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Settling scores in the Cairngorms (Part 1) - Derry Cairngorm

Settling scores in the Cairngorms (Part 1) - Derry Cairngorm

Postby Graeme D » Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:54 pm

Munros included on this walk: Derry Cairngorm

Date walked: 09/06/2012

Time taken: 4.7 hours

Distance: 16.3 km

Ascent: 918m

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I was leading a Silver Duke of Edinburgh Assessment Expedition over three days from Invercauld Bridge to Linn of Dee. The route went along behind Braemar Castle to the Linn of Quoich, up Glen Quoich and over the Clais Fhearnaig into Glen Lui, up to Derry Lodge where we would camp the first night, along Glen Luibeg to Corrour Bothy and then down the River Dee to White Bridge for a second night, and a high level circular route above the Geldie Burn on Day 3 followed by the walk back out to Linn of Dee.

With four of our most experienced leaders out with the two groups, we were quite happy to accommodate individual "side trips" in the knowledge that we still had "cover in the field" so to speak! Besides, being an assessment, the leadership style really should be a little more "hands off" than during training trips.

On the Sunday (Day 2), two of my colleagues fitted in the Corbett Sgor Mor, thus forming the advanced guard taking the more direct route from Derry Lodge to White Bridge. The other one squeezed in Carn a'Mhaim and a walk along the arete before making a steeper than expected descent down into the Lairig Ghru and bringing up the rear. Yours truly got to do the spade work on the Sunday and shadow the groups in a more hands on role, meeting up with them at Corrour Bothy after the low level walk from Derry Lodge. My "personal time" had come the previous evening when I had set off from our campsite by the bridge by Derry Lodge just before 7pm and headed up through the trees onto the crags of Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig before ascending the long broad ridge around the side of Carn Crom and up onto the boulder strewn cone of Derry Cairngorm.

My first real dalliance with DC had come in July 2009 when I had it in mind to do it as part of a circular route also including Carn a'Mhaim and Ben Macdui. However, on that particular day (the second day of a fairly arduous overnighter), I decided by that stage that I was done with ascent for the day and so descended down Coire Etchachan into Glen Derry for the walk out.

My second flirtation with this particular mountain had then come in January 2011 when, after a particularly memorable Friday night walk in on ice from the Linn of Quoich and a rip roaring evening in Bob Scott's, I altered my plans the following day, opting not to tackle DC and Mheadhoin but rather to do Sgor Mor and the Graham Creag Bhalg instead. No real regrets about that as that turned out to be a belter of a day on those two hills anyway.

Then the following month, in February 2011, Derry Cairngorm really incurred my wrath when, after another dark Friday night walk in (this time in increasingly deep snow from Linn of Dee followed by a cold night in the tent in Glen Derry) I was eventually beaten back at Loch Etchachan after a mentally and physically exhausting trudge up Coire Etchachan. I was on 98 Munros at the time and, after ticking off Mheadhoin, DC was to have been number 100. It never happened, although my report of heroic failure in extreme conditions did win me a Report of the Month runner-up spot that month, which was some consolation for my suffering.

So, it was payback time. Time to settle an old score once and for all. I even had it in my mind, what with it being almost the longest day, that I might even manage to settle the other old score from that day too and squeeze in Mheadhoin, but we'd see how things went. Unlikely I thought.

So with my three colleagues happily holding the fort and looking forward to a quiet Saturday night in, I flung a few essentials into the lightweight squashable daypack which I had rammed down into the depths of my big 3 day pack and set off up the path onto the ridge.

Derry Lodge area and Glen Lui from Creag Bad an t'Seabhaig

Glen Luibeg, Sgor Mor and Beinn Bhrotain

Initially the weather did not look like much to write home about, but as I climbed up the long ridge towards Carn Crom, a kind of miracle seemed to unfold! The good weather and clear skies seemed to follow me from the south and west as I progessed up the ridge. A few guys had passed through our campsite earlier having come off Macdui and they'd said that it had been pretty grim and clagged in up there, but now it was steadily clearing, almost visibly, with every step I took.

Glen Lui and beyond from further up the ascent ridge

Derry Cairngorm summit to the left, Beinn a'Chaorainn to the right

Clouds and blue skies over Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui

Beinn Bhreac and Carn na Drochaide

South down the ridge over Carn Crom

Carn a'Mhaim

Closing in on the summit

A jumble of Munros beyond the Sron Riach ridge - Carn a'Mhaim, Beinn Bhrotain, Monadh Mor, the Devil's Point and Cairn Toul

By the time I reached the summit, it was around 9 o'clock on a glorious summer evening. I got a few text messages out and pranced around for 20 minutes or so taking shots of myself and the surrounding mountains from every conceivable angle, before heading off the north side of the summit cone towards Creagan a'Choire Etchachan.

Gotcha! - south from the summit

What a way to spend a fine summer evening!

The Gorms in all their glory

Wandering the summit boulder field

Macdui from Derry Cairngorm summit

Lochan Uaine across Coire Sputain Dearg

Descending towards Creagan a'Choire Etchachan

Stunning skies above Macdui

Beinn Mheadhoin and Beinn a' Chaorainn

Derry Cairngorm, Carn a'Mhaim and the Sron Riach ridge from the north

With one old score now laid to rest, I had to make a decision about whether to try and kill the two birds with the one stone. However, Mheadhoin was still clinging stubbornly onto it's grey hat and I was only carrying OS sheet 43 and not 36, so I would be mapless. I was less concerned about my ability to navigate safely onto and the off the summit plateau of Mheadhoin as the possibility of not being sure I had hit the true summit. There was plenty of daylight left - in fact it was doubtful that it would really get truly dark tonight - but in the end, after sitting watching the sun set over Loch Etchachan and the crags of Carn Etchachan, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Part 2 of this report will just have to wait a bit longer! :(

Sunset over Loch Etchachan

Cairn Gorm and Beinn Mheadhoin across Loch Etchachan

Red skies at night over DC

So I picked myself up and headed back down through Coire Sputain Dearg, a place that will be forever immortalised in my memory as featuring in a conversation between two of the group of climbers with whom I shared Bob Scott's bothy that January night last year - "You fancy climbing in Coire Sputain Dearg tomorrow?" "Ah'm no f***ing going f***ing climbing in f***ing Coire Sputain f***ing Dearg ya f****ing **********!" :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:

I stopped on the way down to sit atop a large boulder in the growing dusk and savour the can of lager I had carted with me (as I said, essentials only in the little pack!) before continuing down past the start of the Sron Riach ridge and out onto the Glen Luibeg path, which I managed to walk along in short sleeves and without the need of a headtorch, despite it being gone 11pm.

Coire Sputain Dearg lager stop

I was back at the tent just after 11.30, happy to have settled an old score and seen Derry Cairngorm at her best! :D :D :D :D

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Graeme D
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Re: Settling scores in the Cairngorms (Part 1) - Derry Cairn

Postby ChrisW » Fri Jun 15, 2012 4:06 pm

Cracking report Graeme, I reckon that lump owed you a good day. I remember your report from Jan 2011 as one of the first I commented on. It had me thinking that you folks on here were a bit mental.......nothing has yet changed that thought :lol: :lol:
That conversation from the climbers in Bob Scotts made sounds about right to me :lol:
Great report, congratulations on putting that one to bed at last :thumbup: :D
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Re: Settling scores in the Cairngorms (Part 1) - Derry Cairn

Postby gammy leg walker » Fri Jun 15, 2012 10:38 pm

Cracking report Graeme,and also well done in finally bagging this one.
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