Having done a few reports, all retrospective, you'll know I'm not the fittest person in the world so for me to say this is the easiest of the Munros I've walked must mean something right? This walk was a month or so after my dreadful Bynack More/Cairngorm walk and my health had improved a fair bit.
I know the few readers that will take the time to read this don't need a lesson about the hills of Scotland but Ben MacDui is the second highest hill in Scotland so you'd expect a fair challenge when walking it but it was rather straight forward.
At the time of walking the hill I lived about 10 miles from the base station but I don't like the buses so I borrowed a friends car as I had done a few times for getting me to the local hills, it's nicknamed 'The Banana'.
I was up early, I like to get out early but today that was going to backfire on me
I stepped out of my house and looked to the hills to gauge the weather, I could see the mouth to the Lairig Ghru was full of mist and the sky was grey, I was going for a walk on a cloudy day. See what I done there?
I was still going to walk the hill anyway, I set off and picked up my walking buddy for the day, a fellow WTH member as it happens. We got to the Base Station, got ready, down the metal steps and set off along the path. I don't know what the path is called but it takes you straight to the Summit of Ben MacDui but branches off to Coire an t'Sneachda and Coire an Lochain. The path is obviously well maintained being in the cairngorms and we were making already making good progress from the off, blasting along.
We got to the part of the path that curves around Coire an Lochan, it's steep(ish) and at this point it started raining, so jackets on. I must admit, I kinda wanted to go home because I couldn't face hours of rain but no sooner I had my jacket zipped up the rain stopped. At this point we were in the mist and we couldn't see very much and the visibility got worse further up the path.
From here on we just followed the path hoping that the OS map was right and that it was taking us straight to the summit. We were walking past things that were no further than 20 feet away from the path but we couldn't see them at this point, we just kept walking.
There's an otherworldly feeling when waling in the mist and when we got to this point I felt like we were in Middle-earth!
We made our way up this rocky slope like it wasn't there, I guess we both had eaten our Weetabix that morning. Now I can't remember every step of the walk but after we got up this we bit the boulder field was the next point of interest. I consider myself to be a snap happy walker but this walk my phone stayed in my pocket for most off this walk. The visibility hadn't improved any at this point so we followed a line of cairns that's built in among the boulders. Sticking close to together, we didn't want to get separated at this point, my walking buddy was far more comfortable leaping between the rocks than I was and she could have easily been over it twice as fast as me. About half way across the boulders we could here voices in the mist, they were not speaking English. A group of people emerged from the mist in their brightly coloured jackets about 20 metres to our left, some of the people came over, I think it was because my walking partner was attractive...anyway they chatted with her for a while about the conditions on the summit (windy, cold, poor visibility) and let us know we needed to head to the left a little bit more. As they left one of them made a joke about me being in shorts, if only they knew I ware shorts all year around regardless of the weather.
Once out of the boulder field is was business as usual but the path has change colour, the first half was a sort of orange colour but now the path was very gritty and white. I'm couldn't tell if it was natural or not as I couldn't really see much of the rest of the hill to compare. Anyway, this grit was annoying because I was getting a ton of it in my boots, I was looking forward to getting a chance to stop so I could empty them.
Before long we came across a few man made horseshoe shelters (do they have a proper name?). I was going to stop and empty my boot but the first one I look in had a great big shite and a bunch of used tissue laying there, others were full of rubbish. I was scunnered and just kept walking. I looked up and looming out of the mist was what must have been the summit.
A quick dash from this point and we were standing at the summit of the second highest mountain in the UK and we did it in about 90 minutes. I was upset that we couldn't see anything or the other Munros on the other side of the glen.
The wind was hellish on the summit and we found a clean shelter right next the summit and ducked into it for a couple of minutes to review the pictures we took on each others phones before getting off the hill. The wind was getting worst and it's now raining. The rain was cutting chunks out of my face and I wasn't having a good time.
The walk down the hill felt like it was taking forever and we couldn't shake the weather but once we got down the rocky slope with the cairns things improved, the wind and rain stopped. Making our way back down the path we came across a large group of people dressed in jeans and trainers with only plastic ponchos. The tour guide full of beans (but had no map) asked us how far it was to the top and we told her the truth as we saw it. We said that it will be about an hours walk at a good pace but there's really poor visibility, very strong winds and it's extremely cold further up. We told her about the boulder field then told her we didn't think her group were prepared enough. She replied 'nonsense' at this point I turned to my walking partner Cath and said '**** her, let's go' and we left them to it.
We caught a slight glimpse of the Braeriach through the clouds on the walk back down the hill, it felt like salt was being rubbed into the wounds now. The beautiful Coire Bhrochain was there and gone again in an instant, such a shame.
It was around this time point in the walk that we discovered a tiny Lochan that we walked right past in the mist, just feet from the path, Lochan Buidhe. The mist had lifted at this level and we could see up the path that runs along and up to Stob Coire an t-Sneachda. I suggested we take this path to extend the walk, as I was unsatisfied with the walk we just done. The path was easy going and we stated getting some views.
We got along the path in a matter of minutes and we were met with some wonderful views but the wind was blowing straight up and out of the Coire and was so strong that breathing was impossible and stung your eyes. It was worth it for the views.
And looking the other way...
We made our way around the path to the top of Coire Chais and we came across this rather nice cairn.
We considered climbing the last we bit of path to Cairngorm however the top was covered by cloud and we had both ticked of that summit so it would have been pointless. We made our way down the path down Coire Chais, it's such a nasty steep path, needless to say I was happy to be going down it and not up it. Thinking to myself on the way down I realised that I would probably have to climb up this path for when I eventually do Beinn Mheadhoin, depressing thought.
Once off the path and down the that twisting road between Base Station and the Ptarmigan the walk was over, We weren't even out for 5 hours. We popped into the café there for a hot chocolate that was lukewarm at best. Summed up the whole walk for me.
After every walk Cath and I done weather it was a Munro, Corbett, forest or valley walk we always had a pudding after wards so once we had gotten home and refreshed we arranged to meet up in the Mountain Café in Aviemore. It was still rather early in the day and as we sat there in the café the view across to the Cairngorms was a depressing sight, bathed in sunshine not a drop of mist or a cloud to be seen..................................................................................................................................................................................................
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