Windy Cairngorms

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Windy Cairngorms

22 October 2018
Windy day for a bespoke hike to aim up the Northern Cairngorms. Steven Fallon was leading....

Heading into the Cairngorms today to get Richard's tally up a bit. We'd been debating which day of the early part of this week would be best, but with all days being much the same, Monday was opted for.

A fair day was planned, Cairngorm, Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and even Bynack Mor if conditions were kind. When we met up at the car-park, we poured over the map and decided to do our route in an anti-clockwise direction as winds were expected to pick up in the afternoon, which would hopefully leave us a sheltered ascent up Coire Raibert and the safety of the Cairngorm ski-trail to follow.

Off to Ben Macdui first then ! A gentle ascent up the path heading west of Cairn Lochan got us into a fine stride and into the mist at around 1000m. We were past by a fast fellrunner concentrating on his footwork descending the oposite direction on our last pull up to the summit. Alas no views from the massive summit cairn :(

Some navigation work next got us to the top of the path east of Ben Macdui, where the mist magically lifted and we could get the lay of the land. As we approached the col to the west of Creagan a'Choire Etchachan, we could feel the wind really starting to pick up. Aiming up Derry Cairngorm, winds were now around 40mph, with gusts beginning to blow us over - it was impossible to stick to the bouldery crest, so we had to ascend via the lee side of the mountain. The final few feet to the cairn involved a crawl on hands and belly !

In a nook just under the summit we sought shelter and took in the surrounding views and food. We discussed our options. There was no way we could manage a scramble up Beinn Mheadhoin's summit to, so we opted to miss this Munro summit out of today's itinerary - it will always be there another day. We returned to the col, progress was slow with the gale-force winds continually blowing us as we tried to negotiate the boulders and scree. At last onto grass, progress was a bit easier and we decended to Loch Etchachan. Meeting up with some hillwalkers, we relayed our experience of the summit - I hope they reached their goal !

The river coming out of Loch Etchachan proved troublesome to cross with the wind, but once over and when we began to descend to Loch Avon, conditions got much calmer and we began to wonder if we'd done the right thing by missing out Beinn Mheadhoin.

Around Loch Avon, up Coire Raibert all was quiet as we began to return into the mist. Again, we pondered Beinn Mheahoin, but upon meeting a couple of guys coming the opposite direct, we were warned of the windy conditions higher up. Up to Cairngorm, yes it was blowing a hoolie, thank goodness for the weather station to shelter behind.

The descent initially was something else, but once we reached the posts and rope and then the Ptarmigan station (closed due to problems with the funicular supports), we could relax and saunter down to the car-park. A testing day, but one that really made us feel alive !

We later found out from the Cairngorm weather station website, winds of around 60mph with gusts in excess of 90mph were recorded at the time we were on Cairngorm summit. And two guys got lost on Ben Macdui the following day and had to be rescued by Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team !

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