Led by our very own Mountain Leader, John, nine of our senior Explorers undertook an exhilarating five-day expedition to Scotland over the autumn half-term, with stunning landscapes, breathtaking views of the Highlands and some very damp kit by the end of it! Read on to find out how they got on.
The trip began outside Scout Park at 5 o’clock. After very drowsily packing our bags into the minibus we set off on a very long journey to Scotland. With a few stops along the way for snacks, we made our way from Bounds Green to Inverness and then finally to Torridon Community Campsite. When we arrived, we set up our tents very quickly due to rain, then cooked our first meal of the trip before diving into our tents to eat as the rain really stated pouring. With John updating us on the plan about 5 times due to changes in the weather forecast, we finally decided on a late start the next morning.
Tuesday morning began with a relaxed and drizzly pack-up of camp before we hopped in the minibus and drove south of Torridon to Lochcarron to enjoy the views. At the nearby Strome Castle ruins we enjoyed a very windy lunch break where we met the castle’s furry guardian and wondered how the people who had once lived there had weathered the Scottish conditions without the wonders of Gore-Tex.
Stomachs full, we drove to a nearby lay-by where we would leave the bus and begin our walk to the Corie Fionnaraich bothy. What could have been a straightforward 3km bimble up a well trodden path was made more difficult by incessant rain and high wind, transforming a normally sedate river into an obstacle. John, everyone’s favourite ML, used the available data to decide that a nearby bridge would be a safer crossing than through the river and so over we went! Having successfully crossed the river and a short walk later we arrived at our home for the night, where we enjoyed a large amount of pasta and a toasty night around the fire.
Our stay at this site was luxurious relative to the previous night, with dry rooms to sleep in and even a fire to dry wet clothes! After having dinner we enjoyed a night of rest and relaxation around the fire place before heading off to bed before our hike the next day.
After some breakfast and preparation we were ready for our hike. We set off in relatively clear weather compared to the previous day albeit a little cold and windy! The views around us were breathtaking with windy moors, hidden lochs and towering Munro’s – the grey cloud even added a dramatic feel to it all. After making our way round the Munro and getting our feet wet in a small river crossing we decided to stop for lunch and admire our surroundings.
After lunch we walked up as one big group to a flat area between a few summits. We decided to have a go at Maol Chean-dearg up in the clouds but twenty metres up the wind was so strong that we had to press ourselves into it and a pair of glasses even flew off over the edge! We made the decision to come back down to a flatter area to decide what to do next. We walked a few hundred metres over to a shallower more gradual summit – Meall nan Ceapairean, but with the wind still driving at us we made the decision to head back.
The descent was more rainy and the path more muddy but we enjoyed being able to walk through it all without getting wetter than we already were! Just as we arrived back, a beautiful double rainbow arced up over the river and we went inside to pack up all our stuff, re-waterproof and head back down to the minibus.
Apart from a quick river crossing and some weird space jelly, the walk back was relaxed and it was nice to be surrounded by mountains. We said goodbye to the west coast and headed off to Dalraddy campsite in the Cairngorms. Our tents dried out pretty quickly once we’d out them up and after some hot pasta and nice chocolate and some jumping over the fence to take a shortcut to the shower area, we discussed the walks for the next day and went to sleep with a cloudy moon up above.
DAY 4 – GROUP 1
As we unzipped the tents the next morning, the weather looked clear and calm; a stark change from the gales and rain we had become accustomed too. This weather allowed a few of us to get out into the hills for a bigger day. We piled into the minibus and drove for half an hour down the A9, aiming for a group of 4 Munros just off the Drumochter pass. They also gave a good viewpoint into the Ben Alder Forest – a large wilderness area containing many Munro’s and Corbetts.
Upon arriving at the Lay-by, we put the rucksacks on and started up the climb to Geal-Charn. The climb was simple, consisting of 500m pull to a large plateau at 850m, then a much more gradual slope to reach the top at 917m. On the plateau we were lucky enough to see some Tarmachan, some ground nesting birds that are common in the Eastern Highlands.
From here, we enjoyed a nice simple descent down to a saddle, where we met a small lake where we took the opportunity to fill up with some water. Many high-level Munro rounds are notorious for having very few opportunities to re-fill along their course without a significant diversion, so any opportunities to refill should not be missed.
From the saddle, a path rose gently to the next Munro, the gradient being steep enough to warm us up after the brief water stop, but remaining far more comfortable than the eye-wateringly steep climbs that are the norm in the North West highlands. This lead to a broad ridge, with the summit of A’Mharconaich at 975m. From here, a gentle ridge led us along for around 4km to the summit of our third Munro, Beinn Udlamain at 1011m. The fog cleared as we were at the top, opening up a beautiful view into the Ben Alder Forest and across the rest of the Cairngorms
After lunch we tackled the steep climb up Beinn Udlamain, which at 1011m was our highest peak of the day. With the group still in good spirits, we admired the view of Loch Ericht and the surrounding Ben Alder forest. Taking the chance to grab a quick selfie at the Cairn, we then descended back down onto the saddle that would lead to our final Munro of the day.
Thick clouds surrounded us and a moderate wind blew, but before long we were ascending the fourth peak, Sgairneach Mhòr, along a rocky gravel path. The peak was a barren, flat section, with a thick mist, which obscured our view. With the final stretch in sight, we headed down the North Eastern ridge at great pace, yomping through deep boggy sections. Although there was a convenient bridge to hand, we took the more adventurous route through the river itself, leading us to the fire road alongside the A9. Good conversation and endorphins pushed us through the last 3km.
Interpretations of the walk varied from it being a ‘proper day out’ to a ‘quick bimble’ but what was evident from the smiles plastered across our faces was that we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
DAY 4 – GROUP 2
After waking up and emerging from our tents about an hour or so after the others had headed off, we were delighted to see that the weather had cleared up from the previous days and it was forecasted to only get better. With the nice weather persisting, we set off for the starting point of our hike. The aim; reaching a trio of summits in the centre of the Cairngorms. Morale was high and the air was filled with determination as we stepped out of the minibus and into the stunning scenery of the Cairngorms.
Our starting point was Glenmore lodge by loch Morlich. We then hiked along a trail which passed by a Bothy and a green loch before starting our ascent. We climbed up 400 metres to reach the summit of a Corbet known as Meall a’Bhuachaille. We then hiked along the saddle of the trio to reach the next summit: Creagan Gorm at 732 metres, before continuing on to the final summit at 687 metres; Craiggowrie. After finishing we made our way down the steep and muddy trails back to the minibus. The total hike was 17.3km with 781 metres of elevation gain. Overall it was an incredible experience with unforgettable views.
Eventually we reached the minibus and had a well-deserved sit-down, where we then drove for around 30 minutes to pick John’s group up from the end point of their hike, where we definitely didn’t miss them and have to turn around…
Around an hour or so later we arrived at the famed Aviemore Youth Hostel where warm showers and a night in beds was promised – and thankfully delivered. After some time for us all to make ourselves more presentable after 3 days in the hills, we ventured into the town of Aviemore right on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. We all ordered food from the fish and chip shop, with some being adventurous and trying the deep-fried haggis, a real Scottish delicacy! Stomachs full, we spent the rest of the night relaxing, chatting, playing card games and having a mini Scouts Own, discussing our favourite moments on the trip and retrospective thoughts on the kit we had brought. It wasn’t long before we were all fast asleep having been exhausted by the day’s hikes, dreaming of the hills and dreading the drive back home to London.
On Friday morning we woke up, packed up our kit into the minibus and began our 12 hour journey back to London from Aviemore Youth Hostel. We set off from the the hostel at 8 AM, starting off by driving to the local Tesco’s to buy breakfast and lunch for the day. From there we drove south, stopping at a series of service stations along the way, eventually arriving back at Scout Park at 9 PM. We then emptied the minibus and did some COVID tests, thus concluding our wonderful 5-day Scotland Hiking Expedition at 9.30 PM.
– Priya, Arno, Joe, Oscar, Will, Mia, Joe and Hugo