Cairn Gorm and Beinn MacDui – May 2005

After a trade show in Aberdeen, I picked up a rental car – a Megane – and drove west. I stopped at Alford to buy provisions at around 7p.m, and again in the Nethy Bridge area. I parked up at the lower car park on the Coire Cas road, just above the tree line of the Queen’s Forest, and pitched my tent in an Eden of diverse vegetation down by the stream, some half mile from the car.

Next day, it was gloomy. From my camp in the rough ground, I slogged up into Coire Cas, taking a steady pace, arriving at the Ptarmigan around 11a.m (after a start at 8.23a.m) and at the summit of Cairn Gorm a while after that. On the summit I looked at the automated weather station, and had a chat on the mobile with a friend of mine – in order to make him jealous.

From there to Ben Macdui took a long time, with some close compass work in dense mist, and even some use of the GPS. An added complexity in this area, is that the map grid reference eastings and northings can be very similar. Point 000000 is nearby in a small corrie above Loch Echtachan. It is possible to be somewhere like 981983 and confuse eastings and northings.

It probably wouldn’t matter in clear weather. But the mist came down and I had to cross a large and very old snowfield, in what became effectively near white-out conditions. I got in due course to the summit of Ben Macdui, and more compass work brought me to the cliffs, which could not be missed. Thence to the right down the ridge, into the valley. This was a wild and deserted place. I camped near the Corrrour Bothy – though I knew nothing of the bothy at that time, and I could by no means ford the river, which cost me half an hour backtracking to the bridge. It was pouring with rain and I was bone tired, though happy enough, after a hill day of eight and a half hours. I met four people on the hill all day – it was mid-week.

It rained on and off all night, and I was a little dismayed to find on this second night under canvas, that my tent was still soaking wet on the outside in the morning. I’d had difficulty sleeping because of light, and because of sore hips. I took brufen in the morning, also to help with my feet. So after a wet strike, a little before 8a.m. I started off up the Lairig Ghru. There was some heavy rain as I walked in, fortunately at my back. Up and over the pass was not so time consuming as I had thought it would be, and I was taking lunch around 1p.m at the Sinclair memorial at the foot of the north side of the pass, in a rare blast of sunshine. Thence across to the “Chalamain Gap” which is just that – a dry gap – and down to the car in pouring rain.