Cairngorms

Friday 11th February. We had to pack all our clothes and equipment in to big bags. We also had to get some food ready. Emily and Ferdinand made flapjacks and sausage rolls. Sean made lots of sandwiches. At 9:30 at night we went to collect Nigel, Tony, Spanna, George and Buster - and lots of bags! We left Brighton at about 11 o'clock at night to drive to Scotland.   Saturday 12th February 2005. Sean and Nigel drove the van all through the night whilst the rest of us had a sleep. We got to Aviemore in Scotland at 11:30 in the morning. There was a little bit of snow on the mountains but there was none on the roads. We had a drink in a cafe and bought lots of shopping for our dinners for the week. We then drove to Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel where we are staying for the rest of the week. We unpacked our bags and got all our things ready. After eating bean and vegetable stew (with dumplings!) Sean went to collect Diego, Pablo and Andrew from Aviemore station.   Sunday 13th February 2005. When we woke up in the morning there was lots of snow everywhere! There was so much snow that the road to Cairngorm Mountain was closed. That meant we could not drive up to the mountain slopes to do some important mountain safety practice. Instead we decided to go for a walk in the forest. Everyone had to wear warm waterproof clothing and big boots! On the way, we saw lots of people skiing. After walking through the snow for a while we came to a small stone building called a bothy. Its name was Ryvoan bothy. We ate our sandwiches inside so that we could shelter from the cold.   After lunch we started walking up a big snowy hill (called Meall a' Bhuachaille). The wind was very cold and it was blowing lots of snow in to our faces. I hid in Ferdinand's back-pack to keep warm! Some people wore goggles to protect their eyes from the snow. It got so cold that Ferdinand, Phineas and Sean decided to go back down the hill. I went with them. The others carried on up the hill and we met them back round the other side at the youth hostel. By the time we got back it was very dark.   After we ate some curry for dinner we went to bed. The curry was a little too hot for the children! Monday 14th February 2005. No more snow fell overnight and the road to Cairngorm Mountain was open. We parked the minibus at the ski centre car park and trekked through the snow to a valley (a place called Fiacall Coire an t-Sneachda). On the way we had to jump across two streams and climb over lots of rocks and boulders. I travelled in Ferdinand's back pack to keep warm. My head was sticking out so I could see. The snow was very deep and Ferdinand kept sinking up to his waist. Eventually we stopped on a very steep slope so that we could eat our lunch before everyone could do some important mountain safety practice.   Unfortunately, the wind got stronger, the clouds closed in around us and it got even colder. Ferdinand was shivering a lot. It got so cold that we thought we were going to freeze on the mountain! So, Ferdinand, Phineas, Sean and Spanna decided to go back to the minibus whilst the others continued their practice. It took so long to get back that the others got back just after us. It was a very cold day in the mountains and all the children enjoyed lots of pasta for dinner. The adults ate shepherd's pie and all the children went to bed.   Tuesday 15th February 2005. Today was very sunny. Some of the snow had melted but there was still a lot around on the cars and on the ground. The mountains in the distance were still very white. I went with Diego, Sean and the children to see the reindeer on the mountain (a place called An t-Aonach). They are the only reindeer herd in Britain. Some had antlers and some didn't. At this time of year the reindeer loose their antlers. We fed them lots of food and were able to stroke their very soft fur. We weren't allowed to touch their antlers as this can upset them. Afterwards we walked to another part of the mountain and did lots of sledging. We also had a big snowball fight! Sean then took us all back to the youth hotel before he went back to the mountain in the minibus to pick up all the adults who had been doing some more mountain safety practice. For dinner everyone ate a vegetable risotto before going to bed.   Wednesday 16th February 2005, The children went for a walk in the forest with Spanna and Andrew. First they picked a route and all drew a map of the area they were going to. I travelled in Ferdinand's back-pack with my head sticking out of the top.After we stopped for lunch, Buster left one of the sledges behind. George went back to get it. Whilst we were out walking all the other Adults drove in the minibus to Aviemore to get more food for our dinners. Later that evening the children had vegetables with chick peas for dinner and the adults had vegetable crumble.   Thursday 17th February 2005 Today I went to the top of a mountain! Diego, Pablo, Buster, Sean, Phineas and Ferdinand decided to climb to the top of Cairngorm Mountain. Once again, I travelled in Ferdinand's back-pack. Sometimes I sat in the back to keep warm and at other times I was strapped to his front. We set off from a similar place to where we saw the reindeer the other day. First we walked up a long steep ridge (called Coire na Ciste). At the bottom it was very muddy and slippy because lots of the snow that fell at the weekend was now melting. But by the time we got toward the top it was very icy and extremely cold! Low clouds all around us meant that we could not see very far. We had to use a compass and a map to make sure we were walking in the right direction. Eventually we came to a part of the mountain where lots of people were skiing and snowboarding. There were special lifts which the skiers and snowboarders used to pull them up the slopes.  We carried on up. After a while, a large pile of stones emerged through the mist and the ground became flatter. The stones represent the very highest point of the Cairngorm mountain. This meant that we were 1244 meters above sea level (we started off at 590 meters and had walked about 6 kilometres by this point). Also at the top was a special little building which collects lots of information about the weather on the top of the mountain. We were the only ones there apart from a small bird which was hopping around.   We put on some extra clothing and ate some lunch but we had to leave the summit of the mountain very soon because the wind was blowing so cold. Occasionally the clouds cleared and we could see the tops of other mountains all around. To get back down the mountain we had to go down a very, very steep slope and we had to use ice axes to cut small steps in to the ice and snow. It began to get dark and all the skiers and snowboarders had gone home. We were all alone as we walked back down the mountain and under the mountain railway track. Tony made us all veggie sausages, baked beans, mushrooms and mash potato for dinner. Everyone ate lots and lots before going to bed.   Friday 18th February 2005. There was even less snow on the ground this morning. The weather forecast said there might be storms in the afternoon and that being on a mountain top could be very dangerous. As it was the last full day in Scotland everyone decided to go for a walk around a nearby lake - except Andrew and Nigel, who wanted to climb as high as they could!   Whilst we were walking we saw the big grey clouds surround the mountains in the distance and where we were it tried to snow several times - But the snow did not settle on the ground. When we got to the lake it was very sunny. There were the remains of an old castle on a small island in the water. By the time we got back to the minibus it was getting dark and it was snowing much harder. The snow was starting to settle on the ground, plants and trees. It began to get very cold and it felt very icy. Perhaps there will be lots of snow around when we wake up in the morning. Everyone enjoyed a nice warm vegetable stew with dumplings before going to bed.   Saturday 19th February 2005. There were a couple of extra centimetres of snow on the ground when we woke up in the morning. We had to pack all our things back in to our big backs and load them in to the minibus. We all then drove to Aviemore to have some lunch. As Tony, Spanna, Diego and Pablo were staying for an extra week, we said goodbye to them at the Youth Hostel and began the long drive home. We left Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and arrived in Brighton at 2 o'clock the next morning! Everyone was very sleepy after such a long journey and such a busy week.