A wintry round of Glen Lui and Glen Dee with an excursion to the Munro summit of Carn a' Mhaim.
Date: 1st March 2014
Hills: Carn a' Mhaim [Munro]
Weather: Very cold, windy, snow storms
Route: View on OS Maps
After weeks of wind and rain had put a damper on any form of enjoyable winter hillwalking cabin fever was setting in and I was desperate to get out, even if getting up high wasn’t going to be all that practical. A loop walk I’ve wanted to do for a while now is the classic three glens walk from the Linn of Dee, heading through Glen Lui, Glen Luibeg and returning via Glen Dee. With a reasonable forecast for the Cairngorms I decided it was about time I got out and did something and so this route was chosen as a good way to cover some miles with the added bonus of a possible Munro if the conditions looked favourable.
I set off from the car park with a spring in my step. Despite early March and the long winter, there was a hint of sunshine and spring warmth in the air. This of course lasted until the first snow shower came over Sgor Dubh and passed through Glen Lui some way behind me.
I passed Derry Lodge and was soon winding my way along the good track through Glen Luibeg. There were tantalising glimpses ahead of snow-plastered mountains deep in the heart of the Cairngorms.
I hopped across the boulders downstream of the Luibeg Bridge and after the steep climb away from the water got views north up the upper Luibeg towards the cliffs and slopes surrounding Coire Sputan Dearg on this side of the Macdui plateau. Through a chink in the wintry-grey clouds some sunshine was spilling through but it was a fleeting glimpse.
As I gained the high point of the path the western Cairngorms swung into view, Beinn Bhrotain and its subsidiary tops plastered in fresh snow. The skies were darkening but there was enough promise of clear views to tempt me up the path towards Carn a’ Mhaims summit.
Height was gained quickly on the good track and I was soon looking back down Glen Lui eastward and across Glen Dee to the Bhrotain plateau.
All too quickly the conditions deteriorated and by the time I was on the snowy upper slopes I had crampons on, ice axe in hand and was plodding uphill following a compass bearing. Visibility came and went and luckily improved just as I crested the rise close to the summit. Suddenly I had views of cloud breaking over Glen Dee and my first glimpse of the Devil’s Point.
I followed the ridge up towards the summit, conscious that the weather could change again, and was glad that my efforts to get up to Munro level were being rewarded with a few views of these wonderful hills.
I reached the summit and enjoyed a few moments where I could still see around me. It was cold and strong, gusting wind was blowing across the tops. I wrapped up and watched as the next stormy system billowed over Beinn Bhrotain and leapt across Glen Dee towards me.
The storm was tight knit and focussed. The major bulk of it passed to the south, slipping into Glen Lui. I caught the edge of it, winds throwing volleys of hail my way. I put my goggles on and carefully retraced my steps. Had the weather held I might have gone along the ridge and descended into Glen Dee from the bealach before Macdui but getting lower quicker seemed much more attractive.
Back on the compass, I went across to the south top and then descended the upper slopes, soon joining my outward tracks and following these back down to the path. As I descended I emerged from the cloud and had views back down Glen Lui. I cut a corner by descending heather slopes and was soon enough on the Glen Dee track heading westward to continue the loop.
There was blue sky emerging once again as I turned the corner into Glen Dee and suddenly had grand views ahead towards the Lairig Ghru. There appeared to be another storm coming over Cairn Toul, leaving the Devil’s Point illuminated by sunshine.
I continued along the track until I was just below the Devil’s Point and here met the path which heads south following the line of the River Dee. Ahead the Lairig Ghru was looking mysterious and enticing, snow-wreathed and majestic and it was with a certain regret that I turned and began to follow the path alongside the Dee in a southerly direction.
As I retraced my steps it was clear that more snow showers were passing over the Lairig and onto Carn a’ Mhaim. I was glad I wasn’t still up high, battling along the ridge or picking my way down by the Tailor’s Burn at this moment. The track wends its way down some way from the river but the surface is good and I made easy progress in more benign conditions. The views changed until I was looking back at the long side view of the Devil’s Point.
Eventually these views receded and as I moved into lower down Glen Dee I finally found both the bank of the river and some sunshine. Here I had a pleasant mid-afternoon break on a rock enjoying the quiet. I still hadn’t seen a single other person.
After that I was soon back on familiar ground, passing the Chest of Dee, and then Whitebridge and strolling back down to the Linn of Dee as the sun sank lower in the March sky. It had been an altogether excellent little outing, peaceful, good views and the Cairngorms all to myself.