18th January 2022
I spoke to Grant on Monday evening and persuaded him we should go to Glen Clova as the forecast was good. We could save The Paps for a poorer day when the Cairngorms were off limits. The plan was to walk to the wreckage of the WW2 bomber at the back of Clova. Grant wanted to meet at 8am but we agreed 8:30am.
I got to Emmock Road at 8:30am. Grant WhatsApped that he was on his way. That was at 8:22am; clearly he was in Godot mode again. His car rolled in at 8:50am. Not a great start.
We headed up the road in my car and hit standing traffic just after the Glamis turn off. Fortunately after about 15 minutes in the queue we found a turn off. We rolled into the Clova Hotel car park at 10:10am. The road into Clova was lined with patches of fallen trees; victims of Storm Arwen, and quite shocking. It explained why it took so long to restore power.
Getting my boots on I discovered I hadn’t brought my hiking socks. Fortunately the ones I was wearing were quite thick. Grant had his shiny new boots on for the first time, and wrestled for some time to get them laced up.
We headed up the hill. A couple of hundred yards later I discovered I had lost a glove. Things weren’t going well.
As we progressed Grant decided he couldn’t make The Bomber today and bemoaned not doing The Paps. Not much conversation between us until a girl with a spiders web tattoo (would that be a good name for a book?) round her neck and an Aussie accent came past and exchanged pleasantries.
She wanted to know whether we were going to the Snub or just the loch. We didn’t know but the cloud was pretty low and at that stage we were of a mind to turn round on reaching the loch.
If you don’t know it, the walk is a path with stone steps. It is like a one and a half mile long Stairmaster for those gym bunnies out there, but the steps are uneven and the hill isn’t centrally heated.
We were soon overtaken by spiderwoman’s partner, and again exchanged destination pleasantries as she passed. Not sure of the time (but we hadn’t been walking fast), we stopped at the lochside and shared my flask of coffee. The route app said we had climbed to 2,220 feet and travelled 1.56 miles. The car park is at 822 feet, so you can do the math.
We were about to retrace our route back to the car park, when Grant realised he would be home by 1pm and the cleaner would be in. Also, although tepid, the coffee had improved his mood, so he suggested we head up The Snub.
Off we went. If the climb to Loch Brandy is the Stairmaster then the ascent of The Snub is the Stairmaster on speed; seemingly almost vertical. As a first outing in the hills since October it is a baptism of fire.
We reached the cairn on the Snub and continued around the cliffs on the path. There were patches of snow in the hollows and the puddles were frozen.
The wind at the top seemed to be getting stronger by the minute and the temperature was dropping accordingly. The cliffs were in the clouds so visibility was poor, but as long as we stayed on the path we were quite safe.
About half way round the cliffs there is a memorial to a soldier, Luke Ireland, who lost his life having fallen from the cliffs in 2014.
It is a circular walk and we were soon descending the shank back to the loch side.
As it was only 12:30 when we reached loch level, we shared some jelly babies and turned down the hill. It was preferable to stopping in the icy wind for our lunch.
Downhill is tougher than uphill in my opinion, and as the first half is all up so the second is all down. Thigh muscles soon began to burn and knees to ache. I deployed my poles in order to spread the load and reduce the shocks of the descent and protect my ankles.
As we descended we met a few more people enjoying the fresh air and stretching their lungs and legs.
I found my glove just outside the car park, so that was good. It was 1:15pm, and we had covered 5.7 miles. As it was lunchtime, we both devoured our sandwiches and shared the tomato soup Grant had brought. It was tepid, the same as my coffee. We need to invest in better flasks.
As I drove down the glen I pulled over to watch a red kite fly over the fields adjacent to the car; a great sight. Conversely, the arboreal damage in a nearby plantation caused by Storm Arwen was depressing.
However, overall it had been another good day in the hills.