MAYAR AND DRIESH

For our second challenge, we tackled the two peaks of Mayar and Dreish, on the 21st September 2019

Earlier in the year, we very sadly lost our friend and colleague Irene Steel to cancer, and it was decided that we should tackle another Munro climb in her memory, and seek to raise more money for CLAN cancer support who provide so much support to sufferers of the awful disease, and also their families and loved ones through the most difficult of times.

John, our CEO, and veteran of Munro bagging (having completed all 282 peaks and being well on his way to a second 'set') decided that Mayar and Driesh would be an appropriate challenge for the team.  Set in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park, there are few more picturesque settings for a challenge.  However, John's suggestions are rarely without a slightly evil streak, so he suggested the same day as the Glen Clova Extreme Duathlon, where athletes do the same route as us, in addition to a 33km cycle - in 2 hours and 15 minutes!!  This did little to dent our morale though, and I think we were all in awe of the athletes that passed us.

We met at the Glen Doll car park at 8am.  I got up at 5am with a view to capturing some sunrise shots in Glen Clova, but the drive in was sadly through thick fog and hampered by hundreds of pheasants and red-legged partridge on the road.  Unsurprisingly, John and Jamie were already at the car park when I arrived at 7am, and had the kettle on.

As the rest of the team arrived, we posed for a group photo (thank you to Pauline for mastering my camera in 30 seconds and taking a cracking shot of everyone), and set off through Glen Doll.

The first couple of miles to Corrie Fee is a really pleasant walk, and the pace was good.  This is easy, right!?  I always enjoy the gasps of awe as people emerge from the forest into Corrie Fee for the first time - the natural amphitheatre is truly one of the most spectacular places to see.  A quick pause for the team to regroup and pose for a photo or two, and we set off again along the narrow path through the Corrie.  At the far end, the path steepens quickly, along side the waterfall on the Fee Burn, and the increased effort led to Jamie abandoning his promise of a Peter Andre style dance under the water.  Gutted! 

At this stage, our leader Sandy decided that everyone in the group was as fit as him, and headed up the 'kamikaze route', which was perilous to say the least.  It did gain us a lot of altitude quickly though, and after a bit of a struggle, we made it to the top of the gorge.  A really nasty slog through soft heather and spongy ground took its toll on my legs, and I resorted to taking painkillers to carry on.  Thankfully, the ground got a bit firmer underfoot and the gradient levelled out as we approached the upturned saucer peak of Mayar. The approach to it was a bit plain, but upon reaching the cairn, panoramic views opened up of quite stunning proportions, with patches of low lying cloud adding to the atmosphere.  The bright light and haze made photographs a little tricky, but the effort to get up here was absolutely worth it just to see the views.

The perfectly calm conditions had given way to a biting wind at the summit, so we didn't hang around for too long.  A much more substantial path led us to the bealach between the two peaks, and the first of the duathletes passed us, in what can only be described as a sprint.  He was a clear 10 minutes ahead of the next competitor, who was also flying.  Down in the bealach, an incredible view down Corrie Kilbo opened up to our left, and we decided to tackle the summit of Driesh, and then return to have lunch in front of this view.  

The push up to the top of Driesh was far tougher than I expected, and the pace dropped off significantly.  It became very clear that the rest of the group were far fitter than I!  More and more duathletes passed us on the ascent, and the time between them passing us on the way up and on their way back down continued to shorten, suggesting that we were in fact nearly there.  Again the gradient tailed off and we suddenly found ourselves at the trig point, sadly engulfed in cloud.  

The group gathered for the 'we made it photo' and we headed back down, with the promise of food driving us on.  Eileen said an emotional few words about Irene, and the reason for the walk, and appropriate passing of hip-flasks commenced. 

 

The descent was made harder by duathletes hurling past us on either side, with the threat of broken limbs to pick up a constant possibility!  The view into Corrie Kilbo was even better on the way down, with low cloud now dispersing.  Lunch tasted so much better for the view and the fact that it was all downhill back to the car park.  We stopped for a fair while to relax with our picnics, as the bulk of the duathletes were passing on the narrow Kilbo Path - it actually ended up being a great bit of timing.

The descent began to take it's toll on aching knees and hips, but morale remained high throughout.  The scenery didn't get any less spectacular as we continued, with an area of felled trees opening up a view through Glen Doll that was perfect for taking some 'selfie' style shots to remember the day by.  From this point, it was only another 25 minutes or so of increasingly easy walking back to the car park, an actual toilet and refreshments.

As we returned to the car park, we were welcomed by Irene's family, and emotions were again running pretty high, as exhausted walkers felt the meaning of the occasion.  Sore legs felt that little bit better with the sense of achievement, and the knowledge that we had earned over £14,000 for CLAN cancer support in Banchory.  

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The cheque is handed over to CLAN in Banchory

 

The walk had taken us the best part of 7 hours to complete, but felt so worth it afterwards.

Some photographs of the day are shown below, please hover over them for captions, and click to view in full screen.  Photos not by me are credited accordingly.

© 2020 By Ben Freeman