A stormy time in the Cairngorms, November 1990

Day 1

Myself, A. Mackervoy and R. Woolison walked in up Glen Derry from the roadhead at Linn of Dee to Loch Etchachan. It is an attractive wilderness, the route follows a rough road hike up-valley through Scots Fir enclosures before ending. The valley floor is a dried-up ribbon lake. We stopped for a bite to eat at the Hutchinson Bothy and pushed on. We met two lads who said it was windy up in the corrie of Loch Etchachan. We got up into the corrie as the light faded. It was windy: the hard wind and the fading light made pitching our camp difficult. We were pitched into frosted grass and light snow. In the night it rained a lot.

Our camp at Loch Etchachan

Day 2

Driving rain and cloud delayed our departure until after 10a.m. Late for winter! We climbed up into the thick mist up to the summit of Ben Macdui (1309m) and crossed north through driving rain to Cairn Lochan (1215m), and thereafter, relying heavily on the compass at this point, back towards Carn Etchachan. Or so we thought. The wind was strong and pushed us in one direction all day.

Similar geography – everything looks the same – saw us climbing up to a snowy col as the weather started to clear. Below, we expected to see Coire Etchachan. Instead, we saw a deep and wild glen with no sign of a tarn. We recognised it by various landmarks; we were looking down into the Lairig Ghru. Fortunately the weather was improving and the clouds rising. We raced to the nearest summit, and found we had been driven in a circle, confused by the wind, the mist and by similar geography.

Swiftly we descended the ridge to our tents, as dry snow and darkness began to fall. This was the windy night that permanently damaged the poles of my Wild Country Trisar.

Day 3

On which we had an easy start climbing through sunlight through fresh snow onto untouched summits, then a grand walk along the tops through a brutal wind. Down to the wild and remote Loch Avon, which had pretty sandy beaches. Better camping ground here than at Loch Etchachan, had we but known. We visited the Shelter Stone, and then, up a steep side through heavy snow, past frozen cliffs and waterfalls – beautiful scenes – up to Coire Etchachan and our tents.

Loch Avon in the heart of the Cairngorms, November 1990. This is a remote place: the nearest road-head is ten miles away over rough mountains