Date: 12th May 2012
Time: 8hrs 30min
Hills: Derry Cairngorm (Munro, 1,155m)
Weather: A stunning spring day, blue skies and sunshine
Route: View on OS Maps
Sunlight dappled the forest track as we climbed away from the Linn of Dee. The long march down the Derry Road was completed without much complaint as the sight of the snow capped mountains under brilliant blue skies drew us on. A welcome elevenses broke the journey at Derry Lodge where we sat around in the sunshine though the breeze was cool enough to merit an outer layer and zipped up tops.
After crossing the Derry Burn there wasn’t much chance to get back into the swing of walking again before we were climbing up the steep, steep path that winds its way up to Carn Crom and the southern end of the long ridge that climbs up to Derry Cairngorm. The views began to open out almost immediately with the Derry Munros of Ben Bhreac and Ben a’ Chorain whitest of whites against a blue sky dotted with clouds. The line of the Lui Water stretched away to its meeting with the Dee. Luibeg was seen once we had attained the first crest on the hill, its pines dark against the shimmering hillsides.
We now headed towards the distant shape of Derry Cairngorm. The path is clear and easy to follow although there was one interesting stretch where a high snowbank forced us to scramble up a wet, rocky wall poised above Glen Derry.
After we regained the plateau we enjoyed fine views across the foothills of Ben Macdui towards Cairn Toul sitting above the Lairig Ghru. We continued following the track towards Derry Cairngorms, with snow patches increasing as we advanced. Soon it was a steep climb up deep snow to reach another subsidiary peak.
With the remarkable views now including the Coire Sputan Dearg side of Ben Macdui, nestling the Lochan Uaine in its arms, we advanced onwards, climbing the final summit slopes to the cairn at the south end of Derry Cairngorm's bouldery summit plateau.
There was a bitterly cold wind but despite this we stood around marvelling at the views that showed us snow-capped mountains all around, contrasted against the greenery of the lowlands. Whilst we waited for everyone to regroup we took the opportunity to hunker down in the lee of the summit and enjoy a spot of lunch, looking out across the central Cairngorms from Cairn Gorm itself out to distant Beinn Rinnes.
From the summit we now continued north, heading down unbroken snow slopes and then climbing up to reach the top of Creagan a'Choire Etchachan before descending its far side to reach the shores of Loch Etchachan. We were surrounded by sublime scenery, including the corniced wall of Coire Sputan Dearg, and a view down towards Glen Derry and our descent route.
The going besides the loch was tough going in knee-deep snow and as we headed east a rumbling sound alerted us to an avalanche tearing down the cliffs on the far side of the loch.
After wading through the snow we eventually reached the start of the track down to Glen Derry. Thankfully it was largely free from snow but we still had an entertaining descent besides the tumbling burn to reach flatter ground near the Hutchinson Memorial Hut.
After a short break at the hut we headed down into Glen Dee, following the well maintained track and crossing the main burn and several smaller side streams, all of which were high and fast moving with plenty of snow melt. At the Glas Allt Mor we had to help a few nervous folk over but soon we were on the other side and wending our way through Glen Derry as the afternoon turned to a beautiful evening.
We were soon back amongst the pines and crossing the Derry Burn by another bridge before the final stretch down to Derry Lodge where we took a well deserved break to rest weary feet and have a last bite to eat.
As we made our way down the Derry Road the clouds, which had been gathering for a couple of hours, now seemed to be conspiring into something more sinister. Thankfully we escaped any rain and by the time we dropped back down through the woods to the Linn of Dee the sun was shining again.
With the walking done there was time for a refreshing pint or two in the Fife Arms back in Braemar before the journey back east to Aberdeen.