Hiking through the Cairngorms on the Fjallraven Classic

A report from the Fjallraven Classic UK 2022

Words & photography by Luke (OP co-founder)

I honestly didn’t think I’d enjoy hiking 65km over 3 days around the same route as 200+ people as much as I did a couple of weeks ago. If any space in the UK could do a good job of dispersing that many hikers amongst its forests, glens and fords, the Cairngorm massif is probably best equipped.

I’d only been once before, hurrying through Glen Feshie on two wheels as part of an event years ago, so I was pretty excited to see some places I’d heard of but couldn't place on a map. Places made more magical and elusive by their distance to the north of most of our island - the Lairig Ghru, the Rothiemurchus, the Lin of Dee, Fords of Avon. Certainly places for wannabee energy foods to prove themselves as worthy hiking fodder.

So, to backtrack, the Fjallraven Classic is the first of its kind in the UK, with previous editions being held in Sweden, the USA, Germany, Korea and Denmark and we were kindly offered a couple of places so I went along with friend of OP Jeff Bowman (yep, him from this story).

What you get given and what you need to bring.

The premise of the 'Classic' is a multiday hike where you're mostly looking after yourself. You'll get an element of support from the organisers in the form of manned checkpoints, signposting and resupply options.

Arriving at Braemar lodge is a pretty special and you’re immediately mixing with a crowd of people from all over the world. You'll need to sign on and collect the following:

→ A 1:4000 Map

→ Trekking passport for collecting stamps at check points and some route info

→ Gas cannisters and a cute folding mug

→ As many meals as you want (I had an OP one stashed too, obvs)

→ A bright orange tag to tie to your rucksack and a (reusable) rubbish bag

→ A bag to poo in. Yep, having packed my garden trowel it wasn’t to be on this trip - it's a fine balance, using areas like National Parks for events and the organisers were keen to practice the highest standards of 'leave no trace'.

So anything not on that list, you'll need to bring yourself.

Wild camping for 200 people

I was a bit sceptical as to what hiking and camping with 200+ other people would be like but it actually turned out to be the most memorable bit of the hike. Apart from a few bottles necks at checkpoint, we found ourselves in plenty of our own space.

Short of a festival or campsite sharing that wild experience with a big group of people in tents is quite unique. On the first night, before the high point of the Lairig Ghru and the Pools of Dee, we pitched just off the path and formed a little cluster of 7 tents. Axel, who worked for Primus, bought out a gas powered heater and food and drink was shared out as we watched similar clusters form down the valley.

The second night was different. After we'd descended into the Rothiemurchus forest and begun the pull back up and over, the word at the checkpoint was that high winds and sleet were due on higher ground. It didn't take long for a small city of tents to appear. As guy ropes were rearranged to allow more tents in, whisky was shared, fairy lights were hung and plans for early starts were made. I actually loved it.

The route

From the perspective of someone on only their second visit to that part of Scotland, it has a brilliant variety of trails, scenery and outdoor culture.

From the manicured Estate Roads out via the Lin of Dee and the chunky wooden bridges that span the crystal rivers, to the iconic Courrour bothy or the Fords of Avon refuge. Paths across boulder fields, winding gravel roads, loamy singletrack through the remants of the caledonian forest. The variety of incredible trees, wild berries and flowers in there late summer prime.

The nature of the event encouraged you to slow down and enjoy living out of your rucksack for 3 or 4 days, depending on your chosen pace.

The weather was kind to us and the first day was glorious - hot enough to be greatful that you bought a water filter (not that the water from the streams needed it) but there was a good reminder of how quickly things can change in those parts on our way back down to Glen Derry when droves of rain appeared from seemingly nowhere and chased us down the valley.

Should you do the fjallraven classic?


If you're new to multi-day hiking or wild camping, it would be a brilliant intro to both with the added encouragment and safety in numbers to ease you into it.

If you're new to the Cairngorms, it also a pretty perfect way to get your bearings and introduce yourself to a really special part of the world.

If you're already a confident hiker/camper you might not finding it as challenging but can really lean in to the uniqueness of this kind of event, sharing the experience with others and really embracing the extra time to self supportd nature of it gives you. Not to mention the extras that you wouldn't get it you turned up on your own - a bigpipe escort, manned feedstops, all your can use gas and food and a mega finishers celidh just to name a few.


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