Taking advantage of a decent forecast we decided to head for the hills. Driving out to Braemar the skies looked clearer than expected. Despite being winter there also appeared to be very little snow on the horizon.
After a quick pitstop in Braemar conditions did change as we drove out to Linn of Dee, the road having a light covering of snow and a few icy puddles, just enough for the driver to rein it in as you’re never quite sure of the skid risk.
Arriving at the car park we were greeted by a very friendly robin! He’d just been in the boot of the car next to us and hopped onto my rucksack, perching there proudly. Sadly we didn’t have a camera to hand to capture this lovely moment. He continued to dot around for some time before realising we didn’t have any food for him, leaving to visit the next arrival in the car park.
Setting off, we headed back along the road towards the bridge before following the track alongside the river for a short distance. It wasn’t long before we branched off, beginning our climb, heather bashing up the hillside. This was easy enough in terms of ascent, but a little bit of a slog for the legs due to the lift required with every footstep.
Reaching the deer fence, we headed for the gate, then traversing the hillside a little to reach the flatter ridge. Again, this took time and was hard work. As the terrain flattened out the heather lessened, ground becoming more grassy. The grassy tussocks now provided the challenge as they squished underfoot, sinking a little with each step.
As we went up, the wind picked up, the windchill causing the temperature to drop. Having begun with two pairs of thinner gloves, it wasn’t long before the Tuff Bags went on, warming me up nicely and taking the wind away. My freebie Gore neckwarmer (courtesy of a friendly Gore rep at one of the Tiso open evenings) also came up trumps, pulled up over my mouth, sunglasses on to protect my eyes, and hood up for extra warmth. What little of me was left exposed still felt the cold, a wee flurry of snow adding to the wintry feel.
We sheltered near the top of the first minor peak for a snack stop, a different world just dropping a few feet down and totally losing the wind. Refreshed, we battled; it really was tough going! The wind was definitely trying to sweep away my walking poles, at times also knocking me off my stride. Bruce later shared that after the second top he’d wondered about just cutting down by the stream, the way we’d planned to descend. I had very similar thoughts, having decided if we’d had any more height to gain I’d have bailed.
As it was we were close to the summit and after a short time we were there. Again, we dropped out of the wind, sheltering to enjoy our lunch before soaking up the views of the neighbouring munros. These had a little more sign of winter but snow cover is still pretty light for the time of year.
Retracing our steps, wind at our backs, we were blown back down towards the stream where we cut down, initially following it before branching off and heading for White Bridge. This provided a more gradual descent although it was a little boggy due to the flatter terrain. The high point of the descent came in the form of a large herd of deer. Impressive in number, we got close enough to see some large antlers before they took flight.
Reaching the path, there was a really wet section. I only realised this as I sank into it, soaking my waterproofs to just below the knee!
A slight detour took us back towards the Chest of Dee, some very fast water pouring down; you’d never guess seeing the River Dee meandering along gently further down the path that this was just upstream.
A good track saw us yomp back along to Linn of Dee, making decent time. It was a relief to have some easy terrain after a fairly taxing day. As always, no day out in Braemar is complete without a trip to The Bothy for coffee, and so things were rounded off perfectly.