Just got back from the Cairngorms and I have to say that it turned out to be one of the best walks I have ever been on!
The feeling of being in the wilderness and the sheer isolation really thrilled me. Add to that some views that I will never forget, the end result is that this is one of my most memorable walks thus far!
To top it off I also broke my own maximum elevation record which now stands at 1121 mtrs thanks to the climb up Carn nan Gabhar!
One issue that I did have was that the scenery was so stunning that I didn’t know where to look! This has meant that of the 2271 odd photos that I took, most were from all sorts of random directions rather than straight ahead.
So unlike earlier walks it will be tough making sense of the photos in terms of a coherent journey!
In terms of plan adherence the whole walk went exactly like clockwork! That is in stark contrast with the previous Lake District walk where practically none of it went to plan.
In fact, thinking about it, I suspect this is actually a first for me! 🙂
The full 75.1km route from my GPS is shown below:
As you can tell by looking at the map, I did go up and down a fair few hills. I don’t remember a walk where I have climbed so many hills!
Below is the elevation graph for the whole walk:
The terrain in the Cairngorms is extremely rugged. There are tussocks and heather everywhere. Plus – new to me – it seems that at the bottom of every hill there is a system of deep muddy gullies which made traversing such locations quite tiring.
In terms of equipment, the star of the show was undoubtably the boots:
These boots at half the weight of my Scarpa Activ SL’s made a huge difference. I could feel the boost that they gave to my endurance, especially when hill climbing.
At first I thought it was my fitness, until I discounted this as my exercise regime was the same that it had always been.
The other impact that the boots seemed to have was making my pack weight feel a lot less than it was – strange, but true…
I could have sworn I was carting around 11 kg, that is until I got home and found that the pack weight had dropped from 17kg at the start to 15.6kg at the end. The fact that the pack felt a lot lighter than it was, is a testament to these boots.
My new mantra going forward is forget about losing the odd kilo from one’s rucksack; Instead concentrate on removing grams from your boots – it makes a real difference!
The other surprise was the RAB PS Zip top second layer:
At first I didn’t get on with it as it is not that warm to wear when in camp. This resulted in me having to break out the down jacket each night.
However, as the days progressed it became obvious what the RAB PS Zip’s forte is.
It turns out that this kit is very good at keeping your body temperature ‘just-so’ when walking. Not too hot and not too cold.
I didn’t notice it at first, but when out on the cold windy ridges, I was amazed that my upper body was oblivious to the cold and wind. In terms of temperature it just felt right.
Due to my body temperature being spot on, I never sweated – or if I did, this top did a very good job of wicking it away as I remained dry the whole time.
So as a 2nd layer, it is great, but as a keep-warm-in-camp, not so.
The result of these findings will mean that I will be promoting my old fashioned fleece to thermal layer duties on walks where taking the down jacket would be overkill. But the RAB PS Zip top will take over all 2nd layer duties.
Another thing that made a big difference was my switch over from porridge to muesli for breakfast. The muesli provided me with so much energy that I found there wasn’t a need to snack for many hours afterward – a first for me 🙂
Anyways, over the next few weeks I will put out my usual daily reports detailing how the walk unfolded.