Today I finished the Cairngorms, and the Eastern Highlands as a whole.
I'd had this day on my mind for a while. Last week, I climbed all the Cairngorm Munros except for the four western ones. I had decided to save them for later and do them as a round from Glen Feshie. I always knew it would be a big one (34km!) and someday I was going to have to just get on with it and get those kilometres done.
Today was that day, but when I looked outside and saw the skies in the morning, I did wonder for a moment whether I'd go for them. The Cairngorms were covered in cloud, but it was forecast to shift. I set off from Glen Feshie at 10.30am, bound for Sgor Gaoithe.
At first, the weather was pretty poor. High winds were blasting mist over the plateau. Still I continued up at a pace, confident it would clear, feeling very strong. If yesterday was a sluggish day, today was the compensation.
I reached the top of Sgor Gaoithe in just short of two hours, as the last shreads of cloud cleared from the plateau. In any other circumstances, the magnitude of this day would probably intimidate me, yet there was some kind of focus that pushed me onward very quickly, without pause, for hours on end. I barely stopped to eat, and when I did, it took a while to claw the focus back together. So I just kept on going, wondering why I wasn't getting fatigued.
The Moine Mhor is a high plateau on the Cairngorms, sat at an altitude of 3000 feet, miles wide and surrounded by Scotland's highest Munros. It's the kind of place that would frighten if you'd never had experience of it before. In the middle, the surrounding mountains might serve to make you feel enclosed and trapped by the immense spaces. But today, I was motoring, and I really enjoyed my crossing.
The outlying Munros of Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain were both done in quick succession. On Beinn Bhrotain, I actually felt closer to Braemar. Glen Feshie seemed a very long way off, and I headed back across the Moine Mhor, hardly stopping, watching cloud scraping off the highest Cairngorm peaks and shafts of sun illuminating the grey landscape.
I wondered if the reason I felt so revitalised was because I was back in the Cairngorms. No hill is a bad hill as they say, but some (like Drumochter/Monadhliath) aren't the most inspiring! The Cairngorms blow my mind, my appreciation deepens with every visit and today was no different.
Mullach Clach a' Bhlair was my last Munro of the day and I followed a landrover track which climbs almost to its summit. From there, I headed down to Glen Feshie and back to a civilisation which only hours before had seemed so far removed.
Glen Feshie is well known for being a stunning glen in its native woodlands. But I also noticed many areas where young trees are sporting up from the heather. You don't see that very often, but regeneration schemes are a heart-warming thing to see in several Scottish glens I've so far passed through.
I was back at the car just short of nine hours out, which is good going for the distance. I even jogged the last mile to the car (thanks Monty!).
My deepest impression of today was my level of fitness. The focus with which I carried out the day was also surprising and made quite easy what could otherwise have been a drag. As ever, I hope this run of fitness continues.