Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
12th January 2008
A walk into the snowy heartland of the Cairngorms to visit Britain's second highest peak.
There was a noticeable chill in the air as I was loading the car at five on Saturday morning and the temperature continually dropped as I made my way down the north Deeside road towards Braemar. The gauge reached -11'C at one point before settling at -10'C at the Linn of Dee car park. The forecast was good and the news the previous evening had shown good snow at the nearby Glen Shee Ski centre. The stars were out in a clear sky giving promise to a bright start to the day. Well rapped up I made my way by torchlight through the wood surrounding the car park and onto the land rover track that leads out to Derry lodge. I had brought my bike to save time along this part of the route but cycling proved very difficult on the snow and ice hardened road way. The effort did however soon warm me up and saw me stop to remove a layer and take a drink. The water in my drinking bottle had already started to form ice. At Derry lodge I left the bike and weighed up my options for the way ahead. I decided to keep to my original plan and take a route over Carn a' Mhaim and so took a left turn after crossing the bridge which fords the Derry burn. I picked up the land rover track that heads up Glen Luibeg after crossing a short stretch of open moor. The sun was now starting to brighten the sky and cast a reddish glow on the snow bound hills.
Early morning sun reflects off snowy hill tops
The Luibeg burn can usually be crossed using stepping stones but these were well iced so I continued on around to the use the bridge that crosses the burn a bit further up stream.
Snow topped stones in icy Luibeg burn
The snow was fairly deep in places so I stoped at the style at the exit from a fenced scattering of native pines to put on my snow shoes. Continuing west following footprints and ski tracks I emerged out of the shadows on the sunny lower slopes of Carn a' Mhaim. I now headed north up the snowy south east ridge which proved quite difficult as it steepened. A couple of sections of soft deep snow saw me sliding backwards slightly but kicking into the snow and contouring a bit I managed to find firmer snow that allowed me to continue upwards. On the firmer ground the front teeth of the snow shoes gave a good hold but this meant walking up on my toes which was proved to be quite an exertion. The views started to open up dramatically as I reached the upper reaches, Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm on the right and on my left and over the Lairig Ghru there was the Beinn Bhrotain, Monadh Mor, the Devils point and Cairn Toul.
Ben Macdui in the distance
During my lunch stop on top of Carn a' Mhaim I was afforded a 360 degree panorama of great views.
Beinn Bhrotain, Monadh Mor and the Devils point
It was very pleasant in the sunshine and I was a bit reluctant to leave the top but I still had plenty of climbing to do to reach Ben Macdui. The narrow crest to the north of the summit lead gently down to a wide col below two broad boulder strewn shoulders of Ben Macdui.
The Devils point across the Lairig Ghru
I followed the shoulder on the east of Allt Clach nan Taillear (the Tailors burn) for the long, almost 500m, climb to broad flat summit plateau and the top . After some more sandwiches and a hot drink it was soon time to head down.
I used the ridge along Sron Riach to descend down in Glen Luibeg and it was almost dark as I regained the land rover track. Clear sky and light from the crescent moon allowed me to find my way without use of my head torch. Picking up my bike at Derry lodge it was a bumpy ride back down to the car park. After packing my gear into the car it was time to enjoy a hot chocolate before heading off back to Aberdeen. The temperature was already down to -8'C and ensured the minor road from Linn of Dee back to Braemar required the same care as in the morning.
Fading sun over Carn a' Mhaim
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