Tuesday 19 October 2010

The Hills of Home

Even after a summer long trip it doesn’t take long before I feel the need to walk in wild places again. So ten days after returning from the Pacific Northwest I took a day out from clearing the backlog of work and headed for my local hills, the Cairngorms. After a week of low cloud and occasional rain the forecast was for a day of sun and clouds with good visibility after which the stormy weather was predicted to return. My favourite walk in this area, one I do several times a year, is across the great Cairngorm Plateau to Ben Macdui. There are many possible variations to this walk. Back in June on a two day trip - the last one before I undertook the Pacific Northwest Trail – I’d climbed to the plateau from Loch Avon and descended into the Lairig Ghru. This time I stayed high throughout, crossing the plateau from Lurchers Gully and returning via Stob Coire an t-Sneachda. I set off in drizzle with swirling clouds on the tops but within half an hour a bright sun was shining hazily through thin clouds and I had my sleeves rolled up and dark glasses on. The clouds rose above the tops and the visibility was indeed good, as promised, though the light was flat and dull. Even so the tremendous power of this vast mountain landscape made me feel intensely pleased and grateful to be there. Every time I return from a venture to higher mountains and more remote wild country I wonder if the hills of home will have the same effect on me, will seem as grand and impressive. They have never failed to do so yet but I don’t take them for granted. If I did I suspect that one day I would be disappointed.

As so often the final hours of the day saw the light change and give a last burst of beauty and colour before the darkness came. I had already started for home when I saw the clouds clearing and blue sky appearing. Knowing that at this time of year the low afternoon sun shines along Loch Morlich, lighting the water, the woods along the shore and the backdrop of hills, I stopped for a stroll along the lochside. By luck rather than intention I’d timed it perfectly. The sun was slanting across the hills, which were reflected in the calm water along with the woods on the far shore, where the gold of autumn birches stood out against the dark green of the pines. Drifting clouds added to the depth and complexity of the scene. The lovely light didn’t last long as the angle of the sun soon meant the hills were dark and a breeze sprang up and ruffled the reflections. For a few minutes though all had been perfection. The hills had welcomed me home.

Photo info: Loch Morlich & the Cairngorms, 16th October 2010, Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55 IS@18mm, 1/25 @ f5.6, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 3.


  1. There is something special about your own hills, where you know almost everything about them but where there is always something new to discover!

  2. Beautiful picture, Chris.

  3. Nice piece Chris. Local hills are always special and always have something new to reveal.

  4. Lovely Chris,

    I was up there the day before (15th Oct) wall to wall sunshine, just a zephyr of a breeze and walking all day just in a baselayer - a perfect day.

    Welcome home!

    Rob fae Craigellachie

  5. Old Ben Macdui, eh, I remember that on a rather windy day.

    I do to an extent know the feeling, when I think about Dartmoor, something, now someone does sort of call to me...

    I have attached a link, it has my two walks on Dartmoor, not your usual happy walk, but personal none the less. The first was dated 26.9.10, 2nd was 7.10.10. For obvious reason to any other readers you will see they were not happy walks, but Dartmoor does have a calling for me. Esp now.
    Don't ever give up.