Ben Macdhui & Buggering my Ankle

Route: Ben Macdui and Cairngorm

Munros: Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm

Date walked: 21/07/2012

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 16km

Ascent: 1309m

what a beautiful day for walking!
Friday 20th July (now i have to give this back story before the walking part)
got to Aviemore at 9pm on the bus and made my way again to the Old Bridge Inn. It was chocker busy with people (i guess nice weather brings out scot people!). But did my thing of asking if it was ok to camp nearby for free. They were happy, they said there were quite a lot of people camping this weekend. So stayed for a pint and ended up seeing a great folk band - the guy with the flute was amazing, but unfortunately any age could attend and there were way too many underage people.
So ended up going to my usual spot to pitch my tent. And there were 2 others already pitched! but plenty of room, pitched up and fell asleep. Was going for the early start in the morning and the bus was at 7:20 am.
However (and the reason for this little back story) one of the tent's occupants decided to come back at 3am loudly yelling about their night. 15 minutes later they were still going. so asked them could you keep it quiet. After the giggles subsided, it started again. 4am and I screamed for them to shut the f**k up and respect other campers and they just completely could not understand that people needed to sleep. :(
So 6:40am got up, after only 6 hours of sleep and made my way to the bus stop.
Saturday 21st July
so started my morning by forgetting last night and got to the Cairn Gorm Ski centre base at 8am.
Jumped off the bus and started making sure i was heading in the right direction - when a fellow hiker asked where i was headed. Ben Macdhui. He was also and invited me along. We headed south west, with the start of the walk being the steepest, but from the pictures you can see how beautiful the day was and it only got better. (also i got to see the top of the hilll i did last time!)So headed up and over Miadan Creag and down. this is where it got tricky with a massive boulder field. This definitely slowed us down. but was nice having some company. As we continued to walk we could see Braerich ridges and easily navigate our way through - which was great, we thought we were a lot further away, but before we knew it. we were on top of Ben Macdhui - it was relatively easy and straight forward. There was only a slight wind and occasional cloud coming through. but cold!
Took some great photos but they definitely don't capture what you could see.
so my inital plan was to head back down the same path and up to Cairn Gorm and then wasn't sure. However, it was 10:30am - 2.5 hours was a lot quicker than i had expected to walk to Ben Macdhui. So decided to take the alternative route down pas Loch Erchachan and towards Loch Avon. I really should've listend to John and not gone this way! (i'm also annoyed because my camera appears not to have kept the last 10 photos i took, so I feel a bit deflated that there are no reminders of my journey)
So headed down past the ruin toward Loch Erchachan. This was relatively simple part of the walk and was absolutely spectacular views! Firstly the clouds just vanished, so the sun beamed down and the green and blues were so vibrant. Looking directly south, could see the steep Derry Cairngorm and the rolling hills that went on for ages and to the noth Cairn Gorm, Benn Mheadoin and the hills forward with the beautiful loch Etchachan. As I made my way past came across a few other walkers heading to ben macdhui. i felt like a bit of **** with my big bag, but it seems people with cars have a lot more flexibility with a small day pack for walking. me other hand had an 8kg bag. as i headed to the north of loch etchachan to loch avon - this was definitely a difficult walk.
Firstly, you come to a million little fords and can quite easily lose the track, with massive boulders and huge bog areas. I can only imagine what a nightmare this spot would be to navigate in wind and/or rain. on i got tot he edge, i could see loch avon and it was beautiful. the blu was sparkling in the light and actually had some beautiful gold sand beaches. i thought, this is where i will eat my lunch and then figure out what i want to do for the day - so it was about 11:30am at this point, so making quite good time.
Started down the quite steep descent and this was very difficult terrain with a 8kg rucksack. i slipped a few times, but took an hour to get down this part and by the end completely lost the path which lead into a huge boggy area. Ok that's fine i thought, i'll find a nice spot for lunch , being 12:30pm. Got closer to the loch and the midgies attacked. it was like an orchestrated event. but managed to spray myself but it was like a war zone of midgies. so had to delay lunch. so got to the river bit, which had no real crossing visible. bugger it. took my shoes and socks of and crossed the freezing cold water. but got to the other side. realistically i should've just walked in my shoes and socks because 5 minutes later i was covered in mud and water anyway!
but started along the loch avon walk - which the only visibility of any kind of path was seeing other people's foot prints. Walking over huge boulders and in bogs this was very difficult terrain. i slipped a number of times and at that point rolled my ankle. so started hobbling along. grabbed food out of my bag and was eating and walking along. absolutely exhausted. the sun was still beaming at this point and i could certainly feel the weight of my bag. at that point i realised i needed to get up and out of where i was, particularly because tomorrow i knew i would be sore and with a buggered ankle.
so decided to make the very steep ascent up cairn gorm. Half way i up the path is lost, but met 2 guys who basically live on the mountains who felt quite sorry for me and watched as slowly made my way up. the ascent took an hour and got over the hill and saw the ptarmin restaurant. i was limping down the hill. all i wanted to do was lie down.
i got to the restaurant and realised i had only about £2 on me and couldn't face walking down tot he bus stop. but a lovely gentleman gave me a free lift down the funicular, which was amazing. but sitting down and as the adrenalin started to dissipate - i could feel the throbbing of my ankle. and from the exhasution, lack of sleep, unexpected terrain - tears did well in my eyes. but i had made it and safely. i headed down and camped in aviemore as the next day i knew i couldn't walk any further. and i was right.
Sunday 22nd July
I had my rucksack still and a buggered ankle and now my muscles were beginning to protest at any movement. The winds had picked up and found out at the top of cair gorm they were hitting almost 90 mph. i was so glad to be off the hills that day but dissapointed that i had hurt my ankle. i managed to get on an early bus and head back to edinburgh. Covered in mud and limping - it must've looked like i had gone through a war zone and survived.
but it was a great day, i would say only the last 3 hours were horrible and that was purely the terrain. i couldn't enjoy the scenary or weather. and i definitely advise to avoid the alternative route down or up ben macdhui, because other than continuing to follow loch avon, there is only strath nethy. which is renowned for being a crap way to go. It is also advisable when being so high up, not to go so low and then high up again! But before that was amazing and i can't wait to get up there again. A little bit fitter and a little bit wiser.

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Comments: 2

Popping my Scottish Cherry

Attachment(s) Corbetts: Meall a'Bhuachaille
Date walked: 23/06/2012
Distance: 15km
Comments: 5
Views: 3284


Location: Edinburgh
Occupation: Project Manager
Interests: Skiing, Windsurfing, anything really
Activity: Hill Bagger
Mountain: do not know yet
Place: do not know yet
Gear: shoes

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Trips: 2
Distance: 31 km
Ascent: 1309m
Munros: 2
Corbetts: 1

Joined: Jun 29, 2012
Last visited: Sep 25, 2012
Total posts: 3 | Search posts