Ben Macdhui in the Cairngorm Mountains stands at 4,295 feet: the second-highest peak in the British Isles. As its summit marks the border between Aberdeenshire and Banffshire, it is also the county top of both of those counties. BenMacdhui is one of just nine mountains in the British Isles exceeding 4,000 feet.
While there are plenty of guides to climbing the highest mountain, Ben Nevis, standing prominently above Fort William, and the paths to its summit are ground deep with countless boots, there are fewer visitors to the second highest, though it is just 114 feet short of its rival and it was once believed (until more accurate measurements were available) that Ben Macdhui was the higher.
Cairn Gorm (or Cairngorm) to the north climbs to 4,081 feet (its summit marking the border of Banffshire with Inverness-shire) and is better known as it gives its name to the whole Cairngorm range and is far more accessible: there is long established skiing centre here and a ski-lift running up the mountain to well short of its top and facilities at the foot of the mountain. It also stands between Ben Macdhui and civilisation and so most climbs of Ben Macdhui pass over Cairngorm first.
The starting base for a climb of Cairn Gorm is Aviemore, but the village is a long way from the foot of the mountain. The best starting and finishing point is the car park of the Ski Centre at the foot of Cairngorm: from Aviemore there is a long, sinuous road eastwards through the forest (which is of great interest in itself) and which climbs to the Ski Centre and no further. Other, more challenging starting points are available from stops along the road, but with limited parking (and without the helpful mountain guides).
In later posts I will describe the climb.