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Cairn gorm, Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm & Ben Macdui

You know its going to be a good day when the alarms are set for 4am! 

The last time we had been in the North Cairngorms, it was incredibly snowy and we had a great hike across Cairngorm & Ben Macdui. The snow was soft and knee-deep through most of the route and summiting Ben Macdui was the coldest temperature we had experienced so far. Thankfully, the conditions were a little easier this trip!
Seeing that we were due a day of good weather, we set off to try and re-bag Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui along with 2 of their neighbours; Beinn Mheadhoin and Derry Cairngorm

Alarms went off at 4am and we were on the road by 5. The weather looked good for most of the drive but unfortunately as we got closer to Cairngorm mountain, the cloud set in thick. By the time we pulled in to the Coire Cas car park that was our start and finish, visibility was less than just a few meters. We were worried that this would be just another #naeviews murno but decided to brave it anyway. 

Well... we got views! And a cloud inversion!

Anyone who has followed us for a while knows how desperately we've wanted to experience a cloud inversion so this was a really special moment for us. Hugo was pretty chuffed too! 

After Cairn Gorm mountain we headed off along the plateau towards our second munro, Beinn Mheadoin. The track is straightforward to follow and then starts to descend alongside a waterfall to  Loch Avon
Down at loch-level you can really appreciate how clear the water and how beautiful the sandy beach shores are. Stephen and I both agreed we'd have to come back one day to camp. 
Hugo, of course, had to have a swim as we rounded the top end of the Loch. Just over a small mound, lies the main river feeding the loch, Feith Buidhe, where you’ll need to take your boots off to cross and keep your feet dry! 

Then, it's back to ascent as you head up the far side of the loch valley. As the ground plateaus, Loch Etchachan sits on your right; despite the spring conditions, the loch itself was still partially frozen, with clear blocks of ice and cracks. It reminded both of us of the frozen white walkers lake from GOT!
When parallel with the Loch you can either take a left and head up the pathless heathery bank (as indicated in the Steve Fallon route - linked at the end) to Beinn Mheadoin, or continue along until the obvious marked path a bit further along. 
Since your legs are feeling it a little from climbing up away from Loch Avon, the path does feel like a bit of a slog and did at one point seem never ending (although felt surprisingly short on the way down!!). Once you reach the top, the wide summit plateau is scattered with several granite tors, known as the ‘Barns of Beinn Mheadhoin'. Stephen particularly enjoyed a bit of easy scrambling up some of these larger Tors. Aside from the Tors, the summit is a little unremarkable but the views around you are epic. 

Once back down to our turn point by Loch Etchachan we continued straight ahead up a gradual slope following a path until our turn point to divert off to Derry Cairngorm. There is no marked path here so you do need to go a bit off piste! Maps.Me had the path we were joining on to marked and so we found it easily! You then have a pretty straightforward route right to the top of Derry Cairngorm with the only tricky element being a large boulder field to cross. The summit was pretty exposed and windy so we didnt hang around long before going back the way we came. 

Back on the main path, we continued along it all the way to the summit of Scotland (and the UK's) second highest mountain, Ben Macdui. It looked SO different from the last time we had summited it but the surrounding views were just as awesome. 
We then had a pretty direct route all the way back to the main car park. Once back to the car we grabbed a coffee from the mountain cafe (which was great!) and gave our parking donation (suggested £2) before driving on to where we were staying that night - Wigwam lodges! Here's our blog about our stay and what we got up to :) 

If you're up for a LONG day, then this is a really epic hike and a great way to bag 4 of the Cairngorms' big boys!  

Distance – 27.18km
Time – 7 Hours 21 Minutes
Elevation – 1841m

Steve Fallon route here - note, despite following his route pretty exactly, his distance and elevation are a fair bit less than ours!