Dreary weather makes for a wet day’s climbing – [# 140 & 141]

Beinn Bhreac (931m); Beinn a’ Chaorainn (1082m)

  • Pronunciation:              Bine Vrack; Bine uh Chooeren
  • Translation:                   Speckled Mountain; Mountain of the Rowan
  • Total distance:               31km
  • Total time:                     6hrs 34mins
  • Total ascent:                  1011m
  • Weather:                        Dreary and showery from the outset. Very blustery with severe gale force winds across the summits. Hail and sleet above 900m rattling through in the strong winds.
  • Start / end location:     Forestry car-park at the Linn of Dee. [OS Map Sheets 36 & 43 – Grid Ref: NO 063 898 (Sheet 43)]
  • Map:                                A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Once again we set out on our bikes from the Linn of Dee car-park bound for the Derry Lodge. Unlike on the last two occasions where we continued west from Derry Lodge into Glen Luibeg, today we turned north at the lodge and began following a path along the east side of the Derry Burn, passing a number of small tents pitches near the river bank. After only a further 1.5km we locked our bikes together and left them a few metres from the path lying in some deep heather. We continued along the path on foot for another 500m before locating a very faint path that branched off the main path to the right (east).

As it had been for the last few days the weather was windy and showery, and the going on the faint path leading east up the broad slopes between Beinn Bhreac (our objective) and to its south Meall an Lundain was extremely boggy. It was simply the case of minimising, but not avoiding altogether, the amount of boggy ground we had to trudge through to reach the broad col between the two peaks.

The weather turned out to be a good deal worse than was forecast and as we turned north it really began to close in resulting with poor visibility in the driving rain. Thankfully the prevailing weather was to our backs.

At the summit cairn of Beinn Bhreac

We climbed from the col up an easy angled slope and arrived midway between the summit of Beinn Bhreac and its West Top.  A short traverse to the east brought us to the small summit cairn at 931m or 3,054ft. From here we then began the long 5km trudge across the Moine Bhealaidh that separates this Munro from its neighbour to the north, Beinn a’ Chaorainn. The going across this featureless high plateau was tedious to say the least: we had no views in the cloud as we zig-zagged our way through endless peat hags – getting wetter with every step.  Once we eventually began to climb out of the extensive bog and onto the SSE side of Beinn a’ Chaorainn the wind and now hail really began in earnest.

Miserable weather on the summit of Beinn a' Chaorainn

We got to the top at 1082m or 3,550ft and sheltered briefly behind the summit cairn to gobble down some snack food. When we got up we were faced with severe gale-force winds and driving hail. Worst of all was that the direction we were heading (SSW) meant this horrendous weather peppered our faces as we negotiated the bands of large boulders that made up the summit cap. At one point we dispensed with our walking poles in favour of staggering along hand-in-hand to keep our balance over the boulders.

Soon we lost height and the wind abated slightly as we reached the point where our descent dropped quite steeply to reach the path that runs north to south through the Lairig an Laoigh pass. Once down on the path the heavy shower that had hit us on the summit had passed northward and we actually managed a view along the glen. However, all too soon and another rain shower passed by and we received yet another soaking. This situation repeated itself many more times on the long trek out of the Lairig an Laoigh and into Glen Derry. Eventually we arrived at where we’d left our bikes in the heather and we began our descent along the now very familiar track back to the car-park at the Linn of Dee.

Back at the car-park and we were in for a bit of a surprise as we met Anne and Dave who are the parents of our friends Laura and Neil (actually Laura’s parents) sitting in their car waiting patiently for an improvement in the afternoon’s weather in order that they could cycle to Derry Lodge to camp overnight and then tackle Derry Cairngorm tomorrow. We knew, like us, that Dave and Anne were in the Deeside area walking, although it was purely by chance that we’d bumped into them. Our impromptu rendezvous did give us the opportunity to plan to meet up again in about a week’s time to climb a Munro or two together when we’ll all be in the Aviemore area. Hopefully this will work out.

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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