Ben Macdui – one of the Cairngorms big 4. Scotland… Hiking!

A sweet ’24ish…’ hours.

6pm on Friday arrived and it was time to go and enjoy some fun on a few Scottish Munros! Ben Macdui in the Cairngorms was calling! Being the second highest mountain in the UK, this little beauty had been on my list for a while. Yassss, the excitement! It was going to be around a 6 hour drive to Aviemore from the North East, including a quick detour to Penicuik to meet Tom… So I headed home, packed the van, fueled her up, aired the tires and set off…

We reached Glenmore Campsite at around 2am and found a clearing among the trees. It was dark and cold as we pitched our tents. There wasn’t a cloud overhead and the sky twinkled like stardust! I’d forgotten my sleeping mat, so that schoolgirl error resulted in me spending my night trying to keep warm, tossing and turning; with the cold from the ground seeping into my sleeping bag and chilling each body part it made contact with… all part of the adventure fun right? brrr…. ;-/

The welcome sight of daylight arrived and filled my tent, along with the sound of birds and the occasional woodpecker! Unzipping the side I was greeted by the sight of tall trees and a couple of ducks flying over head. Snow topped mountains were visible in the distance and the sun was coming up just behind them. Blue Sky! Everything about that moment created a perfect wake up!

After an al fresco breakfast it was time to layer up and pack a bag. We drove the winding road up to the CairnGorm Mountain Ski Centre. Luckily for me, my good pal Tom Owen happens to be a fantastic mountain leader and he’d mapped out an 11 mile hiking loop starting and finishing at the slopes. A great base location that is easily accessed for a day spent in the clouds.

There was time to grab a quick latte, then it was out into the fresh Scottish Highlands air, starting our hike up and through the snowy mountains. The sun beamed warmth, and the whispy white clouds in the clear blue sky offset the thick white powder on the ground. Nature at it’s finest, beautifully balanced!

I was quickly absorbed in yet another unforgettable mountain exploring experience. The sheer scale of these beauties, vast and snow covered, the landscape rolling on for miles in every direction. At the crest of every climb another spectacular sight unfolded. Breathtaking. I was happy to be alive, enjoying every sensation. There’s never a true picture, written description, or video that can capture the feelings and the thoughts from any time spent in the mountains… It’s impossible to jot that down… ❤

Its the little details that hold in the memory, such as having bitter cold hands as a result of taking my gloves off to snack on some lunch, a fresh pair of toasty warm mittens being handed to me after that so I could scrunch my fingers into a ball. I was grateful for Tom’s expertise and extra supplies!

Walking towards our goal point, my mind wandered and I thought the snow covered mounds resembles a dessert plane. Only much colder and powdery white of course! I think I might have been inspired to take on a dessert marathon at that point 😉 but anyway… back to the cold captivating mountains!

Reaching the summit of Ben Macdui, white snow mist had set in, and a slight ‘ah well’ stance was taken, one of those climbs with nothing to see. However, within the time it took to have a few squares of divine white chocolate, the snowy mist had passed, opening to reveal a spectacular sight! Clouds within touching distance… peaks pouting handsomely. It was breathtaking.

We headed back, with that feeling of satisfaction from a perfect summit! Some descending sections required crampons. Compressed hard snow; too firm for stamping out safe footholes; the fear of sliding downhill was real, and the crampons were a new toy to be taken out for some playtime. Giddy up cowgirl, suddenly taking on that talked about John Wayne swagger… there was mention of self arrest, but I avoided the climbing axe, thoughts of impaling myself somehow. Maybe next time 🤔

We had originally planned to stop over another night, but after a great day, another cold night just didn’t appeal so we agreed happily to call it a day and head home. Job done!

The weather had been favourable! Given the recent snow storms in the UK, couldn’t have timed it better!

Next up… The Terry O’Gara 5k. Newcastle.

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