Gertrude came into my life last year. She is a sturdy lady, bright yellow and inflatable. No, I don’t have a weird obsession with the Simpsons, she is an Alpaka packraft, the perfect cruise vessel for exploring all of Scotland’s peaty puddles.
I wasn’t convinced when Andy at Backcountry Boating first told me about them. My thoughts were along the line of “that’s a bloody expensive rubber dinghy with a fancy name”. However the fanatical look in his eyes eventually convinced me to try. An outing on loch Morlich and then a two day trip to Inverpolly later and I was convinced. More than that, I needed one!
There is something that feels wonderful, tramping over the moor to a damp patch somewhere in the heart of scotland, and in 10 minutes your boat is floating and ready to escort you across the watery channels. Its a way of getting to places you wouldn’t otherwise, of exploring the lochs and small peaty streams otherwise inaccessible unless you really like hiking with a canoe.
However it was a while until Backcountry boatings hire fleet came up for sale and I could afford one. Since Gertrude arrived, winter took a firm grip on Aviemore and apart from from the odd splash she was stashed away in favour of crampons. Then recently, spring sprung. We had been waiting for a chance to hike up to Scotlands highest Loch, situated in one of Braeriachs corries. Loch Coire an Lochan ( imaginativly loch of the corrie of the lochan) sits back into the mountain, hidden from Aviemore. The Corrie itself always looks amazing and I had been wanting to get into it for ages, but it had always seemed a bit like hard work to go without much reason.
Managing to stomp our way through the old snow patches, it didn’t take long to reach the corrie. As we came over the final rise we were met, not with the icy blue water we were expecting but a beautiful white frozen vista. Turns out that the loch was still under a foot of ice! We managed to find a small puddle in the outflow to play in and it made a lovely place to camp. Only disturbed in the night by a curious Ptarmigan that decided to have a midnight grumble right outside the tent.