Cairn Toul from Braeriach
Braeriach! What a wonderful sounding hill. Sadly, its English translation (unlike some Gaelic hill-names) is rather dull, and doesn't do justice the mountain that most guidebooks label as 'Mighty Braeriach'. I remember staring at the huge dark bulk of this mountain from Cairn Toul, many years ago, but having to retreat back to Derry Lodge and the Linn of Dee, as time had run out on us. Climbing Braeriach today fulfilled an ambition that went back much further than that day eight years ago however. Braeriach (along with Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui) has a mythological status in our family - as these are the hills that my Dad came up and climbed as a youngster and told us all about. The strange-sounding Gaelic names sounded like something from The Hobbit to my young ears.
So sitting on top of Mighty Braeriach, I could see all the routes of my Dad's youthful adventures laid before me across the Cairngorm landscape. In fact I could almost picture him and his chums, Ginger, Algy and Bertie from the Middlesex Ragged School, marching past the Pools of Dee, with nowt but their hobnailed feet between them and the granite. Straining under the weight of their heavy canvass army-surplus sandwiches, with their ration books and gas-masks neatly at their sides I see them threading their way down to the pine woods of Rothiemurchus.
Of course if they were here now they would be shocked. For a start the hills have lost something of their evocative charisma now that they are in colour, whereas they were so much more nostalgic in black and white back then. Another thing is that while these boys may have been held together with string, at least they knew that it was unpatriotic to climb hills without ones school cap on straight, over neatly parted hair. What if one were to meet the King at Corrour bothy? Stranger still, as they head down into Aviemore, it is a charming Highland village, one street with a few houses clustered around the railway station; rather than the weeping sore on the architectural conscience of the world that it has become.
It's then I realise that today, it is far too cold for sitting daydreaming on top of mountains.