On a hot day in June 2010, we climbed Carn Ban Mor, one of the peaks in the Cairngorms.  Our quest was for dotterel, elusive little plovers which arrive on the high Cairngorms plateau every spring, and breed on the windswept summits before heading off again at the end of the summer.

We succeeded in getting great views of dotterel, but we also encountered some wonderful wild flowers on the walk up.  These provided a good excuse to take photographs and drink in the views as we rested our weary limbs.

Carn Ban Mor rises to 1,052 metres (3,090 feet) above sea level, and it isn’t classed as a ‘Munro’ simply because its near neighbour, Sgor Gaoith, rises to 3,668 feet and there isn’t enough of a dip in between them.  That sounds too much like bureaucracy to me!

Looking back, showing the snow fields

The ascent begins from Glen Feshie, to the south of Aviemore.  A rough track leads through some woods before emerging onto the open hillside;  the rest of the way is along a stony but well-defined path right up to the summit, which appears impossibly distant from lower levels.

In the boggy areas close to the woodland we found Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea), Heath Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata) and Arctic Starflower (Trientalis europaea), also known as Chickweed Wintergreen.

Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

Heath Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata)

Arctic Starflower or Chickweed Wintergreen (Trientalis europaea)

Cold winds were blowing off the still-lying snow field near the top, even though the midday sun was baking.  Underfoot, the ground was dusty with the heat, and the grasses were crisp and parched through lack of rain.  (Remember this was 2010 – the scene would have been very different last summer!)  The beginnings of mountain streams created damper patches, and here we discovered Marsh Violet (Viola palustris) and Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris).

Marsh Violet (Viola palustris)

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Frog - a surprising find, near the summit!

Alpine Clubmoss (Diphasiastrum alpinum)

At the summit, bright pink mats of Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) were growing among the scattered boulders, along with Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens).  Even on a hot summer’s day, with nothing but a few innocent-looking white clouds floating in a clear blue sky, it was easy to see how harsh and inhospitable this landscape is… and how lucky we were to experience it in such conditions.

Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) with bee

Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens)

Spring near the summit

View towards Cairn Toul and The Devil’s Point

We did find dotterel – and, much to our delight and amazement, they had tiny chicks in tow!  If you’d like to read more, you’ll find a full report and a gallery of photos by following this link to my other site, Jo’s Journal.

Dotterel with chick

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All images copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf