In and around the Cairngorms – the first hike proper for our newbies
Our first major trek of the Summer, this was an opportunity for some of our newer additions to the group to truly stretch their legs and experience the real Aberdeen Rambling Walkers experience.
There were quite a few nervous faces on the minibus on the way out of Aberdeen. Smiling faces, but nervous nonetheless. A wealth of shiny new equipment (some with the tags still on!) beamed back at us through the rear view mirror, as myself and Randall sat in the front and tried to defuse the tense atmosphere. It almost felt like returning to school in some ways. Many of these people had not met each other before and the novelty of the situation suited some better than others.
It’s always interesting to see how new people react to each other – for the new initiates into the group, this might well be the first time they’ve been forced to talk to new people in some time. Most of our members are middle-aged folks, looking for a relaxing way of exercising without having to break a sweat too much. They send us an email (which you can do right here) and talk to myself or Randy for a bit and then pop along for a walk, forgetting that there might well be a dozen other new people that they’ll be meeting. One of our hikers has likened their first walk with the ARWs to turning up to a party alone, only to find that the party wants to leave and walk 12 miles or so in the other direction.
Our starting point on this day was the car park, right at the edge of the Cairngorm Ski Centre. Disembarking from the minibus, I could tell that there were a few people who were a little intimidated by the environment there. It’s important to remember the peaks of Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui rise to well over 1300m each, these peaks truly dominate the landscape and can seem like insurmountable challenges to even veteran walkers, let alone newbies. Add to this the hordes of experienced walkers that swarm these areas on the weekends and I could tell our new recruits were literally shaking in their boots.
Still – once we started on our way and we found our pace, the group started to chat to one another and the mood soon became that of a relaxed group of friends. The air was fresh and clean, blue skies dotted with grand cumulus clouds set a fine contrast to the rugged mountains and forests that surrounded us. Even though there tends to be a lot of traffic on the footpaths during these peak times, there were still long stretches when we didn’t cross another group – this gave us a great feeling of seclusion and a tighter sense of camaraderie.
The hard climbs that took us up past Sron an Aonaich and onto Cairn Gorm were by far the toughest parts of the route. Even some of our more experienced members were lagging at moments, so there were plenty of breaks where we took our loads off and simply gazed around at the amazing landscape around us. The circular route that took us back around and down to the base station was a refreshing change of pace from the uphill struggle that we began with. It was clear to see that the route had bonded many of our group.