Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Friday 7 July 2017

Summit Solstice

For a few years, when I was working at the Bank, I managed to persuade some colleagues that seeing the midsummer sunrise from the top of a mountain would be a very cool thing to do. Three years we tried and only on the first - at Cairngorm - were we successful. I thought it was about time to retry the venture and managed to rope in two local buddies, both keen to try out their bivvy gear with a bikepacking trip.

Initial plans had involved beer and food in a bar but we instead met up later and pedalled up the Old Logging Way just as the sun was officially setting.  The sky looked amazing as the sun dipped below cloud level and we barely needed our lights on the first part of the ascent to the main car park at Cairngorm Mountain. 

Old Logging Way approach

Time for a photo stop

I can see my house from here!!!

It was windy though, and this made the tough climb up the main access track even harder. What's more, it didn't bode well for a summit bivvy.

Alasdair has obviously been eating his carrots

Adam on the old zig-zags

Final climb to the Ptarmigan

On reaching the Ptarmigan restaurant we found that it was quite a bit calmer and that we wouldn't have to invoke our contingency planning of bedding down in the restaurant viewing balcony.

The final part of the ascent saw us encountering the occasional bank of hill mist, it looking quite spooky in our lights. 

Spooky shadows on the mist

I'd expected we'd encounter other like-minded adventurers but we had the summit to ourselves. Maybe just the fact it was midweek, though the weather forecast had looked ok.
In trying to locate a suitable bivvy spot, I was only after something out of the strong wind and reasonably flat. A slabby area in the lee of the summit cairn turned out to be pretty much perfect. Adam and Alasdair both chose grassy patches not far away and after a bit of chat and a swapping of hip flasks it was time to get the head down for a couple of hours before sunrise.


I soon nodded off, only awaking when my alarm sounded after 4am. The hill mist was still below summit level and it became obvious we were unlikely to catch any glimpse of the rising  sun. That being the case, I snuggled back into my bag and dropped off to sleep for another couple of hours.

Adam contemplating the slope down to Loch Morlich

After 6, I heard Adam and Alasdair chating and we decided to head down the hill. I felt pretty much rested but I knew they'd not had the same amount of sleep and were keen to get home to a "real" bed for a few hours. Maybe that's the difference in kipping out more regularly - you become accustomed to it.

Mist in the corries

My bed

The descent down the main access road proved to be fast and very, very loose and we all had smelly brakes when we reached the mid-way point.

It was great pulling into Aviemore as the town was waking up, thinking "I've already been up a mountain today". Perhaps next year I might manage to persuade a few others to join me. We might even see the sunrise again!

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