Bluesky day on Beinn Mheadhoin

Beinn Mheadhoin summit tor in the snow

The first sight of Beinn Mheadhoin’s summit tor rising from the snow

Sometimes it feels this blog is becoming a single issue affair, with the proportion of posts about the Garbh Choire.

But I do now and then get out and about, and a recent trip up Glen Derry led to a superb day atop Beinn Mheadhoin, making the most of the late onset winter and one of those near perfect days which seem to have been eluding me recently.

There was a good attendance of regulars at Bob Scott’s on Friday night, with Norrie and Bob, Lithgae Jim and Dave Knowles all gathering for a trip through the Lairig Ghru, and Neil Findlay and Ian ‘Piper’ Shand set to go out to the Hutchison Hut in Coire Etchachan, to get some measurements done for this autumn’s planned refurbishment.

And those were just the regulars. There was also a large group of schoolkids (camped outside), their teachers, and about half a dozen or so other folk. Prospects didn’t look good for an easy bedspace but, in the event, quite a few folk were sleeping in tents and there was plenty room in the bothy – even if it was rather a noisy night with a truly awesome frogs’ chorus of snorers!

Saturday dawned fair and Neil, Piper and myself were among the first away, heading up Glen Derry through the woods – always a joy on a sunny morning – and past the Derry Dam to the more open upper half, catching up on each other’s news as we went.

 snow-covered Beinn Mheadhoin

Beinn Mheadhoin, on the right, uncharacteristically well-endowed with snow for mid May. On the left the cliffs above Lochan Uaine of Derry Cairngorm. As I was returning down the glen a large avalanche could be heard and seen at a mile’s distance.

Soon after crossing the Glas Allt Mhor the path branched, taking Neil F and Piper off to the Hutchie while I continued on the Lairig an Laoigh path to near its highest point, above the snowline, before crossing some rather entertaining snow-covered bog to start up the south-east shoulder of Beinn Mheadhoin.

A snowy Coire Etchachan

Looking into Coire Etchachan from the Lairig an Laoigh path. I love the curves which are accentuated by the snow cover.

It’s a way up I’d often thought about but never got round to trying before. There’s not even a hint of a path here and it’s steeper than makes for an easy ascent. Definitely a route for the curious rather than the average guy just looking to get to the top of the hill but, for all that, and although its ‘shortcomings’ were exaggerated by a covering of soft, slippy snow, by the time I’d climbed a couple of hundred feet I noticed there was somebody coming up behind me! What do you have to do to get some peace these days?

A steep few hundred feet made for a quick ascent to where the slope eased off and the snow deepened, making the gradient easier and the going harder. But the clear weather was holding, with views getting ever more extensive as I gained height until the summit tor came into view, a striking black monolith thrusting out of the white hill into the clear blue sky, fresh snow smoking round its base.

Summit tor of Beinn Mheadhoin, Cairngorms, with white snow and blue sky

Granite, ice, snow and a clear blue sky. Tops don’t come much better.

Beinn Mheadhoin’s summit tors are a magnificent sight, especially in winter, and it’s a hill I really had been away from for too long.

The final approach to the summit was made past the other tors, each standing out against the unbroken white of the plateau. A couple of skiers were sitting at the foot of the summit tor eating their lunch and bearing stoically the periodic shower of ice particles blown off the granite. I made an abortive attempt to climb the rock, but was dissuaded by the loose ice and melting snow – I’d been there before, after all.

Even when the guy who’d been following me caught up and scrambled up to the top, I remained unmoved. Getting up was okay – I was more worried about getting back down without skiting.

But when another guy turned up and followed suit, my pride had taken all it could and I went for it, making the one tricky move and gaining the top easily. And descending didn’t cause too much of a problem after all. You’d think I’d have known that by this time!

Granite tors on Beinn Mheadhoin

The granite tors of Beinn Mheadhoin – a striking Cairngorm summit

After leaving the increasingly busy summit, I made my way down to Loch Etchachan, a striking black in a cradle of white, and toyed with the idea of going back to Scottie’s over the top of Derry Cairngorm before coming to my senses and dropping down to the Hutchison and making my increasingly weary way down Glen Derry.

A brilliant day.

Shelter Stone Crag and Hell's Lum Crag from Beinn Mheadhoin

Looking across to Carn Etchachan, the Shelter Stone Crag and Hell’s Lum Crag from the summit plateau of Beinn Mheadhoin

Loch Etchachan in the snow
Looking down on Loch Etchachan, with Ben McDui behind

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13 Responses to Bluesky day on Beinn Mheadhoin

  1. tremendous stuff Neil. You have captured one of those (rare) alpinesque days of the year.

    In the throws of rehabbing my ankle at the moment; real jealousy.

    Great outcome r.e. Garnh Choire too!

  2. George Adams says:

    Enjoyed your Blog and also your photos. Nostalgia!!!

    • Glad you liked it George – I’d swap you some more pictures of the Cairngorms for some of your stories from the ’50s. Always think they must have been the golden days in a lot of ways.

  3. geoff says:

    A great day out and super pictures.

  4. Fraser Henderson says:

    Utter jealousy from me!
    Fraser Henderson

    • I know the feeling Fraser – the number of days I’ve heard of others enjoying brilliant conditions and I’ve been stuck at work. And then get up the next weekend for torrential rain! Still, this weekend worked out just grand and I hope you have many of them yourself.
      Neil

  5. Fantastic stuff Neil.
    Been waiting for the snow all over winter and what happens, it turns up in spring!
    Good choice of route up to make a nice cicular, I’ve been up in better uderfoot conditions following the burn and found it just fine.

    • Burn coming up out of Lairig an Laoigh would have been covered, but from the terrain I was a bit south of it. Not that the going was especially hard – it was just the soft snow making it slippy in a couple of places where there was scree underneath. Made a nice change from the ‘voie normale’ though.

  6. Chris Horobin says:

    Good Blog entry Neil, you make me wish I had been in Scotland, well not really as Gav and I were in Spain enjoying some really hot rock. Good to see you wandering. Chris.

  7. Beautiful. Stunning.

    Let us know more!

    Ghost

  8. Reblogged this on thewordpressghost and commented:
    Everyone,

    Here are some beautiful pictures!

    Ghost.

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