Cairngorm and Macdui

Cairngorm and Ben Macdui, 2-3 February 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. Two days of guided winter mountain hiking in the Northern Cairngorms bagging Cairngorm and Ben Macdui. Richard Kermode was leading.

Cairngorm and Ben Macdui

Day 1 - Ben Macdui

There had been a lot of snowfall this week and as we set off from the ski centre at Cairngorm our plan was to head out to Ben Macdui and then come back over Cairngorm on the return journey...

We had an early start and an enthusiastic group of Mark, Stephen, John, Paul and Stevie we headed out along the route beneath the northern corries and were soon breaking our trail out towards and up Miadan Creag an Leth-choin. There were lots of people out most seemed to be heading into Coire an t-Sneachda, but a few were going our way some overtaking is on skis. It was hard going and there was some sunshine as we enjoyed a break with views into Coire Lochain. It didn't take long for us to be on our own again breaking trail across Carn Lochain and onto the plateau in some deep and drifting snow!

The temperature was extremely cold and over the course of the day most water bottles began to freeze at some point. We made great time with the tail wind and a runner appeared out of nowhere also on his way to Macdui. His trail filled in within minutes in the drifting snow as we navigated carefully over the plateau. A skier touring with her dog came by on their way back and again all evidence of their passing soon disappeared. We met the runner on his way back shortly after and had the summit of Ben Macdui all to ourselves though the wind was Baltic and drifting snow made the relative shelter of the summit cairn quite limited for some food.

As we headed back over the plateau we needed goggles to make any progress and the trench we had made on the way was completely gone! We soon met a couple more walkers on their way out and that was the last of anybody we actually met. The going was hard and there was no way we were cutting the corner to get to Cairngorm so back up Carn Lochain it was only to get there after 15:00hrs making our plans change. We opted to retrace our steps and miss out Cairngorm and the rim of the corries. It was frustrating as the cloud was beginning to clear and the sunshine came out as we enjoyed a descent through deep snow back down. We stopped at the same place as on the way up and we're joined by a very active shrew running about and digging all over the place. The light was beginning to fade as we reached the cars to finish a very enjoyable and tough winters day!

Day 2 - Cairngorm

Our second day out was meant to be Braeriach, but with the weather forecast and the changing avalanche forecast not to mention some tired legs we opted to go up Cairngorm via Fiacaill a'Choire Chais. It was Mark and Paul back for more along with Jimmy joining us for the day. We left the trail into the northern corries and back into some extremely deep drifts with much stronger winds than yesterday. It was slow and steady as we gained the ridge and the ski goggles were soon on as we were engulfed in spin drift and some fresh snow all the way up to point 1141 having moved onto more scoured ground and some icier snow in places.

It wasn't a day to linger and we were soon up on Cairngorm in improving conditions before it came in again so we descended to Ptarmigan for shelter and lunch. The place was getting quite buried on some aspects and we had to watch out heads on the roof when we left our sheltered book after lunch.

We also met some skiers and spilt boarder and a large group of young walkers all looking for some shelter. These were the first people we had met all day.

It didn't take long to descend windy ridge enjoying the deeper drifts on the way down and improving views into the northern corries. A much shorter day that originally planned, but very enjoyable and good practice for keeping your kit together given the strong winds and drifting snow all day long. Even had time for coffee and cake at the cafe at the ski centre!

Two very different and challenging winter days. The snow is most definitely here!

More photos by Richard Kermode and some of the participants are here on Flickr.

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