…a Multi Day Munro Bagging Hike with Wild Camping in the Cairngorms National Park
Prepare for a whistle stop tour up and over the 14 central Cairngorms Munros! The Cairngorms National Park is a wild and dramatic place to explore. Ben Macdui (the UK’s second highest mountain) can be connected to Cairn Gorm, Carn a’Mhaim, The Devil’s Point, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Braeriach, Monadh Mor, Beinn Bhrotain, Beinn Bhreac, Beinn a’Chaorainn, Derry Cairngorm, Beinn Mheadhoin and Bynack More. This is a Scottish Highlands multi day expedition of champions and an exciting way to approach these 14 Cairngorms Munros. This route card explains the quickest and easiest way of getting to all 14 summits for a peak bagger.
Adventurer Nic walked this route on Saturday 7th September to Tuesday 10th September 2019 as part of her Munro Bagging Challenge. These were Munro numbers 206 to 219 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these Munros too.
Cairngorms Munros: Route Stats
Mountains: Cairn Gorm (1,244.8m), Ben Macdui (1,309m), Carn a’Mhaim (1,037m), The Devil’s Point (1,004m), Cairn Toul (1,291m), Sgor an Lochain Uaine (1,258m), Braeriach (1,296m), Monadh Mor (1,113m), Beinn Bhrotain (1,157m), Beinn Bhreac (931m), Beinn a’Chaorainn (1,083m), Derry Cairngorm (1,155m), Beinn Mheadhoin (1,182.9m), and Bynack More (1,090m).
Total Distance: 87.5km / 54.37miles
Total Ascent: 4,020m / 13,189ft
Approx Walk Time: 3.5 days
Grid Reference Start: NH 989061
Grid Reference End: NH 997074
Cairngorms Munros: Route Report
The Lead Up
A work trip to Norway interrupted our Munro bagging summer but we returned to the challenge in early September. We landed at Edinburgh airport, collected our car from our good friend Lorna‘s house and drove up to Perth. We used a Starbucks car park to layout all our gear from the Norway trip and integrate it all back in with our Scotland peak bagging gear. It looked such a mess and we got some very strange looks from people getting their coffee fix!
We were initially intending to drive up to Ben Wyvis to bag the lone peak at sunset, but just as we drove past Aviemore, we changed our minds. We’d been waiting for a good weather window to tackle the 14 Cairngorms Munros in the centre of the National Park and the forecast was promising 3 out of 4 days of good weather. It seemed to good an opportunity to pass up on.
Heading to Cairngorm ski resort, we exited the car to the biggest swarm of midges. Thank goodness for my midge jumper, a lifesaver!
We quickly put our meals and supplies together, anticipating up to four days in the mountains and set off.
The weather was still warm when we set off from the ski centre but it was getting late into the evening.
This was the turning point in the challenge where I felt autumn was starting to loom, the days felt slightly shorter.
The paths between the ski centre and Cairn Gorm (our first Munro of the walk) are excellent.
We passed a series of disused ski buildings and lifts to reach the summit of Cairn Gorm at sunset.
The Summits – Each of the 14 Cairngorms Munros
We took a great deal of photographs, enjoying the sunset summit views. It were as if the skies were burning. We were chuffed to have reached Cairn Gorm by sunset and felt like we’d kicked day 1 off to a good start. It was hard to believe we’d left our hotel on the western coast of Norway earlier that same morning!
We headed off down to the col between Cairn Gorm and Stob Coire an t’Sheachda on a good path, towards Scotland’s second highest mountain, Ben Macdui.
We hadn’t picked out a spot to camp in advance, so just as we were losing the last of the light we picked a flat spot off to the left of the path. This turned out to be the highest camp spot of the whole challenge – at 1,100m. And boy was it the coldest! My quilt is comfort rated down to -1°C and it was borderline too cold for that night.
I pulled my buff right over my face to get some warmth to my cold nose and we tried to get some rest.
The next morning, we packed up early and headed off on the clear path towards Ben Macdui. It wasn’t long before we were standing on the summit.
To the south, cloud inversions were splintering in the warmth of the morning. It was a stunning sight. We took a slow, steady and steep line off the south side of the mountain. At the bottom, we leave our heavy loads by a stream and head to towards Carn a’ Mhaim. An ‘out and back’ is something that hill walkers do when they can’t incorporate a mountain into a circular. It feels so free and liberating to have an empty pack, as carrying food for up to four days is back breaking!
Carn a’ Mhaim
The ridge to the summit of Carn a’ Mhaim rose steadily in front of us.
We hit the third summit on our peak bagging agenda just as the sun was beginning to kick out some heat. From this vantage point we enjoyed cloud-free views of the other nearby Cairngorms Munros.
We returned via the route of ascent to retrieve our packs before continuing on.
The Devil’s Point
We followed the stream to a path that runs along the valley beside the River Dee. The footbridge enabled us to cross the river easily and we went on to enter Corrour Bothy for lunch. Corrour is one of the most popular bothies for hikers of the Cairngorms Munros, and it was no surprise to see two tents erected outside at 12pm. We ate peanut butter on crackers and debated the route ahead.
We left the bothy and joined a path leading up to the col between The Devil’s Point and Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir, replenishing our water supplies in a stream along the way.
Dropping our loads for the second time of the day, we headed up to The Devil’s Point summit.
I remember feeling grateful for the footpath which was laid here in 2002. It enabled us to truly enjoy the views without worrying too much about navigation on this part of the route.
It was still a clear, warm day and we paused momentarily to enjoy the views, which were stunning.
On the descent, we passed a runner who had also left his bag at the col.
We picked up our bags once more and headed up rocky boulder slopes to Cairn Toul via Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir. At this point, the cloud cover comes out of nowhere, the summit is shrouded and our views are gone.
Sgor an Lochain Uaine
We continued on to Sgor an Lochain Uaine (also known as The Angels’ Peak) and descended from there to a col where we could leave the bags for the third time of the day before heading along the ridge to Braeriach.
Braeriach would be the last of the top 10 highest Munros on our list of 282, so this summit felt special. There was no other mountain above 1,200m left on our list.
The clouds dispersed for a short while, revealing some dramatic views, but sadly they were short lived.
It felt like a long ‘out and back’, especially in the clag, but we were packless and packless walking feels really freeing and light. A real treat! We returned to our bags just as the drizzle had begun.
We decided to camp earlier than planned on account of two things – the first being that the drizzle was forecast to turn into a night of non-stop rain, and we knew we would feel a whole lot better if we managed to keep our gear dry for the night.
The second was that James had just mildly twisted his ankle and it felt like a sign we were getting tired and making mistakes. We got the tent up on a small shelf on a downward slope and boiled up dinner. The rain properly set in and we were relieved we’d called it a day as we snuggled down for the night with our packs, contents and crucially ourselves, nice and dry. Six Munro peaks wasn’t a bad count for the day (seven cumulatively over the two days).
We dozed off at 9pm and caught up on the lost sleep from the night before. It felt much warmer.
We woke to the sound of heavy rain at 6.30am but we snoozed the alarm and slept until 7.15am in the hope it would get better. It didn’t. I lost my spork and threw a bit of a tantrum, but I found it soon after. We made breakfast and coffee in the tent vestibule and James said “when the big things are going wrong, it’s the little things you have to celebrate” as he sipped his warm drink.
Begrudgingly, we got all our stuff packed up and put in our packs before taking tent down, and we were careful to pack the inner and outer components separately. We would head to a bothy for the third night but as always, there wasn’t guaranteed to be space for us.
It was drizzling and we set off on pathless terrain until the land started rising towards our first peak of the day. There are lots of little eroded little paths in this part of the Cairngorms and you never know if you’re on a real path or not, so lots of directional checks are required.
We hit the summit and marched on to the next peak, Beinn Bhrotain, which was fairly closeby. Blissfully, not much descending and reascending was required between the two Munros.
From the summit trig pillar we then decided to take a shortcut on the original descent plan which actually worked out perfectly because a faint path appeared part of the way down, saving us valuable time.
At the valley bottom we had to cross the wide (and now raging) River Dee. We both got wet boots, but it didn’t matter because it turned out to be the first of many river crossings that day. Dry feet are overrated!
We joined a path for a while and then we did a bit of tough off piste walking through lumpy bumpy heather before hitting a more established track in the direction of Linn of Dee. We crossed a thigh high river and then headed through woodland with Derry Lodge as our destination.
By this time, it was dry in the valley, with the cloud only hugging the tops.
We paused to have lunch by Derry Lodge but the midges were atrocious. Pacing up and down whilst eating, we made a lame bid at creating some kind of breeze to keep the midges at bay.
Eventually, we continued on a track that led on to the foot of the next Munro. We turned off the path and hit a small faint path which led us through the heather. We reached the summit of Beinn Bhreac with views shrouded in the clag once more.
Beinn a’ Chaorainn
We headed 5km to the final Munro of the day, across largely pathless, heathery and peaty terrain which kept rising and falling. It was tough going and felt never ending. We made it to the summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn and started our descent just as the heavens reopened and soaked us again.
The descent was gradual at first but we then hit a steeper scree path. We decided on a shortcut to the bothy but abandoned it half way through when it was really hard going through thick heather with lots of additional ups and downs. Instead we headed for the Coire Etchachan Burn, crossed it and walked up onto a path which led straight to the bothy.
We found the Hutchinson Memorial Hut to be empty, despite four visitors writing in the bothy register that day. The bothy comprised of an entrance room and a main room with one bench and a stove.
We had dinner and lit a fire. According to the bothy register, some wood was left by a chap called Oscar who had carried it in but then realised he’d forgotten his food supplies, so left the wood for the next person to enjoy and returned to his car. We were grateful for the ability to dry out some of our gear.
I slept on the bench and James slept on the floor. It was lovely to be inside a dry room.
We woke after a good sleep in the bothy and had breakfast before heading out. Miraculously, after the poor weather of the previous day, it was dry and visibility was good. There was some light cloud covering the tops but it looked like it was clearing. We hit the path leading up to Loch Etchachan. We passed a group of Duke of Edinburgh Award students, who looked surprisingly fresh faced after what must have been a wet night in tents on the hill. Soon, we passed their supervisor Ellie, who was following at a discreet distance and monitoring them remotely.
We soon reached the col and ditched our packs to climb Derry Cairngorm.
We followed a path which became faint over the boulders every now and then. After pausing for a very tired selfie at the summit, we descended back to our packs, beside the loch.
We then started ascending the second Munro of the day.
We passed some path laying tools but nobody was working that day.
It was a steep but rewarding climb over sandy terrain but the summit tors seemed to appear quickly.
We had to scramble to get on top of one of the rocky tors which jutted from the summit of Beinn Mheadohoin, but it was worth it for one of those ‘Queen of the World’ moments.
We headed off towards the valley which separated this mountain from Bynack More – our final mountain of the day (and also the final mountain of the expedition).
We descended on a gravelly path, which seem common in this part of the Cairngorms and headed down the open hillside to a large loch called Loch Avon, where we stopped for lunch.
Loch Avon looked positively tropical! With beautifully clear water and even a small stretch of beach.
We then crossed the river before joining a rock strewn path heading uphill.
We peeled off the path and headed up the ridge of the final Munro. There was a disheartening false summit and a drop before the final ascent. Often the ground was saturated and slushy, other times it was gravelly, other times heathery and other times bouldery strewn. We really had it all on this expedition across the Cairngorms Munros.
We were delighted to hit the summit. The 14th of 14 Cairngorms Munros.
It was our longest multi-day expedition of the Munro bagging challenge and it felt great to stand on the summit of Bynack More.
The bonus was, we were ahead of time. We thought it would take four full days to complete the full route and in actual fact we were looking like doing it in less than three and a half days. This gave us a massive boost.
The Final Descent of the Cairngorms Munros
The descent was far from straight forward, we were nearly 5.5km away from the car park (as the crow files and we all know you can’t walk as the crow flies!) These Cairngorms Munros weren’t going to make it easy for us to escape.
We descended down a ridge over Bynack Beg in thick heather. Once we reached and crossed the River Nethy we had to climb nearly 300m again to get over the col to the north of the northern spur of Sron a’ Cha-no. It was still the path of least resistance to go up and over rather than around the obstacle. The route from there wasn’t hard to follow. The biggest obstacles were a couple of streams and a weird section of mangrove-like trees growing in a marsh.
I struggled with tiredness so James went ahead and retrieved the car from the upper car park while I gratefully waited at the lower car park. We hobbled into the McDonalds in Perth that evening, both affected by the mileage of the last three and a bit days hiking the wild and wonderful Cairngorms Munros.
We nicknamed these Cairngorms Munros:
- Can’t be Gormy – Cairn Gorm
- Ben Might Do a Wee – Ben Macdui
- Call Ya Mam – Carn a’Mhaim
- Cruella Deville’s Point – The Devil’s Point
- Car Tool – Cairn Toul
- Scary and Lucky You Aint – Sgor an Lochain Uaine
- Basic B1tch – Braeriach
- Moan (at) Dad More – Monadh Mor
- Bling ‘Bro’ Chain – Beinn Bhrotain
- Being Broken – Beinn Bhreac
- Derry! Catch Him Derry! – Derry Cairngorm
- Been Chillin’ In Rain – Beinn a’Chaorainn
- Bring Meat and Ham – Beinn Mheadhoin
- Bring Nic More (Haribo) – Bynack More
Find out why we nicknamed all 282 Munros here.