For this year’s venture I decided to head east for the first half of the week as I’d heard so many good things about, and not yet visited, the Cairngorms area. I also decided to put my mountain bike in the car as some of the walk-ins would be along tracks which could be managed on a bike. I’ve only got a little car and couldn’t be doing with roof-racks so had to remove the front wheel just to get it in.

Munros 21 and 22 – Beinn a’ Bhuird and Ben Avon 26/06/2011:

I started this route from Linn of Quoich. The track up to the higher ford of the Quoich Water was easily manageable with the bike. It started drizzling soon after I started so cycling with a rucksack and full rain gear was quite a shock to the system. After I parked the bike in the heather and crossed the river (bare feet required as it was a bit deep) I made my way up to the ridge of An Diollaid.

Unfortunately the cloud base was quite low so after a short while the views disappeared. The summits were to stay in the clouds all day so no more views were had until I had bagged the two summits and was on my way back to the bike. The summit of Beinn a’ Bhuird is quite isolated on a large plateau with no discerning path and it appeared slowly out of the mist. It would have been easy to miss this summit had I not had my trusty GPS Etrex with me.

The summit of Ben Avon on the other hand loomed menacingly out of the mist as I approached. It’s summit has some very large tors on the plateau and to reach the true summit a quick scramble is required.

I was disappointed to not get any views today, I was hoping my introduction to the Cairngorms would be spectacular. This image was taken after I decended from the bealach known as The Sneck.

Munros 23 and 24 – Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a’ Chaorainn 27/06/2011:

The weather for the next few days was meant to improve so I was glad to be finally getting the chance of some views. I cycled from the Linn Of Dee car park to Derry Lodge to start this walk. As I walked through Glen Derry I could see the top of Beinn Mheadhoin and it’s tors in the distance so I knew the tops may stay clear today.

After a short distance it was time to cut off from the good path and head up the slope towards Beinn Bhreac. There was a path of sorts but it was quite boggy until I got higher where it turned more rocky. I was soon on the summit and so far the cloud base had remained just above the tops.

There are two summits here so I visited the other one just in case. It was then simply a matter of the long trek over the very boggy plateau area to the summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn. I had great views from here over to the other mountains to the west.

I was liking the Cairngorms a lot now. I took my time and had a good look around before descending to the Lairig An Laoigh, following the good but lengthy path through Glen Derry back to my bike.

Munros 25, 26 and 27 – Carn a’ Mhaim, Ben Macdui, and Derry Cairngorm 28/06/2011:

I had delayed this walk by a day so I could get the best of the weather. It was going to be a long one and hopefully would see me get another three summits in a day. I did the same cycle in to Derry Lodge as yesterday and then continued with the bike all the way to the ford just below the Luibeg bridge.

Although the weather was perfect there had been a bit of rain in the area over the past few days so I decided not to try the ford, instead I walked up to the bridge to get across the river. There is a good path all the way to the first summit of Carn a’ Mhaim. I was so excited to get to this summit as it meant I could get my first real view of The Devils Point and the famous Lairig Ghru that I’d read about in lots of other blogs.

Had I not got so far to go I would have stayed longer soaking it all in. There are plenty of mountains yet to be done in this area so I knew I’d be back. I continued along the narrow ridge to start the steep ascent up to the Ben Macdui plateau.

Although the weather was perfect it made for hard work up the rocky slope, I was glad to be able to fill up my water bottle in a small burn near the top of the slope. I carried on refreshed and soon found myself at the summit of the second highest mountain in Britain.

Again the views to the other summits across the Lairig Ghru were stunning. Another reason I did this on a good day is that I knew it would be busy and I wouldn’t be troubled by The Grey Man.

After a nice rest I set out for the next summit. A bit of a descent and reascent is required but nothing too strenuous. Great views down the rock gullies to Coire Sputan Dearg and I was soon on Derry Cairngorm’s rocky summit.

I took another steep pathless route down from here to the valley floor leading back to the Luibeg bridge. Nothing dangerous, just thick heather. A careful check afterwards found I had no ticks tagging along. I was glad to get back to the bike to rest my tired legs.

Unfortunately I’d forgotten to pick up my tools I’d hidden with the bike so when I got back to the car I had to ask around if anyone had a spanner. It’s so strange how many people don’t. I must invest in some of those quick-release wheels, or buy a bigger car.

 I had to put the bike in as it was and tie the back down with a piece of string until I could get back to the youth hostel. Not the best ending to the day but it didn’t spoil what had turned out to be an absolute ‘stoater’.

Munro 28 – Ben Chonzie 29/06/2011:

I was travelling across to the west side of Scotland today so planned fitting this one in on the way to the next youth hostel at Crianlarich. I started later than I would have wanted as I had to do some exhaust repairs in Perth before continuing. I was lucky again with the weather, the route I would take starts at the southern end of the Loch Turret reservoir, and would circle the resrvoir in an anti-clockwise direction. It’s a long walk along the side of it with great views back when you get to the end.

The first real ascent doesn’t start until you get to the end of the path past the reservoir. I had to cross a bit of boggy ground but once I did the ridge was gained via the gully to the east of the Bealach Na Gaoith. There are some old fence posts on this ridge, amazes me why a fence would have been needed right up here, so I just followed these all the way to the summit.

I didn’t stay too long as a bitterly cold wind had started blowing. It’s surprising how quickly you get cold when you’re stopped, even with a big jacket on. The walk out along the ridge on the other side of the reservoir was great, staying high until near the end of the route. Great views back along the reservoir.

Munros 29 and 30 – Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin 30/06/2011:

Research on this route showed a proper scramble option could be tackled to reach the second summit if I fancied it – I did. Although it’s possible to bypass the scramble it sounded like a bit of a challenge. Besides I was thinking that I will need more experience on scrambles if I’m to complete some of the more exposed Munros. The walk from the side of Loch Earn to the summit of Ben Vorlich was straight forward as it’s a popular hill and there was a great path.

There were great views over to the Lawers range from here, and in the other direction, the scrambly bit up Stuc a Chroin’s prow.

You can make out the steep scree bypass path over to the right but I wanted to go up the front route. I took my time and can honestly say it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I found there was a path of sorts through most of the crags and cannot say I felt out of my zone at any point. Once this was climbed the summit of Stuc a Chroin was a short stroll away.

I stayed on this summit for a little while just taking it all in, even having a snooze. I had to leave eventually so I took the steep scree bypass path to descend. I then found a faint path which made it possible to traverse round the side of Ben Vorlich, eventually meeting up with the main ascent path. Once back at Loch Earn I had another sit down on it’s bonny banks to take in the surroundings – simply wonderful.

Munros 31 and 32 – Beinn Dorain and Beinn an Dothaidh 01/07/2011:

I’ve been to Fort William a few times and the sight of Beinn Dorain always brings a smile to my face, such a great shaped mountain when seen from the A82 from Tyndrum. Today I intended to bag this one. The weather forecast was meant to be better in the afternoon so I decided to do Beinn an Dothaidh first.

I parked at the Bridge of Orchy hotel and slowly made my way up the very boggy slope to the bealach which sits between these two mountains. I turned left and just before the top I entered the cloud base. I didn’t have my GPS switched on so assumed I was at the top when I reached a small cairn. I stayed there for a few minutes as I could sense the cloud was clearing. Sure enough the clouds parted to give great views of the other surrounding mountains. Ben More and Stob Binean dominant to the south.

As I looked around I noticed another cairn away to my left and as it looked a bit higher than this one I went across to it to make sure the mountain was bagged. A quick descent found me back at the bealach and on my way up Beinn Dorain. I took a slight wrong turn so missed the path onto the main ridge but a quick five minute steep ascent up a grassy slope sorted that out. The views down to the road, railway track and surrounding mountains was fabulous, perfect place to have my lunch. I stayed around the summit for quite a while admiring all while I could.

I had to leave eventually, as always. The path on the main ridge gave great views all the way to Ben Nevis. This image shows Carn Sasunnaich which walkers, caught in the mist, have mistaken for the true summit further along.

A great walk, ending with a couple of cold ones in the hotel bar, perfect. Why can’t every day be like this one?

Munros 33, 34, 35 and 36 – Beinn a Chleibh, Ben Lui, Ben Oss, and Beinn Dubhchraig 02/07/2011:

Last day for this particular Munro trip so I wanted to finish on a big one. This would see me bag 4 summits in one day. The weather couldn’t have been better but much suncream would be needed throughout the day. The route started with a dodgy fording of the River Lochy but thankfully this wasn’t too deep so the stepping stones some kind soul had placed in the river were not covered.

The path through the forest was extra boggy, I’m guessing the sun couldn’t reach the ground to dry it up due to the tree coverage. This made it hard going but I eventually came out in the clear to see Ben Lui looming like the pointy giant it is.

While crossing Fionn Choiren I felt a pain in my knee which troubled me on and off for the rest of the day. I was hoping it wouldn’t scupper my plans for the 4 in one day. I eventually reached the bealach between the first two summits and turned right to take a steady stroll up Beinn a Chleibh. Great views to Ben Lui.

After visiting several cairns on this summit I retraced my steps and started the climb up Ben Lui. It was looking very big but I could make out a faint path which would help. Great views back to Beinn a Chleibh from the path.

My knee wasn’t troubling me just now so I didn’t have any trouble making the top. The views from here across the Cononish valley were incredible. I stopped at the summit to talk to another walker who was equally stunned by the views.

The descent via Ben Lui’s south east ridge is not too bad and today it offered great views over to my next target, Ben Oss.

Equally the views back to Ben Lui from this ascent were incredible. What more could I ask for? I was feeling so lucky to be able to do this.

My knee was giving me trouble now and I was feeling tired after a long week of walking. That was my excuse for being overtaken by another walker at this point, besides he looked half my age. However, I plodded on nice and steady to reach the summit of Ben Oss and resume my conversation with the other walker over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

We soon parted company as he had to get back down to catch a train back to Glasgow. I continued on my way to the last summit. The descent from Oss was quite steep and I was glad not to be going up this way. Nice leisurely stroll up to Beinn Dubhchraig’s summit with great views across to Loch Lomond.

My knee was not too bad at this point but it was about to be tested as I now had to drop down from Beinn Dubhchraig to the Cononish valley on a steep pathless slope and then trek all round the base of Ben Lui to the forest and back to the car. Easy! It was a bit of a trek but the views of Ben Lui from this angle were even better than the other side. I can see why a lot of walkers choose to ascend it from this direction.

Once I’d managed the drop to the valley it was along slog back across boggy ground and through the even boggier forest back to the car. I was completely spent now, with hot aching feet but the biggest smile ever. It just seems to get better and better. Roll on next year already.


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