Cairngorms summer return. August 2012

Date: Saturday 18th August 2012
Distance: 24km
Ascent: 1750m

It’s been an oddity of the weather patterns for the last year or so that the east of Scotland has been getting poorer weather than the west. The Cairngorms used to be the foundation block of our summer walking, changing over the years to being more winter playground. It had been nagging at us for some time that our last summer walk on the plateau was May 2009 and we grabbed an opportunity to get out.

Decided on a decent wander from the north.

Set off from the lower ski (free) car park (noting on the drive that all forestry car parks now charge £2 per day, including Sugar Bowl).

From here there are 2 arms to chose from – direct on a path up to Crap Coire na Spreidhe or heading east to climb the arm heading up from Stac na h-Iolaire. I have a preference for the latter but we took the direct route today.

There is path reconstruction/repair being done on the eroded bits of this path.

Views build on ascent to Loch Morlich and the horizon is Easter Ross (with now familiar peaks of Morven, Scaraben and Beinn Dhorain).

Cut off the path after a few hundred metres and headed for the flat area near the 1028m pt before ascending south up Cnap Coire na Spreidhe. Views develop E out into Aberdeenshire including Bennachie and Morvern.

Creag Mhor is the little tor in the mid picture, Morven at Ballater is on the horizon – interestingly – they’re about the same height

Reached Cnap Coire na Spreidhe after an hour or so – ducked behind a sandstone block for shelter from thebrisk breeze and had some food.

From here it’s 10minutes to the summit of Cairngorm, we didn’t go as it’s usually pretty busy. I suspect our near-ascents of Cairngorm now outnumber our summit visits.

Dropped S into Ciste Mearidh – a nearly year long snow patch just hanging on. The mosses here have a very short season showing vibrant reds and greens in the sun.

There is a path heading down to the Saddle which peters out at one point – stay fairly high and it can be picked up again just beneath boulder fields and crags.

A few reindeer were grazing under the crags.

The drop to the Saddle is easy enough, the path from the Saddle to the NE end of Loch Avon is a bit rough. We wondered if it would be easier to drop direct to the loch and follow the lochside track.

The end of the Loch is a splendid place.

As with last time we crossed to the south shore by wading across the sandy end of the loch just before the river starts. This only gets to knee height and has no rocks so is an easy wade (I doubt it’ll change much after rain as the loch level won’t fluctuate much).

There is actually a faint path climbing S up to the flat part of the ridge at 930m.

From here it’s an easy enough wander up to the summit on easy terrain.

Sat behind a tor out of the wind for some lunch – despite a forecast for dropping windspeeds it remained fairly breezy and chilling.

A few groups were coming and going to the summit tor – suddenly on the SMC route and it was busy.

Macdui and Loch Avon:

Climbed the summit tor and then headed on.

We diverted south to Stob Coire Etchacan – fancied this one for a while, perched atop the massive triangular cliff face seen from Glen Derry. The reciprocal view from the summit was as impressive as expected.

A direct line to Loch Etchacan looked very rough so we reclimbed 70m to the Beinn Mheadhoin ridge to drop down by the red route to Loch Etchacan.

Almost unnatural to see the Loch fully thawed.

Options for return from here would be a drop to Loch Avon and reclimb of Cairngorm, or a climb of Macdui (or outliers).

We’d planned on revisiting Ben Macdui so headed up the good track SW up along the rim of Coire Sputan Dearg.

The cliffs here are rather dramatic.

1km and 100m of climb took us to the summit. We diverted a bit to the west in approach to get the full view down into Lairig Ghru.

Refuelled behind the cairn – views extended from W Lomond in the south to Morven in the N.

Beinn a Ghlo – a recent revisit:

Set our sights on home – it’s about 2 hours back to the top car park over the 1083m point W of Cairn Lochain.

Tors of Mheadhoin and Avon:

The light was lowering and conditions were pleasant for the return, commitments had ruled out a wild camp, to our regret.

Another small herd of reindeer trotted past us in Coire an Lochain.

As we neared the car park the midge were definitely emerging. From the top car park (now a £2 suggested donation) it’s 2km back to the lower car park. 20 minutes had us back at the car for a fairly clear run back to Embra.

Great to get out in the summer ‘Gorms again – it’s been too long.


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