Day 2 – Ben Macdui and freezing southerlies.

Date: Sunday 16th December 2007
Distance: 17km

Day 2 – forecast clear but windy. Decided to head out to Ben MacDui via the easy route skirting the west of Cairn Lochan.

We’re quite partial to kicking off at or before dawn and for most of the year this means quiet starts – except this time of year when the Cairngorm car park is jumping an hour before dawn with everyone trying to squeeze the most out of the day.

Headed off along the good tracks out to Miadan Creag an Leth-choin – the arm running to the west of the Cairn Lochan crags and east of Creag an Leth-choin (Lurcher’s Crag). As we headed up the arm it became apparent that there was a stiff southerly which was biting cold and carrying moisture which was depositing as hoar frost.

Dawn clouds over Cairn Lochan:

Hoar frost on the arm:

Cairn Lochan cliffs:

Once at the top of the arm views to Sgoran Dubh Mor and Braeriach with dawn light and cold air streams developed nicely. Thermometer showed -5C with a substantial wind chill.

Route skirts round Cairn Lochan with some snow patches, no need for crampons. Further sreams of cold air were spilling out of the Lairig Ghru and over the shoulder of Ben MacDui.

Look left to Beinn Mheadhoin with Ben Avon behind, look right to Cairn Toul and its neighbours. Here’s Ben Avon’s main tor behind Beinn Mheadhoin:

The route climbs easily up to Ben MacDui, much easier than normal with smooth, hard snow. Once on the final approach the huge cloud inversion to the south hoved into view. Temperature on the top was about 0C out of the lower streams of air.

Fabulous views all round, although not much to see in hill terms to the south with nothing visible above the clouds. Great views of Cairn Toul to Braeriach across the filled in Lairig Ghru:

A bit of shelter and some lunch and then turn for home.

Back into mist in the Lochan Buidhe area with some worsening of navigation before striking up Cairn Lochan’s back slope, heading along the SW ridge to the cliff line. The southerly flow was coating Cairn Lochan with a thin skim of cold fog, we could see up through it, and even see the mist skimming above us but not through it til we got to the cliff edge.

Suddenly view opened north over cliff edge. Was watching rapt when some nutter appeared over the edge of the cliff, seemed to be eyeing my boots and wondering if he could lodge his ice axes in them. I didn’t tell him he could easily have walked up round the west side! 😉 😉

Walkers in the thin mist layer:

A few Brocken Spectres came and went, we made our way along the cliff line east along Cairn Lochan and Stob Coire an t-Sneachda. Lots of folks enjoying the day. Great views South across Cairngorms:

Easy to get up Cairngorm but we turned down the Fiacaill a Choire Chais for a simple descent.

Back at the car park at sunset.

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