Long time user of Walkhighlands, first time poster. I decided to take advantage of the decent weather last weekend and really push myself in the Cairngorms and have a day out with a friend and her sister. We arrived at 8am to the Cairngorm ski centre car park (PH22 1RB for satnavs) having registered a route with the rangers. The email went along the lines of "if the car's still there on Tuesday, then come get me".
Setting off into the clouds along windy ridge, while mentoring my friend through the map reading gave a nice warm up, but we were still denied the views from Cairngorm. The Ptarmigan station appeared suddenly and then the top on what was a straight forward ascent to start the day. From there we headed South West along the ridge to Lochan Buidhe where we had decided we'd make a decision about whether Ben Macdui was doable. As it was still cool in the clouds we carried on to the peak, had lunch and then a look around at the memorial. There's still a small amount of wreckage left there along with a plaque commemorating the 5 aircrew who lost their lives there in 1942. Having done this we carried along the clear path Northwards to where we'd split as a group.
The search for the path marked on the OS 1/25K into Lairig Ghru just north of the 01 Northing was hampered by cloud in the valley. After confirming that the girls were happy how to get back to the car (they had their own map and compass and by now a clear view almost the whole way), I began down what looked very like a path as far as I could see. The clouds having hidden most of the 'path' (bearing a strong resemblance to a rockfall on reflection) I was blissfully unaware a lot of the way down but got there unscathed. I'd not recommend this route again and would say there are easier ways to get across to Breariach.
Stopping again to take in the crashed Oxford just east of Breariach was a goo excuse for a breather and time estimate. It was now around 4pm, but as we'd had a leisurely walk so far I still had fresh legs. I'd like to say thanks to the three people I met at the top who offered me a dram, and hope they enjoyed the rest of their night. From there, I carried on along the ridge with the eventual goal of camping near Carrour bothy.
Stops for tea at the Angel's peak and Cairn Toul, collecting water every time I passed it and a few pictures on Devil's point (I expected a lot more form this based on the name) meant that I got down to Carrour just after 9pm. Setting up the tent was quick with he breeze dying just as I closed myself in for the night. With the swarm of midges I treated myself to a lie in until 7am and set off at 8 having signed the book in the bothy. Overall day 1 was 29km and 2000m height. Dinner was a veggie hotpot and raspberry turnover.
Carn a Mhaim was the first munro of the day, and in hindsight, I should have carried on around to the proper path on the Eastern side. Instead I decided to go straight up from the Southwest, which at least gave me and opportunity to scramble over some rocks. As this took it out of me, I stopped at the top for chocolate and a drink and forgot to pick up my hat. If anyone finds a tan baseball cap near there, I hope it helps you out as I certainly felt its loss. Live and learn I guess, apologies for littering.
After this, I walked along the ridge towards Ben Macdui, climbing up the path on the South side. This path goes through a boulder field, so watch your footing, also you get the reflected heat from the sun to make it hotter. There's an opportunity to collect water again near NN985974, though you do need to drop off the path. As it was already around 25C at 10am and very sunny, remembering the lost hat, I'd recommend getting water whenever you can, even though the snow melt around there does keep the streams running. From nearly the top at 12, I headed over towards Derry Cairngorm where I had a late lunch and coffee at 2 after following (being dragged up the hill) by a group of physios with two dogs one of which was a collie that was very keen for me to throw a stick. next on the agenda was Beinn Mheadhoin where large rock formations are pretty awesome to see. By now i was flagging, and had an isotonic drink and double decker to motivate me along. the next munro was a challenge, with the steep start up from Allt an t-Seallaidh beign a real struggle but eventually i was treated to the view of the Fords of Avon. Dropping down here to the North and the crossing the river until I could see the bothy took a lot of concentration, and if I'm honest I had had too much sun so the shelter was very welcome. i stayed overnight, had a pasta bolognaise for dinner and the slept like a log until 6am. There was a gnawing noise for a few minutes overnight, I suspect a rodent was trying to get in but my food was all in my rucksack hanging up. Of note, if you do decide to carry a caribiner around for this purpose, there are hooks at FOA refuge. Day two was 26km and 1850m gain so I definitely burned up some calories.
Day three, crunch time. Big question, do I head back straight away, or is Bynack More on the cards. After a decent breakfast and two coffees which were absolutely no influence on my decision making I decided to go for it. The walk north the path marked on the OS map just north of the 06 Northing was warm, already, by 8 am
Also, he path is only really distinct on the side of the hill, not when you're trying to find it. Eventually, i got up there, and was treated to a great view all round. I saw all the way I'd come so far and got a real boost. Here I decided to change tops and the two days of rank sweat was starting to get a bit much. The walk across the plateau to the saddle was a nonevent, except for stopping to check out the way up Cairngorm.
More water collection, more puritabs at the saddle and then it was a slog up Cairngorm. With the heat, I was doing 15 mins of effort, then a water stop. I genuinely though i was going steady, but it turns out i was up there in 40 mins. After this, it was the walk down to the car, with tired legs threatening to buckle. The amount of people headed up was a good excuse to chat for a few minutes now and then and i eventually got to the car around 1pm. Day 3 was 15.5km and 900 m height.
Overall, a great trip out, some great moments where you look around and can see noone. You're totally self reliant and feeling alive. If I could change one thing, I'd not lose the hat as I'm writing this with the radiation from my forehead threatening to melt the laptop, even with factor 30 having been applied hourly.
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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.