Wild Scotland: Cairngorms edition

Quick overview

With more than 4500km², Cairngorms National Park is one of Scotland’s most spectacular wilderness areas and without a doubt the “top of the United Kingdom”. Climatologically, the Cairngorms are more similar to Siberian tundra than to the rest of the UK. Caledonian forests with herds of deer, rugged barren hilltops and ancient glacial valleys with tiny bothies… that’s the Cairngorms!

As we go, your guide will share knowledge with you about the landscape and the skills involved in moving through it for days on end. You can sit back and simply enjoy somebody doing the thinking for you, or you can be involved in the thought processes behind it all.

• Pickup/dropoff in Edinburgh/Glasgow + all transport in between.
• 5 Days of trekking in Cairngorms National Park with an experienced and certified guide that will share know-how with you.
• 2 Nights in Youth Hostels and visits to traditional pubs.
• As a mixed international group the core language will be English but your guide also speaks Dutch, French and German.
• Trip set up and run by Dieter and local expert Dan from Pict Expeditions

Is this for me?

Experience with multiday hiking is an advantage, suitable clothing/equipment is essential. This trip is doable by people with good basic fitness and some perseverance. We move and live as a group an adhere to the principle of “no one left behind”. Even though the goal is to sleep near (and if possible in) bothies, we will be carrying full camping gear, which means we are under no pressure to reach exact points of the end of the day. This gives us maximum flexibility to find a balance between the group’s needs and the conditions at hand.

Time period + traveling

We meet on Sunday 17/03/2019 in Edinburgh and you will be dropped off again on Saturday 23/03/2019. We’ll discuss times and locations among ourselves and try to find a solution that suits everybody. We’re flexible! Our goal is to spend the first and the last night in a Youth Hostel next to a traditional pub so we want to leave Edinburgh on time. Contact us to talk about your flight times. The nights while trekking are spent in tents or bothies. Several low cost airlines connect to the UK and we can help you work out your travel plan.

Cost & administration

The price of the trip is €600 and the trip is currently guaranteed. As we have two guides on this edition, we go up to 12 participants. 7 Out of 12 spots are still available.

The ultimate booking date is Sunday 17/02/2019

Your booking is confirmed after payment. If we need to cancel the trip due to circumstances on our behalf you receive a full refund. If you cancel on your behalf after 17/02 without anybody else taking your place, we will refund you 25% of your booking fee.

Contact me for booking details on dietervanholder@gmail.com

What is included in the booking fee?

• Guiding & planning
• Two nights in hostel + breakfast
• All transport from initial pickup until final dropoff
• Rent and use of collective gear
• Gas for stoves
• Info night

Not included:
• Travel to/from Edinburgh/Glasgow
• Personal expenses
• Food and drink besides the two breakfasts
• Personal kit
• Individual insurance

Optional extras:

• In snow conditions: Snowshoes/ski’s + avalanche safety gear
• rental tent
• rental burner

What about this individual insurance?!

Never go on a trip without good travel insurance! For this type of activity, alpine clubs offer excellent value for money insurance packages. We will not allow you to join any of our trips without current and valid insurance.


The core of the plan is to spend 5 days and 4 nights linking up the best landscapes the Cairngorms have to offer. There’s countless ways we can do that, we’re in Scotland, so we’ll use our “freedom to roam”!

You’re welcome to relax and go with the flow while taking in the landscapes. But, if you’re into learning a thing or two, you’re just as welcome to get involved in the thought processes! No dusty classroom courses here! Every day, your guides will assess the conditions, make a risk analysis and together we’ll finalize the next day’s plan. You’ll get hands on experience and tips ‘n tricks involving navigation, planning, risk analysis, bivouac, nutrition, etc… One thing is for sure. After this week you’ll know more about what’s involved in going out into the Scottish wilderness!

How tough is the average day?

At the start of the trek, you rucksack will weigh around 20kg. Everybody carries his/her own equipment and supplies. Shared items such as tents, stoves, gas… can be split. As we eat more, they’ll get lighter! We aim for an average of 5 to 8 hours of activity depending on our choices and the conditions at the time.

A likely example of what the trip could look like:

Day 1
Meeting and pickup in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Transfer to Aviemore YH. Hot meal and drinks in a traditional pub.

Suggestion for day 2: 16km 900 up, 800m down
The goal of today is Cairn Gorm, Ben McDui and eventually Hutchinson Memorial Hut where we’ll spend the night.

Suggestion for day 3: 16km, 760m up, 890m down
Via the ridge of Derry Cairngorm and Carn Crom we’ll descend down a valley that will bring us to Corrour Bothy at the foot of Devil’s Point. Devil’s point was first named “Devil’s Penis” in Gaelic, but was renamed when the queen came for a visit. ?

Suggestion for day 4: 20km, 1000m up, 1400m down
We start the day by climbing to Devil’s point and we continue via Cairn Toul, Sgor An Lochain Uiane and Meall Nan Sleac to eventually descend to Ruigh Aiteachain bothy where we’ll spend the night.

Suggestion for day 5: 20km, 1000m up, 1100m down
Today we’re heading back North. Via Carn Ban Mor, Sgor Gaioth, Sgoran Dubh Mor and Creag Dhubh we descend down to Caledonische woods where we’ll spend the night in a tent.

Suggestion for day 6: 17.5km, 790m up, 460m down

Today we explore the forests of the lower regions and make our way to Chalamain Gap. This is a rough and narrow saddle that will lead us back towards Cairngorm Mountain from where we’ll drive back to the Youth Hostel for a hot shower and a hot meal!

Day 7: traveling back!
Depending on what we agreed on before the trip we’ll leave in time to make it to Edinburgh/Glasgow so everybody can catch their transport home

Absolutely atrocious weather?!

If the weather conditions are absolutely horrendous, we can limit the trekking days to 4 and spend one extra day and night in the comforts of civilization while – for example – exploring Edinburgh. These are all things that can be discussed among us. We’re flexible.


Dieter Van Holder (1985) mainly works as a glacier- and trekking guide in Iceland and Greenland. He’s an enthusiastic and active instructor for Belgian alpine clubs and has extensive experience in most European mountain ranges. He loves sharing what he knows so don’t hold back on your questions!

UIAA Instructor Mountain Walking & Trekking
UIAA Instructor Winter Mountain Walking & Snowshoeing
AIMG Jökla 2 (hard ice guiding)
AIMG Fjalla 1 (glaciated mountain terrain guiding)
Wilderness First Responder
Vlaamse Trainersschool Instructeur B / Trainer B
UIMLA International Mountain Leader in training
EO-MTB Instructor/guide in training
Bachelor in secondary education

Dan Saulite (1982) Having grown up hiking, skiing, scrambling and climbing around the mountains of Scotland Dan Saulite gained a wealth of knowledge and experience of the Corries, Ridges and Glens which make up the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Over the years he has lead skiing, climbing, mountaineering and hiking trips and courses in the mountains of Patagonia, Alaska, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Iceland, Thailand, Peru and Spain and though these places are incredibly beautiful, awe inspiring and challenging, he has always held Scotland very close to his heart due to its spectacular scenery, wildlife and wild weather.

2 Year Mountain Guide school graduate/Instructor.
WEA certifying examiner
Hard Ice Guide
AMGA Avalanche 1
Leave no trace instructor
WEA certifying examiner
Wilderness First Responder

So how does sleeping work and what is a bothy?

In the “civilized world” we’ll use the excellent YHA Youth Hostel network. You will be booked into a shared room + breakfast. You’re free to upgrade your room at your own expense if there are any available. The hostel itself serves simple meals and there’s a traditional pub just across the street. The perfect place to share a meal and some drinks together!

During the trip we’ll spend most nights in or near “bothies”. A bothy us an unmanned shelter that can vary enormously in size and state. Expect nothing more than some walls and a roof. There’s no running water, no electricity and only very occasionally there will be a dry toilet. We’ll take water from streams or melt snow if there’s snow around.

We’ll sleep in sleeping bags + a mat. This is your sleeping comfort, so you don’t want to cut any corners here! Even when we have place in a bothy, it’s often nice for comfort and privacy to still pitch your tent.

Check out the following link to see a great video about bothies and bothy culture!