First full day of my holiday in the Caingorms, and I'd decided on an ascent of Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm. The weather forecast wasn't particularly great - persistent hill fog, rain, increasing wind, with the possibility of a thunderstorm later in the afternoon, the first half of the morning providing the only semi-decent conditions. With that in mind, I made what for me was an fairly early start and headed on out to the Ski centre at Coire Cas by about 7:45.
The realistion that I was already over 2000ft up before I'd even started walking felt like a bit of a cheat somehow .
The only cloud free summits in view were back towards Meall a' Bhuachaille. I resigned myself to a day spent largely in the clag.
The first portion of the ascent up past Coire an Lochain was actually very pleasant and enjoyable. Cool and still and very quiet, easy going on a good path, with the gathering cloud lending a brooding atmosphere to the landscape, and only one other person anywhere in sight.
There were plenty of snow buntings flying about, one of which landed on the path less than ten feet in front of me and barely seemed bothered by my presence.
By this time, thick cloud was rolling in down the Lairig Ghru, an occasional break giving brief glimpses of the craggy flank of Sron na Lairige.
Crossing the plateau past Lochan Buidhe, the cloud finally closed in on me for the day.
At this point, the way forward becomes somewhat rougher and less distinct, crossing a boulderfield with cairns positioned at regular intervals to mark the way. The ascent onwards to Ben Macdui's summit feels remarkably easy going considering this is the second highest mountain in Scotland, never at any point particularly steep, and on the ascent the route finding is simple - by the time I reach the broad summit plateau it almost doesn't feel properly earned.
After lingering on the summit for a several minutes, enjoying the solitude and atmosphere, it started to rain, so I decided to head back towards my second Munro of the day, given that the conditions were only likely to get worse from there on in. Considering how wide and well marked by cairns the path seemed on ascent it's rather embarrassing that I managed to miss the initial portion of it on the way down, and spent a good fifteen minutes tramping across boulder fields as the rain got steadily heavier before I picked it up again. I blame the walker coming up to the summit behind me from a slightly unexpected angle as I started my descent, which had me adjusting my course in the assumption I must have veered off the correct route (cleary not the fault of my own crap navigating ).
From this point forward conditions steadily deteriorated, the wind picking up, the clag thickening, and the rain getting heavier still. The fact that one of the seams of my waterproof trousers decided this would be a good time to start leaking didn't exactly go to improve my mood much, and by the time I was about halfway up Stob Coire an t-Sneachda I really have had just about enough for the day.
Between Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and Cairn Gorm I'm out of the wind somewhat, which does make the going much easier and improves my mood considerably. By the time I reached Cairn Gorm's summit though, it really was blowing and pelting it down.
I'm somewhat amused to find that even on a day like this there's still a guided tour party up on the summit from the Ptarmigan, huddled around the weather station - I mean, who takes a guided tour in this weather? It's only a minute or two later that it occurs to me that, hey at least they've only walked up a couple of hundred metres, unlike some I could mention, and hello Mr Pot, Mr Kettle would like a quiet word .
Passing the Ptarmigan, I'm actually halfway tempted to see if I can get the funicular down, but that really does seem like cheating. After the initial ugly section through the ski-run though, the descent of Sron an Aonaich was actually rather pleasant, particularly once I emerged from the cloud and the rain eased off.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.