The concept of the hike had been as wholesome as ever. Staying on the Rothiemurchus Estate, I would head into the Cairngorms – virgin territory for me – and lose myself in the granite… perhaps bumping into the Great Grey Man.
Approaching the Cairngorm massive on a long walk in, the imposing bulk of the plateau and the deep groove of the Lairig Ghru were impressive. Ploughing on further, though, the fractious weather had a strop and Ben MacDui suddenly lost its appeal.
Wishing to salvage something from the day, I opted for an ascent of Cairngorm, which proved to be a big mistake.
Although aware of the ‘Gorm’s use as Scotland’s premier ski resort, I hadn’t fully considered the unseemly effect this has had on the mountain.
Approaching the lower ski lodge in the murk, it felt like everyone had left town. Torn fabric hung from broken fences and flapped in the wind, ski lifts stacked in rows creaked as they rocked.
Worse was to come. The dark skeletons of the ski runs dotted the side of Coire na Ciste, resembling abandoned mine workings. I trudged on, the only saviour being a halo of sunlight over the vast swathe of Caledonian woodland below.
I reached the shoulder of the hill and contoured across to the Ptarmigan lodge, again somewhat shellshocked at the heavy weight of man’s influence on the hill, including the scar of the funicular. The scene desperately needed the flattering cover of snow.
I noted that walkers were allowed in the lodge to escape the hill but train travellers were not allowed to do the reverse. The large glass windows and balcony would be the extent of their mountain experience, then.
Heading for the summit, I reached a well-engineered path to the top but delineated by a red roped balustrade. This led a line of cairns to the top. Emering out of the gloom was a family, the father’s arms wrapped around a baby strapped to his chest.
There was more ugliness on the way down – the funicular, the ski centre, a huge car park. It all contrasted starkly with the track which followed a brurn through the forest to Glen More. A little bit of heaven to end the most curious of days.