I had decided to ditch my high level route along Glen Clova as my back had been playing up, and just take a more conservative route to the coast. I started about 10am as I realised one of my maps was missing, so had to wait until the shops were open before I could start today. Luckily I got a replacement in the Tourist Information office. Then there was a walk along the road to just before Invercauld Bridge. This is a bit dangerous but the only way to minimise the road walk is to do the Lions Face detour. I did this last time and felt it was too much of a detour.
Once off the road, the path track is straightforward to Connacht Cottage. I met someone going the opposite way that had lost a sleeping map off his rucksack but was unsuccessful in finding it. At Connacht Cottage I deviated onto a footpath, then onto a track that leads towards Gelder Shiel. I didn’t bother going to the bothy and just carried on the track, aiming for the track that ran between Lochnagar and Connacraig. Just past the bothy I met Geoff Allan, the author the “The Bothy Bible” and had a chat about the book. He was on his way to Gelder Shiel doing some research for a filming session for BBC Countryfile.
Shorty after meeting Geoff, the weather deteriorated, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award group I met strung out along the path looks fairly miserable.
It was a bit of a slog to the high point, at the cairn that marks the path that branches off to Lochnagar. Up until this point, the track had been really good to walk on with a gravel surface. From the high point on downwards, the path is just awful. Eroded and bouldery. I have not been this way for a few years, and can’t remember it being so bad.
I caught up with Guy Jaques, and eventually his two colleagues, Marc Kevers and Gaetan De Decker as we crossed into the trees. I had met them four years ago and was amazed they remembered me as well.
I took a detour to the ranger centre at Glen Muick as I knew it had a coffee machine and a bit of shelter as I had not taken any length of break until then. Frank Row and Lawrence and Lesley Dark were already at the centre sharing a cup of coffee as they were short of change. While we sat there, we watched a squirrel trying to get some food from an almost empty bird feeder.
Frank, Lawrence and Lesley left before me then I followed them up the gorge opposite. This would be a good walk if the weather was better. I passed Colin Campbell who had set up his tent on quite a bit of a slope, then further up Frank et al were setting up camp. I decided to go on to Shielin of Mark as I knew there were ample good camping spots there.
The weather deteriorated again, and at the top of the gorge, I took a compass bearing. This did not seem right, but I had been following a burn so it was likely my sense of orientation was incorrect. After a while the sense of things not being right did not dissipate. I checked check I had taken the correct bearing and then switched on the GPS. It showed me to be further away from where I think I had started from and confirmed the bearing I had taken from the map. I continued following the compass until I came across a burn. If I was on the correct bearing I should have been following this upstream, not downstream. It was then I suspected that my compass was not right. I followed the GPS instead and sure enough, after a bit it indicated that the bothy was eventually getting closer. My compass had reversed polarity! Usually I carry two compasses, but in an attempt to lose extra items from my pack, the extra compass had been ditched at home. I was also going to leave the GPS at home but had decided it would be useful in case I deviated onto a route that I did not have maps for – the GPS (Satmap 10) has OS maps.
Eventually, I got to the bothy and camped just upstream from it. There were quite a few tents in the vicinity. Luckily the rain stopped and I got the tent up and just crashed out after a meal.
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