Sunday 26 August 2012

Cairngorms Backpack August 2012 - Day 2

Distance: 21.5km; Ascent: 830m; Dry and sunny; with Gwilym

After last nights near constant rain, it was pleasant to hear no rain on the tent when I woke up at around 6:30 ish due to the daylight.  After failing to get back to sleep, I went outside to discover that most of the cloud had lifted and there were even a few patches of blue sky :-)  It was noticeably colder than yesterday though; my thermometer in the tent porch read 5°C, so it can't have been much above freezing overnight!

Gwilym had brought along some backpacking coffee he had found in Tiso so we had an unusually civilised start to the day with freshly brewed coffee!  By the time we were packing up the tent the cloud had pretty much lifted above all the peaks we could see, and we could admire the majesty of our location next to Loch Etchachan.

Overnight camp at Loch Etchachan
Our original plan had been to bag Beinn Mheadhoin as a there and back walk from Loch Etchachan before descending into the head of Glen Derry and then ascending alongside the Glas Allt Mor up to the Moine Bealach.  However when viewed from Derry Cairngorm yesterday this burn didn't look to be an attractive route of ascent as it appeared to be in a quite steep sided little gully.  So instead as the weather was so good we opted to take in the extra peak of Beinn a' Chaorainn.

Loch Etchachan and Ben Macdui from slopes of Beinn Mheadhoin
Therefore after packing the tent up we began the steep ascent up onto the plateau of Beinn Mheadhoin, with excellent views back over Loch Etchachan towards Ben Macdui and the crags above Loch Avon.  We continued over the plateau past several granite tors to reach the summit tor of Beinn Mheadhoin (Munro, Marilyn), which was an impressively large lump of granite.

The summit tor of Beinn Mheadhoin
I had been here previously, but declined to scramble up the summit tor that time due to it being plastered in ice.  However that wasn't going to be a problem today and after a relatively easy scramble we were soon on the ~4x4m flat top of the tor, where we met our first other walker of the day.

Looking towards Ben Macdui from summit of Beinn Mheadhoin
On the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin
The views up here were excellent, and we rested a while in the warm sunshine, although there was also a chilly breeze.  The descent of the tor was unsurprisingly trickier than the ascent, with one slightly off balance move.  However we were soon safely back on the ground, but I was glad I hadn't attempted it when I was here in winter some years ago!

Cairn Gorm from N slopes of Beinn Mheadhoin
Descending the N slopes of Beinn Mheadhoin
The descent down to the north east took quite a while due to having to avoid a number of crags, and the ground being quite steep, broken and heathery; perhaps a route to avoid in mist!  We stopped for a break part way down in a sunny sheltered spot to remove layers as it had warmed up significantly.  And by now I concluded that it was a tad too warm to be wearing leggings under my trousers, although their warmth had been much appreciated first thing this morning!

Dubh Lochan
Eventually we reached the midge ridden path through the Lairig an Laoigh, where we detoured south briefly to pick up more water as it was so hot!  After following the path northwards for a few hundred metres, we took a traversing line up through the heather onto the steep northern slopes of Beinn a' Chaorainn.  The ascent seemed to go on for ages, and as we were sheltered from the wind we dared not stop for long lest the midges find us!

Looking down Glen Avon from N slopes of Beinn a' Chaorainn
Higher up the ground began to ease and after a final ascent up bouldery slopes we reached the summit cairn of Beinn a' Chaorainn (Munro, Marilyn) and our second other walker of the day, who had walked in this morning.  As it was now well past one o'clock, and we were both quite hungry, we stopped here for lunch in the sunshine :-)  The views from here were excellent: we could pick out all our hills from yesterday along with many others much further away; we could also make out the Moray Firth in the distance.

Summit of Beinn a' Chaorainn
After a walk across the seemingly endless plateau of the Moine Bhealaidh, which was boggy in places, we began the ascent up to our final hill of the day: Beinn Bhreac (Munro), whose summit we reached at around 2:30pm.  Again the views from here were excellent and we took possibly our last opportunity for a midge free break!

Summit of Beinn Bhreac
Fungi on the southern slopes of Beinn Bhreac
We descended south before picking up a small path down to the 673m bealach and then on downwards over progressively boggier ground to reach the easternmost of the two main paths through Glen Derry.

Pinewoods in Glen Derry
Pinewoods in Glen Derry
We headed southwards on this much better path through the pinewoods, surrounded by heather resplendent in purple flowers to reach Derry Lodge.  Here we met several day walkers preparing to cycle back to Linn of Dee; we were envious as we would have to walk the 5km instead!

Heading back towards Linn of Dee down Glen Lui
There was a pleasant breeze most of the way down Glen Lui to keep the midges at bay, and eventually we reached the car at Linn of Dee at around 6pm.  It had been an excellent couple of days walking, with much better weather than I expected :-)  We headed south to Edinburgh for dinner at Gwilym's flat, where I also stayed the night - many thanks!  Home tomorrow...

More photos and route map will follow once I get home.

Post updated on 01/09/12 to include route map, photos and links to hills; post date also altered to actual date of walk (from 27/08/12).
Mobile phone photo uploaded whilst on walk

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