Lairig Gruesome - Beinn Mheadhoin to the rescue
by Pointless Parasite » Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:05 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn Mheadhoin
Date walked: 16/02/20184 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Weather forecast was for 'superb' visibility
Route map says it all:
Initially I had planned to explore the Lairig Ghru and possibly climb Cairn Toul, but after only a mile of so it became clear the snow conditions would make things extremely slow. I changed plan and attempted Braeriach, making good progress before I got lost on Sron na Lairige. After an hour or so of going around in circles looking for the summit ridge, I decided to call it a day while I still had plenty of food and water left. I descended down into the Lairig Ghru and began the walk of shame back to Glenmore, pushing through the boulders and deep snow. Horrible.
Lairig Ghru by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Rothiemurchus forest by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Looking back over a photo from last year, it's easy to see how difficult navigation could be on such a featureless mountain:
Sron na Lairige 2017 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Day 2: Redemption
Again, the forecast was for 'superb' visibility. After considering re-trying Braeriach I decided to try something completely different and put the horrors of the Lairig Ghru behind me. I'd seen Beinn Mheadhoin the previous year when climbing Ben MacDui and it looked like a pretty interesting mountain. I also considered possibly combining this with Derry Cairngorm, but decided to get to Loch Etchachan first and see how I was doing for time.
Beinn Mheadhoin 2017 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
From the outset, the weather was indeed superb:
Distant hills by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Fiacaill a' Choire Chais by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Sgor Gaoith and Sgoran Dubh Mor by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Cairn Toul by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Stob Coire an t-Sneachda by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Coire Raibeirt 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Descending down Coire Raibeirt, menacing looking clouds started to appear:
Coire Raibeirt 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Coire Raibeirt 3 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Coire Raibeirt 4 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Deep snow in the final steep gully down to the Loch:
Coire Raibeirt 5 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
I could see that Loch Avon was frozen over and hoped the ice would be strong enough to take my weight. Thankfully it was rock solid, allowing rapid progress down the the Western end of the Loch.
Beinn Mheadhoin from Loch Avon by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Shelter Stone Crag by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Stag Rocks by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Glen Avon by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
There are a few tiny lochans on the Loch Etchachan plateau. It must have been one of these I half fell into when wading through deep snow. I was horrified to see my boots completely submerged in water, but miraculously my feet stayed dry thanks to the combination of overtrousers and gaiters
Without thinking too much about it, I started climbing up towards Derry Cairngorm. The going was fairly easy over moderate snow cover and ice but I started to become concerned about going too far in uncertain weather conditions, especially after the previous day's exertions. It would probably take an hour or so to reach the summit, plus an hour back. The blue skies were gone, though visibility was still fairly good. The sensible thing was to abandon Derry and focus on Beinn Mheadhoin.
Derry Cairngorm from Beinn Mheadhoin by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Beinn Mheadhoin from CCE by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
The ascent up the South West corner of Mheadhoin was easy going, over mostly rocks and ice with only a few patches of shallow snow.
Glen Derry 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Glen Derry 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Thankfully, the summit plateau of Mheadhoin was almost entirely scoured of deep snow by the wind (though there was no wind at all now), leaving mostly hard ice and frozen, shallow snow. Visibility was still OK, but not great.
Beinn Mheadhoin summit ridge by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Barns of Beinn Mheadhoin by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
I knew there would be an easy route up the other side of the summit barn, but wasn't sure how easy it would be covered in rime ice.
Summit barn 1 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
The easy side:
Summit barn 2 by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
On top of the summit barn
Beinn Mheadhoin summit by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
I descended straight down towards Loch Avon. This was mostly really easy going, except for a steep, icy section near the bottom. There was no way I was going back up Coire Raibiert, so I started of walking East across the frozen Loch. While deep in thought I noticed I had strayed a long way from the shore. The ice felt solid and was completely silent, so I decided to cut straight across to reach the Saddle, listening out for any signs of creaking or cracking
Once over the Loch, I was immediately wading through horrible deep snow again After I'd reached the Saddle, I considered how best to return to Glenmore. I could go straight down the Glen, go West over Cairn Gorm into the Coire Cas ski area, or go over Bynack Mor, bagging another Munro. The last option seemed particularly attractive as, like Beinn Mheadhoin, Bynack (or at least A' Choinneach) appeared to be mostly scoured of deep snow. Still, it seemed foolish to be attempting something so remote when the weather was still dodgy, so I decided on the 'easier' option of climbing up towards Ciste Mhearad and over to the ski area.
This was horrible, slow going. It took two hours to reach the high point. I was sure I could have climbed Bynack by now. Worse, the moment I reached the highest point, a strong wind started blowing from the South, blasting me with spindrift.
Cairn Gorm spindrift by the pointless parasite, on Flickr
Then, a strange thing happened. I fell up to my waist into a hole in the snow that appeared to be much deeper. There were signs of human-made snow holes dug nearby but this didn't look like one. After climbing out of the first hole I immediately fell into another. It then occurred to me I was stood on a huge deep snow drift that may have broken away a little, leaving a crevasse that I was walking along I quickly changed route and didn't fall into any more holes
Descending through the ski runs, the wind became a full-on storm. I had no goggles so was unable to face anywhere near South without being blinded by spindrift. Eventually I managed to find my way down, catching a lift back to Glenmore with a couple of skiers
One Munro after two days of effort isn't great but at least I came back in one piece and didn't lose anything (although I did lose one crampon for a few minutes). I was also impressed by how warm the combination of a Fitzroy insulated jacket worn under a Gore Tex shell was. Despite the appalling wind at the end, I didn't feel a thing, except in my face.
by larry groo » Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:18 pm
- Posts: 482
- Joined: Apr 19, 2010
- Location: The Garioch
by ancancha » Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:59 pm
Only one Munro, but you got to walk on water so as to speak
There can't be many who can claim to have walked across Loch Avon
by Alteknacker » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:22 pm
by Cairngorm creeper » Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:00 am
by Broggy1 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:42 am
The Cairngorms must be one of the few places where you can get lost, not summit and STILL do a pretty significant walk - as you found out..
by Coop » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:55 pm
Beinn Mheadhoin has done for me twice- I'll be on it this year though!!