This time last year I was heading up the flanks of Morrone in a deep covering of fresh snow. This year's detox walk was somewhat different with ice and winds providing the entertainment as Dave and I crossed the mysterious Sgor Buidhe plateau above Ballater.
We got the 08:45am 201 from Aberdeen which dropped us off at the Stagecoach depot in Ballater just before 10:30am. The streets in Aberdeen were shiny with recently fallen rain but as we set off through the back streets of Ballater there was nothing falling from the sullen skies.
The walk initially wound between houses and the sports field before crossing the Pass of Ballater road and heading up a forestry track into the pine covered slopes of ... . It took a while before a view opened out and initial slope was fairly steep and muddy. As we climbed to a point where the track curves around the hill to the left we saw ahead up the Tullich Burn to Morven with a beautiful cap of snow. By now the wet ground was solid ice, dangerous when unsighted.
We followed the track as it passed above a radio mast and then climbed up to the flat summit of the first hill, . Here we encountered the wind which rose strongly as we left the tree line.
Despite the wind which tried its hardest to blow us off course, we now had a straightforward walk across the tops, heading west. The wind was incredibly strong and we only spent a short time at the white rock which marked the summit of Sgor Buidhe. From here we followed the faint track to the final summit Craig of Prony.
To extend the day slightly we descended from here north into a tributary of Glen Gairn, with Peter's Hill and Morven off to our left. The descent was steep and heathery but there was no complaining as it got us out of the wind. We came down to where a track forded the small stream and paused for a bite to eat and a look at the thick ice which was lingering at the edges of the water.
The return route to Ballater was a very pleasant walk along springy paths through trees intially before we followed a farm track back to the Pass of Ballater. Reports suggested we might meet an unfriendly farmer so we skirted around the buildings of and then hopped across the barbed wire fence on the other side.
After crossing the main road we descended down a steep bank close to the Craigendarroch Hilton and then enjoyed the last stretch along above the Dee, which also had signs of ice.
Back in Ballater we scoped out a few shops, found that the Prince of Wales hadn't yet woken up after Christmas and spent a warm hour or so in the pub next door.