The final big walk of my second trip to the Cairngorms for 2022 was to be one which would take me deepest into the plateau, to the arrow-head shape of Beinn Mheadhoin. Walk Highlands makes it seem remote by not combining it with any of the other hills around it, but this was to be a day of tops and summits for me. I started out on the bus from just outside the hostel which took me up to the ski centre car park. There was a lot of construction going on around the funicular, which is in the process of being reinforced, and it took a couple of minutes of wandering about to actually find the way onto my path. In a minor novelty for the last few weeks I was actually able to see my breath as I left the centre and climbed up Windy Ridge.

The cloud was hanging around 900m, so it wasn’t long before I’d lost the view, then had the surprise of encountering a JCB at Munro height by the top station. The walk from here wasn’t long, and soon I reached the weather station and the cairn. Just before I wandered off the top a black labrador (plus owner!) arrived at the summit. After a few moments of wandering around to try and get my bearings back I set off across the mountain towards the burn which I’d descend alongside. The path on the plateau was good, but as it started dropping towards Loch Avon it became rough and extremely steep, and at times hard to follow. Suddenly, as I dropped height I caught sight of the loch, and the black cliffs which guard it on both sides. To the right was Macdui, and ahead was Beinn Mheadhoin.

▲ Loch Aan, looking towards Beinn Mheadhoin

Picking my way down the loose path was slow and arduous, and it took longer than I’d hoped to reach the shore; from there it was still slow-going around the shelter stone, but after stopping briefly for sandwiches and then crossing the stream flowing down from Loch Etchachan things started to improve, and the climb back up from the loch was fast.

▲ The view from Stachan Dubha over Loch Aan

I then took myself off-piste to Stachan Dubha, a top which looks out over Loch Avon, which is substantially shorter than its parent Munro. Its summit is a tor, and afforded an excellent view over the entire glacial valley. I then climbed up to the main summit plateau, itself pock-marked by tors, and continued out towards the furthest and highest of them. There I came across a man who was clearly unsure of how to get onto the tor, but seemed to be slightly reassured to see me scramble up, and he followed. Despite the slightly damp conditions, reminiscent of when I climbed Ben Avon, the rock was dry, and the scramble was straightforward. I stayed around long enough to see the other guy get down safely (he’d come up from the Linn of Dee) before heading down towards one of the other tors, en route for the next top of the day.

In fact, I had hoped that this tor was the top, but a quick check of the map showed that a summit which looked a long way below me was in fact the top, and I headed off towards it. The summit wasn’t terribly remarkable, but did give a good view over Loch Etchachan, and Derry Cairngorm. With it visited I headed onwards to the bealach between Beinn Mheadhoin and Beinn Macdui. From here it was a matter of following a fairly good path back to the shelter stone, and then picking-up the return path, and making the climb most of the way back up Cairn Gorm.

▲ Loch Etchachan and Ben Macdui.

I was not entirely successful in this, managing to stray from the path and found myself climbing straight up the steep and rocky hillside. However this probably wasn’t much worse than the path itself, and at least got me back up the hill very fast. It was a fairly short walk to regain the path along the Northern Corries, and I took a quick deviation for one final top, Stob Coire an t-Sneachda, before descending back into the ski centre via the Fiacaill ridge.

I missed the final bus, so also had a fairly lengthy walk along the road to get back to Glenmore.

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