Carn 'Mhaim GM/ES-013 Ben Macdui GM/ES-001


  • I had an itch that needed to be scratched, having failed to climb these two on my recent overnighter in the Cairngorms due to poor WX.
  • Mo had just had a steroid injection in her neck and was keen to prove it had worked (deadness/numbness in arm and shoulder pain) by doing something silly.
  • We were off all week and still don’t have any urge to travel too far from home.

Tuesday 29th June 2021
We set off at 0900z from the Linn of Dee for the long five mile walk in to Carn a’Mhaim (pronnounced Carn a Vaam). It was a stunning day weather-wise for this part of the World.

Carn a’Mhaim in the centre of the picture

It took two hours to reach the Luibeg burn. We stopped for some food, crossed the burn without incident and were soon at the lower slopes of Carn a’Mhaim.

The hill track splits from the path leading into the Lairig Ghru

The climb was easy, then steep before finally easing off towards the summit, mainly on path but with a bit of rock and then some granite slabs to cross.

The Upper Slopes of Carn a’Mhaim

Although somewhat dwarfed by its grander neighbours of Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 and Cairn Toul GM/ES-003, its position allowed for spectacular views all round.

Braeriach GM/ES-002 left and Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 right

Cairn Toul GM/ES-003

Derry Cairngorm (non-SOTA Munro), with Ben Mheadhoin GM/ES-005 and it’s granite tors in the background

The Devils Point Munro (non-SOTA) on the right. Ben Bhrothain GM/ES-007 on the left

Looking south to the distant Atholl hills

This peak has a relatively small summit for a Cairngorm mountain. There were a few walkers around and a gusty breeze over the top, but it was easy enough to find shelter and set up the station.

I easily spotted myself using 4G and started operating around 1400z on 20m, feeding 25W into my inverted V, which was strung along an east-west axis.Nineteen stations were worked, in a time of around 25 minutes. Best DX was Greece - SV3IEG and there were back to back Russian stations in the log too. Most fun QSO was with PD2GCM/M, Gerard, who was mobile with a whip on his car.

Happy with that, and sensing I was pushing Mo’s “sunbathing” time on the summit, I packed up.

On the way up to the summit, I’d worked Ian GM7FIE/p from his summit on West Lomond GM/SS-154 using 2m. He mentioned that he may try East Lomond too that day, GM/SS-198. I put out a quick call as we left the summit, and there he was, so a cheeky summit to summit whilst mobile! I also grabbed a summit to summit with G1ZJQ, who was on The Cheviot G/SB-001. The half-wave rucksack mounted 2m/70cm antenna doing the job nicely today. 200km point to point.

From the summit, looking back north revealed a long ridge leading from the summit plateau of Ben Macdui directly to the floor of Glen Luibeg - The Sron Riach. I had a new itch!

I’m coiling my guy ropes here - The Sron Riach ridge in the background

The descent was long but trouble free. A cooling off dip in the Luibeg burn revitalised tired, hot feet and we made it back to the car at 1700z

The entire route back is visible here

Wednesday 30th June
Mo had a hair appointment booked. Rather handily this was going to allow me to scratch my new itch.

I was back at Linn of Dee car park at 0600z, having brought my bike this time. 35 minutes later I was at the Luibeg burn again, having saved almost 85 minutes travel time compared to yesterday! The weather wasn’t so good. A bit cooler, with low cloud in the glens.

Looking up to the Sron Riach

Then path up the glen was narrow but well made. Crossing the upper burn didn’t present any problems and the initial path up the Sron Riach was very well made.

The cloud was lifting as I ascended and soon the views started to open up.

Yesterdays summit - Carn a’Mhaim

Had a few days camping/rock climbing here back in my youth.

Looking back down the Sron Riach

The upper slopes were rougher. I crossed a boulder field and then pulled up grassy and stony slopes towards the massive summit dome of Ben Macdui, reaching the cairn around 3 hours after setting off.

Ben Macdui GM/ES-001

The RSPB website tells me there are 60 breeding pairs of Snow Bunting that remain in Scotland all year round. Well I can tell you there’s a very tame one living at the summit of Ben Macdui (didn’t get a pic, but got an amazing close up with the GoPro).

I expected crowds at the summit - there is a very popular route from the ski centre near Aviemore, but I was alone. I think the poor morning WX forecast had probably helped. Conscious that it would get busy, I elected to set up the station off to the south, in one of the numerous stone shelters.

It was a palace compared to what I’m used to, with a flat grassy/mossy floor.

4G was working and I got my Spot away no problem. I soon worked ten stations on SSB, with G4AEI being the only UK station making it into the log. Aware that the 20m hop meant that UK chasers were missing out on a 10 point summit, I decided to re-rig the inverted V for 40m.

40m brought in seventeen contacts, ten of them being UK callsigns. I had a summit to summit with GW4TQE from GW/NW-042 and a further one with Simon GM7WKX/p, who was on GM/SS-034. I was delighted with this one, as Simon had been out all week climbing in GM-land.

I had the HT, but just the whip this time. I was about to put out a speculative CQ on 2m, when M0JKS/p beat me to it. He was on Scaffell Pike GM/LD-001, Englands highest. Surprisingly, given the 300km distance between the summits, he gave me an S6 report! He also congratulated me on getting ten points from him. I replied with my summit reference and said, “here’s ten points back!”.

I’d been 100 minutes on top in total and having run out of things to do, started heading back down using the same route. I saw no one else on this route all day, which was awesome!

Hazier WX today

Macro mode on the Samsung phone

Just another Cairngorm boulder field

Descending, but the ascent route now fully in view

The replacement bridge at Derry Lodge - innovative use of tower sections

The return journey was uneventful. Oh, apart from me nearly running over a young Adder with my bike. I was home before Mo, so some Brownie points in the bag too!

Carn a’Mhaim, Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm are normally climbed a as a lengthy circular walk. One which I was keen to avoid with radio gear in my rucksack. I’d completely forgotten about the direct access to Ben Macdui from the south via the Sron Riach until I saw it from the top of Carn a’Mhaim. So, two itches scratched and a couple of very satisfying activations, with decent band conditions. A 14 mile hike followed by an 18 mile bike & hike. Mo seems to be back to full strength too, which is great. She can carry the radio next time!

Radio Gear
Yaesu ft-3d half-wave rucksack antenna plus whip
Yaesu ft-857d with LifePo4 battery
Inverted V 40m/20m linked
7m Spiderpole, three guys (and still using the broken and semi-repaired guy ring)
Waterproof notebook and pencil

73, Fraser


Super report Fraser, brings back memories. My first attempt (failure) to activate Ben Macdui followed your route - early days, no spotting facility - but the first successful one was from the other side. I have a theory that Ben Macdui was created by the Devil when he dug the Lairig Ghru, throwing the boulders up there to create the summit :laughing:


Now that is a plausible theory! It is a great mountain though.

I think he sub-contracted it to the Grey Man!

Lovely photos as always, Fraser, you have the eye of an artist!

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Great expedition and write-up Fraser :slight_smile: I’m aching all over just reading about it! Fuel for dreams.

73 Paul G4MD

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another great report Fraser with fine photos…thanks :grinning:

73 de Geoff vk3sq

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And there was I thinking that you’d hauled a bivvy bag up there and done an overnighter. :slight_smile:

I listened for you on 20m, but nothing copied at my location. Unfortunately I left the shack and completely missed the 40m session. Such is life.

Well done on a great couple of summits. I hope that itch is now well and truly soothed so that calamine lotion will not need to be applied. Awful stuff!

73, Gerald


Sorry to have missed you on the air! As for the itch, it is worse! I’m now trying to work out the logistics of climbing all of the four Munros on the west side of the Larig Ghru, of which Cairn Toul and Braeraich are SOTA.


I managed Braeriach and Cairn Toul in a single day (and, for the record, I am a barrel of lard). Left the car at Whitewell at about 0600 and returned at about 2230, ran out of water at Pools of Dee (not going to fill up there!!!) and was totally knackered :tired_face:


That’s a Big Day Out from Whitewell Barry! Mo and I climbed Braeriach from the Sugar Bowl car park a couple of summers back. A higher starting point than you, but having to traverse the Chalamain Gap twice in one day was brutal on the feet!

I’m thinking an end-to-end might be better. I’ve never actually climbed Devils Point or Angels Peak, so would like to include those two as well.

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Good trip and video Fraser, well done. I had the same challenge with these summits and just went for it in a long day. No easy way!

GM/ES-003 Cairn Toul & GM/ES-002 Braeriach - Activation Reports - SOTA Reflector

73 Gavin


Thanks for sharing your report Gavin. That looked an amazing day out. Did you descent directly east from the summit of Braeraich into the Lairig Ghru?

I’m maybe braver/more stupid on the bike than you…I managed all the way to the Luibeg burn, so that would just leave me a 27km/17mile walk!

73, Fraser

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Used that route for “just” Braeriach - really disheartening when you realise that, as you cross the Lairig Ghru, you have gained absolutely no height since leaving the Sugar Bowl. Plus my Labrador decided, one time, to rock climb up the side of the Gap and had to be rescued!!!


Fraser, I enjoyed both videos very much but as you asked at the start of Part 1 for feedback I will offer my thoughts. :slight_smile:

Perhaps due to the excellent weather my over-riding impression was the scenery. As someone more familiar with the Lake District and the West Coast of Scotland I’ve always held the view the Cairngorm are er… boring, a bit like the Pennines. :slight_smile: But in Part 2 that impression was blown out of the water. The view from the summit was impressive.

As for balance I must confess the radio parts went on too long. An option might be to have two versions of the video, the full one with all the QSOs and an abridged version which focuses more on the location.

I suspect you dub the sound on afterwards? It makes for clear audio but it lacks the realism of a live recording - but I know the problem of live recording when the wind is blowing so again it is a balance. Better audio which sounds like it was recorded in a studio or something like a live recording.

But the above are just my reactions. The technique using a GoPro on a stick really works to draw the viewer into the action and give an impression we are on the walk with you. That aspect really works for me. :slight_smile:


That is valuable feedback. Thank you.

The sound is live. My new gopro9 has a better mic. with windproofing. Also, there’s less wind at the moment, so that helps too!

I agree the qso section is too long. I thought I’d do it as an experiment. At least everyone gets to hear their voice over the radio for once though.

As for the scenery, yes the Cairngorms are all big flat lumps of granite, but when you get on to the big ones the scale of the corries, glens and passes is spectacular.

I’ll be uploading Lochnagar later in the week. That round trip was really special…

Thanks again John.

73, Fraser