Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
2nd April 2010
A long Stravaig up two less visited hills, Beinn Bhreac, the speckled hill and Beinn a' Chaorainn, hill of the rowan tree.
Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a' Chaorainn form the highest points on the large area of land that overlooks Glen Derry from the east. The vast expanse of Moine Bhealaidh separates the two summits and can provide a testing traverse, my only previous crossing saw me squelch my way across this peaty bog one misty September day a good few years back. Having missed out on the views of the surrounding hills that day I had contemplated a return but with the intention of crossing the moor during the colder months and hopefully over less watery ground. The large snow deposits over winter had been topped up during the last few days and a sharp frost overnight had helped firm up the ground. Leaving my bike in the van I headed out on foot from the Linn of Dee through the ancient pines and headed into Glen Lui. It was a bright clear day and extremely still in the Glen under brilliant blue skies.
Glen Lui and Lui Water
The only sound was the noise of my snow shoes as they occasionally scraped across the icy surface. I was joined briefly by a guy on skis who was contemplating a trip up Ben Macdui. Soon after I left the track and headed up hill alongside the snow covered burn that leads to Clas Fhearnaig. As I gained height Glen Luibeg came into view to the west and beyond in the distance I could see the rocky crags of Beinn Bhrotain in Glen Dee.
Glen Luibeg and Glen Dee beyond
Continuing to work my way along the snowy runnels in between the shortening heather I climbed gradually to reach the top of Meall an Lundain.
The dark brown heather covering the rounded summit provided a sharp contrast to the brightness of the surrounding snow clad mountains. To the east the huge bulk of Beinn a' Bhuird towered above Glen Quoich with its sprawling pine woods.
Beinn a' Bhuird from Meall an Lundain
After dropping to the col to the north of Meall an Lundain there were some nice cornices to admire around the burn that leads down to the pool at Poll Bhát. After initially tramping over heather I moved onto the snowier part of the incline; the studs on my snow shoes providing sufficient grip over the icier patches. I soon reached the top of Beinn Bhreac and needed to weave between boulder tops poking out from the wind scoured snow and ice cover.
Beinn a' Chaorainn now appeared more distinctively, rising conically above the wide white plateau ahead. Ignoring the slightly higher ground to my right I moved left to gain fuller views of the mountains west of Glen Derry. Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Beinn Mheadhoin formed an impressive chain intertwined with high cliffs and deep corries.
Derry Cairngorm and Coire Etchachan
Having worked my way around to the southern ridge of Beinn a’ Chaorainn it was now time to climb again. The smooth snow lining the lower slopes soon became rippled with waves etched out of the mountain side by much stronger winds than at present. There had been little more than a breeze so far today but the wind now appeared to be strengthening slightly, gaining more of a chilling bite. I made the top just as the first of four walkers appeared from the opposite side of the well made summit cairn.
Caringorm and Bynack More from Beinn a' Chaorainn
We were soon on our separate ways each looking for some shelter to enjoy a bite to eat; they would then be heading back to Bob Scott’s bothy were they had set up base for a few days. Tramping across the plain of the Moine Bhealaidh seemed to take a lot longer on the way back, the patterns on the snowy carpet the only change to my immediate surrounding as I made seemingly slow progress.
Derry Cairngorm from Moine Bhealaidh
Eventually on reaching Craig Derry I found a large granite stone behind which to shelter and enjoy a late lunch. I got myself in a nice comfortable position while lying against my rucksack taking in the views, so comfortable in fact I started to drift off to sleep, must have been the fresh air! I decided I should make tracks so reluctantly packed my things and headed on my way. I pushed on down into Glen Derry following the western shoulder of Coire an Fhir Bhoga. Working through the pines I found the path that leads to the bridge fording the Derry Burn.
Lone Pine and Derry Cairngorm
The path through the woods from here is usually a very pleasant stroll through to Derry lodge but today with the path obliterated by snow in many places I decided to follow the tracks left by a large multi-terrain vehicle. This was fine in parts but occasionally led through some wet boggy ground and concealed some deep muddy holes intent on keeping my boot after a leg had been swallowed quickly to the knee. It was nice to get back on the main track at the lodge; leaving a final 5km back to the Linn of Dee and the car park. Part way back I caught up with a couple and their daughter from Aberdeen and the amiable chat that followed made for a pleasant end to the day.
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