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Saturday, 9 November 2013

The 2013 Challenge, day 11: Cairn of Claise and Jock's Road (11)

The last time I was up here, on my first Challenge in 2000, I had turned off on a whim and taken the path down over Craigs of Loch Esk and the Glittering Skellies. This time, however, I didn't even see this path and I wondered whether it had fallen into disuse and the mountain was reclaiming it. After all, both Glen Doll Youth Hostel and the campsite had now closed, so the two bases from which it formed part of an obvious circular route no longer existed. What I did see, however, was that away off to the North, Broad Cairn and far Lochnagar appeared to be suffering some pretty atrocious weather; and the cloud base was coming down quite rapidly. I worried for the Germans, and anybody else walking further to the North who was caught up in it; but I was also concerned about its implications for me. I needed to make good progress if I was not to become swathed in cloud.

As the path took me to the South of Cairn Lunkard (pictured) I knew I was in country that was new to me - although well-trodden my many other Challengers. Upper Glen Doll is stunning; really it is. But I did not have time to enjoy it. I had one eye on that cloud base, creeping ever lower, and I knew that I needed to lose height faster than it did (or at least, no less fast) so I kept moving. Just past the shelter at the foot of Cairn Lunkard, I sighted a brace of ptarmigan casually strolling around just off to my left. This was a wildlife first for me, and I naturally reached for my camera. However, before I could deploy it and get a decent photograph of them (or any sort of photograph, actually, of either of them) they had casually strolled out of sight. I was subsequently assured that this is what ptarmigan do!

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