Ben Macdui used to be a hill with a reputation. Its distance from roads meant that any problems could become serious. Now, the funicular on Cairngorm and the easy mountain biking approach from the south have opened the summit up to families – three on my visit. Its not only the hill which has become tamer. One of the mums chatted to me, which suggests solitary men in their sixties don’t look as scary as they did before their few remaining tufts of hair turned grey.
I had started the day at Bob Scott’s Bothy and finished under my Trailstar in Coire an Lochain. The formally permanent snow patch has gone but the coire is now home to large numbers of ptarmigan. Next morning, I hiked down to the ski centre and arrived just in time to use my free bus pass for the ride down to Aviemore.
An entertaining rant on the semi-rad blog reminded me of the time I took peanut butter with me on an overnight trip into the Cairngorms. The large glass jar of peanut butter sat in my rucksack beside several other heavy items I wouldn’t have been carrying if I had planned ahead and shopped in a town with a proper supermarket. Nevertheless, I was young and fit and a heavy rucksack wasn’t going to stop me.
Despite the bright sunshine, the day was quite cool but, thanks to a hot pace, by the time I had reached Luibeg Burn, I fancied a cuppa so I stopped and brewed. I can picture myself making a lavish peanut butter sandwich to reduce my pack’s weight. This might be a fantasy created by the attempt to dredge up twenty five year-old memories. After packing my picnic gear away, I charged up Carn a’Mhaim, which was a big mistake. My legs had cooled off during the stop and failure to re-start gently damaged my Achilles tendon. A check at the summit showed that it was twice its usual width.
Under the circumstances, I did what anyone else would have done – bagged three more Munros and pitched my tent near the Hutchison Memorial Hut. The hut was going through one of its disgusting phases, which is why I stayed outside. Next morning, my ankle was agonisingly painful. I hobbled to the confluence of the Coire Etchachan Burn and the Glas Allt Mor before deciding I couldn’t continue walking like that. Every step was a bit of a nightmare. The only solution to the problem appeared to be taking fewer steps so I stretched out my stride. Including a quick brew stop at Derry Lodge, I made it from the confluence to the Linn of Dee (where the caravans used to be) in one and a half hours.
That’s when the suffering really began. I had arrived on an MZ with a foot operated gear box. One gear down and the rest up. Quite a bit of force was needed to engage that first gear and it wasn’t easy with a wrecked ankle. These were the days when I disdained a medical kit so no painkillers eased my journey home.
I can’t recall taking peanut butter on any backpacking trips since then.