The greatest days have inauspicious starts. As we crossed the Slochd, mist was low and thick, obscuring any view of the Cairngorms to the south. A wasted trip, was my first thought, as I frantically began to think of alternatives to the mountains of the high Cairngorms. Yet, as we approached Aviemore, a queer thing happened: the mist lifted, leaving behind a brilliant blue, cloudless sky.
Braeriach, the UK’s third highest mountain, was back on the menu. We followed the usual path from the Sugar Bowl car park: past the reindeer enclosure, across the tricky boulders of the Chalamain Gap, down to Lairig Ghru, then up and over one of Braeriach’s two tops, Sron na Lairige, en route to the 1,296-metre summit.
It was the most magnificent day I can recall ever spending in these hills, with all the nearby mountains – Sgor Gaoith, Ben Macdui, Carn a’Mhaim, Cairn Toul, The Devil’s Peak, The Angel’s Peak and Cairn Gorm – framed by clear skies. These days are so rare, you want them to last for ever for fear you may never see the like again.