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Last updated: 17/07/12


125th Anniversary Overnighter to the Shelter Stone
23 - 24 June, 2012

2012 is the 125th Anniversary of the founding of the Cairngorm Club, at the Shelter Stone at the head on Loch Avon in the centre of the Cairngorms.


This years Overnighter was a pilgrimage to the site of this event, with a bivvy under the Stone a must for some (but not others!!).


Several parties and individuals left from Muir Cottage, and other locations, to head for the Shelter Stone and below is a summary of their adventures.


Graeme McEwan, Willie Robb and Derek Beverley left Muir Cottage around 8am on Saturday 23rd June and two of them did not return for over 26 hours. The weather was mixed and moody and they encountered sunshine, showers and drenching rain in that time. Records (since the event) have shown that April to June this year was the wettest since records began. June was also the second dullest (and wettest) since records began, so do not expect much blue sky nor sunshine in the photos that follow. What you will see were the hills at their moody best.


Amongst the trees in Glen Derry


Looking back (southwards)


Willie approaching the bridge over the Derry Burn near the old Derry Dam


Heading north up Glen Derry


The group split below the summit of the Lairig an Laoigh and Willie reached the Shelter Stone around 13.15hrs via Loch Etchachan. Graeme and Derek proceeded by way of the Lairig an Laoigh (the pass of the calves).


Looking back down Glen Derry


Below Beinn a’ Chaorainn to the high point of the Lairig an Laoigh there has been some (very good) path repair work which made progress on the south side of the pass quick. Once over the pass the path is in it’s original state and boulders, dubs and water slow the walker down.


On the repaired path looking back down Glen Derry


Looking into Coire Etchachan (the Corrie of the Juniper)


Looking northwards towards the Fords of Avon and Dubh Lochans


There were small fish (trout?) rising for flies in the Dubh Lochan


Near Fords of Avon… in the desolate heart of  the Cairngorms


A ford before 'The Avon Ford'


At 'The Fords of Avon' they met in with the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh party they had seen today. They were resting having lunch on the Aberdeen side and would ford it on their walk out to Glenmore tomorrow. Derek fancied a cup of coffee and the new refuge looked appealing so he waded (just below knees) for a look at the place, 'it’s braw' he said later. Whilst there he reflected on his second overnight stay in the refuge some time back having walked in from Crathie with a stop at Corndavon Bothy. He spent 16 hours in the place nearly not finding it in visibility of around 20mtrs. Back then it was a dark hole but today it is brighter, drier and quite welcoming. After rejoining Graeme and the others on the far bank he was 'scored' for his crossing technique by the adults in charge of the D of E’s (it was a a good score).


Fords of Avon Mountain Refuge


They had coffee nearby before progressing behind the D of E’s and their bright orange rucksack covers. They took the path along the south shore of the Avon which is a combination of deer and human tracks and as such there are good stretches and less good stretches.


Approaching Loch Avon


Looking up Loch Avon to the snowfields up by the Garbh Uisge


Graeme on the path for the Shelter Stone


The walk into the Shelter Stone along the lochside is a delight and there is always something to see.

Crossing one of the burns that tumbles down from Beinn Mheadhoin, this water tastes great in your whisky…


COAT were in residence below the Shelter Stone – engaged on the repair of the Coire Dhomain path but few people were about today (they saw only two). The work is necessary and no doubt will be of good quality. This route is regularly used by members on the Cairngorm Traverse and it’s betterment must be a good thing.


The head of Loch Avon


Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust on the Dairymaids Field


They made our rendevous with Willie, 10mins ahead of schedule, at 15.50hrs and were joined later by others intent on visiting the ‘Stone’on the 125 Anniversary.


The first 5 (or six, inc. photo taker) to reach the ‘Stone’


Meanwhile …… Ken, Colin & Marj left Muir individually but met up at Derry Lodge With clouds fairly high, they decided on Derry Cairngorm as their preferred route to the Shelter Stone, and followed the path up through the trees onto the ridge


Marj arriving at Derry Lodge


Path up through the trees


There were views over to the Beinn a’Bhuird plateau and to the left the Sputan Dearg cliffs and snow gullies but it soon 'clagged' over


Marj & Colin on the ridge


Halfway up, a shower out of the northwest led to waterproofs being donned, but the light winds made Kens umbrella a welcome portable shelter. They were overtaken by a keen type up from Oxford for a day on the hill, and passed the first of several parties coming down. Marj was obviously suffering from a heavy cold but was persuaded to continue. The stony, rainy and rather windy summit eventually appeared at around 2 pm. After a brief stop for lunch, they set off for Loch Etchachan, in the past Ken has usually gone around the east side of Creagan a Choire Etchachan, but on this occasion they just followed the path (and a few ptarmigan) to the main Macdhui route, then down to cross the fast-flowing burn at the loch mouth.


The trek over to Glen Avon proved rougher, wetter and longer than all remembered


Eventually they dropped down eroding slopes and boggy stretches to the 'Stone', where Willie, Derek and Graeme were all ensconced in different places, and looking rather glumly down to the path repair encampment near Loch Avon, a string of white sacks up the Coire Domhain route showed their intentions.




The 'Shelter Stone 6' minus Ken


As the weather set in in earnest, the foaming white Feith Bhuidhe streamlets looked impressive but the sub-Stone atmosphere did not rise above the dark and dank, even with several inside. Colin and Marj soon departed for home, with Graeme soon following.


Also heading to the Shelter Stone at this time, from various starting points, were Fiona Cameron, Judy Middleton, Bill Morgan, Garry Wardrope, David Brown and Ken Broomfield.


Derek and Kens pictures take up the story again …….


Garry arrived and got the place (a bit) warm


.... and played some music


Willie and Fiona enjoyed a nap


The firelog, whose combustion inside the shelter provided welcome light and heat, albeit with some fumes.


Judy then added to the gaiety, as did Fiona, who had trained, bussed and trekked from Aberdeen via Aviemore and the Cairngorm car park and plateau: a sterling effort. Finally, a few (or more) sips of the hard stuff(s) supplied by Derek, Bill and others readied us for 'The Speech' by Derek, who recalled the establishment of the Club in 1887.



After a rest Ken braved the elements and headed out into the gloom and takes up the story again ......


“I had been dithering over my overnight intentions, but eventually decided to follow Judy to her campsite, hoping for better weather. On the traverse over to Loch Etchachan, we met the other Ken coming in, and complaining about “nightmare” burn crossings en route. Indeed, the Loch Etchachan outlet proved worse than in the afternoon, but with wet feet already that did not matter much, and I set off up the Macdhui path, leaving Judy at her lochside tent, and somewhat horrified at the cluster of DoE tents (from Eton College, it transpired) which had replaced her expected solitude.


The Macdhui path angled up into the mist and drizzle, with snow patches before the final summit slopes – which again proved longer and less well marked than expected, but with a clear upward trend until the cairn and Club indicator loomed up. I had been wondering where to bivvy (or whether to keep walking), but, with the prospect of commemorating the Club properly as (probably) the highest sleeper in the land that night, I eventually kipped down in a stone horseshoe next to the summit just on midnight. The rain came on more heavily after I had settled in, but the bivvy bag served well, and I dozed an hour or so longer than intended before packing up in rather a wet and hurried state at around 3.45 am.


Off east across half-remembered slopes of stone – the last time I had been up here was searching for a left-behind Club member on a September traverse – until the welcome cliff edge appeared in the mist. Soon afterwards, as I descended south, upper Glen Luibeg became visible on my left, and the slopes of Carn a’Mhaim ahead. A sudden panic erupted as I missed my house and car keys in my pockets, but a quick search turned them up inside my hastily packed bed roll. Down to and across the burn, and along the made-up path to Robbers’ Copse, with a lone deer above me, up on the southwest slopes of Derry Cairngorm. Derry Lodge at 6 am lifeless (and tentless) except for several MR landrovers, and then down the track to the Linn, with a lone walker from the White Bridge track coming into port like me. Back at base by 7:30 am, and after a welcome shower in Muir and a couple of hours snoozing in Blackburn, I was ready to face the rigours of the Presidential Event.”


Others made their way back to Muir at various times and here are some final pictures from Derek and Willie’s return.


Willie and Derek were up at 3am and, after a coffee and brioch breakfast, left at 03.50am.


Leaving the Shelter Stone (early morning)


By Loch Etchachan


Descending to the Coire Etchachan Shelter


There were two parties of D of E’s here (in tents) so they did not linger at the bothy but proceeded 'homeward' enjoying two more burn crossings. Willie elected to ford the Derry Burn in Coire Etchachan.


Willie in lower Coire Etchachan (he didn't fancy the bridge!!)


Trees on the slopes of Beinn Bhreac


They took the (newish) riverside walk path to the hard road at Linn of Dee (turn left instead of right through forest at signpost) and enjoyed a delightful, if short, walk by the River Lui


Falls on the River Lui


The walk into Muir from the Shelter Stone took 6 hours including breaks.


Perhaps the above is a bit disjointed, but it certainly shows the dedication of some members to ensure that the 125th Anniversary Overnighter was a night to remember.


Author - Derek Beverley, Ken Thomson & Colin Brown
Photos - Derek Beverley & Ken Thomson