A Nonet of Cairngorms

Route: Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm

Munros: Beinn a' Bhùird, Beinn a' Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Bhreac, Beinn Mheadhoin, Ben Avon, Ben Macdui, Bynack More, Càrn na Caim, Derry Cairngorm
Corbetts: Creag Mhòr

Date walked: 31/05/2023

Time taken: 27 hours

Distance: 68.84km

Ascent: 3872m

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There was a decent spell of weather forecast and whilst I had nine Cairngorms to do, I wondered whether I could squeeze them into 2 and a half days. A plan was hatched and I headed up from Dumfries and Galloway to Linn of Dee. By the time I'd unloaded the bike and organised the rucksac, it was 3.30pm when I got going. I opted to travel light, but did take enough food for two nights, a stove, my Alpkit Delta tent and sleeping bag and as the ground was dry,It did all fit in a 35 litre sac though. I opted for fell running shoes, despite not having even run for a bus in quite a few years!. My plan was to keep walking until dusk and then pitch the tent before doing the same the next day and heading back to Linn of Dee on the third.

I used the bike as far as Derry Lodge and then started off steadily up Carn a Chaim.


I had got the mountains to myself. It was a glorious evening and I could see Corrour below and Macdui loomed large ahead.

Looking down to Corrour

The route from Carn a Chaim to ben Macdui looks straightforward but I seemed to be drawn to a boulder field which took some climbing before realising that an easier ascent was available by the stream, which also provided some ice cold refreshment. Once at the summit plateau, I was soon at the top of Scotland's 2nd highest mountain.

Sunset on Ben Macdui

Options were being considered about where to spend the night. Derry Cairngorm looked like a rocky summit so I decided to stop short of there, traversing above the Etchacan Crags before finding a grassy spot at around the 3600ft mark. After rustling up a Lentil Dhal, day 1 was complete. The temperature had dropped considerably and I was in for a cold night.

Camp below Derry Cairngorm

A couple of days earlier, I had driven down to Wembley to see the mighty Stockport County . The excitement of this plus the drive and walk the previous day and a cold night must have tired me more than I thought as it was after 9am when I got going. It was a simple out and back to Derry Cairngorm before dropping down to Loch Etchacan to top up on water.

Loch Etchacan

It was a steady plod to the top of Beinn Mheadhoin and I saw the first of only four people during the three days. I sat on the tor at the summit, marvelling at what was around. Sadly, I had to keep moving.

Towards Ben Macdui

Up until this point, I'd been on pretty good paths. This was about to change as I headed for the outlet of Loch Avon, eventually picking up a zig zag path near the bottom.

Loch Avon

Fording the river was no problem and I headed up the shoulder of A Choinneach and on to Bynack More. This was to be the most northerly point of the route and I estimated I was about half way around.

From the summit, I dropped to Bynack Barns to a claim a geocache and then it was a direct descent through the heather to Lochan a Bhainne before going back up to CreagMhor - an additional Corbett and perhaps one which I'm unlikely to return to.

Bynack Barns

I descended from Creag Mhor over soft a spongy ground to the River Avon which was forded, but it was the first time in nearly 2 days I'd got wet feet. My fell running trainers would dry quickly and it was quite refreshing on hot feet. I stopped in the last of the sunlight and cooked up super noodles and coffee.

River Avon

It was a steady plod up the 2000ft climb past Cnap Leum an Easaich to Cnap a Chleirich. Realising that Ben Avon was a bit too far for the day, I pitched the tent at about 10pm at 3857ft and watched the sunset.

Tent at Sunset - Day 2

Just as I was settling I was conscious that I was not alone. Surely this couldn't be the case? I unzipped the tent to see a herd of deer approaching silhoueetted against the sunset. I went to bed happy - what a sight.

Stag at Sunset

The downside of walking until dark means that you're rarely ready to go at sunrise, so it was another late start. I got to Ben Avon in an hour and a half having left the tent, but spent time at the summit and it took considerably longer to get back to Cnap a Chleirich. 'The Sneck' would be more appropriately called 'The Chasm' as it did seem a long way down. Once back at the tent, I had the last of my dried food - savoury rice and some cheese and biscuits before the short walk to Beinn a Bhuird.

Towards Ben Avon

Ben Avon

Snow Bunting on Ben Avon

Cyclists on Beinn a Bhuird

I headed west from the summit and a pathless descent was followed by a pathless ascent to Beinn Chaorrain Beag. The going was slow now and I'd had enough. I struggled up but could see almost all of my route from here and was already reflecting back on a successful trip.

Beinn a Chaorrain

The route to Beinn Breac looked simple although I couldn't make out a path. I was fortunate that the ground was dry as the 'Moine' would definitely be a bog and a half in wetter weather. I seemed to walk parallel to a path most of the way and was quite annoyed I hadn't spotted it. I slowly made the final steps up to the final peak of nine - the nonet was complete.

Beinn Breac

The descent from Beinn Breac was varied: scree, moorland, narrow forest path and forest drive. I was soon back at my bike at Derry Lodge.

Glen Derry

I saw considerably more people in the last half hour of the day as I cycled back to Linn of Dee than I had in the previous couple of days. Armed with sleeping bags and crates of beer, well over a dozen people were passed. I suspect Bob Scott's would have been rocking that night.

I made it back to the car at Linn of Dee at 7pm, just an hour later than I had estimated. There were no midges (weird) so I enjoyed a Tennents whilst putting the bike away and getting changed. The trip was complete with a kebab in Blairgowrie before heading back south to Dumfriesshire.

I've now completed the Cairngorms and whilst some may think I rushed them, this trip will last long in the memory. The weather was incredibly good and everything seemed to go in my favour, with two high camps and no navigational issues.

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West of the Lairig Ghru

Attachment(s) Munros: Beinn Bhrotain, Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Monadh Mòr, Mullach Clach a' Bhlàir, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine, Sgòr Gaoith, The Devil's Point
Date walked: 21/08/2019
Distance: 56km
Ascent: 2700m
Views: 1676


Activity: Mountain Walker
Pub: Drovers Inn, Inverarnan
Mountain: Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
Place: Glen Coe
Gear: Extremities Gloves
Member: LDWA
Ideal day out: Ridge Walk on a sunny day with a dip in a burn or lochan to finish

Munros: 281
Corbetts: 20
Fionas: 21
Donalds: 58
Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 209
Sub 2000: 20
Islands: 7

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Trips: 1
Distance: 68.84 km
Ascent: 3872m
Munros: 9
Corbetts: 1


Trips: 1
Distance: 56 km
Ascent: 2700m
Munros: 8

Joined: May 27, 2015
Last visited: Jun 10, 2024
Total posts: 2 | Search posts