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Warming Up

Warming Up

Postby bernadettewalsh » Sun Jan 19, 2020 12:47 pm

Route description: Beinn Mheadhoin and Derry Cairngorm from Deeside

Date walked: 11/05/2019

Time taken: 5 hours

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Derry Cairngorm Beag.JPG
Derry Ciarngorm

The walk I had planned for today, over Derry Cairngorm and Beinn Mheadhoin was predicted to be a 9 – 10 hour hike heading ‘into the wild heart of the Cairngorms’. I was hoping that I could lop a couple of hours off the time by cycling on the approach track to Derry Lodge. It was to be the first off road outing for me and my new hybrid bike and I had no idea how I would get on.
This wild heart woke and dressed rapidly in the devilishly cold greeting that 6.30am brought to the back of my car. I knew I had I brought all that I needed but, unfortunately, it wasn’t packed in the order I needed it. My proposed 7.30am start lapsed into 8.00am, and then 8.30am, as I assembled the essentials for the day. Eventually, I flung my leg over the saddle, quickly correcting the trajectory of bike and person in the direction of the ground, and was off; sadly, in the wrong direction. By 9.00am I was just starting out on the route for the day, somewhat ambivalent about my chances of completing it, given the evidence of white stuff above 450 metres.
I rode tentatively and very slowly over the rockier part of the track and was greeted by the ‘hail fellow well met’ salutes of cyclists who sped past me with hamstrings and quads that would make fine illustrative examples for an anatomy text book. (Alas, my own would probably be used to show what the accumulation of celluloid looked like.) Nonetheless, after about an hour I arrived at Derry Lodge, a little curious about if I would ever be able to park my backside on a bike again, let alone how I was going to get the leg over after a long walk, if you'll pardon the expression.
Derry Lodge - on the huge Marr Estate, now belonging to the National Trust –once belonged to Queen Victoria, and didn’t they know how to do it in style. Sadly, the solid looking building is now all boarded up. The wild campers emerging from their tents looked as though they might have appreciated a few drams by a roaring log fire, in the erstwhile hunting lodge last night. Still, no one has such accommodation at Derry Lodge these days and who’d ever have thought that one day I’d be propping up my trusted stead against Vic’s sturdy walls.

Helicopter arriving for mountain rescue training.JPG

Not far from the lodge a large wooden hut serves as a base for Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team, members of which were reassuringly in evidence on this crisp snowy morning. Before long the resounding, unmistakable sound of a helicopter was heard and the chopper that services the team came into view, joining them for their training day. My thoughts inevitably re-wound 6 months to the Lake District hill side, the soul mates broken pelvis, and the amazing service of Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team. I looked at the snow again and wondered.

The great basin surrounding Derry Lodge is the springboard for numerous Munros. My route lay across the bridge spanning the River Derry and then into the woods under Carn Crom. Here the sun, filtered by trees swaying in the wind, danced merrily on the footpath. After ascending beyond the treeline stunning views of emerging Cairngorm giants hit the retina and the already accelerated heart beat went into overdrive. Unfortunately, the view also took in the full extent of the snow. Though magnificent in its virgin drift it was alas, forbidding in its possible trespass.

Beinn a Chaorainn.JPG
Beinn a Chaorainn

The scales that were balancing excitement and apprehension went into a freewheeling wibbly-wobbly, as I was trying to measure should I, against I shouldn’t. If not for the white stuff the walking conditions were perfect, which made the decision all the harder. The former had all the wild world of adventure to recommend it and, after all, the mountain rescue people were training just down in the valley. On the other hand mundane concerns were puncturing the inflated optimism. The walk would be much longer, trudging through the snow, as there were no footprints to follow. I was already really tired when I started out and then there was the small matter of I could ever ride a bike again. A quieter day would put me in a better place for tomorrow when, perhaps, the sun would have employed some of its powers on the snow. Getting into difficulty today could jeopardise the whole week. In the end it was a no brainer but that didn’t make turning around and leaving this dazzling landscape any easier. Snow had hampered the last day of my weekend at the beginning of May and now, my first day out since then, it was doing it again. Something of a pattern seemed to be emerging.


Making my way back through the resplendent scenery my thoughts began to turn to the ride back from Derry Lodge and I began to wonder if one of the sights would be that of my bike leaning against Victoria’s fortification. I pondered too on the vibrating ride back. In the event, the hybrid was propped up where I had left it and the saddle comfortably accommodating of my posterior. However, my left knee objected strongly to each rotation of the peddle, and an involuntary squeal escaped from my mouth. If this was after a short walk it didn’t bode very well for what I hoped the rest of the week had in store. The ride back was equally slow, but I magnanimously waved a hand of greeting to all those anatomically blessed riders passing me at speed.
Despite the pain the advantage of a bike on the approaches was obvious and even I passed people by. Admittedly they were walkers but they were mainly young, fit and striding out at a fair lick. Several looked jealously at my mode of transport and one such, turning at my approach, said “that’s the way to do it”. It certainly is.
Overnight, the rain pattered intermittently on the roof of the Kangoo and I wondered what was this falling as on the mountain tops; would tomorrow be another aborted day?
Posts: 27
Joined: Oct 1, 2015
Location: South West Scotland

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