I had two options regarding my day off: not to go to any new place because of the forecast, or to go somewhere I’d already been to, but with good weather predicted. After too many days off missed I chose the latter. I decided to climb two hills I’d climbed as my first in the Cairngorms, but this time during one hike, avoiding returning the same way from Bynack More.

Inevitably I made comparisons to my first climb five years ago. The first difference I spotted at Allt Mor car park; now this is a Pay&Display one. £2 a day for a car is acceptable, and thankfully the stations take cards, not just cash. From there there’s a pretty pleasant walk along well maintained paths and forest tracks up to An Lochan Uaine and to Ryvoan Pass. There the path forks; the left one runs towards Nethy Bridge, the other one leads to Braemar through Abernethy National Nature Reserve. At that point the sky, earlier pretty overcast, started to clear; ten minutes later I was walking in the sunshine, and soon, on the banks of the river Nethy I had to put on factor 50 sun cream. From the river the path climbed up the hill to a vast plateau, where it forks again; the right one leads to the base of Bynack More. On the very hill there’s a rocky formation resembling a spine; I climbed along with that to the very top. Between the river Nethy and the summit I was held several times by wild birds; from that hike I brought home almost 700 pictures, most of them taken in series when I tried to catch the birds.

 Thanks to very good weather this time I genuinely enjoyed my rest at the top of the hill; with some shelter from the wind, provided by the rocks, I was lying on my back, sating my eyes with beautiful views and my appetite with sandwiches. Truly awesome! From the top towards Loch Avon there was a stretch unknown to me, but I’d done my homework, so without any problems was following the route. Finally I reached the ridge above the Loch and the path I’d known from a couple of my earlier walks. The path led me up across the eastern slope of Cairn Gorm. There was a point high up, close by the burn I’ve been always losing the path – no difference this time… So ‘as usual’ I was doing my ‘cross-country’ climb and eventually found the path back. Soon I abandoned it heading towards the easterly path leading from Ptarmigan Bowl up to the summit. I’d say ‘traditionally’ the weather started deteriorating at that point. After I reached the summit I just managed to eat a couple of sandwiches, and had to put my waterproof jacket before heading down towards Ptarmigan Bowl and then down to the Base Station. A dull and unpleasant walk in the rain along the dirt road. Between the Base Station and my car there was another stretch unknown to me. This time my preparations paid off massively – I just followed the route on my GPS without any need for pulling out the map. The rain made that part of the walk rather boring, though the path itself runs through really nice surroundings. When I reached my car I didn’t expect midges because of the rain – but the bloody creatures apparently had put their own waterproofs and were doing their nasty job. They even invaded my car and were biting while I was driving back home.