Ben Macdui to Linn o’Deehike

September brings the annual Cairngorm Club traverse this year being the North to South alternative. Heading off from the ski centre we passed the new mountain bike trail with it’s ‘magic carpet’

The group split into 2, one heading off to traverse the Fiacaill ridge, and I stayed with the Coire an t-Sneachda party.

Heading into Coire an t-Sneachda

The mild ascent had us hot with the windless shelter here, and we stopped briefly at the pool for a coffee break before the winch up the goat track.

Pool in Coire an t-Sneachda
The Goat Track
Big crags above the track

The last time I’d been nearby in winter somebody had been helicoptered out of here after falling, although it’s a good enough path it does get steeper and mildly scrambly in small bits towards the top, and a covering of ice would make it a treacherous descent for sure.

Getting steeper
Up above

Now open to the southern breeze we welcomed the coolness after the climb, looking across we could see our other party making their way along the ridge.

Fiacaill ridge
Beinn Mheadhoin

We followed the path to Ben Macdui; I’d been following online a project to map the UK’s highest trees, which at that time the record stood around 1200m, so as soon as that contour was reached I diverged off-path and thrumbled amongst the rocks and grass, hoping to spot a record-breaker and perhaps find a brief moment of glory.

Off-path searching, looking across to the group being sensible on-path
Not making things easy for myself

The top was in gloom (I’m not sure I’ve ever been on Macdui and it not having been so) with many hikers scattered around. A raven watched intently: there were treats to be had.

I decided on an offering of some pork pie chunks, and the shadow pounced and then faded into the mist to stash or eat at the leisure

Misty top
Cairngorm Club ceramic topograph has seen better days – but it is 100 years old

A chilly breeze had us shelter in the Sapper’s bothy for lunch. One day I’ll note down the bearing from the top instead of wandering roughly in the direction

Sapper’s bothy

Heading down towards Loch Etchachan we got below cloud and dappled hills presented themselves

A peak of blue
Cairn Gorm

I’d continued ‘high tree search’ with no luck but a small movement caught my eye

Spotterel the dotterel
Not shy

Now below 1200m I gave up tree search and rejoined the throng

Back on path towards Coire Sputan Dearg
Beinn Mheadhoin better lit
Derry Cairngorm beyond the gully
Loch Etchchan ahoy

As often seems to be the case, finding when not looking: a pine at around 1070m right beside the path, 100m short of the UK Pinus Sylvestris record at that time. Folk casually state that trees can’t grow at these heights but they can and do without undue grazing pressure, the same species grow at far higher heights in other countries (up to 2600m and increasing).

Etchachan Red Pine
Loch Etchachan

We didn’t stop long at the hutchy, the skies were darkening and we were conscious of time having to meet our coach at the Linn o’Dee

The ‘Hutchy’
Glen Derry
Glen Derry

Along Glen Derry the skies opened and didn’t relent until the end, we’d soaked up scenery and now time to soak up water

A side burn wee waterfall
Hint of autumn looking to Carn Crom

I was glad of a full change of clothes on the coach. The ridge walkers soon arrive having made good time from Ben Macdui down Sron Riach which is a bit shorter than via Glen Derry. Onwards home, with a stop at Aboyne for a refreshment. I hope to do a winter traverse with some club members, a more challenging task and I’ll need to ponder route choices for that later in the year.

Boat inn beer

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