Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
18th March 2012
A walk up through the pines of Glen Derry before making a circuit of loch Etchachan and return over Derry Cairngorm.
Using my mountain bike made short work of the first few km from the Linn of Dee car park up Glen Lui to Derry Lodge. I was enjoying the sunshine and the bright start to the day and although the breeze was minimal here in the glen there was a definite chill in the air. After dropping my bike in the heather near a fallen tree after fording the Derry burn it was now time to continue on foot. I always find the walk up Glen Derry a treat especially near the start when the path meanders through the old Caledonian pine wood.
Glen Derry Pines
Occasionally touching the river bank the path eases its way through the ancient trees with their red gnarly trucks and deep green pines. Bird song mingled with the sound of the river as it tumbled over the stony riverbed, tits and finches happily going about their business of the day. A couple of Jays rushed on ahead of me flying low through the trees before pausing until I approached again.
Glen Derry Pines
I was pleased to see evidence of new growth with a good number of saplings poking up through the undergrowth. I had wondered if this was down to the mild winter but believe it is more likely due to the reduction in local deer numbers. The trees eventually thin further up the glen although some replanting has seen the progress of a couple of small plantations. The flat grassy plane of the upper glen is walled in by two high ridges, to the west Derry Cairngorm dominates while to the east the ridge is topped by Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a' Chaorainn.
View up Glen Derry to Beinn Mheadhoin
I ignored the main path as it began its ascent to the high bealach between Beinn Mhaedhoin and Beinn a' Chaorainn and took the route into Corrie Etchahan instead. After weaving around a few heathery knolls I arrived at a small footbridge that fords the Derry burn after which it was a gradual rise to the Hutcheson memorial hut.
Creagan a' Choire Etchachan
From here a steeper ascent alongside the gushing out flow from Loch Etchachan soon had me gaining elevation. The cliffs of Carn Etchachan that form the backdrop to the loch came into view first before Little Loch Etchachan and the main loch itself added to the grandeur.
Outflow from Loch Etchachan
The loch and its situation offer up a superb rocky arena and a certain magic I always enjoy.
Little Loch Etchachan
I wanted to explore a wee bit further so after donning another layer to ward off the chill of a very cold wind I began a circuit of the loch. Going counter clockwise the initial easy walking led across to an area littered with lichen covered granite boulders.
The Cliffs of Carn Etchachan
The iridescent green of the lichen is a colour that I have long thought of as "Cairngorm green", even when sported by boulders in other parts of the country.
Beinn Mheadhoin from Loch Etchachan
Some of the granite slabs also showed many subtle shades of pink and red, especially those stones lining the watery edges of the loch.
It was one long boulder hop for much of the way along the far shore although sections were very much covered by numerous varieties of moss. A couple of steeper sections required a bit of care to avoid getting feet wet and some small snow fields also needed careful negotiation.
Beinn Mheadhoin across Loch Etchachan
A pair of Ptarmigan strutted along in front of me for a while, their heads poking up from behind boulders to check my position.
Tired of walking they eventually took short flight to escape my attention. Reluctantly leaving the loch side I turned up toward the col west of Creagan a' Choire Etchachan before heading over to Derry Cairngorm. The gathering clouds were now showing a deeper grey and started to threaten a bit of a shower. Some more boulder hopping was in order as I worked my way up the rocky slopes of Derry Cairngorm and onto the summit.
Dropping off the top a short way I gained shelter from the bitter wind in which to sit and enjoy my lunch. The smallest of snowflakes fell while I was eating but it was only as I made my way down that they fell in greater accumulation. It looked like the weather had turned for the day but within half an hour as I made the edge of the Derry pines the sun was again shining through.
Glen Derry from Carn Crom
Back at the lodge I picked up my bike and prepared for the swift return to the car park.
A good number from the Braemar and Aberdeen mountain rescue teams were sat outside the rescue hut enjoying a brew after what I assumed to be a day’s exercise.
I later read however that they had spent another day searching the area around Corrour bothy for walker Grant Cunliffe who has now been missing since the middle of January.
Very sad news.
(P.S. Grant Cunliffe’s body was found on Braeriach by the RAF while on exercise on 7th June).
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