We highly recommend that you spend a few minutes to read through these questions. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have further questions you would like to ask or anything that you would like clarifying in more detail.
How fit do I need to be? As fit as you are. We will plan your Cairngorm Trekking experience to the level of the least fittest member of your party and the kind of trekking experience you would like. It also depends what you would like to do. Fast trekking over a number of days across mixed terrain of high mountains and plateaus, with repeated descents and ascents in and out of valley systems, will need a good level of fitness. A more leisurely single day trek through valley systems would be achievable with a much lower level of fitness. What we really ask is that you are totally honest with us when you fill in our medical and fitness questionnaire.
How much do I have to carry? On a multiday trek we will aim to keep your total pack weight between 8 and 12 kilos but this will be dependent on the weight of your own personal gear and whether you are sharing a tent or not. For couples, the fitter of the two could carry the tent and other shared items, to reduce the weight for the other. We also reduce the amount carried by using high quality lightweight equipment and not carrying significant amounts of water but by treating it ‘on the go’. For longer multiday treks we also use restocking points so the amount of food carried is reduced.
How can I prepare my fitness level prior to a trek? If being active is a new or returning experience for you, we highly recommend that you discuss your fitness and physical well being with your medical practitioner. The best way to prepare for trekking is by fast walking whilst carrying a small weighted rucksack, initially building up to 45 minutes and then longer local walks. Hill training can be gradually included in the form of stairs and stepping. Any aerobic exercise will also be of benefit and could include cycling, running, swimming and rowing.
Do I need personal insurance? Each Trek Leader holds public liability insurance. It is recommended that individual walkers/trekkers hold their own liability and personal holiday activity insurance. The BMC [British Mountaineering Council] and MCofS [Mountaineering Council of Scotland] provide public liability and insurance cover specifically for activities in mountainous areas and membership of one of these organisations is worth considering. Trekkers from the EU and beyond should be able to get bespoke insurance from their own mountaineering organisations.
What are the Cairngorms? The Cairngorms are the largest single mountainous area in Britain, with much of the land over 900 metres, including 18 Munros, such as Ben Mac Dui, Britain’s second highest mountain after Ben Nevis. It is an extensively linked land with high granite plateaux and deep glacial valleys. These provide a range of environments including the beauty of subarctic highlands, atmospheric granite tors, gladed glens, temperamental streams and rivers, mountain lochs and ancient Caledonian forest. The Cairngorms sit within the Cairngorm National Park, Britain’s newest and largest National Park. In terms of trekking, the Low Cairngorms give some of Scotland’s finest river and valley walking. The mid level hills demand more and offer in return increasing adventure and isolation. The high Cairngorms give real mountain challenges and need strength and skill to trek across. High or low, the Cairngorms are one of Britain’s grandest mountain areas and its last true wilderness.
What is the weather like in the Cairngorms? In general the Cairngorms are drier than the mountains on the Western side of Britain. The high Cairngorm mountains lose their deep winter conditions around May and this doesn’t generally return until October. July and August, even at the highest levels, can be comfortably warm on the fairest weather days, and hot and humid in the valleys. As with all mountain areas, the weather can change rapidly and we insist that you are equipped and prepared for all conditions. All treks are planned with reference to detailed and localised mountain weather forecasting. Rain and wind is always a risk although generally less frequent in the summer months when calmer, clearer days can predominate. Unlike the Alps and Pyrenees the Cairngorms don’t usually generate their own afternoon storm systems.
What happens if the weather is really bad? One of the keys of successful trekking in upland areas is not to rigidly stick to original plans and objectives irrespective of the weather. As conditions change we will adapt your trek to ensure your safety and comfort. Rain and poor visibility would not necessarily need significant route changes but we might look at different objectives and wild camp sites. However, in the case of high winds and snow conditions we would change a high level trek onto lower routes. In extreme weather conditions we would look to cancel your trek or cut it short. In such exceptional cases we would reimburse you accordingly.
How rigid are planned routes? Not at all and we believe ongoing flexibile planning will give you the best experience. We do not follow fixed trekking routes and timetables. We believe strongly in the freedom to wander and explore. Your trekking route will be continuously assessed by your guide and adapted in relation to the groups performance, weather conditions, speed of progress and what you would like to do and see. Your group leader will suggest route changes and negotiate these with you.
Do you offer set trekking routes on set days? Throughout the year we offer a number of Speciality Treks, though routes are varied and not rigidly kept to and are based on flexible planning.For us this allows for a spirit of adventure and the need and desire to be adaptable. Our trekking provides more opportunity for exploration and for catering for your specific requirements. It is also kinder to the environment. Using the same routes and wild campsites would put an unacceptable strain on the environments we so dearly love.
What about midges? Fortunately, the wee little beasties are less frequent and annoying in the Cairngorms than in the western areas of Scotland. Breeze is the key to keeping the midges away and we always look to avoid walking and camping in sheltered and humid micro environments where midges can be more prevalent. We also provide all trekkers with their own midge head net, midge repellant and all our tents are midge proof.
What about ticks? Ticks are present in most mountain areas of Britain. They are generally harmless but can pass on Lymes Disease which, left untreated, can cause lasting health problems. If you show signs of infection [usually a localised and obvious rash around the bite area], a clear diagnosis of Lyme’s Disease is detectable with a blood test and treatable with antibiotics. All our Trek Leaders carry tick removers [special kind of tweezer], and will advise you on how avoid ticks, to check and remove them, and give you clear advice if you think you have been infected.
Can you arrange transport to and from different end and start points? Yes. Not all treks have to be circular and we can offer portage to and from start and end points.
What is the minimum age for trekking? For single day treks there is no minimum age limit and as always we will plan your trek in relation to the needs of the least able member. With very young children you will need to consider the duration of the trek. For multiday trekking we have a minimum age of 13 years of age because of the stamina needed and equipment we can provide, although this age limit might be reduced in discussion with us and at our discretion.
What about youth groups? We actively encourage younger trekkers but insist that under 18’s have a responsible adult over the age of 18 with them.
What if I fall ill or I am injured during a Trek? Our Trek Leaders will always look at your well being as a priority and will use their First Aid skills and medical knowledge to the best of their abilities. Non serious illness/injury will be managed as appropriate and the trek curtailed if necessary and, where possible, vehicular pick up arranged from the nearest road. However, if you have a life threatening medical emergency we would not hesitate to evacuate you through a Mountain Rescue call out. Importantly, if you feel ill during a trek you must tell the Trek Leader who will then decide on the best course of action. All Trek Leaders carry a fully registered Personal Locator Beacon [PLB] which alerts the emergency services, via satellite, at a push of a button. Activating a PLB from anywhere in the UK, including the Cairngorms, would automatically identify the trekking party’s location and put a rescue process into immediate operation. All our Trek Leaders have up to date Wilderness First Aid certification.
Can disabled people Cairngorm Trek? We believe the mountain environments should be accessible to all and would love to say yes in all cases. However, we would have to discuss this with you on an individual basis. Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly so we can talk to you personally about this.
What if I have a chronic medical condition? As long as we know what the condition is, this should not stop you trekking within your physical limits, though each condition will be different and will need discussing with us on a personal basis. People who have self managing conditions such as diabetes and asthma should not have an issue as long as they carry the correct management system with them.
What if I have severe allergies? We would generally class a severe allergy as one that leads to anaphylactic shock. This should not stop you trekking but we would put in place an additional action plan and, if necessary, training so our Trek Leader will know how to deal with your specific case, especially if this includes the use of an Epipen.
Can I use your gear for self guided expeditions? Yes. We can provide all our lightweight gear for hire. You just need to tell us what you need and we will charge per item per day over the period of your expedition. We will also provide tuition on using the gear correctly and if you want, provide all of your nutritional needs as well. Additionally, we can provide you maps, guide books, prepare routes and meet up half way through your expedition for restocking of food. A further option is to let us guide you for the first day then leave you to your own devices. Please contact us directly for more information relating to self guiding opportunities.
Are dogs allowed on Cairngorm Treks? We have no problem with this as long as your pet is well behaved and you stick rigidly to the countryside code and, on multiday treks, that they don’t sleep in your tent [under the vestibule awning would be OK]. You will also have to consider how you will feed and water your dog and how the food is going to be carried – by you or the dog. The fitness of your animal will also be something you need to consider.