I had been wanting to do Ben Macdui for ages but had been holding off for a day with reasonable weather. With summer and t-shirt weather seemingly vanishing in the blink of an eye, I was surprised that the forecast for Friday looked clear and sunny with fairly low winds. A quick check on mountain forecast suggested the summit was going to be near freezing though so I had plenty of layers on. I had decided to do the walk from Linn of Dee, partly because it involved pinewoods and also because it meant avoiding the dreaded drive up the A9.
The drive took 3 hours and I got parked up just after 12 where my first act was to break the ticket machine with an apparently dodgy pound coin. The first 5 miles or so is on good paths beside the river and through the pinewoods. Being something of a tree hugger, I enjoy forest walks even more than hill walking so it was a best of both worlds scenario. The two giant mountains at the end was merely a bonus.
I ended up shadowing a girl for about 5 miles and was stuck in a weird limbo where she was walking just slow enough to be holding me up but also just fast enough to make it hard to get past. I had just assumed she was doing the same walk as me and she eventually crossed a bridge. I went to follow then checked the map and realised I was going the wrong way. I'm sure we were both slightly glad to be heading in different directions...
The path breaks out of the trees and starts to climb gently uphill towards the mountains
I had a bit of bother finding a good spot to ford the river but I eventually made it across dry. The path up looked steep but fairly innocuous. It turned up to be very misleading as there were plenty of false summit moments to keep it interesting. I had been absolutely boiling up to this point and was regretting having all my layers to carry but as soon as there was exposure to the wind chill, they were all hurriedly put back on along with the hat...
The path skirts along near the top of the corrie with lochan Uaine down below. I made my token navigational error just after here by somehow heading downhill instead. I spotted someone that also looked a tad lost and confused and we both had a hilarious moment of looking across and being convinced that the other person was actually on the correct path and marching confidently towards each other.
I turned around and looked back for the first time and was surprised by how barren and desolate everything looked. The phrase "great feeling of wilderness and remoteness" gets banded around too often but it seemed pretty apt up here.
Lochan Uaine with Derry Cairngorm on the other side.
I was eventually up and onto the boulder fields and the plateau. It was difficult to get any sort of decent pace going in the terrain and it felt like I was walking for ages and not actually getting anyplace due to how expansive it is.
Lots of interesting cairns, shelters etc on the summit. There was a few groups of people milling about, mostly coming up from the other side. I had wondered how busy it was going to be as the paths up didn't actually seem all that well worn. Thankfully nothing like the mob that seems to perpetually pollute the slopes of Nevis...
Unfortunately not enough of the white stuff yet to start a snowball fight.
I couldn't help but be overcome by an overwhelming sense of remoteness and wilder......eh, barren views all around.
And a wee shelter house of sorts
I didn't hang around for long as it was baltic. I retraced the path down for a bit then it was onto Derry Cairngorm over yonder.
More bouldery action ensued. I had a low energy moment going up here and managed to drop the last of my crackers and cheese onto the lovely sandy ground. I was that hungry I just had to pick them up and scoff them anyway.
2nd munro bagged, it was time to head back. Lots of boulders and a long snaking path over the hills.
Before too long I was very happy to be back in amongst the pines. Good to see the baby trees establishing themselves again. Nature finds a way.
Back on the main track, it was a bit of a long slog without any tunes. The sunset was making the sky interesting shades though. I made it back pretty much bang on my 7 hour schedule and was even lucky enough not to have been given a parking ticket. Good times.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.