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Loch Etchachan camp and 6 Munros from Linn o' Dee
by jimbell21 » Wed Jul 22, 2020 8:53 pm
Route description: Beinn a'Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac
Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Bhreac, Beinn Mheadhoin, Ben Macdui, Carn a'Mhaim, Derry Cairngorm
Date walked: 20/07/2020
Time taken: 27.75 hours
Distance: 45.5 km
Ascent: 2271m10 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).
After a couple of day trips post-lockdown, it was finally time to get a proper trip done. February felt like an eternity since my last overnighter! The plan this time was to set off from Linn of Dee and walk an anti-clockwise circuit from Beinn Bhreac to Carn a' Mhaim, comprising 6 munros in total. My camp spot was to be the stunning location of Loch Etchachan.
I set off from the Linn o' Dee car park at 10.25am and shouldered the overnight bag once more, a feeling that fills me with excitement every time. My biggest decision for the start was deciding against the bike to get to Derry Lodge. I figured the extra miles would be good training and would save the bike from a potential soaking through the evening and overnight... The weather was great as I set off towards Derry Lodge and took me 1hr 5 mins to the lodge.
Lui Water from the track (which would be a dream bike/hike on another day)
Passing Derry Lodge, I took the right fork to stay east of the river. There were a couple of tents about and probably about 30 bikes hidden in various locations around the bothy. I was keen to gain some height so made for the track towards the very faint path which leads to Beinn Bhreac. The "path" would be very easily missed and resembles a worn track through the heather. On the other side of the glen, the pointed summit of Derry Cairngorm looked very impressive in the distance. The forecast of heavy showers in the afternoon was starting to look accurate. I was successfully avoiding all showers to date however .
The pointed summit of Derry Cairngorm visible from the path to the head of the glen
A very isolated heavy shower back towards Linn of Dee
Plodding on up the heathery track, I finally reached the summit of Beinn Bhreac at 1pm. It felt superb to be back on a Cairngorm summit and I hadn't seen a soul since the lodge. The next person I saw would actually be the following day!
Looking into Coire Etchachan from Beinn Bhreac
Chuffed to be back!
After scoffing a triple decker houmous and cheese sandwich (options in the fridge were limited), I set off towards the distant looking Beinn a' Chaorainn, which is located the other side of a vast plateau of heathery moorland and bog. Thankfully, the ground was hard enough to make swift progress and rarely did I have to take much time dodging bog. There is a faint boggy path, however I lost it about halfway along and just made a bee-line to the rocky eastern shoulder of the summit.
Shortly after leaving Beinn Bhreac, decent path, with Beinn a' Chaorainn in the distance
Literally 5 minutes from the summit, the heavens opened and my luck ran out. Little did I know at this point, but the "showers" forecast were to translate into a monsoon, with only the odd token break, until about 11pm that night .
Reaching the summit, which was actually my 150th Munro, I didn't hang about long to enjoy the rapidly receding views. The summit tors of Beinn Mheadoin to my left were particularly striking, but even more so was the seemingly vertical ascent I had to make up it's slopes! I had known this would be a steep descent and re-ascent, but when you actually see it in the flesh, it doesn't look possible!
Beinn a'Chaorainn summit, shortly before turning extremely wet
Beinn Mheadoin's unmistakable summit tors
Peering through the rain to my ascent route, just right of the waterfall...
Photo taking from here sort of stopped being a priority. Getting down the very steep rocky descent to Lairig an Laoigh was the first priority, and then grinding my way up the extremely steep, marshy and now soaking wet steep slopes up Beinn Mheadoin. A tough grind for sure with the heavy backpack, made worse by the incessant rain. After a solid slog up next to the waterfall, the summit came into view once again, looking like some sort of alien through the rain. At least the cloud was still above these summits...
Despite the rain, such an impressive sight.
After a final pull up and around to the summit tor, and at 4.25pm, I scrambled up onto the summit of the tor. The gods gave me a 5 minute window of respite to take a quick couple of pictures before normal monsoon service was resumed. I then hid on the sheltered side of the tor and waited 20 minutes or so to see if the weather improved. It was then very clear that the heavy rain was here to stay, and the wind had picked up too for good measure...excellent.
It feels pretty high up there!
From the tor across the moonscape towards Ben Macdui
Peering down at Loch Avon through the rain. Plans of exploring the crags above it abandoned!
Thoughts now were now firmly in the direction of descending to Loch Etchachan to set up the tent and to finally get under cover. The rain was actually getting harder as I descended down towards the loch. It was not the jaw-dropping scene I had pictured in my head...it looked a desolate and imposing place to be. Still, I couldn't wait to get dry and fire up the stove for a hot drink and meal.
First look at my dreamy camping location
When I reached the loch a short time later, I then suffered the ordeal of trying to find a flat spot of ground which wasn't flooded or rocky. This proved to be much more difficult than I had imagined due to the rain. Talk about rubbing salt into the wounds, I paced about in circles for a good 20 minutes until settling for a spot with only a couple of smaller rocks that my sleeping mat would sort out. After pitching the tent as quickly as I could in the wind and rain, I then had the almost impossible task of trying to get into it without flooding it with water from me and my clothes. Total comedy sketch in hindsight, but at the time it was a total pain! I then lay on my mat listening to the rain batter the tent for a good hour until there was a dry enough spell to go outside to fetch water to cook with.
Finally, some shelter during a brief intermission in the rain
Dinner was an Xtreme chicken and vegetable 800 calorie meal and coffee was the highlight of the evening. I then lay on my back trawling old photos on my phone to keep me entertained. Some mobile signal would have made the time pass quicker! After being held captive in the tent until almost 10pm, I took a dive outside for a quick pee before hitting the sack for the night. The rain was so loud it kept me awake for hours, before being replaced solely by strong wind. Fair play to the Vango Banshee though, it got absolutely hammered for several hours and absolutely no sign of water coming in anywhere. Incidentally I have just received my new MSR Acess 2 tent, but I would still highly recommend this wee budget tent (just a bit heavy at 2.39kg).
Cautiously peeping out the tent door at 6am revealed a beautiful sunny morning, albeit still windy and cool. Dragging myself out of my warm sleeping bag, I tried to hang my waterproof jacket and trousers on the tent to dry them off before setting off again. Luckily I wouldn't need them today as they were properly soaked!
What a difference! 6am and clearing skies. Loch Etchachan now looking appealing again.
Breakfast of porridge and raisins, followed by coffees, was a great way to start the day before packing up the tent and setting off. I noticed a chap in an MSR Elixir looking tent who waved at me as I set off. He must have arrived after 9pm in the monsoon the night before . We probably both felt a great deal of satisfaction for enduring the evening and night before to wake up in such an amazing place.
Just wow! That's what I came for.
A stunning early morning view to Derry Cairngorm (left), my first target of the day.
Once I reached the bealach, Derry Cairngorm was an out-and-back, which meant I could dump my backpack and skip off to the summit and back. The weather was set, so after downing some water to last me the 2km there and back, in no time at all I was approaching the summit to be met by some staggering views. 8.15am, and once again, no other person around.
Turning around to look back towards Beinn Mheadoin in the distance, the tors still visible.
Jaw dropping views to Ben Macdui and beyond to Cairn Toul and co.
Cairn Toul taking centre stage. Amazing memories of being up there last August
Checking out the views in a chilly morning wind
After retracing my steps back towards my bag, I then set off up towards Ben Macdui with my bag back on which seemed to be a few kg heavier than it was before! I hadn't really planned on going up Ben Macdui, but it was such a nice morning it would have been rude not to. Again, I dumped my bag near the source of the Allt Clach nan Taillear stream and darted off to the summit. It only took about 10 minutes so was well worth it. The air clarity was fantastic up there, a perfect day!
View back to Loch Etchachan from the path near Creagan a'Choire Etchachan
My third different route up Ben Macdui
Full panorama of the Devil's Point, Cairn Toul, Angel's Peak and Braeriach. Epic!
After a few minutes on the summit, I skipped back down to my bag and then started picking my way down the boulder strewn slopes towards the Carn a' Mhaim ridge. There never seems a good way down this slope, I tried slightly further east this time, but it's still a bit of a nightmare. Taking my time to avoid any stupid accidents, I was relieved to make it to the bealach and to start uphill again up the grand looking ridge. The views towards Cairn Toul and the Lairig Ghru the whole time were sublime. I was absolutely cheesing!
The Devil's Point. The munro that always looks tiny as it is completely dwarfed by it's show off siblings.
The Carn a'Mhaim ridge, pretty unique in the Cairngorms.
The ever changing light and shadows on the Devil's Point.
Probably my favourite shot of the lot. Amazing sight to see on a beautiful morning.
After taking a lot of rather similar photos on my ascent up the ridge, I reached my 6th and last summit of Carn a' Mhaim at 11.25am. I was then joined by a couple and their dog, who were the first people I had properly spoken to since I set off. I had met a couple of people briefly that morning, but it was great to see the hills so quiet away from the usual popular ones. I then fired up the Jetboil and treated myself to my first pot noodle in about 15 years for lunch . A hot lunch felt like a right treat, soaking up the views in all directions. Heading down to civilisation felt really disappointing!
Magnificent 6 - Carn a' Mhaim summit
Summit lunch, with a very fitting message
The long and winding road - 7 miles or so back to the car, with Lochnagar dominating the skyline in the distance.
Bidding my summit companions farewell, I set off down the comparatively busy path back towards Glen Lui. I never really paused much on the way back, my feet were starting to get a bit sore and I was keen to get back to the car in good time. The temperature really increased when I hit the glen floor, and it was a toastie and scenic walk back through the forests to the car. It really is a beautiful area and as long return walks go, this is one of the best to enjoy!
Last shot by the river before reaching the bridge.
After 45.5km, and 14.5 hours walking time, I made it back to the car in a jammed Linn of Dee car park. What a trip, and a lesson to stick at things when I knew the forecast was to be great the second day of my trip. Surviving the rain was so worth it to begin a day in such a location. Days are much more rewarding when you have to earn them first, which on this occasion, I certainly did. The legs felt good too, ready for more adventures.
Where to next... :
by Alteknacker » Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:50 pm
by rockhopper » Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:40 pm
by Graeme D » Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:36 pm
by jimbell21 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 9:49 pm
Graeme D wrote:A very familiar stomping ground for me, mostly down to leading DofE expeditions over the years. Have camped by the side of Loch Etchachan a few times. It is always a joy to camp there.
I'll certainly be back to try a sunnier evening to soak it all in, kinda missed out until the morning sun. Definitely a very special place!
rockhopper wrote:Good result and a nice route - so many options for grouping hills around here - cheers
Cheers Rockhopper, routes galore for sure up there. Quite fancy taking my mountain bike up next time and linking a few hills up by bike. An endless playground 👌.
Alteknacker wrote:Great stuff - it fair gets me restless! Etchachan is just wonderful in decent weather. The first time I saw it I vowed to do an overnight camp on its shores; but haven't made it yet
Cheers fella, I'll definitely be back to try again sometime. Fantastic to be back out, counting down the days already to my next set of days off 😁🤞🏔️
by Jokester » Fri Jul 24, 2020 7:28 pm
by jimbell21 » Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:10 pm
Jokester wrote:Great place to camp at Etchachan, done it many a time!
I'll be back on a sunny evening next time!
by Jimmyc4 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:49 am
by jimbell21 » Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:35 pm
Jimmyc4 wrote:Excellent report! Ive planned almost this exact route after doing Derry Cairngorm last year although was going to do it reverse order. Do you think its better suited going anti clockwise?
Thanks Jimmy. Personally I think it's best anti-clockwise as it means the views get better and better along the route. Finishing on Carn a'Mhaim will no doubt be more rewarding than Beinn Bhreac. I'm not sure I would fancy the extremely steep descent from Beinn Mheadhoin if doing it clockwise. Probably personal preference overall though, either way it would still be a great trip and both ways would end with a lengthy walk out. Enjoy it when you go 👍