Wednesday 6 July 2016

Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm from the Ski Centre

Cairngorm Mountain Ski Centre

Second hill day of holibobs - and the little car roared off from the campsite in Glen Affric with all our gear and a grumpy Rafie (safely belted in) on the back seats - it was a great weather forecast (at least until late afternoon) including cloud free summits - how about climbing the second and sixth highest hills in the land.

Jim - on the path below the Northern Corries with views to Cairn Lochan 

I'd climbed these two (Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm) before - an Army Cadet Force DofE expedition of all things (those were the days!) - so Jim has been playing catch up with the Munro bagging since then. Today was the day for our stats to finally match up.

Allt Coire an t-Sneachda

We set off from the Cairngorm Mountain Ski Centre, west along the path beside the interesting new statues, down some steps and across the burn - the path was well made and clear across the hillside below the Northern Corries, gently ascending, it was easy walking.

Fiacaill Ridge from path below Northern Corries

We had a brief discussion - do we do a bit of scrambling up the Fiacaill Ridge to get us onto the plauteau? - but decided against it - maybe not with an ageing collie - poor old Rafie! We stuck with the main path...

Views west to Loch Morlich from path below Northern Corries

Ascent of path below Northern Corries to Miadan Creag an Leth-choin

Rafe - Burn from Coire an Lochain

There were a few snow patches to be seen in the cories - it wasn't until we got much closer that we realised quite how big they were - a single skier, making the most of the July snow was tiny in the distance.

Skier above Coire an Lochain

Big snow patch above Coire an Lochain - tiny skier can just about be seen

The good path, steepening into a few steps now and again, soon took us higher into the hills and the views opened up further.

Pitched path up Miadan Creag an Leth-choin

It was never hard going - plenty of time to take in the expansive views and wide skies.

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Miadan Creag an Leth-choin

Jim and Rafe - ascent to Ben Macdui with views to Cairn Toul

Looking back (N) and down into Lairig Ghru

Rafe and Jim - ascent towards Ben Macdui

Views across the Lairig Ghru to Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine

Jim - ascent across the plateau towards Ben Macdui

Rafe and Jim - ascent of Ben Macdui

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Ben Macdui

There were a few people about - not surprising on such a lovely day in the school holidays - We overtook a dad with his six year old son, who was climbing his first Munro - He was keen and excited - eager to chat about his adventure. Sounded like dad had plans for lots more hills in his future.

Looking back (N) across the plateau towards Cairn Lochan
(with the six year old, climbing his first Munro, with his dad nearing the summit)

Onward and upward - a last gentle pull onto the summit plateau.

View to Cairn Gorm from ascent of Ben Macdui

Jim and Rafe - ascent of Ben Macdui

Views west across the Lairig Ghru to Braeraich massif

Ben Macdui view indicator

There were a few people milling about the trig point when we got to the summit (Ben Macdui, Munro 2, 1309m) - so we had a bit of a mooch about on the plateau, taking in the sweeping views and taking many photographs. The Braeriach massif across the Lairig Ghru was most impressive - we've still got those ones to climb.

Jim - Ben Macdui summit plateau - views south west

We took ourselves off to a sheltered nook and had a bit of lunch - breathing in the mountains as we ate.

Ben Macdui summit plateau
Views south to Carn a'Mhaim, the Lairig Ghru and Bod an Deamhain (Devil's Point) with Bheinn Bhrotain behind

Ben Macdui summit (Munro 2, 1309m)

Eventually we got our turn at the massive summit cairn and trig point - more pictures taken.

Jim and Rafe - heading back (N) across plateau towards Cairn Lochan and Stob Coire an t-Sneachda

It was just starting to look like the weather was taking a turn for the worse - haze and cloud coming in along with a cold wind. Time to move - we still had another Munro to climb today.

As we headed back north, descending from the summit plateau, we met up with the young lad with his dad again - almost there - we cheered them on and wished them well. Both had the biggest grins...

Rafe cooling his paws - lochan near Ben Macdui

There were a couple of nice watering holes for Rafie as we crossed the Cairngorm plateau - as well as as a couple of snow patches for a snowball catching session!

Alpines on Cairngorm plateau

Easy walking again - the path undulated across the high plateau, through the weathered granite and boulder-fields - we were soon approaching the escarpment of the Northern Corries.

Jim and Rafe - descent from Ben Macdui towards Lochan Buidhe

Rafe has a plodge in Lochan Buidhe

Snow patch near Stob Coire an t-Sneachda

Views to Stob Coire an t-Sneachda with Cairn Gorm

Jim and Rafe - crossing the plateau on the way to Stob Coire an t-Sneachda

The sudden precipice was all the more breathtaking, after so long on the wide rolling plateau. The view went on forever (despite the increasing haziness) and the enormous cliffs of tumbling granite and weathered pinnacles were astounding.

A little easy scrambling about on the rocks at the crest was undertaken.

Cairn Lochan and Fiacaill Ridge from ascent of Stob Coire an t-Sneachda

Looking down the Fiacaill Ridge, we really wished we had come up that way - it'll still be here next time...

Stob Coire an t-Sneachda - views north

Stob Coire an t-Sneachda escarpment

Stob Coire an t-Sneachda (Munro Top 8, 1176m)

Cairn Lochan and Fiacaill Ridge from Stob Coire an t-Sneachda

Stob Coire an t-Sneachda - views to Cairn Gorm

The weather was definitely deteriorating - time to head up to Cairn Gorm...

Cairn Lochan and Stob Coire an t-Sneachda from ascent of Cairn Gorm

The obvious path continued across the hillside almost to the summit of Cairn Gorm - disappearing at the last minute into a boulder-field - and by the time we got to the weather station on the top, it was raining - the cloud had come swirling down over Ben Macdui and Braerich, but hadn't got to us as yet!

Rafe and Jim - nearing the Cairn Gorm weather station

The obligatory summit photos were taken - Cairn Gorm (Munro 6, 1245m) - but the colour had gone out of the landscape and it was cold!

Rafe and Jim - Cairn Gorm summit (Munro 6, 1245m)

Time to head down...

The Cairn Gorm weather station

It soon stopped raining and it warmed up as we descended.

The path was once again pitched and there was even a rope rail down either side above the Ptarmigan Restaurant! I imagine it gets busy at times on this, the easiest and quickest ascent of Cairn Gorm and damage to the sensitive hillside needs to be minimised - but when you look at the impact of the skiing infrastructure and the funicular railway on the hill!!?! I think there are better and less intrusive ways of getting people to stick to the path!

See Parkswatch Scotland for futher info...

Looking back at the Ptarmigan Restaurant with the summit behind
Descent from Cairn Gorm on the Windy Ridge path

The views down towards Loch Morlich and Rothimurchus Forest opened up again as we neared the end of the walk - moody views as the cloud roiled above the hills.

Rafe and Jim - descent from Cairn Gorm along Sron an Aonaich - views to Loch Morlich

There was a left turn and a few more steps and we were back in the ski centre car park - a classic walk, on a mostly lovely day, in an area we're not quite so familiar with - we'll be back to the area very soon.

(That sounds a bit like faint praise! We had a great day!!)

Rafe and Jim - descent from Cairn Gorm - work going on on the Windy Ridge path

The North Corries from descent from Cairn Gorm along Sron an Aonaich

Whilst driving back to Glen Affric, poor little Hydrogen Cyanide, decided that it had had enough. It was only supposed to be for a bit of commuting, and suddenly it was expected to carry us, a grumpy dog and our gear, all over the north of Scotland. So it just stopped.

So our Green Flag membership was used for the very first time  - we and the little car were deposited back at the Cannich Camping Park (much to the initial bemusement and later amusement of Matt the owner!) - what are we going to do now!

Jim - descent to the Ski Centre car park

Route:  Cairngorm Ski Centre car park (NH989059), fp W down some steps and across a fb over Allt Choire Chais, continue SSW along fp below the Northern Corries (passing other fp's on left into Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain), continue along fp ascending Maidan Creag an Leth-choin, but bypassing the summit, continue S on fp contouring around W slopes of Cairn Lochan, continue S on clear fp between the headwaters of March Burn and Lochan Buidhe and onward to Ben Macdui (Munro 2, 1309m), return N to Lochan Buidhe and take fp NE to bealach between Cairn Lochan and Stob Coire an t-Sneachda, fp NE along edge of Northern Corries to Stob Coire an t-Sneachda (Munro Top 8,1176m) and onto Cairn Gorm (Munro 6, 1245m), N on fp to Ptarmgan then NW along Windy Ridge path (Sron an Aonaich) to car park.

Statistics:  Distance: 17.5km Ascent: 950m Time: 6 hours

Map: Harvey Superwalker XT25 Cairngorm & Ben Avon

Ben Macdui - Munro 2

Cairn Gorm - Munro 6

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