This post is the final one showing scenes of snow and ice from a winter walking weekend in Scotland at the tail end of March 2016. The conditions were very different from the previous two walks on Schiehallion and climbing a wintry gully in Coire an t-Sneachda.
This walk was completed on 19 March 2016 and was my first ascent and traverse of the Cairngorms plateau. Ben MacDui is the second highest mountain in the UK, located in the centre of the arctic-like Cairngorms plateau. It is a long walk from the ski centre! In good conditions it would be a very pleasurable day out. In poor conditions it would be dangerous and a real challenge. This walk is a classic “big-day out” in the Scottish mountains. Very exciting, as my journey into mountain exploration continues!
Start time 9.43am. Distance 17.3 km (10.7 miles). Duration 7 hours and 28 minutes.
Post Walk Pint: Schiehallion (4.8% ABV) a craft lager brewed by the Harviestoun Brewery.
The day started reasonably early with breakfast and a short drive to the car park at the Caingorm Mountain ski centre. The car park was a bustle of activity and looked like a busy Saturday morning. The weather was gloomy, grey and foggy but the forecast optimistic – it MIGHT be clear higher up the mountain!
The route would see us leaving the car park taking the path to the corries, continuing across the moor and crossing the Allt Coire an t-Sneachda with the help of stepping stones. Crossing the next stream, which issues from Coire an Lochain, we continued on the path up onto the wide ridge of Miadan Creag an Leth-choin.
From the summit of the ridge we continued southwards, contouring around the western slopes of Cairn Lochan, dropping down towards (the hidden lochans) on the plateau itself. From here, heading on a south easterly bearing we would cross the plateau, rising gently before a slight descent and then a longer gradual climb across the flanks of Ben Macdui’s northern top to reach the true summit. The second highest mountain in Britain is marked by a big cairn topped with a trig point. Here we had lunch. Did we admire the views?
For the return journey we returned the same way but once at the ice covered Lochan Buidhe, we took the path that curves off to the right (north east wards) to cross the slopes above the headwaters of the Feith Buidhe. The edge of the northern corries is reached at the bealach between Cairn Lochan and Stob Coire an t-Sneachda.
From here we would continue around the headwall of Coire an t-Sneachda before reaching the top of the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais ridge which offers a steady descent to the ski slopes and the Ski Centre car park.
Photo from Viewranger. Route shown in black (using Ordnance survey mapping).
Leaving the Ski Centre car park in the gloom. Would the visibility improve as height is gained? The forecast said it would …..
It’s not happening yet!
In theory, as height is gained great views open up on the left, across the gulf of Coire an Lochain. We could see none of this but it did appear to be getting brighter the higher we climbed!
Blue skies appearing????
Wow, climbing out above the cloud inversion
The view back down the wide ridge of Miadan Creag an Leth-choin. Impressive cloud inversion!
Coire an Lochain from two slightly different perspectives
The way ahead, contouring around the western slopes of Cairn Lochan
Two walkers, having just put their crampons on, on the slopes of Cairn Lochan
Leaving the slopes of Cairn Lochan and heading in a south easterly direction. Its warm in the sun!
Two views looking back from where we have come. Cairn Lochan is in the middle of both photographs.
Looking to the mountains west of the plateau. Unseen in the foreground is the massive trench of the Lairig Ghru!
Selfie on the summit Might be getting sunburnt here!!
Trig point. Lunch stop. Beautiful day.
Another view, this time looking more south westerly from the trig point.
Heading back towards Cairn Lochan (mountain in the middle).
We climbed up through the cloud earlier in the day but is the same cloud now starting to engulf us and cover the plateau itself???
Taking the path that curves off to the right (north east wards) to cross the slopes above the headwaters of the Feith Buidhe, covered by snow today (on the right in this picture).
Looking backwards, the cloud is rolling in …..
And finally, it rolls in completely, leaving us with limited visibility!!
Walking the head wall of Coire an t-Sneachda. Couldn’t see the drop!!
Ski slopes coming into view as we descend the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais ridge
The final plod behind the fences down to the car park at the Ski Centre.
Looking back up towards the mountains. What a great day out.
It had certainly been a “big day out” in the Scottish mountains. Apparently cloud inversions like this don’t happen very often. Frequent “Cairngormers” were often heard to be remarking on the weather we had experienced today. This was mountain walking at its best!!
No pictures of Post Walk Pints today. Dead phone. Fancied a lager though, as strange as that might sound!! Schiehallion at 4.8% ABV it would be from the Harviestoun Brewery.
Harviestoun Brewery was founded in 1983 by Ken Brooker in a 200-year-old stone barn on a farm on the Harviestoun estate, near Tillicoultry and Dollar in Clackmannanshire. In 2006 the brewery was bought by Caledonian Brewery. Following the takeover of Caledonian by Scottish & Newcastle in 2008, Harviestoun became independent again – it was bought by a group of Caledonian Brewery directors.
Schiehallion is a stunning lager with elegant head and luscious lacing. It has “aromas and flavours of fresh-cut grass, brown sugar, lychee and green mango” with a crisp palate and a lingering, fresh, grapefruity finish!!