Beinn a'Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac are situated in the middle of the Cairngorm plateau. North west of the Linn of Dee, and south east of Cairngorm itself. To the north lies Bynack More. East is Ben Avon. And west is Ben MacDui. Beinn a'Chaorainn being the northerly of the pair can be bagged from the north, but it's a very long walk in. I opted for the usual route from the Linn of Dee to do both together.
Parking the camper overnight at the Linn of Dee allowed me a leisurely waking up, breakfast and getting ready time. It was cold overnight and the duvet was only just warm enough. My bike was still chained to the tree I'd propped it against, phew! I put a couple more psi in the tyres to hopefully speed up the estate tracks to Derry Lodge. And the sun started filtering through the trees as I did final faffing about getting my rucksack ready things. Even at 8am no-one else stirred from their vehicles. Perhaps they were already out in the wilderness camping or bothying.
Looking to the tors on Beinn Mheadhoin
Leaving the trees above Glen Derry, Luibeg and Sgor Dubh
Parking the bike in the trees around Derry Lodge, locked it, and headed up Glen Derry. The River Derry twists and turn, surrounded by scots pines, and heather. A beautiful place made even more so seeing more little trees growing up. I hoped these will mature and more than replace the older dead trees lying fallen.
I strode out, there was a long way to go. Deep cross drains kept breaking my stride. I'd hate to try and cycle this track.
I spotted a small pile of stones beside a narrow overgrown path heading up the slope to my right. I thought it was too soon for my turning but consulting the GPS it was. this climbed steeply north east, through the trees and out onto the moorland. Often described as boggy it was reasonably dry, odd little patches looked they could be soggy for some time after rain. We'd not had much this summer. I made good progress to Breinn Breac reaching it at 11am.
Beinn Breac summit
Beinn a'Chaorainn across the peat bog
I spent about 20minutes at the summit of Beinn Breac, taking photos, sending Paul a message or two since I had 4g. And a bite to eat of lamb shoulder. Ahead stretched moorland, bog and heather all the way to the slopes of Beinn a'Chaorainn. It's reputation is horribly boggy, best after a dry spell and even then expect boggy. After the summer's dry spell I was hoping it wont be too bad.
I started out well, finding a narrow but well trodden path. Down in the heather and grass it soon disappeared. I skirted damp peaty hollows as best I could, but there were a few moments perched on rocks with standing peaty dirty water all about me. Bashing pathless heather and tufty grass was getting tedious. Finally ignoring the Walkhighlands GPX route I headed for the bottom of the ridge to Beinn a'Chaorainn and dryer ground. Here bog was replaced by boulders. On the dry ground I made rapid progress once more, meeting two people and reaching the summit around 1:30pm.
Ben Macdui over Coire Etchachan
Beinn a'Chaorainn summit, looking to Beinn Breac
It was cold on Beinn a'Chaorainn, a chilly north west wind whipped across the summit with little to slow it down. I refuelled again, took some photos and another message to Paul. The way back was down the curving south-east ridge and then drop down to the floor of the glen on whatever scree or grass path took your fancy. Across the glen I could see the Hutchinson Hut and the path up to Coire Etchechan. It happens I chose a zigzag path of tiny, and not so tiny, gravel marbles. Slow and steady maybe but I lost height rapidly. There was a path heading in my direction but it was covered what could be deemed a boulder field. Fast progress was hard work, and impossible to get a good rhythm going. The return through Glen Derry dragged on. Eventually it became smoother and I upped the pace somewhat.
Coire Etchachan and the Hutchison Hut
Glen Derry, it's a long way home
Tired I finally reached Derry Lodge. Two guys sat on old fallen tree trunks. One large chap who had been struggling was drinking a can of coke. Hmm. My bike was still where I'd left it and a very welcome sight. Cycling back I had a slight and very welcome tail wind. The up's didn't seem as bad as I feared, and the downs were great. Various bunches of people were passed at speed. I could get used to this bike and hike lark!