Expedition to Loch Etchachan

posted by Alan Sinclair - 12 Oct 2009, 6:33 p.m.

After a conversation about Scotland and the lack of "lakes" with my flatmate around 3 months ago, it sparked off the idea of rowing on as many as possible as a lifetime ambition. It turns out there's over 400 of them and the majority are practically big puddles! So, tailoring the ambition, I decided rowing on the "Top Trumps" would be a far better plan - biggest, longest, deepest, highest, most northerly, (you get the idea!).

Researching on the internet that night I found that the loch of most significant size and greatest altitude was Loch Etchachan. With it situated pretty well between Ben Macdhui and the Cairngorm Summit, at over 3000ft, its glacial history and around 600m of rowable length, it seemed like an excellent starting challenge.

So, getting in touch with family, I managed to (literally) rope my brother Colin into helping me. It would be a 9 mile hike from the car park at Linn o Dee up to the loch with rigged-up boat strapped over our shoulders with bags and blades being carried too!

So, at 7am, on the 'Glorious' 12th August 2009, we set off to drive the 2 hours from Aviemore to the start of our hike at the Linn of Dee. The preceding evening, my mother, being the sensible and safety conscious one, which all mothers are, had a bit of a go at us and told us how stupid we were to do it without any real safety back-ups. She must've just been jealous though, because she ended up coming along too!

The first 4 miles of the walk was on a pretty well-used track so we had no problem at all in overtaking (whilst getting funny looks) other hill walkers. We were asked several times what we were doing while walking and the Game Keeper for the area asked whether we were doing it for charity. After I responded with "na, its just for fun!", He shook his head and said "Yar aff yar bloody heeds!".

We made it up to the Hutchison Memorial Hut at the foot of the actual mountain and as I had no intention on stopping, I pushed Colin up, persuading him with a break at the top and despite a couple of gusts of wind throwing us off balance momentarily, we manoeuvred through the tricky and incredibly steep path without any real problems. Getting over the ridge and looking back at where we came from, it felt great knowing, its highly unlikely someone has been as crazy as to carry a Stampfli with blades up 9 miles to row on a tiny little piece of water at the back of beyond.

Putting the boat down in the grass by the waters edge, we waited for my Mum and Colin's girlfriend to arrive to take some photographs. After throwing a sandwich, banana and a mint yo-yo down my throat, I got ready to go out first. It was an eerie feeling getting in. The water was ice cold, being frozen the majority of the year, and as you move out into the middle, it darkens to black as the loch bed plummets! But I'd be lying if I didn't say it was one of the most amazing bits of water I've rowed on. I took little heed of my mothers instructions of "don't go too far because I'm not coming in for you if you capsize!" and I rowed the full length of the loch, throwing in a couple bursts for fun.

My little brother then had his go but due to the wind getting up and heavy rain coming on, he ended up coming in a bit early so we could crack on with the return journey. We stopped off at the Hutchison Memorial Hut on the way back down and had a bit more to eat while writing our names and story in the hut's log book.

The downhill journey in hill walking, I find, is a completely different matter altogether, being significantly harder on the legs and is if anything, more dangerous than uphill. But my little bro' did an awesome job leading the way and if you disregard my sore feet, we didn't have any issues.

Getting back to the car park around 6.30pm, we were greeted by an enormous fanatical crowd (of midges'!) and my Dad, who had actually walked in the first 5 miles with us. We packed bags, tied on the boat and made our way into Braemar to have probably the most deserved chippy ever (I had 2 deep-fried haggis - something I feel Henley is really missing out on!).

Some pics of this event appear in the Gallery

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