One Walks Among Elementals
Two Walks in the Cairngorms
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As a bonus to this week’s issue about Nan Shepherd, here is a brief account of the visit that I made to the Cairngorms a couple of years ago. I do hope that you enjoy this. Maybe we can meet there and walk the hills some day.
One Walks Among Elementals
Thank you so much for all the information.
8 AM sounds great.
Hot tea will be perfect.
From the list you sent, I did not pack:
Crampons (please tell me we won’t need crampons!)
I did pack:
A very light North Face rucksack (stuffs into a bag). I think it should be fine, although I’m not sure how water-resistant it would be.
75 pairs of thermals (kidding) and 4 pairs of gloves (true).
Hope your travels have been good. It's turned into a stunning day so if you get the chance, make sure to check out some of the local scenery from the hotel.
I will pack in gaiters and walking poles, and bring along a small rucksack just in case you want something a bit tougher. Plenty of gloves is a wise choice! It's certainly going to be a wee bit nippy.
Don't worry, we shouldn't need crampons. But I will take an ice axe for us each as there is a bit of snow and ice present.
Ice axe? I closed my computer and tried to unfurrow my brow. Inspired by Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, I had been so intent on getting to the Cairngorms that I hadn’t really done my homework on the seasons. Apparently winter can arrive there in November, and indeed it had. According to the weather report and my guide Myrrdin, there were already several inches of snow up there. Was I really experienced enough to climb these mountains, the sources of the region’s rushing burns, amid snow and ice? Shepherd writes:
One cannot know the rivers till one has seen them at their sources; but this journey to sources is not to be undertaken lightly. One walks among elementals, and elementals are not governable. These are awakened also in oneself by the contact elementals that are as unpredictable as wind or snow.
Bullwinkle & The Devil’s Elbow
I left St. Andrews in the rented Range Rover I had named Bullwinkle, because I felt like I was driving a moose. Bullwinkle and I had begun to make friends, but our relationship remained tentative. The local roads were narrow, and I was having a hard time judging how far to the left I could drive. In practice, I gauged this by assessing whether I was frightening oncoming drivers. If approaching vehicles started to take evasive action, I got more to the left.
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