walkhighlands

Weekend "break" – a "trip" report.

Route: Beinn a'Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac

Munros: Beinn a'Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Bhreac

Date walked: 10/02/2012

Following a quick midweek text from fellow WHer, Gable Gable End, we had plans to meet up with MountainStar at the Clachaig on Friday evening. Along with Gable's mate, Dan, we were looking forward to finally working off some Christmas over-indulgences, banishing some January blues and notching up our first hills of the year.

I then received a text from Gable about lunchtime saying "shame about the weather". I looked out of my south-facing window and saw the Easter end of the Cairngorms in lovely wintery sunlight. After a few further weather checks we made an eleventh hour decision to leave MountainStar and his extensive entourage to attack the Clachaig's beer reserves on their own and opted for a weekend on the 'gorms instead. As Gable and his pal had proper work things to do and were coming from Aberdeen, I suggested I crossed the Lecht and met them in Deeside before parking at Linn o' Dee and heading in from there.

Our pencilled-in plan was to camp at White Bridge on the friday night and decide on a route for the next two days depending on saturday's weather conditions. I've done a fair chunk of the hills from Aviemore side and was hoping to do one or several of Beinn Bhrotain, Monadh Mor or Carn a'Mhaim. But in my head I imagined a route including Bheinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Bhuird and, after a high-level camp maybe another trip onto Ben Avon before finishing with Beinn a'Chaorainn and descending via Glen Derry.

After a quick change of daysack to overnighter with tents, mess kits, mountain bike etc I headed over the Lecht with a clear sky. I stopped in Ballater and collected a hire bike for Dan and shopped for some messages before meeting the boys at the Inver Hotel near Crathie about 6.30pm. We enjoyed a meal and a couple of beers to save us having to take extra provisions with us and headed off to the Linn o' Dee car park.

The cycle in from there was extremely hard work. The normally firm quarry dust track was wet and, with heavy sacks, was like cycling through soggy porridge. Plus it was very dark. Sadly, my headtorch and bike light were woefully lacking and as I crossed the wooden bridge I hit the wooden rails and came off the bike. Once I'd hauled myself, turtle-like, off my back I realised I'd hurt my thigh in the tumble. However, cycling was less painful than walking and we managed to struggle on through the night and made our it to our intended campsite at White Bridge and settled in for the night. Between us we had timber and peat and made a wee fire on the beach and enjoyed a few beers before hitting the sack.
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White bridge camp fire

It's an opportune time to say more about Dan, Gable's friend who I'd only just met. He's Luxembourg(ish) and is about to undertake a journey back home to Luxembourg but has decided against conventional methods and will instead...walk. From Aberdeen. Afraid of the consequences of being found camping in the middle of roundabouts wihilst walking through England he instead chose to bivvy bag it the whole way. Despite having purchased the necessary equipment he had never actually spent time in it outside and this was to be his inaugural night under the stars.
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Tent and bivvy bagger

The next morning we had trouble waking Dan from a very deep sleep so it would seem that the bivvy bag was pretty comfortable. I, however, could hardly walk as my leg was giving me a lot of grief.
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Camp

After a very extended breakfast that included almost everything we had left in our packs, we decided to return Dan's hire bike, do some shopping (as we'd drunk all the booze) and then walk back in.
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Outside Bob Scott's

On the way out we dropped our stuff and set beds at Bob Scott's bothy so we must've looked slightly underequipped to passers-by as we wandered into the hills carrying nothing but a box of wine. The bothy was already pretty popular by the time we returned with a further four campers in tents. We cooked up a pasta and got to work on the wine while one guy called Derek who was obviously born in Hades kept pouring more and more coal onto the fire. One anecdote being bandied around was that they once enjoyed a hogmanay there. While it was -28ºC outside they were proud that they'd managed to make it +30ºC inside and seemed hellbent on breaking that record.

At one point when I went outside to cool down I noticed a long procession of torches coming towards me through the night. They turned out to be a bunch from Aberdeen and Stonehaven who quickly made themselves comfortable amongst us. One guy produced a guitar and it all got very merry and noisy. Two of the campers, John and Lynn, turned out to be excellent folk singers and we sang and danced until the early hours. One guy called Simon even wandered round the crowd doing card tricks. All-in-all we had a thoroughly enjoyable night.
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Bob Scott's

I even vaguely remember dancing with a lovely Polish girl whilst brushing my teeth. I'm surprised she didn't lose an eye. Bless her, I think she even agreed to marry me, I mean humour me.
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Smoooooooth

The next morning we were all surprised to discover that we didn't feel anything like as bad as we deserved. It was such a stunning day that we decided it was too good to miss. My leg was feeling better but still not great so Gable and Dan offerred to take my extra bits for me leaving me to hoist myself up the hills with 2 poles unburdened.
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Starting sunday

As we walked my leg seemed to stretch itself out a bit and I found the walk up Glen Derry quite manageable. The sun was beating down and we were soon sweating and stripping down the layers.
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Starting up Glen Derry

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Heading up Beinn Bhreac

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Me

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Dan


Before too long we found ourselves on top of Beinn Bhreac enjoying fantastic weather and great views. Bizarrely, the few hills immediately around us were bathed in sunlight and clear skies but the nearby hills slightky further afield including Lochnagar were all under white cloud. A couple of excellent guys, Neil and Colin had joined us for the walk up but decided to head back from here.
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Cairn on Beinn Bhreac

The three of us figured that it was a perfect day to go on and tackle the next summit of Beinn a'Chaorainn, still having enough time to descend to Bob Scott's before the sun came down.
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Another 90 mins or so saw us at the cairn where we met a couple from Thurso, Thomas and Cathy.
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Cairn on Bheinn a'Chaorainn

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Descending

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We all descended together into Glen Derry in the direction of Hutchy's memorial hut. The descent was fine but previous footfall had compacted snow so that the path down was treacherously icy in places so I was glad that I had my pair of poles.

A few hundred metres past the mouth of Coire Etchachan I heard screaming from ahead of me. When I reached him Gable told me he'd slipped on the ice and assured me his ankle had broken. It was still only 4pm ish, conditions were good and mild but it was obvious immediately that he wasn't going to be able to move at all. Quick thoughts of constructing a chair or carrying him off the hill were dismissed beacuse of icy conditions underfoot and the fear of worsening the injury. Annoyingly, I always carry severe painkillers, survival blanket etc but this was the one occasion I didn't have my pack with me!

Thankfully our new friend, Thomas, is training for his summer Mountain Leader course in a few months and did have plastic bivvy bag and survival blanket as well as a down waistcoat which he gave to Gable. Dan also had his 5 season sleeping bag with him, practising carrying a heavy pack before his long walk home and we made Gable as comfortable as we could.

Thomas and Cathy trotted off to reach the emergency phone at Derry Lodge MRT hut. They were still some way off reaching it so I also decided to climb back up the hill in the hope that I would get enough phone service to get an SMS off to emergency services. Eventually I found a spot about 300mm square where I could get service and after 3 attempts to talk to 999 I managed to speak to someone. I was assured tha a chopper would be on its way but could I stay where I was so that I could receive further phone calls. I stood around for a while but was blessed with an amazing sunset over Derry Cairngorm and Ben Macdui.
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Sunset

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I then had a call saying the copter couldn't get to us and a track vehicle was on its way but would take another hour and a half. By this time sun was setting and I needed to get off the hill as I didn't grab a torch on my way up. I got back to Gable and Dan and passed on the news that we had to stick around for a while. G was still suffering severe pains and was getting cold after an hour and a half lying on the ground.
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It then turned dark very quickly, the wind was picking up and temperatures falling. With eyes keenly watching down the glen for headlamps or torches time ticked on.

Suddenly the sky was full of lights and whirring rotors and an RAF Rescue Sea King flew up the glen towards us. After some circling it miraculously found a landing place in the heather almost alongside us. The downdraught nearly knocked us on our backs and blew Dan's glasses off his face. It also seems to have picked up my very nice waterproof jacket and deposited it somewhere else on the hill (if anyone spots it...).

After shoving some gas and air into Gable the medics strapped a splint on him and for a few moments the incredible noise of the helicopter was drowned out by screams and profanity. I'm sure the medic is used to a bit more gratitude frankly.

As Dan and I contemplated the long walk down to collect our stuff and then get back to the car at the Linn o' Dee, we were quite relieved when the medic said he'd give us a lift to Derry Lodge. Bonus. We got a copter ride but without the pain plus we could see out the window while G lay in his gurnie. At the lodge we were met by the MRT who were dispatched to meet us and Dan and I were given a very welcome lift to the car while G was flown to Raigmore at Inverness. After a careful drive back over the Lecht I was home again, shattered, by 10.30pm.

The bad news was the G man broke the same bone in four places. The one that takes all the weight so he would never have managed to take a step on it, let alone make his way off the hill. The good news was that they fixed him up with a new stookie and he was out again the next morning.
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Plastered

Despite a broken ankle and a bike tumble it was agreed by all that it was a good weekend. Fine walks, fantastic weather and good company with bad rum. Although, I'll make sure I have my painkillers etc with me from now on. And now I have to sell Gable's bike and buy myself a new waterproof!
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Gable Gable End (unbroken)

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Comments: 37



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weemistermac


User avatar
Location: Ballindalloch, Speyside
Occupation: Sculptor
Pub: Old Bridge Inn
Mountain: Buachaille Etive Mor
Place: Speyside
Gear: Flask!
Member: None
Ideal day out: Long walk, nice ridge, stunning views and dramatic landscape from the top(s) on a sunny day with a scuffie o' sna'!

Munros: 100
Corbetts: 3
Sub 2000: 2
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way   

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Statistics

2012

Trips: 1
Munros: 2

2010

Trips: 3
Distance: 64 km
Ascent: 1228m
Munros: 8
Corbetts: 1

2009

Trips: 6
Distance: 57 km
Munros: 4


Joined: Oct 07, 2009
Last visited: Jul 05, 2019
Total posts: 185 | Search posts