I packed my rucksack Thursday evening and Friday morning and weighed it at 15kg but certain I wasn't taking anything too extravagant.
Setting off from home on Friday morning, I was at Linn of Dee car park by midday after stopping for a coffee in Braemar. I grabbed a sandwich in the car and then set off around 12:20pm.
The walk up to Derry Lodge is quick and easy and then around the foot of Carn a Mhaim to Corrour Bothy where I arrived by about 3:30pm. The weather was dry and reasonably pleasant with no sign of the wind and rain that was forecast. I bound up to the Devil's Point but once up high the wind was far more apparent. I had originally planned to camp below the summit, but with the forecast as it was and the wind certainly picking up I decided to head back down to the bothy and camp there. I was set up in the tent by 5:15pm and enjoyed a relaxing evening over dinner in the tent with the wind and rain outside.
Friday night was OK - the tent held off the rain and the wind wasn't too bad at all in the Lairig Ghru. I slept well, despite a lump of rock right beneath the small of my back.
When I woke around 6am, I could hear the sound of drizzle on the tent. Unfortunately, opening the door it became clear that the sound I thought was drizzle was actually a massive swarm of midges eager to get in. The weather was dry and calm, perfect for the blighters. They were soon pouring in and even with a head net and copious amounts of Smidge it made for a really unpleasant breakfast time. They were so bad they were collecting in the folds of the fly sheet where it reached the ground - a mass of swirly midge an inch deep! Truly horrendous.
After breakfast I packed up and headed off by around 8am, covered in bites. I had already decided the night before that given I had dropped back down to Corrour, I would skip the Munros on the west side of the Lairig Ghru as originally planned, and head straight up to The Pools of Dee to pick up the planned route there. Once at the Pools, I carried on a short distance to the March Burn and struck for the top. It was OK to start with but the last 200m was steep on grass and scree and a little precarious at times, esp. carrying a heavy rucksack. Nevertheless, I made it to the bealach and headed north east towards Cairn Gorm where I stopped for lunch at 12:30pm, sheltered by the weather station.
The weather was breezy on the plateau but dry and not too cold. I headed back down to the path along Coire Raibeirt to Loch Avon. A stunning part of the walk. Once at the lochside, I headed around the west end past The Shelter Stone before continuing up to the bealach beneath Carn Etchachan and onto Loch Etchachan where I had intended to camp night two. Another stunning location but it was only 3pm, and far too early to pitch the tent. So I decided to tick off Derry Cairngorm, passing a small group of reindeer on the way back down.
I was back at the intended campsite beside Loch Etchachan at 5:30pm having walked 23km since the morning and by which time the breeze had all but gone. I paused to assess the situation and within a minute I was covered head to toe in midges. My mind was made up that I couldn't camp where I'd hoped after all. I had no other camp site planned, and with 3 hours before it got dark I decided to walk the 14.5km back to the car at Linn of Dee. It was a real stretch, though. I made it back at 8:45pm and got back into Braemar by around 9:15pm intent on finding fish and chips for dinner. Alas, the chippy shut at 8pm, but there was a restaurant serving until 10 so I crawled in like the wreck of the Hesperus. Well-dressed people were sitting eating their dinner so I was sat in a far corner and enjoyed a decent meal.
I was back on the road by 10:20 and home at the stroke of midnight. Knackered.
I spent the day yesterday with the tent in the garden cleaning it from all the encrusted midges both on the fly sheet and the tent inner. It was good to get decent weather to get the job done properly.
Lessons learned primarily around camp site locations - during midge season, camp high at all costs with the assurance of a decent breeze. Or aim to go out from mid-October or early April. And have a proper midge strategy. In hindsight, I made the wrong decision on Saturday evening in the face of another midge onslaught. A few moments studying the map would have revealed other alternative camp-sites, such as up the path towards the summit of Ben Macdui, which was my planned route for Sunday morning anyway.
On the whole I was happy with the kit I brought along. A few things that proved unnecessary and one or two items I wish I'd had. More lessons learned, and I've updated my kit list for next time. Number one lesson, though, is don’t let the midges get the better of you. Take all the precautions you can, and have a plan for when they strike. Scotland’s too awesome to let the wee timorous beasties ruin a good day or weekend out.
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