Before our blissful decompression at Kylesmorar, we spend a few days in the Rothiemurchus in the shadow of the Cairngorms.
I’ve never been to the Lairig before, but had read plenty about it. The declivity slicing through the Cairngorm range offers bleak but beautiful passage for backpackers who’ve solved the logistical conundrum of car sharing or public transport and got to Braemar for the start of the walk to Aviemore (or vice versa).
The day dawned gloriously. The sky a deep blue of late summer, the heather and bracken were aflame: a coral garden of gold, orange, red, yellow.
The mountain weather service had promised ‘extremely difficult’ walking conditions on the plateau but the morning belied this gloomy prognosis. I pressed on through the forest, gazing down into the valley of Allt Druidh, and beyond the tree line.
I soon arrived at the formidable gateway to the Lairig. Although the skies were clear high above, the valley was a steaming cauldron of cloud: threatening and imposing, the mountain scene gave me two fingers.
Into the ‘Ghru proper, I was greeted by sapping gusts of wind and pebble dashing horizontal rain, the cavalcade of climatic events bathed in a watery sun shining high above. Four seasons in one day? No, in ten seconds.
Challenging it may have been, but it was invigorating. I crossed the stream and climbed a steep path along the flanks of the valley. The summits were clear, but on reaching the valley shoulder, the wind plumbed new depths of disruptive power and blew me off my feet.
Round three of this tussle and I was out for the count.
I tried to carry on, but the wind fought back. Perhaps the summit bid was not such a good idea after all today.
The day wasn’t lost, though. I turned trace my route along the valley floor and was greeted with a stunning triple rainbow. I pawed for my camera but the rain clouds shifted and only one spectrum arc filled the viewfinder.
In such brutal conditions, nature still managed a glorious display.