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attempt to climb Ben Macdui FAIL

Posted Sep 07 2009 10:37pm

The midges of Glen Nevis convinced me to quit the western highlands. And forego the western islands. (sob)

Furious scrutiny of my guide book led me to decide, instead, on the Cairngorms. Perhaps a climb of the second highest mountain in Scotland, Ben Macdui (1309m).

That would make me a right Munro bagger … since I’d already stolled up Ben Nevis with my hands in my pockets.

Scottish hill walking parlance:

•  Munros = 3000ft+
• Corbetts = 2500ft+
• Grahams = 2000ft+

Lonely Planet Hiking in Scotland recommends a route they call Cairn Gorm High Circuit … with a side trip climb to the top of Ben Macdui.

The basic circuit is 7.5mi (12km). The much more difficult scramble to the summit is 5mi (8km) return.

Here’s the easier Cairngorm summit. On a good day.

photographer - Cody Duncan

photographer - Cody Duncan

I was first up to the summit of Cairn Gorm. Dense cloud. Howling winds. … What a contrast from Ben Nevis!

I could only barely see the highest cairn.

Weather is everything in Scotland. I was forced to descend to the controversial new funicular complex. It wasn’t open yet for the day. I had to sweet talk one of the employees in order to be allowed entrance.

Ben Macdui will have to wait.

At the bottom I asked the Ranger (the first National Park Ranger I’d seen in Europe) the wind speed. He confidently estimated 50-60 MPH.

The only higher winds I’d experienced were at Paine in Patagonia, the day backpack covers blew off and flew away like Helium balloons. And the unforgettable day I attempted Mt St Helen in Washington State. I was crawling boulder to boulder on that one. Could not stand up.

The Ranger was not at all interested. At that spot was recorded the “greatest British wind speed 150 knots (170 mph or 274 kmh) on 20 March 1986″.

Here’s how it was blowing for me after I descended down into just a lively breeze.

Click PLAY or watch me hiking Scotland on YouTube.

Midges were not a problem!

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