Beinn a' Chaorainn - 1083m
Beinn Mheadhoin - 1183m
Friday 4th January 2019
Weather/Conditions: Amazing weather! Either no snow on the ground, some snow fields high up, or piles of verglas draining down any watercourse including paths - interesting and varied ground conditions. This corner of the Highlands must have been the sunniest corner of the Highlands. The Cairngorms blocked a cloud sheet from Deeside, which spilled over the wall of Cairn Gorm
Distance/Ascent/Time: 4.9km / 70m / 1h 15m (3rd Jan)
29.5km / 1400m / 8h 55m
First trip of the year: 3rd January
An amazing trip to start the year. I mentioned I was going to the Cairngorms for a pile of top bagging as well as Munros, and James was up for coming. The 3rd January was the travel day: I stopped by James’ in Stirling for a cuppa. Then up to Perth, into Tiso for gas, supermarket for general food, then north again on backroads to Blairgowrie and over the top to Braemar and park up at Linn of Dee.
James wasn't far behind and he pulled in 10 mins later. Getting the bike ready and getting bags packed all took a long time: there was a lot to pack. We cycled into Glen Lui and up to Bob Scott’s, which would be our base for a couple of nights. It was a good weather night, cold but calm. It was a lot quicker biking into Bob Scott’s too: I should have done that last time.
We arrived at Bob Scott’s mid-evening with find six or seven other folk all there, the stove hot and the place already warm. We had a good night but early off to bed - 10.30ish. I tossed and turned until after 1am, unable to sleep. As usual, the place is almost too warm. The place felt more like a hostel with a room crammed with folk you don’t know.
4th Jan: Beinn Bhreac & Beinn a' Chaorainn
The following morning, James and I left the bothy and took the bikes a couple kms up Glen Derry. I bumped into Al and Alison at the lodge (they were camping) and then headed on. Sun was breaking out on the flanks of Beinn Mheadhain and Stob Coire Etchachan. It looked beautiful, but there were quite a few kilometres to cross to get there first.
At a cairned turn off (just after a stream) we left the bikes against a tree and continued on a boggy path toward Beinn Bhreac. The hillsides were bare of snow, but any watercourse was sheet ice: a bit treacherous as the paths were often frozen up. Beinn Bhreac gave a steady pull of a few hundred metres to its summit, from where all the hills of the day would open up.
On the way to Beinna' Chaorainn, James and I chatted on Gaelic, the Gaels and Highland culture: the whys and what’s. I enjoyed the way the conversation made the walking automatic and miles were gained without thought. Nearer to Beinn a' Chaorainn, I darted off toward Beinn a' Chaorainn Bheag, an outstanding top - third time here, it was not going to be missed, even though I was enjoying the chat! So we parted to meet later on the Munro. I picked up the pace, but of course without chat there is less to divert the mind and the summit took a bit of a push. It was good to do, though. I stormed up Beinn a' Chaorainn where James was waiting in the sun.
Cloud banks sailed along to the south and to the north of us. The south wall of Cairngorm had a waterfall of mist pouring into Loch Avon: a stunning sight. It hinted that the rest of the Highlands were caught under a carpet of grey. But this Deeside corner was shining in the sun, as is so often the case. Accordingly, I was glad to be here.
Beinn Mheadhain was a bit of a push - it's a steep climb from the Lairig an Laoigh. This was also my first time actually in the lairig. I ‘nailed’ off Stob Coire Etchachan and met James later, near the summit of the hill. Up here, it was all sparkling snowfields and dry, cushioned grass. Just ahead were the great tors which we climbed up on to get our third hill of the day.
My first plan had been to do all the five tops around Loch Etchachan, but time was getting on and it seemed sensible to shorten that lot: I could return for the rest in the morning. I diverted down the NW flank of Beinn Mheadhoin for Stacan Dubha, which gives an immense view into Loch Avon, with Carn Etchachan and the Shelterstone ruling at the top of the glen. The Garbh Uisge's and Hell's Lum Crag were all dripping with ice, a brief sense of winter in otherwise snowless terrain.
And then we finished the day down by Loch Etchachan. James met a mate here, and we took turns trying to break the ice. Three of us walked down to the Hutchison - nice to see inside again. I have good memories of this place on my 2012-13 Cairngorm traverses. Then James and I left in the dimming light. Stob Coire Etchachan was on fire in the last sunlight above, and we bashed out the miles on easy track to finish in last light. We picked up the bikes and freewheeled back to Bob Scott's.
Once back, a new set of people had arrived: five Dutch folk were staying, all on a camping-and-lairig holiday. There were a couple other folk to make another full bothy night. Bob Scott's is a real hub! Curry again, a bit of music and chat. I slept much better that night.
Photos: Stob Coire Etchachan & Beinn Mheadhain
Stacan Dubha & Loch Avon crags
Loch Etchachan & Glen Derry
Beinn a' Chaorainn
(0.00) 7.42pm Linn of Dee
(0.44) 8.26pm Bob Scott's
(0.00) 8.52am Bob Scott's
(1.40) 10.32am Beinn Bhreac
(2.47) 11.39am Beinn a' Chaorainn Bheag
(3.05) 11.57am Beinn a' Chaorainn
(4.18) 1.10pm Stob Coire Etchachan
(4.51) 1.43pm Beinn Mheadhain
(5.40) 2.32pm Stacan Dubha
(8.55) 5.47pm Bob Scott's