The first walk of the year promised much on the drive to Gairnshiel with Lochnagar sparkling in the early morning sunshine. The large group of 10 were surprised when Sandy led off in the opposite direction of the hill - deliberately on this occasion. In order to take advantage of the day we headed north from Braenaloin to cross the Gairn at Tulochmacarrick and onto Coire an t-Slugain. We contoured round to the big cairn to get some respite from the bitter winds to have a coffee stop and a slight change of plan now that the tops had clagged in. We walked further east and then dropped down to the main road, flushing out a hare in the process, to catch the path past the old church and school and through farm land before enjoying lunch in a sheltered wooded area near the river.
A narrow but well constructed bridge took us over the Gairn and a very brief road section before reaching the track leading to the eastern ridge of Geallaig. While the wind remained cold with the odd flutter of snow the tops had now cleared and as we climbed, steeply at first, we were rewarded with wide open views. Too cold to stand and wait and with no shelter we naturally broke into two small groups and continued to the summit at our own pace. There was a well built shelter wall around the trig point that gave us enough shelter to have a seat, enjoy the view and eat birthday cake - many happy returns Gillie and Alan. The summit is an excellent view point: Morven, Mount Keen, Lochnagar, the Dee valley and the eastern Cairngorms.
The descent was directly down a track that ended at the cars. The biting wind was blowing snow into our faces for the first kilometre or so but we soon back down and ready for coffee and cake in Ballater.