Beinn Bhreac, Chaorainn, Mheadhoinmountain bike, trail running

I had a Friday off, ostensibly to pack and prepare to leave for a holiday Saturday morning, but got a shout from a mate keen to go out into the mountains. We’d looked at a few multi-munro routes where we’d both be seeing some new stuff – a 3 munro bike/run epic was chosen.

Starting at Linn O’Dee we headed off towards Derry Lodge. Bike makes this bit a lot more fun, especially on the tired homeward leg.

zoom through the woods

The path heading north on the east side of Derry burn is real nice, though there’s quite a few drains that hinder momentum until you get the measure of ducking in and out of them.

singletrack through the trees past Derry lodge
Up Glen Derry
Through a burn
Wee waterfall here

We dumped the bikes just before the foot bridge and headed across open moorland, quite tufty so just walking steadily at this point: a hot day again no point in burning it up too soon

Was going to follow, but took a more direct route
As we got higher, better view
Looking back across the glen, Beinn a’Ghlo?

Moor bimbling should always have a bit of flora n fauna nosing

White straggly
Yellow one very popular with insects

Rather than following the ridge alongside Allt Coire an Fhir Bhogha upstream as we’d seen recommended, we cut directly across, steeper and shorter. We reached the first munro of the day, Beinn Bhreac 931m, within about an hour and half.

South west to Glen Quoich

There’s a good view down to Glen Quoich to the south east, and across the other side of Glen Derry west.

North west to Loch Etchachan

Surprisingly spotted a few folk making their way across the plateau towards us, but we headed off north on a good (unmapped) path, time to get our run on. Today’s choice of footwear (in light of wanting to keep other shoes clean for tomorrow’s holiday) were an unworn (unwise) pair of higher state soil shakers, a cheap but robust set of trail runners.

The path fizzled out into a bog at Moine Bhealaidh as we got within 2km of the next top.

Bog n blue skies

We clambered over the boulder field before reaching the top of Beinn a Chaorainn, 2nd munro of the day. There’s a great view across to the Hutchy (probably Scotland’s highest bothy) which we’d pass on the way back later.

Hutchy a dot bottom left. Macdui top right

We stopped for a spot of lunch and I aired my feet: there was a bit of redness on my heels, that I thought might blister but on inspection not too bad. It was incredibly still for being above 1000m, and the midges were out so onwards to the next stage, down to the Fords of Avon

Bouldery then steep heather heading down to the fords. Bynack More on the right
Cloud shadows over Glen Avon

Water was low so a quick nosey across to the shelter, Fraser having never been here before.

Across and back with dry feet
Shelter always has nettles
Busy bees and scrawled nonsense

We then followed along the south bank of the River Avon, there’s a bit a path along the side of the water

Crystal clear water
Sundew up close. These are tiny, hard to spot
Tempted to have a dip
Water slide

Saw quite a few frogs along the riverside, these mountain frogs are fast though could I get a photo? Nope

The static cloudberry, more obliging to the camera

As trail running goes, heading towards the crags at the east end of Loch Avon is definitely filed under epic. Big scenery and blue skies.

Along the loch
wee beach
Crags opposite
lush mountain loch panorama
Shelter stone crag
Back along the loch

I went to show Fraser the shelter stone, which was viewed easily from half a mile away but a bit more elusive once up close and dodging around other large rocks. Every other gap and hole near here now seems to have had a rubble wall built, so had a few false finds until the proper location was found (should have paid more attention to the cairn on top)

Big old boulder. Note the wee cairn on top
Inside looking out
Plenty blaeberries

Whilst nosing about here, I saw a ripple in a small pool, went over to investigate, then through the crystal clear water could see a rodent paddling away furiously underwater. It made it’s escape under some boulders before I could whip out the camera. Quite surprised to see this beastie up here at this height as it’s a brutal place in winter. I guess it must be a water vole as swimming underwater?

A fav panorama in the Cairngorms

Onwards to Loch Etchachan (2nd highest place I’ve overnighted in winter) and then the final ascent of the day. The main path up is under maintenance

bye bye loch

Route ribboned off

There’s assorted other loose and rubbly scrapes and after passing a ptarmigan reached the top and headed over to investigate the Barns (tors) of Beinn Mheadhoin

Hi there Ptarmigan
First tor
Has a nice view to the loch on the other side
Heading towards the main cluster
More rocks
Curvy tor
Square tor: Highest bit

The highest point of the day reached, 1182m.

Would a climber use this as a ladder
Looking towards Ben Macdui
Glen Derry where we’ll be heading back to
Zoomed in. Bikes in the edge of trees
Great visibility today
Towards macdui

Time to head back down. A good view of Loch Etchachan from above

Sparkly loch
Loch pano

Passing the same Ptarmigan, made our way down the scrabbly dusty hill side, then a quick refill of water at the the loch outflow. The track down to the hutchy is quite lumpy; I’ve seen folk head this way on mountain bike (probably one of the longest descents in the uk if you have been up Macdui) , I suspect I’d be carrying my bike a fair bit, it’s a long way from home to have an over the bars and a broken bone.

Steeper than it looks here

Hutchison memorial hut
Inside. Though remote, still well used
Classic hut view below the crags
Finally managed a snap of a frog

The light is lovely as we make off down the final 5k on foot (feet now beginning to throb a bit, but not blistered)

Rubble skipping but good running
Phew almost there round the next corner
Bridge still closed (can sneak across if you really needed to)

The soil shaker trainers have done well, I can see me using them again to save wearing out more expensive shoes. No blisters caused, which with 30k covered on a hot day on unworn shoes is a result. Grip and confort in general pretty good. My only critique at this point would be the sole rubber: seemed a bit slippery a couple times on wet rock, though this could just their newness and might improve when a bit more worn.

Time to pick up the bikes, about 9k of downhill lay ahead. The first bit of singletrack was gonna be awesome. I wanted to give it full beans on the full-suspension so wasn’t going to wait for Fraser who’s a more tentative mountain biker and on a hardtail, he could catch up at Derry lodge.

Perfect evening now for wheels

Really enjoyed the way down, swishing through the forest and cleaned all the drainage bits. A bit of time to wait for my colleague so tried to get a few bike shots

Loose top makes it look like I’ve got a beer gut
Don’t fall in the river
Another flooer

Now the last stretch awaits, back to the car park at Linn O’Dee. Quick detour past the salmon ladder and it’s a wrap, great day out.

Towards the bridge
Shiny water
Steady hand and longish shutter

Relive ‘Beinn Bhreac, Beinn a Chaorainn, Beinn Mheadhoin’

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