Sunday 24 July 2022

My First Walk In The Cairngorms - 45 Years Ago

Summit of Ben Macdui, 14th May, 1977

Writer Merryn Glover recently posted a 30th anniversary picture of her first walk in the Cairngorms on Twitter and asked for others to share pictures of their first Cairngorms walks. This led to a long and interesting thread and spurred me to search out photos from my first Cairngorms trip, back in May 1977. So far, I’ve only found one, posted above. There must be more somewhere in my deplorably badly disorganized boxes of print photographs.

I had been meaning to look for early pictures of my Cairngorm trips for the book I’m writing on the area sometime anyway. Thanks Merryn for the prod!

On that first trip there was still deep snow on the hills. I’d done no walking in the Highlands at the time and my journal shows that I was a little daunted at the prospect of such high mountains. After describing my plan to climb Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui I wrote “if too much snow then up as far as possible”. Aware this was a serious walk I packed a sleeping bag, survival bag, and plenty of food and noted “I wish my cag* was safer”. I’ve no idea now what was wrong with it. I also carried the SMC Cairngorms District Guide as well as the OS 1” Tourist Map of the Cairngorms, both of which I still have. I didn’t have an ice axe or crampons and indeed had never used these items.

*Standard name back then for a waterproof jacket.

“A great success” starts my journal entry after the walk. The snow was deep and the walking hard, but the weather was fine and the views spectacular. I tucked my corduroy jeans into my socks and noted that gaiters would have been useful – aft the end of the walk my boots were sodden. On my top half I wore a cotton string vest, lambswool sweater, and wool shirt.

Cairn Gorm I merely noted was “a rounded summit”. I continued on to Cairn Lochan and wrote “a good summit – a shame it’s only a Top”. It was to become one of my favourite Cairngorm summits and I’ve thought it should have Munro status ever since. I then crossed the Plateau to Ben Macdui, writing “the views of Cairn Toul and Braeriach were superb, especially the corries”.  On Macdui “I decided to attempt a descent of the steep snow slope to the Lairig Ghru was out as too dangerous especially as the SMC guide says it may avalanche” so I returned across the Plateau and down the shoulder of Cairn Lochan.

My journal ends with the words “I feel the day’s walk has opened up new horizons for me”. Forty-five years later I can say that it did, it definitely did

Photographic Note: I was not a photographer back then – it would be another three years before I took photography seriously and learnt how to use a camera. In 1977 I had a cheap point-and-shoot compact camera that took films which I had developed at Boots the Chemists, producing small square prints. This print is soft and grainy with subdued colours, as are all the photos I have from this camera. To turn it into a digital image I photographed the print with my Sony a6000 camera and Sony E f1.8 35mm lens then processed the image in DxO Pure Raw and Lightroom. It still looks soft and grainy! I could probably get better results from the negative if I could find it.

No comments:

Post a Comment