Friday, 21 April 2017

Climb every mountain

It would be a shame to go all the way to Scotland and not climb up something. So, on the last full day of our holiday we ventured out to go up Cairngorm. More precisely, we headed up from the main car park towards Ben Macdhui, a known spot for the mountain grouse or ptarmigan.
The landscape on the walk up is stunning. The weather was mixed - sun, cloud, rain, mist and snow at one point in time. The light was gorgeous even though there wasn't much by way of snow left around.

It's not a hard walk. You follow a track out of the main car park at Cairngorm and keep walking for about an hour. There are no scrambles but you do have to jump across a couple of streams. As you get higher and higher you run out of red grouse territory

and into the higher stretches more favoured by ptarmigan
We had got to the first plateau, more of a bowl before climbing up towards Macdhui. The weather hadn't been great and you were feeling with no snow around the ptarmigan might be much higher - and further- up the mountain. I then crested a small rise and there was a pair right at my feet. They are strange in that sense - they live in wild places and are very well camouflaged but find them and they are as tame as you like. We spent 20 minutes with this one pair, getting to within a dozen feet or so at times as they fed on the rocks. This is the male bird, very smart in his transitional plumage from all white in the winter.

Note his furry feet to keep him warm in the snow!
The female is drabber but in some ways even more beautiful with her motel almost gold feathering.

Just after we left them and as we started off down the mountain the weather really closed in so we had timed it perfectly. Just about the end of a superb break in one of our favourite places in the UK. I haven't even got round to mentioning the black grouse, golden eagles, hen harriers, white-billed divers, red deer and other assorted goodies. We will be back!