Winter Beinn MacDuibh (Ben MacDui)

6 03 2014

In Feb 08 I went with one of my walking groups (as in groups I walk with – not lead!) to the Glen More Youth Hostel near Aviemore. The day before the trip I’d just come out of hospital with an asthma attack but, being a Yorkshire person, I’d paid so I was going! 😉 Anyway I needed the practice at winter walking and the Cairngorms are my favourite place for that…


The Cairngorms from near the Youth Hostel in Summer


Ben MacDui from Derry Cairngorm (taken on another day)

I was a bit disturbed that, although we were only doing Beinn MacDuibh (which I class as an easy stroll), we were to set off well before daylight – something like 0800! I thought that was a really bad idea as the extra-cold air at that time of day was likely to cause my chest fresh problems.


Our Hills Across Loch Morlich from near the Youth Hostel

About 10 of us set off from the Sugarbowl carpark just as it was thinking of being light but well before the sun hit to warm us up. I placed myself at the back of the group with a lady of around my age as I thought I would be really slow and had to be careful about my breathing. We set off up the ski area on the east side of the Fiacaill a Choire Chais ridge towards the snowline which was about halfway up the ridge. Just short of the snowline I found I was going really well and my chest was being no bother at all so I speeded up.

We had to cross a large snowfield up the steep side of the ridge to get onto the ridge proper. The snow was very hard-frozen and possibly we should have donned crampons but no-one else did so I just had my ice axe at the ready in case I slipped – after all, you’d look pretty stupid skiing on your face back down the slope!

By the time we got onto the ridge I was only 3rd in line in the group so had really speeded up 🙂 We soon reached the top where the group decided to have a good, long break (so we could get really cold! – I never stop for more than a minute or so in winter unless it’s really sunny and warm).


Cairngorm From The Plateau

We then strode off along the escarpment edge of the Cairngorm plateau, stopping here and there to look at ice climbers coming up the various gullies – there were hundreds of them (ice climbing parties – not gullies!) It was really good going along the plateau edge and we made good time to the col above Coire Domhain.


The Cairngorm Plateau

We then had to traverse up the flank of Cairn Lochan to the saddle before the final climb to Beinn MacDuibh.


Route to Ben MacDuibh

We all donned crampons for this traverse – this was when you found out who had worn them before and who were the newbies! One guy laced his completely wrong, which we noticed just as we set off, so we had to stop and show him how it was done. I always thought it was reasonably obvious myself but no harm done anyway. There were several cross country skiers having a whale of a time in the corrie and across our slope – made me feel like giving it a try sometime.

The steady climb up to Beinn MacDuibh started. At this point we realised we’d lost the black labrador which had come with one of the guys in the party… we scanned all the horizons and eventually saw him heading off up Cairn Lochan with another party – completely the opposite direction. His owner shouted and whistled to no effect… The whole group shouted and eventually the dog heard and decided “ah yeah – that’s my party, not these guys!” and came back – he didn’t look at all sheepish. There were excellent views of the Braigh Riabhach (Braeriach) range from the climb so I took several pictures and one straight into the sun towards MacDuibh.

The errant hound who didn’t recognise his owner or group! (below) or maybe he just found us boring!

Braigh Ribhach & Guy


Braigh Ribhach From The Plateau


Cairn Toul & Angel’s Peak


Icy Ben MacDuibh (looks like men on the moon to me!)

It was finally warm and sunny on the summit so even I didn’t mind sitting there for quite a while looking in all directions at the superb views – but mainly towards the Braemar area as that is probably my favourite area of Scotland and I could see the many Munros I’d done from there. We finally left the sunny summit and descended back to the saddle where we all decided to pick off the top of Cairn Lochan.


Ben MacDuibh Descent

That was a very easy climb and the snow was softer as the slope was south facing so we all de-cramponed. There were quite a few very long and icy stretches where standing water on the level part of the ridge had frozen but, as it was flat, we just skidded across them.

While the others had another long break at the summit, I went to look down the Fiacall Ridge which I was thinking of having a go at sometime (but not in winter). There were yet more ice-climbers coming up the gully from Coire an Lochan – quite some crags there!


Cairn an Lochan Crags


Coire an Lochan Gully & Crags


Ridges Across The Lairig Ghru

The others decided they were going to hang around quite a while there in the sun and then go back the way they came whereas I felt like quite a bit more walking so set off west round Coire an Lochan to go and do Creag an Leth-Choin (Lurcher’s Crag).

There was very little snow left on that side of the mountain (strangely as it’s the north side) so I made fast progress and was soon stood on Lurcher’s marvelling at the Lairig Ghru.


Lurchers Crag


Cairn an Lochan Crags From Lurchers


Cairn Gorm


Lairig Ghru From Lurchers

I had a short break in the sun and then set off down the north ridge towards the Chalamain Gap. I decided not to descend the very steep but short scree into the gap but headed northeast until I found an easy way down to the track. There was a small party of guys just coming through the gap and clambering about on the icy boulders.

I decided not to go back to the Sugarbowl carpark to get a lift back with the others but just to set off walking back to the hostel. There was a really lovely path by the river through a small glen. Where it crossed the road I decided to just stick to the road (I wasn’t sure whether the track across the road went back to the hostel/Glenmore Lodge etc. or not). Just as I set off down the road, a car stopped for me – it was some of our group – very convenient. A great day and good winter walking practice for us all.

The next day, many people walked round Loch Morlich while awaiting their train back but I’m afraid I was struck by a bout of laziness and just had a quick stroll along the loch and then waited in the caff scoffing fried egg butties, cake and the like! At least I got this photo of a cute, tame and very well-fed red squirrel on the feeder outside 🙂

Loch Morlich…

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15 responses

9 03 2014
bob

A great set of photos Carol. Years since I’ve walked across the Cairngorm Plateau like that. Perfect snow conditions for it as well as deep fresh snow can be tough going.

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9 03 2014
mountaincoward

We really couldn’t have had a better day – it was superb 🙂

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7 03 2014
chrissiedixie

Hi Carol, that looked like a great day out. 🙂
The first two photos on this page:
http://chrissiedixie.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/looking-forward-to-the-winter-a-celebration-of-all-things-snow/
are of His Lordship and I on Ben Macdui several years ago. I really enjoyed the walk too. We went up the Lochan ridge, across to Ben Madcui, then back all across the plateau to Cairngorm summit and down to the car park past the café. I was a bit fed up though, cause Geoff wouldn’t let me call in for a hot chocolate……..

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7 03 2014
mountaincoward

That cafe is fantastic! I’ve given up having my breakfast at the Youth Hostel before setting out. Now I just get the 0900 bus up to the Sugarbowl carpark and have a porridge and cream in there (with a black coffee of course) – it’s only about £2-3 for the lot and is delicious and filling 🙂
Carol.

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7 03 2014
smackedpentax

Great post Carol…I read it with my morning coffee at work (don’t tell my boss). I am ashamed to say I have never walked the Cairngorms, but one of my walking buddies James has and we have a trip (sort of) planned for later on sometime…I may well pick your brains before I go. Funnily enough I had my first asthma attack last year…it was only a mild one (scary though)…I never knew I had it until I got checked out at the doctors…

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8 03 2014
mountaincoward

Definitely keep on with the hill-walking and outdoors stuff then – it’s great for damping down asthma. I was seriously ill with it before I re-started hillwalking. it took a bit to get through the really bad attacks but I started ignoring them on the hill (apart from a puff or two of my reliever of course) and found I could eventually walk through them. The middle bit can be nasty though when all the oxygen goes from your muscles and you go really weak but have to still plod on upwards. Nowadays I only ever have an attack if I catch someone’s cold and then it goes onto my chest.

The Cairngorms are great – superb even. And I love the winter walking there best of all. Of course, they can be avalanche prone though so you have to watch for that!
Carol.

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8 03 2014
smackedpentax

Thanks for the advice Carol. We were staying at a cottage near Filey and it started then – the asthma nurse thought maybe pet hairs may have set it off (I am allergic to long haired animals), But it was only really mild – but scary. I have had a couple of mild attacks since the inhaler helps a lot. I need to get out in the mountains more, recently my walks have been local (mostly due to the weather – and also I don’t have a lot of time off work)…but I hope to change it this year..

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8 03 2014
mountaincoward

If you were staying at a strange cottage, it might have been some chemical cleaning agent or suchlike? Or maybe they’d brought a pet with them when they cleaned it and you were allergic to that. Richard is allergic to furred animals, e.g. cats and rabbits, but he’s fine with ‘haired’ animals such as dogs.

Diesel fumes are a bad thing too, especially the particulates, so make sure you don’t walk alongside a busy road too often. That has a really bad effect on me! 😦
Carol.

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8 03 2014
smackedpentax

Thanks…I’ll remember that 🙂

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7 03 2014
jackie sowrey

Great photographs Carol especially 4,5,6 and 7.

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8 03 2014
mountaincoward

Thanks Jackie 🙂 My favourite is actually the one which looks like men walking on the moon! 😉
Carol.

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6 03 2014
McEff

Hee hee. Enjoyed your descriptions of the others in the group lacing up their crampons wrongly and taking long breaks. You sounded like you weren’t too impressed with them.
Great pictures, Carol. I’ve only been up Ben MacDui once and that was in dense mist. In fact I don’t know why I climbed it now because I don’t see the point in climbing new mountains in mist. It’s like having a blind date in a dark cellar, only much colder.
Cheers, Alen

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6 03 2014
mountaincoward

Richard and I no longer walk with those guys – they were nice enough in the main but there used to be pretty huge groups of differing experience – which could make for problems on the hill – and they just loved their loooong breaks! I never stop for long when it’s cold – I think it’s just cold and miserable. If there’s a view, I have a good look round at it, take any photos I want to, and then set off for somewhere warmer. If I take a break, it has to be somewhere very warm and sunny…

LOL to the blind date! 😉

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6 03 2014
fedupofuserids

Looks good 🙂 Love the mirrored Loch Morlich photos

I take it there wasn’t much snow that year?

Cheers Simon

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6 03 2014
mountaincoward

It wasn’t much snow but was very hard-frozen. Ideal conditions in fact 🙂

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