Beinn Mheadhoin

Sunday, 19 August 2012

22.1 km/1387 m/09:00 hrs

Munro: Beinn Mheadhoin (No. 276)

It was time for my third (and hopefully last) attempt at Beinn Mheadhoin, my last Cairngorm Munro! The first time a few years ago I had reached the summit tor, but had not managed to climb it because of strong winds and rain. The second time five weeks ago I had planned to combine Beinn a’ Chaorainn and Beinn Mheadhoin, but after the first hill it had started to rain again and I didn’t want another failed attempt, so I left it for another, better day.

The weather looked promising when I started from the Cairngorm Ski Centre car park. I used the excellent path leading into Coire an t-Sneachda, with the Fiacaill Ridge visible ahead.

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Aviemore and Loch Morlich.

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Stob Coire an t-Sneachda.

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Walkers/climbers on top of Stob Coire an t-Sneachda (zoomed).

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After crossing the boulder field at the head of the coire, I followed the Goat Track up to the plateau.

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Looking down to the (almost dried out) lochans.

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Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais and Cairn Gorm.

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After arriving on the plateau, I followed the Allt Coire Domhain, where I came across a couple of grazing reindeer.

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Looking back into Coire Domhain.

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Shelter Stone Crag.

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Loch Avon and Beinn Mheadhoin.

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The Shelter Stone.

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Inside the Shelter Stone.

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View to Loch Avon, the portakabins from five weeks ago still present.

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Rock climbers on Shelter Stone Crag.

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Hell’s Lum Crag, with the path from Coire Domhain visible on the right.

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It was very hot in the sun by now, and I sat down on a boulder for a lunch break. There was a slight breeze to keep the midges away, and to make the heat bearable. After my break I continued up the path along the Allt nan Stacan Dubha.

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Sandy beaches at the W end of Loch Avon.

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Loch Avon.

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Instead of walking all the way to Loch Etchachan and the start of the standard route up Beinn Mheadhoin, I decided to take a shortcut and climb in an easterly direction directly up to the ridge.

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Carn Etchachan, Hell’s Lum Crag and Stag Rocks from my ascent route.

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Ben Macdui and Loch Etchachan.

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The Barns of Beinn Mheadhoin.

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It was very busy at the top, and several groups of walkers were having fun scrambling over the various granite tors and also onto the summit itself.

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When I reached the summit tor, the last walkers had just descended and settled down at the bottom for a break. With the rocks being dry, the awkward step that had deterred me the first time didn’t seem so bad, and I made it to the top without problems 😀

View down Glen Derry.

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Cairn Gorm.

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After admiring the views in all directions, there was only one little problem… suddenly the rock step wasn’t only awkward but seemed impossible to descend. I would have to jump down, but at the same time turn left to land on safe ground. After squatting in the jumping position for a few minutes, but not daring to jump, I got cramps in my right leg and had to climb up again.

I looked around for an alternative descent route, but couldn’t find one. The other walkers were still sitting at the bottom of the tor and I thought about asking them for help, but I was too embarrassed 😳 and hoped that after a few minutes, when my leg had recovered, I could have another go.

In the meantime another group of three walkers had joined me on the summit, and I mentioned to them that I had difficulties getting down again. The couple from earlier on had overheard our conversation and climbed back up to help me as well, and suddenly there was a whole crowd of people standing on the lower platform and stretching their hands out to me 🙂

I grabbed one of the outstretched hands, asked everyone else to get out of the way, jumped and landed ok – I really don’t know what I would have done if I had been on my own? Many thanks to all of you!

After all that excitement I made my way back along the ridge and down the path to Loch Etchachan.

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The outflow of Loch Etchachan.

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Instead of losing height by descending all the way down to Loch Avon and then having to climb up again steeply via either Coire Domhain or Coire Raibeirt, and also to vary my route a bit, I decided to return via Ben Macdui.

View back to the descent path from Beinn Mheadhoin.

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Looking to Derry Cairngorm from between the crags on Coire Sputan Dearg.

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Beinn Mheadhoin – in the meantime it had become a lot colder and clouds had built up.

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And within minutes, the “views” looked like this…

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When I passed the ruined building SE of the summit, I knew it wasn’t far to the top.

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A minute or so later I arrived at the deserted summit of Ben Macdui.

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I settled down in one of the stone shelters for another break.

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Suddenly, a young man wearing normal street clothes (apart from a TNF jacket) appeared out of the mist. He asked me about the views from here and I confirmed that they were impressive and that it might be worth waiting a bit for the clouds to lift. He replied that he had arranged for someone to pick him up from the Ski Centre car park at a certain time, and therefore couldn’t wait. I suggested the Goat Track as the quickest way down, and showed him on my map how to find the start of it.

After a few minutes he disappeared back into the direction he had come from, without taking a compass bearing or looking at a map (I doubt he had either of them)… About 15 minutes later I had finished my break and the clouds did actually lift!

Cairn Toul.

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Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (Angel’s Peak).

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Braeriach.

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Toposcope.

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As soon as I left the summit, it started to rain, but the cloud level was so high now that I could see Beinn Mheadhoin again.

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On my way to the start of the Goat Track I suddenly noticed that my neck and arms started to feel wet…

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Descending the Goat Track, the rain had become heavier now.

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In the meantime, the fabric of my jacket had become soaked with water because the rain didn’t bead off the surface like it would normally do. In the cold wind I began to feel very cold, but thankfully I only had to walk back to the car park.

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When I arrived back at my car, my jacket and trousers were completely soaked through, and when I took my jacket off, it weighed about three times as much as normal. My hair was wet (in spite of wearing a hood) and it took me a while with the car heating on full power until I warmed up again.

I can only think of one possible reason for this: After my Crianlarich holiday I had washed and re-proofed my Paramo jacket and trousers, and then treated both with a Lifesystems insect repellent spray for fabrics (to deter ticks). The spray must have affected/destroyed the DWR coating because that was the only thing I had done differently this time (I had washed and re-proofed the garments with Nikwax products several times before and they were waterproof afterwards). I had also followed the same procedure before the TGO Challenge in May, but with a different brand of insect spray, which had caused no such problems at all.

Thankfully I only had 2.5 hours to walk back to my car, it would have been a different story if I had been on a backpacking trip with no way of getting my clothes dry overnight in my tent. When I got home, I washed and re-proofed the clothes with Nikwax again and hoped that would sort the problem.

I also emailed the manufacturer of the repellent but their answer was “The EX4 has been through months of QA testing, it is a water based product with 0.5% Permethrin and therefore this should not have affected the waterproof properties of your clothing.” 🙄

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