Today is the day we tackle Ben Rinnes; our first real hike of the trip. We left the steading at around 10.30am and headed for the car park at Ben Rinnes that marked the start of our trek. As usual the onboard computer took us via a circuituous route which took us along a narrow road with no passing places in sight! Fortunately we met no oncoming traffic and emerged unscathed onto the road we had originally been driving on.
There was a stiff breeze blowing as we donned our gear to make our assault on our first corbett. So far we have hiked up a marilyn and a graham but the highest climb we had attempted so far - and by the look of it the steepest!
It was hard going from the word go as we followed a steep zig-zagging path, buffetted by unrelenting wind which at least served to banish any possibility of sweating. We already knew from a review on Walking Highlands that there were steep sections at the bottom and top with a flatter section in the middle but reading about it did not prepare us for the effort involved.
The rocky path underfoot was as clear a marked path as anyone could wish for with no possibility of straying and getting lost but hard on the feet and knees.
The wind was biting but I kept my fleece and jacket in my pack until the time when I began to feel coldwhich, as it happened, was still some way ahead. The advantage ofthe steep climb was that we were very soon high above the meadows and glens looking down on the world in miniature yet above us the summit still loomed well out of reach.
As we trudged along the rugged track climbing ever upward, the wind steadily increased and what had been a stiff breeze soon became a high wind which added considerably to the difficulty of the climb as for every two steps forward we were taking three steps sideways! The only effective way to tackle it was to lean into the wind and press forward resulting in a peculiar crab-like gait. Even worse, the wind literally took our breath away as it attempted to push us off the path and into the heather.
The stops became frequent but we finally reached the flatter section of path where, although it was no less windy, it was at least easier on the legs and we could pick up some pace. I had donned my fleece by now and was glad of a bit of protection from the wind and made good use of its hood.
The summit was getting closer and we could see the steeply zig-zagged path leading to the top and we knew that soon the hard yards would begin. The upper third of the track is dotted with stone steps at intervals and these are harder to navigate than the rocky path - and harder on the legs. By the time we reached this stage of the hike the wind had become gale force so negotiating the "steps" was no joy as the wind threatened to push us right off the path. Lifting a leg to take the next step was a challenge as the wind took advantage of the momentary loss of stability to try and send one tumbling back down the slope!
We got to the point where we were walking 50 paces then resting, turning our backs to the wind for a moment's respite. We passed a couple heading down the track, as windswept as we were but more lightly burdened, who informed us that there was shelter at the top.
Pressing on we could finally see our goal within reach but at this point I needed a serious rest and a sit down before tackling the last section. Scottish Ginger cake to the rescue! We shared a chunk of ginger cake and were visited by a large dog who, on the way down with his owner, decided that the cake in Alex's hand looked tasty so he hovered at her shoulder with his nose inches away and his eyes locked on the morsel of food he was sure was coming his way. Alex declined to share in spite of his persistance and he finally responded, albeit reluctantly, to his owner's call and trotted down the hill. Suitably refreshed and re-energised we set off for the top.
Still fighting the wind at every step we trudged our weary way to the summit, glad of the realtively calm among the rocks as we followed the path the last fifty yards to the concrete marker that proved to us that we had, indeed, reached the very top of Ben Rinnes. We had done it - conquered our first corbett!
Time for a few photos and to appreciate the spectacular view which included all the way to Tomintoul and the Cairngorms in the distance in one direction and to Spey Bay in the other.
It was still cold even out of the wind in the shelter of the rocks so out came gloves, beanie and wind-proof jacket before we paused for a packed lunch and a brief sojourn before attempting the trek back down.
With the hardest part behind us we were soon ready to be on the move again. The climb had taken us about 2 hours and the descent would take about half that.
If anything the downward progression was worse than the struggle uphill. The gale-force wind made for treacherous footing and on two occasions I stumbled; once as I navigated a rocky step the wind pushed me forward and the weight of my bacpack nearly sent me hurtling down the incline so I ended up lying prone across a rock hanging on and feeling the weight of backpack trying to tip me over. Regaining my balance I was able to shift around into a sitting position but the wind was so strong that I couldn't stand up - not helped by the fact that I was laughing so hard at the ridiculous situation I had found myself in. Alex was in front of me and missed most of the action; mercifully so did the Go Pro she was filming the hike with!
A bit later I stumbled again, this time slipping on one of the stone steps and hitting my knee. Fortunately I'm made of strong stuff and escaped with merely a slightly grazed knee and a loss of dignity. Again, this was thankfully unwitnessed.
The remainder of the descent was uneventful but somehow seemed even longer than the ascent! The road seemed rockier and less stable and it was taxing in a different way as, once again, we were forced to battle the incessant wind as we carefully looked for firm footing and the path of least resistance.
At last we could see the car parked below and at least felt as if we were almost done and after several more twists and turns we were down the final slope and at the gate leading out to the parking bays at the road edge.
Muscles aching and on jelly-legs we gratefully dumped our gear in the boot and sank into the welcome comfort of leather car seats for the short trip home.
It had been quite a challenge but we had made it. Ben Rinnes - our first corbett. Next? A munro of course.