laura’s comment día 9, 10 y 11: Estos días en el parque fueron muy agradables, un poco fuera de lo común en nuestro recorrido, pues el lugar es recorrido por muy pocas personas y en nuestro camino sólo encontramos 4 de ellas.

Para mí el dolor en mi rodilla es algo con lo que evidentemente no puedo luchar, un fuerte dolor que muchas veces me impide caminar y disfrutar plenamente los maravillosos paisajes que nos rodean.

Para nuestra fortuna al finalizar el recorrido por el parque encontramos a Di, una mujer con un hermoso corazón, la cual nos ofreció un espacio en su hogar, una deliciosa comida y una ducha de agua caliente 🙏🏼.

Entre todo el grupo decidimos que lo mejor para mí es descansar unos días y recuperar fuerzas en mi rodilla.

Ronny por su parte continuará su ruta hacia nuestro destino final… Te veo en unos días Amor. 🚀😘

Gear upgrade in Aberfeldy

After a healthy 🙄 Scottish breakfast, we started our day  with a search for the right gear. Scottish summer with at times sub 10 degrees days and rain en masse need addressing. In particular we needed a better hard-shell for Laura. Thankfully, the shop was conveniently located opposite our hotel.

The sales guy must have been happy! 🛒 After some deliberations we left with a new hard-shell, down jacket, waterproof over pants, waterproof gloves, cotton sleeping bag liners, a large gas canister and a second knee support for Laura (poor thing). Now we both feel well equipped.

Slight shortcut to start with

We arguably took a shortcut on our first stage of the day by using public transport from Aberfeldy to Blair Atholl. But we have to keep to a schedule somehow. Funny that we got picked up by the same bus driver twice, after the connecting bus just snubbed us. Thank you a$$!

Pitlochry was the end of our bus journey. A pretty little town admittedly. We, however, were just interested in the train station to take us one stop to Blair Atholl and the start of our three-day Cairngorms crossing. As the train warden said… Blair Atholl is a really nice stop. Indeed.

We should have sorted our resupplies beforehand though. Just a tiny grocer in the village. But heh! We got plenty of pasta, sweets, some fruit, 🥃 and other little things we might need. The bags were now significantly more heavy than in the last days.

 

Through the Cairngorms

And just a brief lunch (burger & haggis) later we were off to the national park that holds so many memories from earlier visits in Jan/Mar 2017 (see here). The path is pretty straightforward and follows the river Tilt all the way to our first wild camping spot. This time with a fire and the soothing sound of the river and waterfall nearby. Notably no midges 😊.

 

On the way we spotted a few folks fly fishing salmon (Atlantic Salmon runs all the way up to the waterfall near our campsite). And there were loads of mushrooms. Seems no-one picks them here. Below mushroom gallery is the result of 3-4mins of pictures along the main hiking path. Incredible. I think the last time i saw this was on the island Olchon (lake Baikal).

 

The weather was stable on our second day meaning neither rain nor sun. Just wind and loads of clouds hanging over the Cairngorm hills. We managed 28km today in at times challenging terrain. Pain level rising in feet, legs and knees. 😣

 

For lunch we stopped at the ruins of Bynack lodge. Fire, soup, pasta… Nice. Shortly after, we bumped into two other hikers walking in the opposite direction. The guy told me about previous stays at the lodge with hin son and that the place is haunted. He enquired if we had any strange encounters.. Mmmh no! 👻

 

We arrived at our overnight spot an hour before sunset. Once the sun went, we figured the camping was full off midges. Thousands. The deet spray helped to an extent, but hiding in the tent was still the better option. Nasty little things… And it will only get worse further North.

 

Our last day arrived with a nice breakfast (boiled 🥚 🥚 & 🥓🧀 🥪), a bath and midges. Mushrooms continued to pave the way… This time i picked a few like back in childhood days in Germany.

 

Weather remained a mix of sun and clouds, but thankfully little rain (just at night a little). On the way back to civilisation we passed through gorgeous valleys (glens) and, when approaching Kingussie (pronounced ‘kinnussie’ as i am told), a big rainbow over the park said goodbye in the loveliest manner.

 

Scottish hospitality at Di Gilbert’s

I met Di during my time preparing for Lhotse. Scottish winter is a great way to test yourself in harsh conditions and Cairngorms in winter is simply a stunning place. That was in March 2017 and hadn’t met since.

 

We had agreed to meet Di at some pub in Kingussie and, tired as we were, picked the first one that we passed – The Silverfjord Hotel and Restaurant. We didn’t have to wait long for Di. All ☺ and 🤗.

 

Di offered us to stay over in her place in Grantown-on-Spey and recover for a bit. It gave us also the chance to sort out gear (a washing machine!) and ourselves 😀🚿

Much to chat about over dinner and a bit of map reading and planning (in particular the increasingly difficult issue of resupplying as you head farther north). Fact was that our schedule is pretty tight. Laura also needed a rest. Her knees in particular.

 

So we decided that i continue solo for a few days to cover some ground and meet Laura 3-4 days later in Ullapool (180km on our route). So one more day for Laura at Di’s (together with lodger Anna now a three member ladies gang… OMG!) and then a little spare time to go sightseeing in Northern Scotland. Enjoy.

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 3 : Swing lead climbing the Central Gully (Cairngorms)

Please support my fundraiser for disabled Nepali children and diabetes 1 research (here). Thank you!

Day 3: Swing lead climbing the Central Gully (Cairngorms)

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Our last day took us back to Cairngorms. Di must have spent hours to come up with a genius plan that had us picking a route and then climb it as swing leads while she oversaw our efforts climbing solo next to us. We had a few options route wise given there were fewer people on the hill (it was Monday after all), the cold night meant more routes were accessible though the grade was clearly a limiting factor as Di suggested a grade 1 for our first lead. We picked a route called the central gully and I was up first to lead while Rory secured me. The main difference to climbing second is the responsibility of the lead to secure the route by putting solid anchors into the wall (or else) all the way up. Great to use tghe gear and something new learnt. At this point I want to thank J.P., a former colleague whose wife gave me a ton of valuable climbing gear from her days on the hill. I shall put it to good use! Once we reached the top, we enjoyed somewhat better views than two days earlier and the beauty of this winter dessert like landscape amazed us all once more.

Back in the village and after saying goodbye to Di, we waited for our sleeper train back to London in the Cairn Gorm hotel. Chelsea was playing ManU in the FA cup quarterfinals. So time was flying and the huge plate of chicken wings went down well too!

Thanks again Di & Rory for a great few days up in good old Scotland. Ready to go on the big hill now (one week to go now)!

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Previously on rocketontour.com

  1. Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 1: Climbing the hidden chimney (Cairngorms)
  2. Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 2 : Ben Nevis via Ridge Route

Final outdoor training before Nepal – Day 1: Climbing the hidden chimney (Cairngorms)

It is now only 9 days to go until I depart for Nepal. The first two bags with mostly food and high altitude gear are dispatched and are now on their way to Everest base camp. Fittingly, I spent the last outdoor training session again up in Scotland with Di Gilbert (who will climb K2 & Cho Oyu this season) and team-mate Rory (Everest bound). This time I picked the overnight sleeper train from London to Aviemore, which proved significantly more comfortable than the bus last time (even though i didnt book a berth for the journey). Once on the train, Rory and I had time for a review of gear lists and all sorts of discussion around our upcoming expedition. Exiting times. And so close now.

Day1: Cairngorms – Climbing the ‘hidden chimney’

After a day of mountain biking as warm up (see Moun
tain biking around Aviemore: Videolog
), we hit Cairngorms on Saturday to work the bits of frozen snow that the thaw left us. Di picked us up at the youth hostel early on and we made our way to the usual starting point at the Cairngorm mountain center. The hike in was painless though some traffic on the hill made for a slow ascent and added some waiting time up the hidden chimney route. Rory did well on his first stab at technical climbing with two axes (as opposed to one for the usual high altitude mountaineering). In the end it was a rewarding route with some more technical bits in the upper section. While fun, the warm weather had a rather melting effect and left us all with soaking wet gloves (thank god we all had spares ;o). Just not a great winter overall this year I guess!

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After the climb we headed back to the hostel, hit the pub and had lunch at the Cairn Gorm hotel (rating: good price, good portion, average quality). Rory kept sticking to his alcohol free beer while I enjoyed a few proper pints. There would have been the option to listen to climbing legend Cedar Wright and see some of his climbing movies at the Aviemore adventure festival, but we didn’t quite make it leaving Di all by herself (well, actually I hear it was well attended so she was certainly not lonely).

Getting to sleep was naturally painless that evening ;o)

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Mountain biking around Aviemore: Videolog

First day of the last training trip before I depart for Nepal & Lhotse in two weeks time. This time my fellow climber Rory from Ireland could join (him actually going for Everest). After an 11h sleeper train ride from London we checked into the local youth hostel and got ourselves some wheels for a spin around the beautiful nature surrounding Aviemore. 

Few lakes, few tracks and loads of chatter around training, gear and so on. Overall some 40km up and down the hills before we made it back to town. Enjoy the videolog! We can’t wait to get the gear ready for our day out with Di Gilbert tomorrow!

Please support my effort to raise funds to help disabled children in Nepal and diabetes 1 research (link)!