A planned meeting with a Duke of Edinburgh's Award team would see me walking a long route into the heart of the Cairngorms; it seemed both logical and pleasurable to combine the meeting with an overnight camp high in the hills. I set out from Linn of Dee in the late afternoon at a time when most walkers and cyclists were heading back down from the hills. Past Derry Lodge on the familiar track which never seems to get any shorter, and on up through the pine woods of Glen Derry. It was a warm evening and I stopped for a short rest near the point at which the path starts the climb to the Lairig an Laoigh (pass of the calves). The view from here takes in the upper part of Glen Derry and beyond to the Glen Ey hills.
I branched off the main route here to take the smaller path leading towards Coire Etchachan. The burn is crossed on a small plank bridge (recently repaired) which avoids wet feet - and in spate
conditions is very necessary to cross safely. The small Rowan at the boulder which supports one end of the bridge has been growing here since I can remember; it's still small but is the highest tree I know of in this part of the Cairngorms.
After meeting with the team near the Hutchison hut, the climb up to Coire Etchachan was tackled. As height is gained the "Hutchie" settles into the wild corrie, a tiny speck in a big and wild place - which is how it should be.
Coire Etchachan is a grand place. Often misty and windswept, this evening it was a place of tranquility. The water on the smaller of the two lochans was mirror calm and it was tempting to camp here. My plans for the following day included traversing the summit of Ben MacDui for a further meeting with the team on it's far side, so the climb up needed to be tackled either in the evening or the morning. I continued on, looking for a place for the tent I'd used some years ago.
It was late in the evening when the spot was reached, just a hundred or so metres below the summit of Scotland's second highest hill. The view to the west is blocked by a craggy ridge leading from the summit plateau of MacDui but the colour of the sunset blazed away above a large remnant snow patch. The snow remaining from winter has been much greater than in recent years, many of the snow patches will survive to form a base for the coming winter.
I got the tent pitched and a hot drink underway. The temperature was dropping fast; even on in July it would be a cold night up here.......
.....but the view from the tent was a bit special! Beyond Loch Etchachan is the dark trench containing Loch Avon. the view through to the distant Monadhliath hills framed by the sunlit summits of Cairn Gorm on the left and Beinn Mheadhoin on the right. Apart from the quiet conversation of a hen Ptarmigan and her chicks it was very quiet. When I climbed into the sleeping bag at sometime after 11pm the afterglow of the sunset was still smouldering in the sky.