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Carn a Mhaim and Derry Cairngorm loop from Linn of Dee

Carn a Mhaim and Derry Cairngorm loop from Linn of Dee

Postby al78 » Fri Jun 24, 2022 10:00 pm

Munros included on this walk: Càrn a' Mhàim, Derry Cairngorm

Date walked: 13/06/2022

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 30.5 km

Ascent: 1320m

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Just prior to writing this I noticed someone has posted a Ben Avon - Beinn a Bhuird route walked the week before I was in Braemar, and they have beautiful blue skies in their photos. I also noticed Braemar has had beautiful sunny weather the week after I came home. Back to normal this year, me choosing the one week to holiday in the highlands when the weather was almost entirely overcast and showery in between two much better weeks weatherwise. Braemar averages 157 hours of sun in June, I had no more than about eight hours in the week I was there.

Complaining aside, I decided to have a go at a common loop from Derry Lodge taking in Carn a Mhaim and Derry Cairngorm. My aim was not so much to bag munros, but to get some nice pictures of the geology of the area, in particular fingerprints of the last ice age. I was hoping to get some good shots of the Lairig Ghru and glen Dee.

On the basis of the MWIS forecast suggesting mostly dry with a 70% chance of cloud free Munros, I went for this walk, the first of my holiday and an ambitious one for me as I had done little conditioning beyond my usual leisure activities prior to this trip, and I thought this wouild be at the upper end of my ability. I had my mountain bike with me to get to Derry Lodge so the walking distance alone shouldn't be out of my reach. It was the ascent I was a little apprehensive about, you cannot train for big Cairngorm rounds on the poxy hills of southern England.

Set off from Braemar for Linn of Dee around 8 am and got to the car park easily enough. Got going on the bike around quarter to nine, and it was an easy ride along a good track to Derry Lodge with some nice woodland, river and glen scenery. Locked the bike at the lodge and continued on foot following the track/path over Luibeg bridge. Someone came past me on this section on a bike, so it appears possible to cycle a bit further than the lodge. It was apparent the MWIS forecast was optimistic, as all the munros I could see were in the clouds and there was no signs of the cloud breaking or lifting any time soon. I copped the undesirable 30%, just like when I am playing bridge. There is a clear path up the SE shoulder of Carn a Mhaim and prior to reaching the cloud base, there were good views of the glen back in the direction of Derry Lodge. As I neared the summit I entered the cloud (a little below 950m altitude) and reached Carn a Mhaim with no views. I did get some fleeting views down into glen Dee and Corrour bothy just prior to reaching the summit.

From Carn a Mhaim it is a straightforward ridge walk and I dropped out of the cloud. This time I got much better views of glen Dee and the Lairig Ghru. The Devil's Point and the 4000'ers on the other side of the glen were in cloud, so was glad I had chosen this route. Didn't take that long to get to the base of the dome of Ben Macdui and a 450 m sustained ascent. There was a temperamental path to start with which ended at a boulder field, but it was an easy boulder field to walk on, and progress was surprisingly good. I was getting the hang of finding a good pace to make sustained progress without having to stop to catch my breath. I soon entered the cloud again and eventually emerged onto the Ben Macdui plateau.

At this point I debated whether to nip to the summit or skirt round it. I decided to give it a miss and bypass it, firstly because the wind had picked up considerably and the rain had started, and secondly I have bagged it before, and could think of no good reason to add another mile to the walk to get to a summit with no view (in June 2017 when I reached that summit I had no view either). I carried on skirting around and above the cliffs arouind Lochan Uaine which was invisible due to the cloud. I picked up the path which took me in the direction of loch Etchachan where I briefly met a woman who had come up from the opposite direction.

There were some sizable snow patches around here, and when I droped out of the cloud I had good views of the loch, but unfortunately the surrounding peaks were in cloud so the landscape didn't look as big and dramatic as it might have on a clear day. My plan was to follow the path and leave it to turn south as I came north of Derry Cairngorm. I overshot a bit and had to loop back around to and over the 1108 m summit (Creagan a Choire Etchachan) before taking aim at Derry Cairngorm.

At this point I was in and out of the cloud as I dipped above and below the 1000 m contour. The route over Derry Cairngorm was the least pleasant. The walking was fine but I now had driving rain into the side of my face, and when rain mixes with salt from dried sweat and runs in your eyes, it stings. One thing I noticed was the strength of the wind was very variable. I was getting slammed on and near the summits but when I dropped into a col, even though the col itself was exposed to the wind, the wind dropped to a near calm. Once I'd got over Dery Cairngorm I dropped out of the cloud and stayed below it for the rest of the walk.

Coming down off Derry Cairngorm meant negotiating another boulder field, not as easy as the one on the way up Ben Macdui, and progress was slow as I was very careful with my boulder hopping. This is not a good place to have a serious injury. Once I had got past it I was on easier ground and I picked up a path that is not marked on my paper OS map, but is marked on my OS Maps app. That path skirted me around Carn Crom and took a direct route down to Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig, around the crags and straight down the hillside into the forest, from where it was a short walk back to the lodge and the bike. The ride back to the car was quick and uneventful.

I wouldn't say this was an easy walk by any stretch but it was easier than I thought it was going to be given I had not done much training prior. I did get a bit of soreness in my knees and wished I had brought my poles, but otherwise I had no ill effects or bad muscle soreness the next day, which surprised me. Back in 2017 when I did a Cairn Gorm-Ben Macdui loop from the ski centre, my hamstrings were in agony the next day.
Back in the glen and the woodland, a short walk from Derry lodge.
Descending to glen Lui.
Glen Derry.
On the final descent. More open empty landscape.
I think that is looking towards Beinn Mheadhoin and Beinn a Chaorainn when the cloud had lifted a bit, but I could be wrong.
Huge empty landscape.
Heading towards loch Etchachan.
You could almost ski on that.
Cliffs to the ESE of Ben Macdui.
Glen Dee, if only it were a clear day. So much for a 70% chance of cloud free munros!
Lairig Ghru.
Devil's Point, glen Dee and Corrour bothy.
Trying and failing to get a photo of the Devil's Point.
On the way up Carn a Mhaim looking back to Gleann Laoigh Bheag and Derry Lodge.
Luibeg Burn
Lui Water on the way to Derry Lodge

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