Derry Cairngorm seen coming down Ben Macdui
If you plan to hike Derry Cairngorm from the north, you might find the mountain somewhat remote, as it is located south of the lakes Loch Avon and Loch Etchachan. A good access route is from the Cairngorm ski-centre via the summit of Ben Macdui. This mountain was originally also called Cairn Gorm, but to avoid naming conflict with the larger neighbour, the prefix "Derry" (from the Glenn Derry valley) was added.
The summit can be reached via trails from the north or the south (Derry Lodge). The east and west slopes of the mountain are quite steep. The summit area consist of boulder, and the trails vanish as you are closing in on the summit. The views from the summit are spectacular. The view towards the south is unobscured. Westbound you see the ridges of Ben Macdui, Braearich/Carn Toul and Monadh Mor. Far west, you see Ben Lawers. You have a clear view towards the Beinn a'Bhuird mountains in the east and the Cairn Gorm mountian in the north.
Derry Cairngorm has a sub-peak named Creagan a' Choire Etchachan (1108m), which is of interest to those who collects 'Tops'.
Derry Cairngorm's primary factor towards the higher Ben Macdui is 115m. The saddle is a 1040m point N of the summit, marked on the 1:25000 map.
Creagan a'Choire Etchachan's primary factor towards Ben Macdui is only 55m. The saddle is a 1053m point W of the summit, marked on the 1:25000 map. With only 55m drop towards Ben Macdui, this Top can hardly be called prominent. However, the conical shape of the summit is quite distinct when viewed from distance.
For trail descriptions, refer to the comprehensive and well-written Scotland mountain books. Recommended reading for those interested in exploring the Cairngorms, is "The Cairngorms" by Adam Watson (ISBN 0-907521-39-8).
The below trip report should also provide some useful information about the mountains.
Not including yesterday's resting day, this was my fourth day in the Cairngorm mountains. I had done 8 Munros, and #9 (Derry Cairngorm) was on the plan for the day. I had still sore feet and blisters, but staying at the resort was no option. I assumed the best route would be over Ben Macdui. I left the Cairngorm trailhead at 09:20AM, and kept staring towards the Sneachda ridge on the way upwards. I was really focused on checking out this ridge. It looked intimidating and interesting. The weather was still unbeliveable. Sunshine for the 5th day in the row. I enjoyed the hike fully, and hiked easily up the slopes towards Cairn Lochan. I reached Ben Macdui in 1 hour, 50 minutes, at 11:10AM, without rushing anything. I now had a clear view towards Derry Cairngorm, today's goal, and I could really start enjoying new scenery. I was all alone on the mountain, and it would have been the most perfect day, if it wasn't for those jet fighters thundering through the Cairngorms, again and again. The Scottish Highlands seem to be a training field for RAF.
The temperature had been below zero C during the night. The snow was excellent to hike on, and the terrain was easy. I reached the summit of Derry Cairngorm 12:10PM, 1 hour after I left Ben Macdui. I looked towards the east, towards mountains I hadn't done yet, but I decided to obey my blisters, and make the hike as short as possible. I noticed a short and steep route up to Carn Etachchan that would eventually take me back to Cairn Lochan, and I could explore the Sneachda ridge that I was looking at earlier.
The climb up to Carn Etachchan was fascinating. It wasn't really steep, but I was petrified that some of the large boulders would kick loose. I tripped gently upwards making as little noise as possible (as if that would help..) The views from Carn Etachchan were astounding. The immense drop towards Loch Avon made me breathless. I looked down the colouirs. They made me skip heartbeats. I decided to continue to Cairn Lochan and investigate the Sneachda ridge.
I was happy to conclude that this was a quite doable ridge. Descending the first part of the ridge requires some focus, but all in all, this was a typical class (US) 2+ descent. Handhold required along the way. There were several possible routes down. Many leave the ridge after the first descent. Another option is to stay close to the ridge, which led me into class 3 terrain, demanding use of both hands while finding a good place to put the feet. This section was however short, and soon I could enjoy climbing a safe boulder ridge before descending down to the valley. I reached the trailhead 15:35PM, 6 hours, 15 minutes after leaving it.
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