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PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 8:52 pm
by houdi
My route of 38 kms (23.6 miles) was made up of 11 kms (6.8 miles) cycling & 27 kms (16.8 miles) walking.

Back in Scotland for my yearly visit. I’d originally planned to do the Grey Corries on this particular day, but MWIS gave a seventy percent chance of clear summits for the Cairngorms. I’d brought my bike up with me from Devon, so this was a perfect opportunity to use it.
Must say I didn’t exactly enjoy the bike in to Derry Lodge. I’ve got a customised GT Aggressor but, these days, I only bike canal tow paths (nice and flat). I would be glad of the bike at the end of the day though.
Rapid snow melt meant the rivers and burns were in spate. The ford across the Luibeg Burn was not an option and I had to do the annoying detour over the bridge. It wasn’t quite so bad going in, but an unwelcome addition to the mileage on the return leg. Incidentally, the path from the bridge back to the main route needs some serious attention as it’s a bit of a quagmire. Elsewhere, the Cairngorm paths are excellent. The best I’ve seen anywhere.
I’ve never been to the Cairngorms before, only passed them on the A9. From pictures I’ve seen, I always imagined they were big flat tundra type hills. When I rounded the bottom of Carn Mhaim into the Lairig Ghru, I got my first major shock of the day. The place is spectacular and the mountains pretty intimidating. Never seen anything like it. I met three lads coming from the Courror Bothy on their way back to Derry Lodge. They asked what my plans were and I pointed to the ridge across the valley. “They’re big, aren’t they?” I commented. One of the lads broke into a grin. “Yeah, they’re the real deal, mate. They’re not the Lake District”. I’d just spent eight and a half hours on the hills around Buttermere on Friday. This definitely wasn’t the Lake District. Incidentally, it took me 2 hours exactly from Derry Lodge to the Courror Bothy in the Lairig Ghru.
I’ve got this ascent technique which my old walking buddy Stu taught me. Previously, I used to go at it full pelt and have to stop frequently for rests. Now, I ascend as slowly as possible, a slow, steady plod. And it works. I can go from the bottom to any summit without stopping. The last time I did the Ben, I went from the Ben Nevis Inn to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg without stopping. It might seem unlikely, but it’s actually quicker than going in short bursts and stopping continually to catch your breath. I went from the Courror Bothy to the bealach at the bottom of the Devil’s Point in 35 minutes exactly. I even surprised myself. My preconception of the Cairngorms kicked in here and I expected to be walking on grass for some reason. Quite the opposite in reality, as I found myself negotiating a mass of boulders all the way to the summit of Devil’s Point which gives a lofty viewpoint south, with the hills of Glenshee prominent. Still a reasonable amount of snow around. Come Thursday it was to change dramatically when a foot of snow was dumped over this region. Not worthy enough to be reported on the national TV news, however.
Almost forgot to mention the ptarmigan. Lots of them around and even the odd mountain hare which were now grey to blend in with the boulders. They’d stick out like a sore thumb come Thursday.
Boulders predominated on my planned ridge walk taking in three Munroes. They can largely be avoided by a path rising diagonally to the left on the hefty pull up to the Munro Top of Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir, but not so on Cairn Toul which is one massive boulder-fest. This peak appeared as a distinctly pointed mass so far, and I was surprised to find a flat top running parallel with the valley of the Lairig Ghru. The cairn at the top of the ascent appears not to be the summit and you have to continue across to the summit shelter overlooking Coire an Lochan Uaine which is marked on OS maps as 1291 metres. Couldn’t venture anywhere near the edge along here as there were still some pretty hefty (not to mention very soft) cornices.
Amazingly, Lochan Uaine itself was frozen solid, totally contradicting what was happening elsewhere as the snow was melting rapidly and tumbling down the mountain sides in torrents into the River Dee. A few years ago (2010, I think) when temperatures of -26C were recorded in the Lairig Ghru, I reckon they must have been measured in the vicinity of this lochan.
The Munro of Angel’s Peak (or Sgor an Lochan Uaine, to assign its proper name) has to be one of the easiest objectives on the Munro calendar. After dropping down to the bealach it took me only ten minutes to gain the summit. It doesn’t appear to be worth its Munro status from Cairn Toul, but it’s a magnificent perch up there right on the very edge of the coire with the summit of Breariach directly opposite. I would love to have bagged Breariach as well, but I’m told it’s a return trip of over two hours to walk all the way round the coire rim and back. Time was the factor here as, fitness wise, I felt in good enough shape to do it. Something told me I should have set off earlier in the morning.
The great bulk of Ben McDui dominates views across the valley with its vast corries and gullies. From the Lairig Ghru an ascent path rises almost vertically up Coire Clach nan Taillear to the summit: a frightening looking route only for the supremely fit or those with masochistic tendencies. I like a challenge, but I think I’ll give that one a miss on my next visit.
The return leg to Derry Lodge took ten minutes less than the plod in. I got attacked by midges for a short stretch after the Luibeg Bridge despite the biting season not being for another month. Obviously our extended winter has affected their body clocks. Anyway, the return leg took ten minutes less than the outgoing one. Wasn’t half glad to see my bike at Derry Lodge. I arrived back at the Linn of Dee bang on seven o’clock, exactly eleven hours after starting out.
Loved the Cairngorms. The long walk in makes you feel as if you really are in the heart of wild mountain country, and the first sight of those huge, scary mountains takes your breath away. As the man said, they’re the real deal.

Glen Luibeg & Carn Crom

Luibeg Bridge

Approaching Devil’s Point

Lairig Ghru

Devil’s Point, Stob Coire an-t Saighdeir, & Cairn Toul

Devil’s Point & River Dee Footbridge

Corrour Bothy

Looking towards Cairn Toul from Devil’s Point

Beinn Bhrotain

Ben McDui from Devil’s Point summit cairn

Cairn Toul from Devil’s Point

Looking towards Angel’s Peak & Braeriach

A frozen Lochan Uaine

Looking towards Cairn Gorm from Cairn Toul

Cairn Gorm

North from Cairn Toul

Monadh Mor & views south-west

South from Cairn Toul summit

West from Cairn Toul summit

Angel’s Peak & Breariach from Cairn Toul

Cairn Gorm across Ben McDui

Ben McDui

Stob Coire an-t Saighdeir from Cairn Toul

Cairn Toul from Angel’s Peak

Re: Cairngorms

PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2013 10:22 pm
by Cairngormwanderer
Glad you enjoyed your day out in the Cairngorms. Don't be put off by how the McDui path looked like from across the glen - it's nowhere near as steep as it looks.

Re: Cairngorms

PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 8:34 pm
by houdi
I'll take your word for it, Cairngormwanderer. Hoping to do Ben McDui next year when I'm up, only I'm planning to do it via Glen Derry & Loch Etchachan so I can get to see some different parts of the Cairngorms.

Re: Cairngorms

PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2013 11:02 pm
by Cairngormwanderer
No worries. Going via Etchachan is possibly the nicest way up anyway.