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Derry Cairngorm in a thunderstorm

Derry Cairngorm in a thunderstorm


Postby steverabone » Wed Jun 15, 2016 9:44 pm

Route description: Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm

Munros included on this walk: Derry Cairngorm

Date walked: 07/06/2016

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I started from the Linn of Dee car park through the woods and onto the estate road that goes to Derry Lodge. This section of the walk takes about 1h 15 minutes each way. The plan for this day's walk (in June 2016) was to climb Derry Cairngorm and then drop down to Loch Etchachan and climb Beinn Mheadhoin before returning down Glen Derry.

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Starting at nine o'clock the odds of success looked good with blue skies everywhere. However, the MWIS forecast had mentioned scattered thunderstorms. The photo shows Derry Cairngorm from the estate road on the way to Derry Lodge.

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Over to the west the summit of Carn a'Mhaim can be seen.

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Beyond the Derry Lodge the route goes across the bridge over the Derry Burn and ....

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... immediately to the junction of two paths. The left one is the path to Derry Cairngorm...

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...and leads up through trees.

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It's a well tended path - this is looking back down towards Derry Lodge in the trees.

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The climb starts up the ridge....

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...with superb views to the west up Glen Luibeg towards the Munro Beinn Bhrotain

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After an initially fairly steep section the path to Derry Cairngorm is surprisingly easilty graded for the most part....

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....and gradually proceeds up the long ridge.

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Around about 15 miles away the bulk of the hills that make up the Lochnagar group can be seen. The sky was obviously darkening to the south east at this stage.

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Looking back towards Glen Derry.

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Ahead the summit can be seen peeping over the Carn Crom, the first top on the way up.

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Looking up Glen Derry with Beinn a' Chaorainn lit up by the sun.

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The two Munros Beinn a' Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac (in the foreground across the glen) and in the distance Beinn a' Bhuird.

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As the path passes under the summit of Carn Gorm it skirts the edge of Coire na Cloiche. There are two paths here. This one is the lower path
and is becomes rather exposed so I deserted it for.....

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...one slightly further up the hill and further away from the drop into the corrie.

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At the slight dip at spot height 833m on the O.S. map there were superb views across the long northern ridge of Carn a'Mhaim to Cairn Toul with its high corrie.

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Over to the north west is Ben Macdui.

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Heading north from the 833m spot height the path is still clear and easy to walk along.

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This is looking back to Carn Crom with the two paths clearly visible. The one on the left is more exposed whilst the one heading over the shoulder of Carn Crom is much safer, especially in the bad weather I was to experience later.

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The going gets a little rougher further up the hill....

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...and then reverts to a gravel surface.

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Nearer the top there are larger rocks to negotiate but nothing too difficult with just a little boulder hopping.

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It was just below the summit when, within a few minutes, the weather changed rapidly. I'd been hearing the odd thunder clap in the distance but the storm was suddenly upon me. What surprised me was that there was none of that feeling of an impending thunderstorm in the atmosphere that frequently come before a storm.
I sat down among the stones, put on my waterproofs, and lay down on my rucksack. It took about twenty to thirty minutes for the hailstones and torrential rain to pass, with thunder crashing around. Stay calm and keep down Stephen! Eating my lunch seemed a good idea..... Eventually the rain died down and I decided to...

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...make it the last fifty or so metres to the summit and then retreat downhill. The photo shows the cairn and...

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...the view looking north. No way was I going any further and I headed back down towards Derry Lodge.
However, about ten minutes down from the summit there was a flash from the end of my trekking pole (an orange spark) as it touched the rocks, a bang and the poles jerked upwards. Was this a static charge in the rock discharging itself? I felt no electric shock through the cork handles of my
Poles.

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As mentioned earlier the path splits near Carn Gorm and, given the conditions, I chose the higher path away from the corrie wall...

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..and this view illustrates how much less exposed the top path is than the lower one.

This is the first time I've been in a storm such as this on a mountain. Perhaps I should have turned back earlier, but the storm moved much
faster than I expected and not in the direction that the clouds above Derry Cairngorm suggested. In retrospect I'm glad to have had the experience even though the dangers are obvious.

Obviously my timings were disrupted by the weather but excluding the enforced stop it had taken me just over 4 hours to the summit and about thre and a half hours back, although this included a snack break at Derry Lodge.

And as for Beinn Mheadhoin - this will have to wait until 2017 when I plan to return to the Cairngorms
Last edited by steverabone on Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Derry Cairngorm in a thunderstorm

Postby BlackPanther » Thu Jun 16, 2016 9:46 am

Tuesday the 7th was a day of violent storms! We almost got caught on Maoile Lunndaidh, too. Luckily, it passed maybe 1 mile away from us, but we could clearly see the lightnings and the thunders were deafening! When we got down to our bikes, it started raining and we had to cycle in the downpour...

I guess every such experience teaches us something both about mountains and about ourselves. And we can then talk about it and brag to our friends, how brave we were facing the storm :lol: :lol:
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Re: Derry Cairngorm in a thunderstorm

Postby Cairngorm creeper » Fri Jun 17, 2016 11:48 am

Some nice pictures of the storm over the hills. It sounds a scary experience glad you were ok. A shame about Beinn Mheadhoin, he approach to it from the north and past Loch Avon is very spectacular if you don't want to go the same way again
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Re: Derry Cairngorm in a thunderstorm

Postby steverabone » Fri Jun 17, 2016 9:56 pm

Cairngorm creeper wrote:Some nice pictures of the storm over the hills. It sounds a scary experience glad you were ok. A shame about Beinn Mheadhoin, he approach to it from the north and past Loch Avon is very spectacular if you don't want to go the same way again


That is an excellent idea and will look into it.
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