Meall a’ Bhuachaille, Cairngorms, August 2014

This is one of the few occasions that I didn’t make it to the top of Meall a’ Bhuachaille. Normally I am of the mentality that I must get to the top but a combination of the weather, atrocious conditions underfoot, and the scattered debris of a path that appears to be in the making, saw me quit my ascent ever so close to the top.

It’s an exposed climb at the best of times and, having started from Rothiemurchus, making use of the Old Logging Way path for the approach, I was more than happy that I had already benefited from the run on what were already very tired, unresponsive legs!

It’s a route with numerous options, approaching, as I did, along the Old Logging Way, for an up and back, or with the option to do an up and over, descending down towards Ryvoan Bothy. I have to say, however, that recent work on the path hasn’t made the descent down to the bothy very runnable and, last time I took this route, I found myself clipping my heels on narrow steps. Perhaps I need to throw caution to the wind and adopt the wilder, more ‘controlled tumbling’ approach of some runners!

There’s also an option to approach and/or extend your run making use of paths off to the left, taking in Creagan Gorm & Craiggowrie.

It’s also possible to adopt a more direct approach, parking at the Forestry Commission Building in Glenmore and heading up the back of the building towards the summit.

Over the years there have been a number of excellent Cafés housed in the Forestry Commission Building (and one not so good one, thankfully now gone!) and this makes for an excellent post run/walk treat as a reward for your efforts! On this particular occasion, I enjoyed a fine full cooked breakfast from the current café provider, Cobbs.

A Great Start To The Year

New post at The Running Bug, ‘A Great Start To The Year‘.

I was lucky enough to be able to extend my festive holiday to accommodate a short break in the Cairngorms. My wife was not quite so lucky in that she had to return to work briefly before we could both head up to Aviemore. Having taken a couple of days off to recover from 61 days of consecutive running, I thought it would be a great idea to run the 18 miles from our house to my wife’s work, arriving at the end of her working day. The perceived benefits of this were as follows:

  • I could get a long run in, my first of the year
  • It would save the wife having to travel all the way back (in the wrong direction) just to pick me up and head back that way again
  • As I would be running at least some of it in darkness, I would get the opportunity to test out my recently acquired Hope head torch

I was sincerely regretting the decision by approximately mile 2! My legs felt stiff, I felt generally lethargic and mentally I really was questioning my sanity!

Fortunately I settled in to a good pace and despite a fairly cold wind I began to enjoy the solitude of the run, south towards Aberdeen along the old Formatine & Buchan railway line. By the time I arrived at the end of the line in Dyce, approximately 15 miles later, I was ahead of schedule and thoroughly enjoying the torchlit run. I would even go so far as to say that it was the best I had felt whilst running South on the line – quite a turn around from my earlier feelings!

Having arrived in Dyce I phoned the wife to ask for her work address postcode. Her company had previously been situated right at the end of the railway line, perfect for those times when I would run in to meet her there. However, a recent move had seen the company move away from the end of the line, leaving me in a position of having to navigate an industrial estate and airport!

I had a rough idea of the new location and, when I ran right past the Google Maps postcode pin, I started to suspect that all was not well.

With helicopters coming in from all directions, planes landing and the general darkness of the night, I just could not get my bearings and phoned my wife again to ask for more specific directions. At this point, she admitted to having given me the wrong postcode. An easy mistake to make, and especially as she was focusing on getting things finished so that she could go on holiday with nothing on her mind. Armed with the correct postcode, I set off circling around the airport to the other side of the industrial estate.

Now perhaps they just don’t want people walking around that area, or maybe they just don’t expect people to walk there but the lack of pavements was something else. On top of this, it was not ‘just’ grass verges underfoot. The verges were as unkempt and pot holed as they could possibly be and, navigating by torchlight, it was all I could do not to trip up. Due to the long line of traffic attempting to exit the industrial estate, I felt like a bit of a circus attraction and I am sure the people in their cars were not accustomed to seeing someone bumble along the verges, attempting to run.

This was definitely my least favourite part of the run and it has to be said, it took the shine off of an otherwise cracking run. However, I finally made it to my wifes work, just in time to throw back a couple of coffees. With her work finished we were now officially on holiday and were bound for Aviemore. My objectives of a long run and of saving time in getting going were both achieved.

The following day, feeling none too worse for wear, I joined the family on a hiking trip in Glencoe. The weather was fairly kind to us and we soon ascended up into the Hidden Valley of Glencoe (Coire Gabhail is the hidden valley where the MacDonalds of Glen Coe apparently hid their rustled cattle) where the views of the valley itself and back down to Glencoe were simply stunning. With a good deal of climbing and descending, this was also perfect training for the ultramarathons that lie ahead in 2012.

The next day I was intent on running but had no set destination and no idea how far and/or long I wanted to run for. I cadged a lift to Glenmore and set off from there, off along the route towards the Green Loch. Given the wind, bitterly cold temperatures and the treacherous conditions underfoot, I opted to stay low and decided against a run up and over Meall a Bhuachaille. As the conditions underfoot worsened I realised that I had forgotten to take any form of spikes and, as such, would have to rely solely (no pun intended!) on the tread of my Hoka Mafates.

I passed The Green Loch and decided to venture on to Ryvoan Bothy. I was relishing the tough conditions underfoot, a mix of boulders, compacted snow, and ice, with the last option being the least preferred! There were times when it was preferable to run through the water streaming down the path as it was often better to get wet feet than to take any chances on the sheet ice!

I continued on past Ryvoan Bothy to the fork in the path that takes you to Abernethy (left) or Braemar (right). Despite having been to this point many times I had never continued further. Realising that there would be no easy was to return from Braemar, I opted to go left towards Abernethy Forest, the largest remaining remnant of the Ancient Caledonian Forest in Scotland. I was enticed along the way by the beauty of the landscape, made all the more glorious by a dusting of snow.

When the opportunity arose and my phone picked up a signal I texted the wife to let her know my intentions. I had experienced enough slip sliding by this point to realise that this could all go pear shaped without anyone being any the wiser to my location! Better to be safe than sorry (and to remember the spikes next time!).

What started out as a run with an unspecified destination and distance ended up as an ‘accidental’ 21 mile run taking me through Abernethy Forest (many forks, few signs, much beauty!) to Nethy Bridge and then back to Aviemore via Boat of Garten on The Speyside Way.

It was great to see a bit of The Speyside Way that I have not seen before. I am more used to the upper half of The Speyside Way thanks to The Speyside Way Ultramarathon.

It was also great to exceed the boundaries of past visits and to be able to continue running and exploring.

Finally, it was great to get some more long run miles in the legs. When I set off, I had thought that I might run somewhere between 10 to 13 miles and, as such, I surpassed my expectations by a fair bit!

As it happened, all of the family returned from their various walks, runs, and ski trips at the same time and so everyone settled down to relax in the knowledge that they had made the most of the day, in their own chosen way.

When I toed the line at the start of The D33 Ultramarathon last year, my longest run had only been 18 miles. 7 days into January and I have already matched and beaten that. All in all, not a bad start to the year.

Happy New Year to you all!