Sunshine in the Cairngorms in more ways than one?

Yesterday was a special day in the Cairngorms not just because of the weather or because of the chance of wonderful day on the hills. I was with a pal Susan who a year ago this month was diagnosed with Cancer and she has had one hell of a year with Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy treatment. Sue has always been a fighter and with great help from the NHS and her family,kids and close friends she has fought a long battle and has come out the other side.  She and Mikey her son wanted a day on the hills to celebrate her recovery maybe climb a Munro and enjoy the great weather. Most of us have been close to this terrible disease and it was wonderful to see Sue looking so well enjoy every minute of a great day. I spent some time with Sue through her treatment and she will hate me for saying this but what a fighter she was all the way, there was no way she was going to lose this battle. She was an inspiration to us all and it is great to see her looking so happy  after such an incredible year. I have lost many pals to Cancer through my life and as life goes on it now a part of life and its was great to see how Sue has come through and the vast changes and success of the treatment.

The Classic bunkhouse at Carrbridge.

The Classic bunkhouse at Carrbridge with Sue and Mikey.

We spent the night with old pals Alyson, Tom and Chris Jones at their classic Bunkhouse in  Carrbridge to get the best out of the shorter daylight of October. I had played golf earlier on and we planned to meet about  tea time in a busy Aviemore meeting an old pal Bill Rose and family who were in holiday in the village. Aviemore was so busy and everywhere was booked up with so many enjoying the great weather and the school holidays.  Eventually we managed to get a meal  and then headed up to Carrbridge to the Bunkhouse. What a place this is and I have so many memories of this classic bunkhouse. It was the place of our last meet before our Everest trip in 2001.

We had a great time with pals Tom, Alyson and Chris  apart from managing to watch Celtic getting beat  I left Alyson, Sue , Tom, Chris and Mikey after the game as we had an early start in the morning. Someone had to get up The bunkhouse was warm and cozy as Tom had the fire on for us and a great place to be. Next morning amazingly we were away by 0830 and off to the” Active Cafe” for breakfast and then on to the lower Car Park on Cairngorm.

Clouds and windfarms

Clouds and wind farms.

I loved the walk from here its never busy and away from the industrial site that is the Ski area and the hordes of  people that is the main car park and railway. I used to wander around here when I was recovering from my illness and knew the area so well, every time I went out I got higher and the effects on the mind and body when ill can not be understated. Sue  I hoped would enjoy the walk onto the main ridge overlooking Strath Nethy it a great place to be . It is so good even when unwell to get out into the mountains as we both understand it does so much for the mind and body when fighting illness. We soon rose above a sea of clouds but we could still see the wind farms when we parked at just over 500 metres and we were soon off on the hill. The path is muddy for the first 10 minutes and then as you gain height on the ridge it becomes dry and is a  great way up. Mikey was getting some navigation lessons whether he wanted them or not and we were going well loving the view with the clouds below us in the glens. It was warm and sunny and not a normal October where winter is usually making it presence. All the snow was gone from quick blast on Monday just a little bit a smattering on the higher hills it was more like summers day but what a great day to be out.

Great path above the clouds.

Great path above the clouds.

From here it is easy access onto the plateau above Coire Laogh Mor, normally a place of many Ptarmigan and mountain hares but not till later did we see them. It is great walking and you seem to gain height effortlessly, the ground is lovely and soft and the deer grass and vegetation at this time of year make is like a carpet. The views are ever-expanding and soon we were overlooking Strath Nethy and the Munros and beyond. We had another stop on spot height 1028 and spotted the bothy at El Alamein. It was so clear and warm and all the big hills were clear and Mikey was keeping us right with the map. It was hot and we were drinking a lot but we good sit on the tops in no wind and the sun.

Above Strath Nethy.

Above Strath Nethy.

We saw no one and only a few ptarmigan on the ridge up to 1151 and past the Marquis Well snow-less from my last visit only a month before. From here you are near the Ptarmigan Restaurant and the people and we followed the path to the summit and the others enjoying the . It was great to see so many out though and Sue and Mikey were loving their day. We had lunch lots of photos and a bit of time on the the summit. It was still very warm , no wind and great views. Mikey asked me to show him where we were on the summit (he had become the teacher!) It was hard to believe that Sue had gone through a hellish year and yet here she was on the summit of her first hill and going well, we were all very pleased for her.

The wee wander

The wee wander

Times like these are specail and hard to write about but it proves that though life can be so hard but the power of the human spirit, determination and proper care can help you achieve so much? Thank God for the NHS and those who help us in our times of need.


I had left my car in the top car park and my keys in Sues car at the lower one, (idiot) so I headed of back with Mikey  to get the keys and Sue was happy and wandered down the main path to the car. On the way off it was sad  as what a mess is near the cafe with bulldozer and its an Industrial site with little care for an environment that can be so fragile and sad to see in my mind. We were soon past it and onto the open hill where we saw a huge hare and had a great wander down cutting back  to the car and then drove up and met Sue in the top car park. We had been on the hill for just 4 hours but what a day we had,great views, weather, and no wind so unlike Cairngorm at this time of year. It was then we went down to the cafe at Rothiemurcus and met Ray Sefton another pal and had a coffee and a bite to eat and a catch up.


Time was moving so we headed off Mikey and Sue back home to Onich and me back to the Moray Coast.

A great day and a definitely one to remember. Health is wealth never forget that.



About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Bothies, Enviroment, Family, Friends, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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