Battered, bruised and exhausted – first shoot in the Cairngorms complete

Cairn Gorm, Scotland. Wild camping
Dawn from Cairn Gorm. Camp was on the other side of this very rocks. Twas bitterly cold!

I’ve never set foot in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland and have always heard great things about the place. It’s big, wild and hard. And in truth I was a little dismissive of such statements. I’d passed through once many years ago and from the car it looked more of a grander version of the Howgills in Northern England to me. How I came to eat my words….

Granted, for the first shoot of ‘The Cairngorms in Winter’ I had done my research, mentally prepared myself for the possible challenges that lay ahead, and of course accommodated every possible option on my routes for filming and hiking noting the wintry conditions and the temperamental weather.

I could wax lyrical about the trip but I’m just too mentally and physically tired to do so. I’ve been reviewing what went right and wrong on the shoot, how I’ll need to make further amendments to my routes and re-jig my schedule with regards to meeting up with Chris Townsend and filming him on camera. I’ve got to be quick as I’m heading back up north of the border again next Monday.

But before I go, I’ll leave you with a few titbits of what I got up to.

– The Scots like a drink. Good. So do I. And even though I only spent one night in a pub ‘properly’ enjoying a local ale or too and some malts they put me out of kilter for the following days hike. Lesson learnt.

– Everyone I met was so damn friendly and supportive. Truly lovely part of the world in that respect.

– The Cairngorms are in a word – EPIC. Truly and utterly breathtaking. From large, ancient and scenic forests, to towering cliffs, lofty summits and wild glens. This is proper mountain country with proper mountain weather.

– The latter took me by surprise from an aesthetic point of view. The terrain and general conditions made for a physically tough trip. Yes, the snow was deep and tricky and I encountered more whiteouts than I ever have done. And the winds can be horrendous. I came home literally battered and bruised but can’t wait to head back and see some more of the area! Places like the Lake District or Snowdonia are walks in the park compared to the Cairngorms in winter – make no doubt about it.

– The amount of footage I captured in little over a week here, I could’ve done in 2/3 days easily elsewhere in England.

– From the first night out on the tops, I discovered my beloved Exped Synmat had a leak. Thankfully I brought a torso length sheet of foil to get some insulation from the cold ground. Despite temps of -10c and below, I slept pretty well every night I was out. Chris did bring me a spare towards the end of the trip, but sod’s law that had a damn leak too! Worth looking at Robin’s blog HERE concerning backpacking airbeds.

– My Primus Express Spider gave me problems from the off. It’s likely faulty but worked fine (albeit one trip) before I headed up. So I never got to boil water at any of my camps. Bugger. Luke warm freeze-dried food aint good for morale.

– I took a tumble or two. And will have scars to prove it.

– The caledonian forests are quite simply a marvel to wander amongst. Just as stunning as the mountains themselves.

– Building igloos can be fun but exhausting to build. Me and Chris hooked up with Walk Highlands as they hoped to construct an igloo to spend the night in under the guidance of Mr Townsend. It was an ice palace. Slept 5, blocked all the sound out, was lovely and warm inside but took well over 10 hours to finish. Kudos to Phil Turner for spending nearly half that time stuck inside the circle of the igloo building blocks as everyone else collected snow and more.

Erm, I can’t think of owt else for now. I’m sure I’ll remember for next time. I’m just so tired. And will need the next few days rest as recovery before heading out again.

Sadly I took very few photos on my DSLR. I was more focused on the video camera for much of the time. So the pics below consist mainly those I captured on my mobile phone and sent to the likes of Twitter. And a few kindly donated from David Lintern of

Below you’ll also find a short video featuring some scenes of the trip – a tiny glimpse of what happened and a flavour of what’s to come in the future.

Thanks to all those who’ve supported me on this trip. Least of all to Chris who kept me company via emails and of course in person towards the end of the trip. Chris is as genuine as they come folks. A real gent and no different to what you may imagine from reading his features and reports in TGO Magazine or his many books.

Cairn Gorm, Scotland
First day out turned out to be the best weather-wise.

Wild camping, Scotland
Camp on Cairn Gorm.

Stob Coire an t-Sneachda
Mean and moody Stob Coire an t-Sneachda

Lairig Ghru
Looking back to Lairig Ghru – looks lovely but in fact the winds were horrific.

Wild camping. Force Ten Nitro Lite 200
Camp in Glenmore Forest. Tent is the F10 Nitro Lite 200.

A glimpse of the damage –  my overtrousers were torn to shreds in the end. So much for lightweight gear in the winter mountains, eh?

Chris Townsend and terrybnd
Chris and me making our way up the trail.

I grab some shots of Chris while Walk Highlands watch on nearby.

Wild camping. F10 Nitro Lite 200
Camp in Strath Nethy.

Chris Townsend
Chris removes a saw from his snow shovel and begins to cut an entrance into
an igloo.

Phil Turner finally comes out from the inside for a hot drink.


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