Hills: Ben MacDui
Munros: ditto (a repeat ascent)
Who: Just me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: absolutely glorious!
When: late August – almost 6 years to the day since the previous ascent
Why: to see what the views were like having seen b*gger all last time.
Thankfully packed: sunscreen
Post walk drink: gin and tonic (!!!)
Post walk watering hole: Mackenzies Highland Inn
At the moment I’m on a bit of a hiatus from walking; not much in the way of planned trips, and a lot on both at work and socially. The mornings are getting colder, and it’s clear that winter is coming (as the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones keep telling us). However, there have been some glorious days this year, and this was one of them; a worthwhile repeat of a hill that we’d done six years previously in poor weather and seen very little, though the clag did clear on the way down.
After our trip in Islay, we were heading to Aviemore for a few days staying in a cottage on the outskirts of the village. The forecast wasn’t too bad at all, but for whatever reason (which had nothing whatsoever to do with the whisky consumed over the course of the week in Islay!) we were both not feeling particularly good and therefore didn’t do a huge amount for the first few days apart from try and recharge batteries and visit the Highland Wildlife Park (always worth a visit, and there were a lot of cute baby animals this time too). However on the Wednesday of that week a glorious forecast meant that a walk was definitely worth trying for. Our initial idea had been to go for Braeriach but we completely failed to find a parking space at Whitewell and neither of us much fancied the route via the Chalamain Gap, not least because of the amount of drop and reascent on what promised to be a scorching hot day. In hindsight I think too scorching hot for a 15 mile walk with little chance to refill water bladders.
Stuart was also carrying an injury and a plan B was clearly going to be required. In the end and after a bit of debate we agreed that I would do a walk by myself and he would chill out and meet me later. I briefly considered going for Ben Rinnes (which I haven’t yet done) but didn’t want to risk failing to park there as well and ending up not doing a walk at all, and I’ve done the obvious Corbetts in the area already; I therefore decided to head up Ben MacDui, which would have the benefit of giving me the views into the Lairig Ghru I’d missed first time around as well as give me a good workout. In the end I didn’t get going until after 1 and even though the car park at the ski resort is massive it was packed. I did manage to get a space however and was geared up and off without too much faffing about.. and with plenty of water.
The path, to start off with, is a joy to walk on being nicely graded and obvious, there are paths that branch off but you just need to keep forking right (is that forking right?!) There is then a steep haul up the ridge. This seemed to take absolutely ages – it was baking hot and lots of stops for water were required. I certainly didn’t envy the bloke I saw heading up with a full camping pack! The views started to open out around and it was good to see what I had missed before.
Once up the ridge, the rest of the walk crosses a flat plateau at the end of which the path disappears into a boulder field before reappearing and rising up the summit dome. I remembered what a pain it had been trying to negotiate the boulder field in the fog! The heat was still pretty intense even at height and there wasn’t much of a breeze which meant I was struggling at times, though the views were worth it. I reached the summit at about 3.30, and had a pretty extended break at the top; the rounded nature of the hill robs the views of much of their depth, but it was nice to be at the top of Britain’s second highest mountain and actually see something. In particular the views over to Braeriach were great and it’s still a hill high on the to do list, though one for a good day and one for when I’m feeling at my best (whenever that is..)
I vaguely considered going back over Cairn Gorm but since I’ve already been up that twice and got views both times I decided to head back the way I had come. The descent was uneventful and the views continued to be good, though I slowed up a lot towards the end and the last mile back to the car seemed to take forever. Once back at the car I texted Stuart to let him know I was off the hill and dropped the car back at the cottage before meeting Stuart for the inevitable post walk drink.. which consisted, rather against protocol, of a nice Islay gin (The Botanist – recommended). I also breached protocol by completely failing to take a picture of the post walk drink!
All in all a really good repeat. Next repeat I think will be Ben Lomond as I saw nothing from that one either!