What I’ve loved this season | Summer 2021

Where I’ve been and what I’ve done

In early June, I was part of a team from the Cairngorms Connect project partners that carried 3,000 tiny trees up onto the Cairngorm plateau, to their new home in the Loch Avon basin. The downy willow (Salix lapponum) saplings are rare trees, which can survive in the low temperatures and high winds, and an important species in the montane scrub habitat of the upper slopes of the mountains.

Laden down with willow saplings on the plateau.

Grazing pressure from deer and other animals mean only a few scattered plants remain, often in the most inaccessible locations, and too isolated from each other to guarantee successful reproduction. The idea behind planting the new saplings is to give the species a fighting chance, and attempt to safeguard the future of the montane scrub zone as part of a larger-scale habitat regeneration project. Read more about our day here.

The crags of Hell’s Lum and the Allt Coire Domhain in spate with snowmelt.
Looking back down into the Loch Avon basin at the tiny patch of green of the willows cached for planting the following day.

Later in the month, I attended a Mountain Leader training course at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms, which I feel was one of the best courses I think I’ve ever done. The course combined classroom lectures, practical sessions around the Lodge and out on the hills, and a mini-expedition up onto Cairngorm plateau, with an overnight camp just below Ben Macdui.

Learning correct belay techniques and rope handling practice.
Practicing river crossing techniques in the River Druie.

If you’re thinking of taking the course and feeling nervous or that you’re not quite ready, it’s important to say that the emphasis is very much on this being the training part of the Summer Mountain Leader qualification. It allowed us to gain an accurate picture of our current abilities, strengths and weaknesses, determine the areas to work on, and to try out new skills without fear of making mistakes. I thoroughly recommend the course if you’re thinking of doing more in the outdoors, and Glenmore Lodge is an excellent place to do it.

I’ve been attempting to accumulate more Quality Mountain Days (QMDs) since completing the course, but now with a clearer definition of what that means, I’m finding it’s much harder than I anticipated. I took a wander out to my closest Munro, Mount Keen (939 metres / 3080′), departing from my front door and following the old drove road that crosses the Mounth from Ballater to Glen Esk, starting late and camping up high overnight and taking advantage of the extended warm, dry weather to cross the trackless expanse of bog to the west of the peak.

An overnight wild camp on the way to Mount Keen.
Mount Keen in the morning light.
The view across the Mounth to Lochnagar.

And on a work visit over to the Angus Glens area of the Cairngorms National Park, I was able to find the time to walk up through stunning Corrie Fee, to bag the sister peaks of Mayar (928 metres / 3,045′) and Driesh (947 metres / 3,106′).

Looking down into Glen Doll from the upper reaches of Corrie Fee.
Nearing the top of the corrie.

I also spent a couple of days catching up with my friend Nicola, exploring the Munros around beautiful Glen Affric, in the northern Highlands of Scotland. We made our way up the ridge of Sgùrr na Lapaich to the cairn at the summit of Mam Sodhail at 1,181m (3875′), then on to the top of it’s twin mountain, Càrn Eighe. Càrn Eighe is 1,183m (3,881′) high, though in terms of relative height (topographical prominence) can be considered the second-tallest mountain in the British and Irish Isles after Ben Nevis. Retracing our steps, we found a high campsite at Bealach Coire Ghàdhail for the night, then made our way over An Socach at 921m (3021′) to descent through the regenerating forest to Alltbeithe in the morning, and return to our starting point along the Affric Kintail Way.

Glen Affric holds one of the largest remaining areas of the Caledonian Pinewood.
Looking back along Sgùrr na Lapaich from the bealach between Mam Sodhail and Càrn Eighe.
Descending towards the remote Glen Affric hostel at Alltbeithe.

It’s been some time since I had the time and space to create things, but over the summer I was able to unpack a big box that contains all my art and craft materials and find my print making equipment, and turn some of my sketches into linocuts. Maybe with a bit more practice I’ll be able to draw things convincingly that aren’t boats.

Turning some of the sketches I’ve made over the last few years into lino prints.

My Summer Love List

This is where I share what I’ve enjoyed over the past season, including some recommendations for books, films, and podcasts to fill your free time, and any equipment or clothing that has proved especially useful. After you’ve had a read of my list, I’d love to hear about the things that you’ve loved too. Tell me everything in the comments below.

Book: I’ve just finished The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben, a forester from the Eifel Mountains of Germany with many years of experience. He makes a compelling case for the necessity of maintaining the connectivity of  woodlands in forest management and ecosystem regeneration, and for the existence of complex social networks between trees. The processes which take place in a woodland are described in amazing detail and with an eye-opening perspective. Find it here.

Reading in bed on a hilltop camp at sunset.

Magazine: I’m quite in love with my copy of JRNY Magazine, and the beautiful photography and well-crafted travel stories it contains. It’s hard to nominate highlights when all the features are outstanding, but I particularly loved a story on the wildlife of South Georgia and a photo essay on the Bajau Laut people of the Celebes Sea. Find it here.

Dreamy words and images for vicarious escapes in JRNY magazine.

I’ve also collected together some of the blog posts, magazine stories, and journal articles I’ve read this season here.

TV: With uncertainty over international travel rumbling on through the start of the summer, I’ve been getting my travel fix from watching various TV series with far-flung settings. Late to the party as usual, I’ve caught up with a couple of BBC dramas, The Luminaries, based on the book by Eleanor Catton and set in the gold-rush frontier town of Hokitika, on the South Island of New Zealand, in the 1860s, and Black Narcissus, an adaptation of the Rumer Godden book about the repressed atmosphere in a convent in the Himalayas, and filmed in Nepal.

Food: I’ve been making an effort to continue learning new recipes from different areas of the world, and challenging my culinary abilities. With a bit of assistance from a shopping trip to Matthew’s Food Asian supermarket in Dundee to stock up on ingredients, I’ve been practicing my Asam Laksa recipe. Its so yummy.

Equipment: With doing the Mountain Leader Training course at Glenmore Lodge in late June, the piece of equipment I’ve been most reliant on has been my Silva Ranger compass. Both before and after the course it hasn’t been far from my hand while I work on mastering my micro-navigation skills. Find some of my ML gear recommendations here.

I think my contour feature is underneath that snow.

What’s Next?

Heading into the autumn, my favourite time of year, I actually have a few little UK holidays planned in the next couple of months. Some time over on the west coast of Scotland, exploring the Ardnamurchan peninsula, and the nearby areas of Moidart and Sunart; then a visit to the Lake District to catch up with friends for a week or so of walking, wild swimming, and watching the turn of the seasons.

What has the summer held for you? I’d love to hear all about it, and I’m always here if you need a friendly ear to listen.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you purchase through my link, I’ll make a small commission* on the sale at no additional cost to you.  These help me continue to run the site, providing tips and advice, and sharing stories from my adventures.  Thank you for supporting me.

*Maybe enough for a coffee.  Not enough for a yacht.

Author: vickyinglis

These Vagabond Shoes are longing to stray.

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