Ben Macdui and Carn Ethachan…again. March 2014

Date: Tuesday 11th March 2014
Distance: 20km
Ascent: 1300m

It’s nice to have a few standby walks that you’re happy to do any time. For us it has to be the wander in to Ben Macdui and its surrounds. The Cairngorms are just such excellent wandering terrain.

A perfect day on offer….off we went.

Like the day before, the route is simple, from the main ski car park follow the pathacross the floor of the Northern corries, up the ridge to Pt 1083m, cross the west flank of Cairn Lochain and ascend Macdui.

The ski car park was half full by the time we arrived (0900) – irritating pop muzak being pumped out by the base station was a pleasure to leave behind.[/oldfogey]

Northern Corries:

The Northern Corries had patches of reasonably icy snow – no sign of the MCoS Hill Safety Gestapo so we stuck on the microspikes. 😉

The ptarmigans were particularly active on what felt a very warm morning.


The ski car park was full by the the time we were 30 minutes out.

H and car park:

More ptarmigan kept us royally entertained.


The ascent to the 1083m point is normally a wander over cairngorm rock and grit for us. In this case a 200m ascent up a confluent snow field.

Eventually crested the ridge to open the view W to Sgoran Dubh and Creag Meagaidh.

Sgoran Dubh:

Creag Meagaidh:

Shadowed in the morning the cliffs of Cairn Lochain and a slipping snow mass on the Great Slab.

Cliffs of Cairn Lochain and the Great Slab:

The flat area at 1083m was hard ice. Microspikes were fine with a flat area. The sight of ptarmigan falling over was a new one.

Ptarmigan slip-sliding:

Ptarmigan pair:

As usual we diverted to NH 976 021 for the view S down Lairig Ghru.

Down the Lairig Ghru:

Bod an Deamhain:

Some large Avalanches off Sron na Lairige – almost reached the floor of the Lairig Ghru:

Ptarmigan male:

Transferred over to crampons to flank Cairn Lochain – the fall line into Lairig Ghru is not appetising. As the shoulder is crossed the views across Lairig Ghru open again.

Carn Toul:

West Lairig Ghru Munros:

The normal plowter over mixed bouldery terrain was rendered a firm, smooth wander over snow all the way to Macdui.

Lots of stunning vistas to occupy the attention though.

H on Macdui:

View west again:

Sgor an Lochain Uaine with Ben Alder beyond:

Coire Brochain:

K on Macdui:

Wandered around the summit on its west side to take up a vantage point over the south side. It’s well worth moving a few hundred metres SW of the summit cairn of Macdui if there is visibility, the view really opens up. This normally means a bit of boulder-hopping, in this case just a smooth wander.

Southern Lairig Ghru from Macdui:

Bod an Deamhain:

Ben Alder:

Beinn a Ghlo:

Summit panorama:

Sat for an hour or so having lunch and enjoying the view. Warm, wind-free and pretty close to perfection.

We didn’t have a firm plan from here – decided to wander down to Carn Etchachan again.

Downhill to Carn Etchachan:

Took the ridge south of Garbh Uisge Mor for a change – not been on that before. A glissade off the NW side demonstrated how readily speed would pick up in a slide on the icy surface.

Derry Cairngorm:

Our July campsite at NJ 001 001 was hard to spot.

Beinn Mheadhoin and Loch Etchachan:

It was an easy wander out to Carn Etchachan, although the ironmongery on our feet was growing wearying.

H and Ben Macdui:

Tors and Ptarmies:

Loch Etchachan was hard to see – a suspicious flat patch of snow.

Spot the Loch:

Carn Etchachan is one of my favourite Cairngorm places. A splendid place.

Loch Avon from Carn Etchachan:

Carn Etchachan summit pano:

Given a smooth snow surface took a reasonably straight line back from Carn Etchachan to Pt 1186m S of Lochan Buidhe to pick up our approach route.

H on Cairn Lochain return:

The light had changed on the munros across the Lairig Ghru.


Carn Toul:

Dropped back to the viewpoint S of Pt 1083m.

South down Lairig Ghru:

The Northern Corries start to pick up a bit of light in the evenings now as we approach equinox.

Cairn Lochain cliffs:

Dropped back from the snow towards the heather as the sun lowered. Ptarmigan gargling replaced by red grouse ramblings.

From winter to spring:

The sun was getting low as we approached the car park, lovely light.

Back to the corries:


A favourite walk on a near perfect day – the perfect remedy for the ills of a rather poor winter. 🙂

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