Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Challenge Day 11 May 21

The local oystercatchers were up and about early and being very noisy about it.
Bert hobbled/shuffled off to the doctor's surgery. Frank and I topped up food supplies at the little Co-op (catching a glimpse of a red squirrel in the high street) and then set off up the path opposite the camp site, through the wood uphill to meet the path that leads round by the Lion's Face rock. Then down through the wood on the other side to the road, following this until the old Invercauld Bridge, over this and then into forest belonging to the Balmoral Estate.

We aimed for Balmoral House to visit the tearooms there. On the way and within sight of the House we came across a man busying himself with a circle of boulders by the side of the estate road. 

The Diamond Jubilee Cairn - base level

Feeling nosey I asked what he was doing. He was the project manager employed in the construction of a Diamond Jubilee cairn which is likely to be unveiled around June. He was a little coy about when this would be and what the consequences would be if it wasn't ready in time. Money for the cairn has been by way of voluntary contributions from estate employees and local holders of Royal Warrants. There are eleven other "Royal" cairns around the estate but this will be the first to be constructed for over a hundred years.

Leaving the estate past the Royal Lochnagar Distillery (to be visited another time), we took the track south for several miles, eventually reaching the little visitor centre at the Spittal of Glenmuick. The sun was quite hot and I made good use of my umbrella as a sun shade, feeling quite cool underneath.

We saw an adder which crossed the track just ahead of us but there wasn't time to get the camera out.

There was quite a little group of Challengers gathered, sitting in the shade outside the visitor centre at Spittal of Glenmuick, apparently putting off the longish climb up to their, and our, intended pitch around the bothy at Shielin of Mark. Frank and I only stopped for a quick calorie intake and then set off up the side of the burn, so different from this time last year when hurricane winds and rain made life so very interesting.

The bothy can be tricky to locate as it's tucked in the near side of the next valley. On previous occasions, I've followed a very wet route to well overshoot it to the west and then follow the burn until it comes into sight. This time, however, with time to spare if necessary, we decided to head straight for it on a compass bearing. A group of six young Hungarian Challengers asked if they could follow us, to which we agreed. Our route was a little wet in places and through peat hags and groughs. In wet weather, this might be rather messy. Anyway, over the top we went and were very pleased with ourselves when the bothy appeared just below us.

We are pitched right next to the burn. There are around sixteen tents pitched here with two others a couple of hundred yards away.

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