With the forecast promising everything from clear skies right through to blizzards and howling winds I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I set out for Braemar this morning. In the end I got a later bus as the winds were ferocious at 6:30am in Aberdeen and this seemed to be a good move as it was sunny and relatively clear as we headed west up Deeside. Of course it didn't last and by the time the bus pulled into Braemar the skies were steel-grey and a steady stream of sleety snow was falling from them. Not wanting to waste a 2 hour bus ride I stocked up on Cadbury's Fruit & Nut bars before heading out of the village and south down the A93.
Although Glen Clunie was somewhat lost in the murky conditions I only had to head a mile or so down it before turning into Glen Callater at the bridge near Auchallater. Things immediately looked up with the light considerably brighter and the snow left behind to trouble Braemar. Immedaitely away from the main road the scenery became wilder with the Callater burn jumping down over rocks and stones, and above it the grey, bare shoulders of the hills rising up.
The track wound its way up Glen Callater with the hills rising into dramatic mountains that crowded round the head of the Glen. Over to the right was the domed shape of Carn An Tuirc with a healthy covering of snow on its crown. I stopped for a mug of tea and a bite to eat on the shore of Loch Callater, a thin loch between the encroaching hills, the surface of which was being rippled by the wind which had steadily been picking up.
After donning another layer I headed up away from the Loch, climbing steeply up onto the shoulders of Carn An Tuirc. After the first climb the land flattened slightly and I crossed a patch of moorland between the heights where the first snow was encountered. After this the climb began again, heading up to a cairn where the track disappeared. I now headed off across the broad ridge of Carn An Tuirc, still climbing and heading for what I thought was the summit ridge. There was still plenty of snow so the way was good but the wind was ferocious, blowing snow across the surface. On reaching the Cairn I discovered that it was a false flat and the summit lay a few hundred meters beyond, slightly higher up. Evaluating the conditions I decided it was best not to push for the top, but descended down a good run of snow back to the moorland where the snow finished and I had to pick my way through a boggy area of streams and small pools.
I was now heading west with the ski center on the Cairnwell clearly visible in the sunshine. Over to my left beyond the far shoulder of Carn An Tuirc was Glas Maol. Below me the A93 snaked its way up towards Glen Shee and it was for this that I headed, descending by the side of the burn that cascaded down in a nice series of rapids.
On gaining the road I then walked the six or so miles back up to Braemar, enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and the Glen as it opened out before me. I got back in time to get the 5pm bus back from Braemar, glad of the chance to rest my feet which were weary from walking on tarmac for so long.