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Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!


Postby dogplodder » Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:10 pm

Route description: Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm

Munros included on this walk: Derry Cairngorm

Date walked: 18/06/2014

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First time I did the walk in from Linn of Dee was with full packs in the 1990s to camp with friends and son Doug in Glen Derry. We pitched on a level grassy spot by the meandering Derry Burn and made a small fire because it was a cold evening. That fire is etched on my memory (and left hand) because while I was placing stones in a circle Doug was heaving stones up from the burn for my building project and one came with more force than intended, slamming my hand against the rock I was putting in place. :shock:

My wedding ring was chipped but probably saved the finger from greater damage. The next day my hand was so swollen it looked like a blown up rubber glove but I still joined the others on a walk up Loch Avon to Loch Etchachan and down again by the Hutchison Hut. Can't quite believe I didn't want to include the tops of Macdui, Mheadhoin or Derry Cairngorm! But that's before Munros were really on the radar. The sequel to that was going to A & E after we got back and being told the bone was chipped, I should have had my hand elevated in a sling and would probably develop arthritis in that finger. For all that it was a great couple of days! :D

The next time I walked in to Derry Lodge was to climb Beinn Bhreac in 2001 and again in 2008 with Moira when we climbed Carn a' Mhaim and got caught in a sudden dramatic thunder storm which had us scuttling off the summit like drowned rats. :-o

I must have had a premonition Derry Cairngorm would be a day I'd need a camera. I decided to take my SLR and to recharge the battery - although I'm pretty sure it didn't need it. So when I took the camera out to take a photo of a crescent moon in an azure blue sky it was dead and I'd only gone and left the battery sitting in the charger at home and had a useless camera slung over my shoulder for the rest of the day. :roll:

So all the photo credits for this report go to Moira (gizmogirl) using the same camera that was blown off the trig point on Glas Tulaichean and has miraculously been repaired! :clap:

Old Caledonian Pines and faint crescent moon
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Lui Water and distant Derry Cairngorm - where we're heading
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Carn a' Mhaim where we had thunder and lightning
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As we approached Derry Lodge we passed a bunch of guys carrying camping gear on their way out. They looked weary and didn't seem in the mood for the usual pleasantries so we didn't delay them with any chat. We also met a couple who'd left a car at Linn of Dee and were heading for the north end of the Lairig Ghru where they'd left another. It involved a lot of driving but sounded a good plan. :D

Glen Luibeg from Derry Lodge
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After passing the boarded up lodge we sat on a tree trunk by the bridge and had a second breakfast as it was a long time since we'd eaten. While we were there some lads wild camping for their Duke of Ed Bronze arrived complete with big packs. It must be the retired teacher in us but we always talk to kids like that and found them a pleasant bunch who'd spent the night at the foot of Beinn Bhrotain and yes the midgies had been bad. Given their camp site they were absolved from any later suspicions we might have had and being on a Duke of Ed foray they'd have been well briefed on country code matters. Not so sure about the guys we met earlier though.

D of E boys approaching Derry Lodge.
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View back to Derry Lodge from path up Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig
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Glen Luibeg at 11.56 am
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It was about this time I noticed a plume of smoke by the river not far from the path and pointed it out to Moira. We assumed it was a camp fire. The Mar Estate is owned by the National Trust and they've done a lot of work in recent years towards regeneration of the pine forest.... and this fire was uncomfortably close to an area of trees. :?

I commented to Moira I hoped someone was in charge of that fire - and we carried on up Carn Crom knowing there were lots of folk about and the couple we had met earlier would have passed close to it on their way through the Lairig Ghru.

It was hot so we took a few breaks to sit in the sun
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Top of Derry Cairngorm in sight
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The next time we looked back we were shocked by what we saw. :shock:

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Realising this was serious we phoned 112 to report an out of control fire in the Lairig Ghru. This wasn't entirely satisfactory as the operator only wanted to know if we were calling out Fire, Police or Ambulance and wasn't prepared to take information or give advice. He finally told us to phone 101 which when we tried we couldn't get through on as we had no coverage for non emergency numbers. Duh. :roll: We realised afterwards we should have asked for Fire or Police but in the heat of the moment (no pun intended) you don't always know the right thing to do and I think operators should be trained to pick up on situations they need to pass on to someone competent to deal with it. :?

Shortly after that we met the only person we met on Derry Cairngorm - an Irish gentleman who was doing the ridge the opposite way to us and had walked up Glen Luibeg earlier en route to Ben MacDui. He said he had seen campers at the spot we described and they'd had a fire.

Moira at Derry Cairngorm summit
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Glen Ey hills
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Devil's Point peeking over Carn a' Mhaim
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Lochan Uaine
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Cairn Toul & Angel's Peak
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Beinn Mheadhoin
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Summit boulders on the way down
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On the way up we'd taken the lower path skirting Carn Crom involving a short tricky scramble, which we realised wasn't where we were meant to be when the path later joined us from the right. We decided on the descent to stick to the higher path and found it easier than the way we took on the way up.

There was still a lot of smoke billowing up from the south end of the ridge and Moira said she was surprised we'd not seen a helicopter in attendance. Then right on cue a helicopter appeared from the north and disappeared out of sight in the direction of the fire. We saw nothing more for about 20 minutes then it appeared again dropping into Glen Derry where it lowered a red 'bucket' into a lochan near Derry Burn before buzzing back to the fire where it dumped the water.

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It went back and forward doing this repeatedly as we walked down the ridge from Carn Crom at one point appearing so suddenly over the side of the ridge (and our heads) it made me jump even though I knew it was coming!

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The aftermath of the fire from Derry Lodge
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We got chatting to some of the firemen standing having a break at Derry Lodge and heard the story from their end. They said the fire was caused by a camp fire and with the dry conditions it had spread very quickly over a large area of heather and woodland. They'd been called out around 1.00 which was before we made our call. There had been 150 fire fighters involved in fighting the blaze - most from Aberdeen and one unit from Blairgowrie. The reason there was only one helicopter was the expense - it's hugely expensive to call out a helicopter.

As we left Derry Lodge I noticed a sign on a tree saying "No camp fires" and felt quite angry with the people who not only had disregarded this but had walked away without checking their fire was properly out. Seeing the smoking scorched earth they were still dousing with water which a few hours earlier had been fresh and green was a graphic example of the havoc that can be caused by carelessness.

Firemen heading back to Aberdeen
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Firemen chatting to National Trust guys about how it started
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The firemen all gave us big smiles and cheery waves as they passed and we joked about how they could have offered us a lift - although to be fair all their cabs looked full. We were probably about 20 minutes from the car and not far from the turn off through the woods when a fire service car stopped beside us and the driver offered us a lift. He already had another walker with his wee dog sitting in the front seat and although we could have squeezed in the back with all the stuff he insisted on getting out to give us more space. What a nice man and it turns out he was Ronnie1959 who has just joined Walkhighlands - so a big thank you to Ronnie. As we said chivalry is not dead after all! :lol:

The driver who gave us the lift was the Fire Officer in charge of the whole operation. I asked if the police would be involved and he said no because the fire wasn't started deliberately. He agreed there were signs forbidding fires but said some folk disregard this... His calm, reasonable response was in sweet contrast to the indignation I was feeling! :oops:

When we reached the public road he turned left in the direction of Mar Lodge as he had come in via the bridge. When I said we'd need to get out at that point he insisted on turning the car and taking us right back to our car at Linn of Dee. His name is Alastair (not sure of spelling) and what a lovely man. His kindness totally lifted our spirits at the end of a long hot day! :D
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby SAVAGEALICE » Mon Jun 23, 2014 8:20 pm

Gosh! :shock: Great photos. Amazing how quickley it spread. numptees
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:44 pm

Brilliant photos and an awful warning about fires :(
We are planning a trip to this area tomorrow so the report is really helpful. Promise not to light a fire :shock:
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:49 pm

SAVAGEALICE wrote:Gosh! :shock: Great photos. Amazing how quickley it spread. numptees


There was a strong breeze which really got it going. Just shows how easily it happens. :o
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:52 pm

Huff_n_Puff wrote:Brilliant photos and an awful warning about fires :(
We are planning a trip to this area tomorrow so the report is really helpful. Promise not to light a fire :shock:


Two days later we were climbing Beinn a' Bhuird and could see smoke still coming from that area so I imagine it could be smouldering yet. :?

All the best for your trip! :D
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby AnnieMacD » Wed Jun 25, 2014 4:18 pm

Oooh, sorry about your battery - same happened to me a few weeks ago but I found out while still at the car so saved the unnecessary carrying.

Love that first picture - what a blue sky. You guys always seem to have adventures that are out-of-the-ordinary. I doubt I'll ever make the Cairngorms so shall do them vicariously through your photos!
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby Beaner001 » Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:53 pm

What a lovely day you got, glad you both enjoyed it. Cracking photos :clap:
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby dogplodder » Thu Jun 26, 2014 11:51 am

AnnieMacD wrote:Oooh, sorry about your battery - same happened to me a few weeks ago but I found out while still at the car so saved the unnecessary carrying.

Love that first picture - what a blue sky.


Just stashed it in my rucksack and didn't worry as I knew Moira's wee camera would do a good job. :D
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby Essan » Thu Jun 26, 2014 4:42 pm

Good to have a first hand (ish) report of the fire (which I'd heard a few reports about) :thumbup:

re battery - I never have that problem as I have 2 batteries. The problem I have is taking out the datacard to upload the latest pics on to my laptop, and then when going to use my camera a few days later and discovering the card is still in the laptop ...... The solution being to get a spare data card as well, I suppose.
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby dogplodder » Sun Jun 29, 2014 4:56 pm

Beaner001 wrote:What a lovely day you got, glad you both enjoyed it. Cracking photos :clap:


All photo credits go to Moira! :D
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby dogplodder » Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:06 pm

Essan wrote:Good to have a first hand (ish) report of the fire (which I'd heard a few reports about) :thumbup:



Sobering to see how quickly it happened and the damage done.... but also how little was made of it after. :?
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:06 am

Oh, the sky so-so blue! Makes a great background for mountains :D And perfect conditions for girls on the hills :lol:
We walked the neighbouring Munros, Beinn a'Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac, a few days later :D We camped near Breamar - but no fires of course.
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby dogplodder » Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:08 pm

BlackPanther wrote:
We walked the neighbouring Munros, Beinn a'Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac, a few days later :D We camped near Breamar - but no fires of course.


Be interested to hear how long that took. Did Beinn Bhreac years ago and was tossing up approaching Beinn a' Chaorainn from Glenmore or repeating BB going by the more conventional approach.... except it's such a long drive from Inverness to Linn of Dee!
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby Silverhill » Tue Jul 01, 2014 8:52 pm

Lovely pictures. Weren’t you lucky with the weather! 8)
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Re: Camp fire to forest fire in Glen Luibeg - saw it happen!

Postby Graeme D » Wed Jul 02, 2014 12:26 pm

It was still being tended to by NTS folks on the Saturday night when I was camped near Derry Lodge with a Silver assessment group. That turned out to be the least of our worries though when we had to get the RAF Sea King in at 1 o'clock in the morning to airlift a lad with suspected spinal injuries to ARI. :roll:
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