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Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing


Postby jupe1407 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 4:19 pm

Route description: Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Macdui, Carn a'Mhaim, Derry Cairngorm

Date walked: 21/09/2013

Time taken: 10.5 hours

Distance: 32 km

Ascent: 1565m

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OK so "Catastrophe" is a bit of strong word, but it works well with the rest of the title. F*** up probably wouldn't have worked quite as well.

Anyway, i'll begin at the beginning.

I had no plans to walk this weekend, but a sudden requirement from my girlfriend for some peace and quiet to edit a couple of her shoots meant I had an all-day pass. I hadn't been on the hills since the Aonach Eagach in mid-August, so had a look over the map, disregarded areas with deer-stalking (or lack of clear) information, and finally decided it was time to lose my high Cairngorms virginity. Appropriately, this would indeed turn out to be an awkard, fumbling affair also.

After about 4 hours kip, the alarm went off at 5:30 and I got up and walked the house like a half-shut knife attempting to make breakfast while still quite probably asleep. Finally, after some Frosties, Toast and the strongest, most disgusting cup of coffee in my lifetime, I headed off at 6:15am.

The drive was not promising. The bridge at Cray, 400m short of the Glen Shee Road was closed and a series of confusing and ill-advised diversions had been prepared. Eventually after much faffing about, swearing and a spell of pea soup fog at the Cairnwell, i found the Linn of Dee car park, got my stuff together and set off. I'd finally decided on the Carn a'Mhaim-Ben MacDui walk, returning by Sron Riath down Glen Luibeag. It's a long walk-in, which i tried to get over with by walking as quickly as i could. Several people passed me on bikes.

Cairngorms-1.jpg
The Sensible Way in.


Derry Lodge appears at around 3 miles. It was quite busy with a few folk, mostly kids, presumably on a DoE or something. I crossed the footbridge and continued on, almost standing on a beheaded rat. Not something i expected to see! After around 5 miles I got to the fork in the path before Lui Water.

My first mistake happened here. I was making good time and on checking the map, adding Derry Cairngorm looked eminently do-able, but would probably need to be done first, as the descent off Carn a'Mhaim didn't look too bad. I felt good, and decided to take the right branch and head up Glen Luibeag, a rather bonny wee glen it is too. This gave me the option and time to change my mind and head up Sron Riath if necessary.

Cairngorms-2.jpg
Ben MacDui and Derry Cairngorm from Glen Luibeag


By about 10am I'd got to the fork in this path and followed a stalker's path up towards Derry Cairngorm. This was a boggy mess, and after about 45 minutes of sodden trudging along the hillside, I got bored, fed up, and left the path to head straight up to the northern cairn/tor on Carn Crom. After a thigh crushing ascent up steep bouldery terrain, I eventually met the path that leads from Derry Cairngorm down past Carn Crom. This was quite a pleasant ascent in comparison. The clag rolled in and out, annoying but nonetheless giving some dramatic views.

Cairngorms-3.jpg
Heading up Derry Cairngorm


Cairngorms-4.jpg
Looking Up Glen Derry


Derry Cairngorm's claggy summit was reached. The cairn touched, a photo taken and after about 29 seconds, I was on my way off to Ben Macdui.

Cairngorms-5.jpg
Unnecessary Close up of Derry Cairngorm's Summit


The descent was a tedious and time-consuming boulder-hop (the theme of the day) but eventually myself and my aching knees met a path to the right of Coire Sputan Dearg and this was a pleasant stretch for a while. There was a fine view back down the Glen.

Cairngorms-7.jpg
Glen Luibeag


Cairn Gorm with it's summit paraphernalia was clearly visible.

Cairngorms-6.jpg
Cairn Gorm and Loch Etchachan


The Coire's cliffs were beautiful pieces of rock architecture.

Cairngorms-9.jpg
Cliffs and Derry Cairngorm


Cairngorms-8.jpg
Cliffs and Lochan Uaine


The climb up to Ben Macdui from here is a long one, but thankfully not excessively steep, and after passing the huge stone shelter, I summited around 13:30. It's a strange and eerie summit plateau, exacerbated by the constant clag, and littered with wee stone shelters.

Cairngorms-10.jpg
Ben Macdui's huge cairn and Trig


Cairngorms-11.jpg
Obligatory Photo of Plaque Thing


I sat down for a while and considered my options. My thighs were hurting like hell and I knew my knees weren't going to be great, especially with a few miles of a walkout. I'd decided the sensible thing to do was to head off by Sron Riath and come back for Carn a'Mhaim another day. I just didn't have the energy. I got the map out and took what i thought was a good bearing. However, whether i'd been too casual, or failed to let the compass settle for long enough, god knows, but what I had done was make an absolute schoolboy error. I would discover this around 30 minutes later as when i finally clambered down a horrifically steep and unpleasant boulderfield to be confronted by the Carn a'Mhaim ridge. I'd come down the wrong shoulder of Macdui.

Cairngorms-12.jpg
Oh shhhh.........


I was absolutely livid with myself. I couldn't face climbing back up 300 or so metres to the path off Sron Riath. So my only real option was to cross-country it, cross Allt-Clach-Nan-Teallar and join the Carn a'Mhaim ridge, and either do this third munro or look for a decent path off it into Glen Luibeag, although I don't remember seeing one on the way up the glen earlier, and the map showed nothing.

I still had quite a bit of boulderfield to descend off Macdui. It took an eternity, my knees hurt like hell, I was fuming with myself and I just didn't want to do this last hill. I felt like i'd been forced into it through my own stupidity. I think i cursed and swore all the way along the ridge.

I made the summit, tapped it, took a photo and got going. I just wanted off this hill, which in itself was annoying because it IS a fine hill and a cracker of a ridge walk in it's own right.

Cairngorms-14.jpg
Carn a'Mhaim Summit with Devil's Point behind


So began the day's final descent. I finally picked up a phone signal to tell my girlfriend I'd be extremely late, and set off slowly down the hill. It was utterly awful. Every plant of my right boot sent a shockwave of pain up the side of my knee. I began to seriously question if i could even get back along the decent path to the car, once back on level ground. I started to fantasise about being time-warped 3 hours forward when i'd be in the car, nearly home.

walkout.jpg.jpg
Oh my god.


I took the above with my phone camera as i was too tired to take my rucksack off and get the proper camera out. Finally I got down and crossed Lui Water and headed along towards the car. I limped, shuffled and swore the 5 and a bit miles back to Linn of Dee. I probably considered never walking hills again. I definitely considered stopping in Braemar for a well-deserved packet of fags and tins of red bull. Finally, at 6:45pm, I saw the car again. A painful change of clothes later and i was heading home (including a stop in Braemar).

I learned the following lessons:

1. Check and re-check compass and bearings
2. Try using poles rather than needing a knee replacement before I reach 50.
3. Never stop smoking for 3 weeks then have a fag while driving after a day of total exhaustion.
4. Red Bull and Kit Kats are gifts from the gods.

On the positive side, the area is absolutely beautiful and one i'd really like to camp in next year to have time to really appreciate it. Some of the dead trees look pretty cool as well.

Cairngorms-15.jpg
Weird Tree
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jupe1407
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby made in Scotland » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:31 pm

Every plant of my right boot sent a shockwave of pain up the side of my knee.


Ouch! I know that feeling! I was told that if it gets too bad I should try walking downhill backwards.... haven't resorted to that yet but I've been close. Sounds like a painful day all round but your sense of humour seems to have survived it - like your lessons learned!
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby Mountainlove » Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:46 pm

Uhh that kind of error sounds familiar. Its the days when you ask yourself...why am I doing this? lol
The black and white photos look great...and at last you managed to tick a couple of hills of the list :clap: :clap:
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby peter tindal » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:22 pm

Knee replacement by 50 :( thats November for me!!! :shock: :shock:

Glad you enjoyed the area John, I have nearly completed in the area but would do repeats there
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby simon-b » Sun Sep 22, 2013 8:21 pm

It's a pity about the pain spoiling your enjoyment, JP. That's a great little arete to Carn a' Mhaim from Ben Macdui, and your navigational error would have been a lucky one if you hadn't been suffering the discomfort. A great walk overall, I hope you'll have enduring pleasant memories of the wonderful scenery when the memory of the pain subsides.

I know all about being passed by bikes on that Derry Lodge walk in and out. In the July heat, I did it on foot three times during a Munro climbing holiday, plus two walks in and out via the White Bridge, and one along Glen Quoich. The knees survived, but my feet were sore!
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby brpro26 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:27 pm

Suck it up....looks like you've had a great day out on the hills. You'd be cursing for not doing Carn a' Mhaim when you got home.

What better way to spend a free pass...there very rare and must be used to the max.

Well done great effort. :clap:
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby jupe1407 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 10:34 pm

I was thrawn at the the time and yeah, I'd probably be quite annoyed if I'd not done CAM now. I'd like to do it again, on a nicer less pressured day. The Lairig Ghru looks magnificent.

Plenty reason to return :lol:
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby rohan » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:44 am

I thoroughly recommend pacer poles. I've had mine almost 8 years ( I think) and they are excellent. Made and designed by a hill walking physiotherapist, Heather Rhodes. http://www.pacerpole.com/ Brilliant personal service too. I know from recent experience that the boulders on Ben Macdoo didn't over bother me yet my mum went on about them as well and she was a lot younger and fitter than me when she first did Ben Macdui." The going was very bad as was an excessive amount of granite boulders" to quote from her 1943 diary (more of which is in my TR http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=36398&st=0&sk=t&sd=a if you are interested.)
I put it down to the poles. If you don't like the boulders then if you haven't done Cairn Gorm and its tops, do them when there is a good snow cover. Other than that the memory of the pain will fade and you will be left with a great memory of 3 excellent hills in the Cairngorms.
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby electricfly » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:58 am

You managed to miss the rodent, I didn't! Assuming you mean the vole's head that's plugged face up, teeth smiling in the spongy grassy section west of the Derry lodge footbridge?

Shona told me I'd just stepped on something furry lol, wish I'd taken a photo of it's wee face now.

Our walk got spoiled today too when one of our springers took a bite from an adder. :(
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby jupe1407 » Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:20 am

electricfly wrote:You managed to miss the rodent, I didn't! Assuming you mean the vole's head that's plugged face up, teeth smiling in the spongy grassy section west of the Derry lodge footbridge?

Shona told me I'd just stepped on something furry lol, wish I'd taken a photo of it's wee face now.

Our walk got spoiled today too when one of our springers took a bite from an adder. :(


It was quite surreal. I noticed the headless body on my way up, and coming back almost trod on the head, but the body had disappeared. And yeah, precisely at the location you mention.

I was quite wary of adders when i cut across the slopes up to Carn Crom. Pathless heathery stuff everywhere. I hope your Springer is ok.
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby Sunny Speyside » Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:13 am

Some fine photos here Jupe - hope the knee is on the mend but do get yourself some poles you'll be amazed at the difference they make on the descents.
Cheers
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby PeteR » Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:59 am

Some fine photos jupe :D

These are great hills, but still make for tough days.

Picking the right line for that descent off Macdui is a bit tricky for sure. I did take a look at the idea of Carn a Mhaim from Macdui, but was glad to opt for Sron Riath instead. I hope your knees aren't suffering too bad now.
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby Sabbathstevie » Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:40 pm

Really enjoyed both the pics and your report (in a completely un-sadistic way) - this an area I'm desperate to fumble my way into also.

Definately shared your pain in the cigarette stakes on more than one occasion!
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby BlackPanther » Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:03 pm

jupe1407 wrote:I started to fantasise about being time-warped 3 hours forward when i'd be in the car, nearly home.


Sounds kinda familiar :lol: :lol: I catch myself sometimes, thinking about being back in the car during a long, tiring walk.

An honest report and lovely photos. We did Macdui & Derry from Speyside earlier this year and they are great hills. To make you feel better I can only add, that the return route from the other side involves climbing up Coire Raibert in the final part of the day and it was a real pain :shock:
I think the reason us, hillwalkers, return to the mountains, is that SATISFACTION always outgrows pain :lol: :lol:
Cheers, BP
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Re: Catastrophic Cairngorms Climbing

Postby gneiss-camper » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:14 pm

BlackPanther wrote:I think the reason us, hillwalkers, return to the mountains, is that SATISFACTION always outgrows pain :lol: :lol:

Although a gait assessment and proper footbeds (+/- a compass :wink: )can mean that satisfaction may be pain-free.

Seriously - if you're getting searing knee pains on descent consider doing something about it before it becomes a chronic issue. A podiatrist or physio perhaps.
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