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A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:11 am
by Graeme D
Thursday 23rd - Friday 24th July

Two day jaunt in the Cairngorms with overnight wild camp in Glen Derry at 039957.

Decided to park at Linn of Quoich and walk up Glen Quoich and over the Clais Fhearnaig into Glen Lui. This is a longer and more tiring undertaking than heading in from Linn of Dee but is a much nicer (and generally quieter) walk in my opinion. Left car just after 11am in sunny conditions with nice light breeze. About an hour later and just as I was about to turn into the Clais Fhearnaig, the rain came on. I have been through here 3 times before and I remember before my first outing here a few years back, the guy who runs Outdoor Ed at the school where I work saying that it "always **** down in the Clais Fhearnaig". Well, three times I've been over it and never seen a spot of rain yet! I guess this was the day when my luck ran out :lol: !

2 - In the Clais Fhearnaig.jpg

Maybe it's just me, but going through this cleft, past the little lochans with the stumps and roots of dead trees sticking out always gives me the feeling of being in some kind of "valley that time forgot", as if it would not be at all surprising to see a few dinosaurs wandering past or pterodactyls circling overhead. Or maybe I should just be a bit more careful about what kind of stuff I put in my water bottle..... :?

Anyway, as faithful four-legged companion Lucy and I head down into Glen Lui for the short march up to Derry Lodge, the rain passes and the sun comes back out so it's quickly off with the waterproofs and arms and legs exposed again. At Derry Lodge it is, as always, quite busy with walkers, cyclists and the odd tent scattered around. I now have a choice to make. The general idea of these two days was to tackle Macdui via the Carn a' Mhaim arete and then onto Derry Cairngorm one day, and to do Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Chaorainn the other day with a crossing of the Moine Bhealaidh. If time, energy, weather and the general lie of the land allowed it, I was also thinking about possibly squeezing Beinn Mheadhoin into the equation somehow as well. I knew there was a good camping spot by the bridge over the Derry Burn a few kilometres further up the glen, so I decided to head for that and pitch the tent before deciding on a plan of action.

5 - Beinn Mheadhoin from upper Glen Derry.jpg

As I suspected, when I got up there I appeared to have the glen to myself, disturbed only by Lucy's delirious jumping in and out of the river. The tent was up in a matter of minutes and while the water heated up on the stove, I weighed up the options. I could see the dome of Beinn Bhreac peaking temptingly over the slopes immediately to the east, and at the same time I concluded that I basically couldn't be a*sed walking back down Glen Derry and along to the foot of Carn a'Mhaim, let alone up onto Macdui. So it was to be a quick round of the two seemingly unheralded summits of Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a' Chaorainn and the Big Guy could wait until tomorrow!

It's a straight hike up the western slopes over fairly solid ground but there is no path and in places the heather was over knee deep. At one point, mouth open gasping for air, I swallowed some king of flying insect - it hit the back of my throat and was gone before I could react! Felt a bit bigger than a common garden fly - maybe a clegg. Let's hope so! One small victory for mankind! Just hope I don't get indigestion - nothing worse than suffering a sleepless night in a tent with a bout of indigestion :( .

Eventually the going gets a bit easier as the deep heather gives way to a boulder field strewn with very large, well anchored boulders. I'm not sure Lucy found the going any easier but it certanly helped me. I thought I could see the western summit cairn but it turned out to just be a large boulder on the edge of a slight dip before another rise.

9 - Down into Glen Derry from western slopes of Beinn Bhreac.jpg

But eventually the cairn did come into view, with the Munro summit some distance further east across a shallow dip.

10 -Western Top of Beinn Bhreac, looking to summit cairn and Beinn a Bhuird.jpg

11 - From western Top of Beinn Bhreac, looking over Moine Bealaidh to Beinn Mheadhoin and Beinn a Chaorainn.jpg

By now it was late afternoon and the conditions were perfect - mostly sunny with a lovely little breeze. We wandered over to the true summit from where there are great views over to the scar of a path winding over the saddle of An Diollaid and onto the Beinn a' Bhuird plateau, as well as down Glen Quoich towards my starting point. The view also stretches north over the exposed flatness of the Moine Bhealaidh towards my next destination, Beinn a' Chaorainn with the satellite peak of Beinn a' Chaorainn Bheag just to the east of it and Beinn Mheadhoin off to the west across the Lairig an Laoigh. There are also great views west over Derry Cairngorm to the Sputan Dearg cliffs and Macdui behnd, with the Angel's Peak just visible beyond.

13 - Looking east from summit of Beinn Bhreac to main mass of Cairngorms.jpg

We descended north west before setting out across the flatlands towards our next Munro. The terrain is studded with little streams and pools but the going is mostly good, as long as you pick your spot carefully, and most of the peat hags were pretty solid underfoot. The only trouble came in boggier areas when Lucy and I both decided to leap for the same tuft simultaneously :shock: ! I think it says somewhere on this site that it is 4k across - well it certainly felt it ... and the rest. It was certainly a relief to get onto rising and stonier ground signifying the approach to the summit.

The summit cairn of Beinn a' Chaorainn is another fine viewpoint and Beinn Mheadhoin seems almost close enough to touch across the Lairig an Laoigh.

17 - Beinn Mheadhoin from summit of Beinn a Chaorainn.jpg

However, the crossing of the Moine Bhealaidh had taken more time and energy than I had expected and Lucy was giving me that look .... :thumbdown: .... the one that says "have you seen the time pal? It's WELL past my dinner time!" So we found the start of the path down into Glen Derry and apart from a section of very steep and unpleasant scree where scree surfing was the only way to go, wandered wearily and uneventfully back to the tent. I must say I really enjoyed these two - nothing earth shattering but two fine Munros in the right conditions.

I've camped just downstream from this spot a couple of times before in the month of May but this was my first time here in peak Midge season and the little buggers were having a street partyl! My veggie curry quickly became a midge madras (more protein courtesy of the flying insect world) and after a can of Carlsberg and half a bottle of Skin so Soft, I had little option but to abandon efforts to brew up and to retreat with Lucy to the safety of the tent. Even at 3 in the morning when I had to pop out to see a man about a dog, they were waiting to pounce :evil:

I awoke in the morning to the sound of raindrops on canvas. Given the dampness of the tent and the fact that the midge cloud remained firmly anchored directly above, I quickly packed a few things into the little day pack and fled down Glen Derry chewing a cereal bar en route. If I stopped for any more than a few seconds, they moved in for the kill. The rain abated slightly - hopefully it would remain dry and the tent would be nice and dry for packing away by the time I came down off Derry Cairngorm. The walk along Glen Luibeg was all new territory for me but the path is excellent and Carn a' Mhaim was clearly visible straight ahead.

19 - Carn a Mhaim from Glen Luibeg.jpg

There was however no chance of getting over the Luibeg Burn by any means other than detouring a little upstream to the bridge.

Now over the river, the ascent up the shoulder of Carn a' Mhaim began and so again did the rain. This time it looked like it was settling in! It's a fair pull up and round onto the ridge but between the clouds, there were some great views over to the Devil's Point and down to Corrour Bothy.

21 - The Devil's Point from near summit of Carn a Mhaim.jpg

At the summit the heavens opened and it closed in. This was not what I had hoped for for the walk along the arete and up onto Macdui - very unpleasant.

24 - On the Carn a Mhaim Arete heading for Ben Macdui.jpg

This continued all the way along the arete, over the bealach and up the side of the Allt Clach nan Taillear onto the Macdui plateau. A bit of quick but soggy map and compass work soon had me heading through the gloom towards the summit cairn. As the ruins of the Sapper's Bothy appeared I heard some voices but saw nothing. Could it be the Grey Man I wondered? Just his kind of weather I thought - you'd never make him out against this stuff :lol: . He'd be right there tapping you on the shoulder before you knew it, asking you what the hell you thought you were playing at up there on a day like this!!! But it wasn't him - just a group of four bedraggled looking Dutch blokes. Not quite as newsworthy, but a good deal less spooky :D . They said they were hiking from Aviemore to Braemar and enquired as to exactly which way Braemar was. :shock: Hmmm.

26 - Summit cairn and view indicator on Ben Macdui.jpg

29 - Second highest point in Britain!.jpg

Has there ever been less point to a view indicator than up here today??? Now it was back down to the ruins where I ate lunch while attempting to shelter as much as is humanly possible in the remains of the chimney. By this stage I had decided to abandon any notion of Derry Cairngorm so it was a quick heads down yomp over to the crags above Loch Etchachan, along the southern shoreline and onto the track down Coire Etchachan. I had planned to stop at the far end of the loch for a picture back along to the cliffs, but when I got there and looked back, all I could see was sheet upon sheet of driving rain :( .

After a quick respite stop in the Hutchison Memorial Hut, it was back down into Glen Derry and along to the (not dry at all) tent which was fairly uncerimoniously dismantled and stuffed into the backpack. At least the midges had packed up and gone home by this stage.

Time for non-stop march back to Linn of Quoich - 2hrs 25. No bad, although when I got to the turn off for the Clais Fhearnaig I really regretted not having parked at Linn of Dee :( .

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Re: A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:30 am
by IainG
Cracking read!! Brilliant.

You're 'unplanned' diet of flies and midges sounds like it kept you going.

Any more photos of the Carn a Mhaim to Macdui arete? I'm interested in this way up.

Re: A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:38 pm
by Graeme D
Afraid not Iain - it was pretty miserable by then and not really conducive to stopping and fishing the camera out :( . The only other one I have of that part of the walk is this one taken from the bealach and looking back to the end of the arete with the path down into the bealach visible. I'd still recommend it as a way to go - I'm sure the views over towards Braeriach and Carn Toul would be fantastic on a peach of a day!


Re: A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:25 pm
by Caberfeidh
That's an enjoyable write-up and great photies of the old place ; I haven't been back there for a while, I used to go frequently when I lived in Aberdeen. I like the idea of eating the midgies and cleggs; perhaps hillwalkers will evolve into filter-feeders like the great whales, using beards to filter out sustainance from the surrounding clouds of insects... :lol:

Re: A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:46 pm
by Graeme D
Caberfeidh - a modern Charles Darwin! :)

Re: A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:21 pm
by Michelle
Compare photos: he might BE Charles Darwin! :wtf: :lol:


Only kidding Caberfeidh :wink:

Thanks for the report Graeme, a good read. Shame your luck with the rain didn't hold out for one more trip, but it looked a good outing nonetheless!

Re: A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2009 1:19 am
by mountain coward
IainG wrote:Any more photos of the Carn a Mhaim to Macdui arete? I'm interested in this way up.

I have a few:
Cairn a Mhaim ridge.jpg
Lairig Ghru fm Cairn a Mhaim ridge.jpg
Ben MacDui on the right - you head up the slopes just out of picture but a slightly less steep angle on boulders
Devil's Point & Corrour Bothy From Carn a' Mhaim Ridge.jpg
Cairn Toul fm Cairn a Mhaim.jpg
Braigh Ribhach fm Cairn a Mhaim col.jpg

Re: A grey day on Macdui (but no Big Grey Man)

PostPosted: Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:31 am
by Graeme D
Nice photos! So that's what was behind the clouds! Me thinks it was perhaps a better day for it than when I ventured there last week! :lol: