Retro walk: 21st August 2004
Ben Macdui 21/08/04
Munros: Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui
Accomplices: Paul, Yvonne
Having climbed one of the toughest mountains in Scotland, it was time to go for one of the highest. Two previous attempts at Ben Macdui had been aborted – one because of bad weather, the other because of Brian’s bad knees! Yvonne decided to join myself and Paul at the last minute, so off we set early one Saturday morning in what looked to be half decent weather.
We were off and walking from the Linn of Dee by 11am and soon reached Derry Lodge, at which point Paul decided we should climb Derry Cairngorm as well rather than continuing up Glen Derry. There was a short shower as we started climbing up from the edge of the forest to the first crags above, but the sun came out and warmed us immediately. Unfortunately the higher we climbed, the worse the weather got, eventually turning to sleet as we neared the final boulder-hopping climb to the summit of Derry Cairngorm. No-one was feeling too happy at this point, but the rain eased shortly after reaching the summit giving us a chance to get some photos at least.
We dropped down North West from the summit and began heading towards the path up from Loch Etchachan, where we would decide whether to continue on to Ben Macdui or drop down out of the weather and head back along Glen Derry. I wasn’t keen on the idea of letting Ben Macdui thwart me again and my argument to continue was aided by the appearance of two cheerful figures through the mist wearing shorts! This strengthened everyone’s resolve, so we pressed on, chatting to our new companions as we went.
After passing some climbers in the corries to our left, we eventually reached the plateau and made the final gradual ascent to the summit cairn of Ben Macdui under the cover of cloud. Miraculously, shortly after reaching the summit the cloud cleared and we caught glimpses of the view of the Cairngorms all around us – enough to make it all seem worthwhile at least!
Not wanting to dwell too long whilst the weather was on our side, we headed back the way we had come to the edge of the plateau and left our new friends to take in Carn a Mhaim. Our way down lay along the ridge from Sron Riach, passing Lochan Uaine far below to our left. The weather wasn’t quite done with us yet and we had to endure several stinging showers of hail before we reached the safety of lower ground, where the temperature began to rise. The final descent was tough on tired knees and feet but at least there was no rain!
Once we were down in the glen, it was just a question of a couple of simple river crossings followed by a long slog back to the car. A couple of fell runners we had seen near the summit caught us up and jumped on the bikes they’d left nearby, making the walk ahead seem even longer for us. The clouds of midges chasing us along Glen Luibeg made that stretch particularly unpleasant, but luckily they eased off after Derry Lodge and let us concentrate on putting one foot in front of another.
A little over 7 hours after setting off, we reached the car and rushed home to recuperate and in my case, beg forgiveness from Yvonne for putting her through it! My other concern was the fact I was planning to mountain bike up Mount Keen the following day with Stuart and Ewan. It had been a tough day, but well worth the hardships endured.