Some days you just luck out.
The 2 days over the weekend of 25th & 26th of March were precisely 2 such days, book ending a glorious night atop Beinn Mheadhoin in the Cairngorms, my first summit camp of the year.
"there's a high pressure system coming Andy. Maybe we could get out this weekend?" suggested Paul on a Thursday evening over a couple of cheeky pints in Aberdeen. I'll agree to most things and there certainly wasn't anything about this suggestion to suggest I ought to say no, so I said "yes, lets!"
With the seed suitably planted and then fertilised with a dram, next up, the plan. Depart Saturday morning for Linn of Dee, bike to Derry lodge, find a nice big summit to camp on in the snow and return the next day.
One of the joys of camping in general is the lack of time pressure to get a full route complete in one day, so a civilised departure of 1pm from Linn of Dee was achieved without panic for the initial roll to Bob Scott's bothy and Derry lodge.
The weather was superb.
The path up Glen Derry initially meanders through some old scots pine, remnants of a greater wood, before crossing the Derry and rising into the wider spaces of the upper glen. We had stashed our bikes in a suitable hiding spot amongst the pines, behind a large mound, sprouting with early season heather. Our path north up to Hutchison bothy is eminently bicyclable (I'm convinced this is a word captain spell check) especially in the dry, but with overnight packs Paul and I both agreed the walk would be both less taxing and provide the opportunity to enjoy the scenery under the eastern flank of Carn Crom and Derry Cairngorm.
Around this time we met a nice dude called John from Edinburgh. Hi John, should you ever read this. I'm still working on that drone footage. I hope to add it to this blog at some point, which means I've maybe done it already after all and you can view it here? Or I haven't... Great Scott!!!
Escaping from this dangerous time paradox, we made it to the surprisingly empty Hutchison, given the advancing state of the afternoon and the rammed carpark back at the road. This bothy was excellently refurbished a few years ago and is hugely popular especially at the weekend.
A fleeting rest and in the absence of a volleyball tournament we continued now west, up the steeper slope to Loch Etchachan, still frozen from winter, when the low sun can't find it's way to the bottom of this basin, situated as is it is beneath Ben MacDui, Derry Cairngorm and Beinn Mheadhoin.
At 927m / 3041ft this is the highest body of water of it's size in Scotland and truly spectacular on a fine Spring day surrounded by the snowy protective peaks of the looming Cairngorm massif.
We had concluded that Beinn Mheadhoin's summit was the camp spot for us. On top it looks down NorthWest to Loch Avon (pronounced Aan) with Cairngorm itself towering above the far loch-side, it's distinctive weather station always makes this mountain easily identified.
The summit plateau on Beinn Mheadhoin also sports a series of torrs, free standing rocky outcrops, that lend a sense of importance to the place, ideal for a late evening investigate.
Snow can provide a comfortable bed, providing the right insulation, so our two man tent went up on a snow field. We piled on all our extra layers and with a hot mug of tea in us there were two happy campers watching the sunset, feeling most content and more than a little pleased with how things had turned out.
Dinner consisted of army ration style boil in a bag pasta with meatballs. At only 3 years past it's best by date, we'd really pushed the boat out for fancy pants dining and it tasted delicious.
The new moon allowed an incredible starry sky to reveal itself, every minute that passed producing more and more pricks of light heavenward. Head torches were barely needed as we headed towards the nearest torr, although without them we wouldn't have spotted the solitary figure beneath the stone crown in his bivvy bag. Some guy from Northhumbria it turned out who had driven up that day after seeing the forecast. I forget his name, but it's always nice to meet someone unexpectedly and a reminder that lot's of likeminded sorts enter the Cairngorm National Park at any and every opportunity.
Back to the tent, a quick game of cards and bed. At this point we realised our school boy error. Our tent was on a slope with the space for our heads at the bottom. A more intimate nights sleep than expected resulted as we crammed our heads into the foot space. Fortunately when you squint your eye a bit Paul looks like Claudia Schiffer, although he snores like Scarlett Johansson.
We had a fairly late start in the morning. The guy from Northumbria said cheerio as he beat us for the off, but after breakfast we were soon heading back to Loch Etchachan.
Our route home was to take us over Derry Cairngorm. A short bit of up, heading south, from the loch takes you to a cracking vista of Beinn a'ghlo above Blair Atholl, stirring memories of a classic mountain bike trip last Summer. We continued south, skirting the summit, keeping the corniced buttresses of the eastern slope at a safe distance. This route allows you to follow the ridge all the way back to Derry Lodge, keeping up in the breeze until the final drop into the woods.
Importantly no-one had nicked our bikes, so the final 8km or so passed easily back to the Linn of Dee.
Another successful trip.
On the way back to Aberdeen we visited some friends of Paul near Balmoral who have just purchased 250 acres on Skye and are planning on planting heaps of trees. They said we could come visit them. A surprising bonus to a fabulous couple of days.
Luck had certainly been with us.
Cheers for now