Sunday was a cracker of a day, a damp cold valley floor soon crisped up as I walked up the Fungle where the puddles were mini ice rinks. However, the Fungle lower down was a tricky walk, damp and slimy conditions under foot, damp rocks covered in leaves or needles, its all too easy to slip and give a musle a tear. In the trees the exposed roots were well slick too, try and avoid those. Once out into the expose moorlands the ground was pretty much frozen and the sun was warm. Gannoch was my destination 731 metres above sea level but before then I had to head down into Feughside to 200m metres before ascending again. Under foot conditions were similar but this time I was heading above the general freezing level. The path went from firm to bullet proof and had a dusting of snow that made for tricky conditions under foot. Luckily I was still in full sunlight, just as well as the wind was picking up and it was biting. I reach the snowy summit, views to the deep blue north sea at Aberdeen to a view of the whole of the Cairngorms, Cairn Toul to Ben Avon, taking in the whole of Deeside, infact a 360 view of Aberdeenshire. Jaw dropping. But it wasn’t a day for hanging around. I was heading home to Aboyne via Glen Tanar and that put me in the shade of the sun and the gentler slope meant the running water on the path had turned into min glaciers, real dangerous walking, especially when you are a 2 hour walk from home. With the wind buffeting you down the slope you have to place every step with care. Including watching out for a high altitude frog that had found a ray of sunlight further down the hill. The deeper bogs were slightly frozen but not enough to hold my weight, so some jumping was required. All in all the wind chill was allowing the cold to get to me but that was soon put right with the last climb of the day to head across to the Tower of Ess. All in all 30km of tricky hillwalking conditions especially underfoot. My feet were in great condition through out and I put that down to a pair of quality socks, purchase from Hilltrek.co.uk .
We are lucky to have a local walking holiday business called, Walk Deeside, that specialize in outdoor activities and walking holidays on our door step. Whether you are looking for guided tours of local hills or the Cairngorms they provide a complete package from accommodation to skills expertise. They even provide international expedition leadership again as a complete package from guide to accommodation, next year both Kilimangaro and Peru are scheduled.
Walk Magazine issued its reader awards for 2010 earlier in the year and the best overall walking brand winner was Paramo. The Hilltrek store in Aboyne and the online store stock a wide range of products including the Gold Winning walking trousers. This walking trouser gives a hill walker a lot of adaptability to changing weather conditions, warmth on cold days, vents to open on hotter days, lots of zips that work reliably even in poor weather conditions. The Walk Magazine have published this video from the event.
What to do on a bank holiday Monday? Answer: walk from Aboyne to Aberdeen. The warm sunny days had slipped away, so the vision of wearing shorts and t-shirt for the walk was no longer on. What to wear on a day when the weather forecast suggested a band of rain early morning that would clear the sky come evening along the coast but with a northly wind, stronger nearer you get to the coast? Well, when I woke at 5.15am it was a clear sky and frosty in Aboyne, -2c but with a quick scan of the radar image, a band of rain was steaming south. So, I chose my ventile ‘made to measure’ hilltrek walking trousers and the inner lining of my skiing jacket. Sure enough it started to rain just after crossing Aboyne bridge. My first leg of the trip was to walk to Potarch Bridge via the south deeside road, 6.6 miles according to google maps. By then the rain had past and it cloudy but with sunny spells, and it remained like that for the rest of the day. The Deeside Way, was the walk I was wanting to follow, the only snag is, that it does not exist between Aboyne and Banchory so I free walked it along the river bank to Invercranny before walking along the road to enter Banchory, a 6.9 mile leg.
River Dee Banchory
Then I met up with a friend in Banchory and we started on the official Deeside Way path, the old Deeside Railway line walk. The train was in operation at Milton of Crathes and 6.5 miles from Banchory we arrived at Drumoak. Not far from the edges of Aberdeen, Peterculter being the first sign of Urbanisation. It was windy by now keeping it cool but feeling warm in the glimpses of the sun. Now I thought, my 4 month old ventile trousers may still be in need of some wearing in but no, they felt great the whole way. More than I can say for me feet. I chose my hiking boots but by Peterculter I opted for my trainers. Us hill walkers are used to soft hill tracks or soft peaty ground but the deeside way path is hard and tarred for good stretches. I met up with another friend for the last 7 miles from Peterculter to Duthie Park but the finishing line for me was the north seas at the beach esplanade. I think about a 32 mile walk in about 10 hours.
After months hiking up the hills I decided a walk along the river Dee east towards Kincardine O’ Neil would make a fine change. Out in the hills it is a fairly solitary experience but the walk on the banks of the Dee was truly social this weekend, every fishing beat had a line or even two being cast in it.
Fly fishing river dee
The river was in good flow, snow melt rather than rain providing its rush but the anglers were yet to report the first catch of the day. Salmon were being seen in the clear waters but none were biting. The wildlife were enjoying the warm and sunny day with lots of different birds to see and take photos of.
The sky has awoken bright and clear in Aboyne this morning. With great visibility the opportunity to get out in the hills to stretch the legs and to take in some majestic views arises. Here are some tips on powder walking:
1. Wait for the weather to give you a clear blue sky day or at least favourable conditions
2. Choose a walk that you have done many times before i.e. you know it well. It is amazing how such familiar surrounds look so different when under 50-100cm of snow.
3. Equipment, map, compass and in terms of clothing, Gators are the top tip. The powder snow can get everywhere, especially when its up to your knees. A band around the sole of the boots is also invaluable to save the gators riding up. Carry plenty of liquids.
4. The walk will take up to 2 or 3 times as long and it will be tough going so keep an eye on the clock. NB. day light is still short. Leave information on your plans and arrival time back.
5. If at all possible walk with a partner, helps with sharing the burden of breaking new ground. Life is better to share any how!
Lastly remember a camera. The views will be stunning.