Ascent/Descent: 2000m/2000m Start/Finish: Linn o Dee
Terrain: 20% gravel road, 70% Good trails, 10% off-trail
Transport: Linn o Dee (near braemar) buses from Aberdeen and also
some Summers (2013) there's a service from Blairgowrie/Aberfeldy
Route: Route Map
This is a real cracker! It took me a while to settle on this particular route, but so glad I did. Although it takes in four Munro's, there are easier routes for bagging these (and including more) summits, but I wanted to explore beneath as well as above, especially around Loch Etchachan and Loch Avon. Oh and never have to look at any of the ski-world to the North! I also wanted to start from Linn o Dee because Glen Derry is such a nice approach into the wild. From Derry Lodge the route heads up the 100% runnable path to Derry Cairngorm, then boulder-hops to Loch Etchachan, does an out-n-back onto Beinn Mheadoin, drops to Loch Avon (which really does feel like the heart of the Cairngorms as it is often considered), before ascending steeply from there up to the plateau and Cairngorm Mountain. From the cairn, drop SE to "the saddle" (I descended a little down Strath Nethy for water here), then up mostly easy slopes to Bynack More on nice terrain with open views. Then after a steep descent through the heather its a mostly-downhill 10mile trail-run back to Glen Derry then Linn o Dee.
|Derry Lodge, where many leave their bicycles|
I enjoyed the early morning drive up the A93, the glens were still clagged with mist but I broke through momentarily into pure blue sky and brightness on the Cairnwell Pass. The thermo in the car read 8degC at Braemar, it would be 20degC warmer by the time I got back there at 4pm. (Aviemore was the hottest place in Britain today with temps reaching 29.5, so a fine day to be 1000m up on the summits!)
|Easy trail up into the blue. Smell those pines!|
|View back over Braemar way, Lochnagar the highest bump on horizon|
After a brief chat, filling the bottles from the outflow of Etchachan, I ran up to the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin wondering if I'd just met a future 'Killian Jornet'! Sat on the summit tor and munched cookies in the sun. Killian and his dad weren't far behind - I met them again as I retraced my way back to the loch, then turned N to join the trail that drops down to Loch Avon and Shelter Stone.
|Loch Avon beaneath Beinn Mheadhoin|
Once around the N shore of Loch Avon I stopped to drink from Allt Coire Raibeirt, and eat the crisps and bread rolls that had been toasted by the sun, before proceeding on the the very steep ascent beside the "Allt", one big rocky step after the other so I don't care who you think you are there's definitely no running up here!
...Until that is quite suddenly the Corrie is reached and the path transforms into a ridiculously manicured ribbon of gravel. They were still working on this and gave me a wave as I jogged past. So it was time to join the crowds at the Cairngorm mountain I thought, with its road, train and ski slopes.
|Looking back across the now-hidden Loch Avon to where I'd been - Derry Cairngorm just visible|
|View SW over Coire an Lochan towards Braeriach et al|
|Fords of Avon Refuge (MBA-maintained)|
* My dad had done this a few days ago with an 80litre pack and a 72 year-old sense of adventure (a-walk-in-cairngorms). He was going to wait till the weekend when I could be around (safety-in-numbers) but the weather window earlier in the week looked too good to miss and there were no guarantees it would hold.