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Fiacaill Ridge then 4 Munros

PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:39 pm
by alex_140
Before we set out, Adam's plan was to walk to Ben MacDui from the ski centre car park via the west ridge of Coire an Lochan, then do Derry Cairngorm, Beinn Mheadhoin and Cairn Gorm. The unusual lack of snow for Feburary meant we could change the initial ascent to include the Fiacaill buttress scramble (Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda). Here is the route we took...

We got to the ski centre at about 7.40am to find it pretty much empty (no chance for skiing with the hills looking this bare). We were expecting a good day for it, and the initial walk around into Coire an t-Sneachda was ideal - it was dry underfoot all the way up (the ground at the foot of the ridge can be boggy at times).

After leaving the path and crossing over to the ridge we ascended for 200m with spectacular views of Coire an t-Sneachda as we climbed. The buttress remained hidden from view until we reached the top of the ridge, keeping us wondering what was to come.

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Coire an Lochain from the Coire an t-Sneachda path

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Backwall of Coire an t-Sneachda

We got the view that we were waiting for as we hit the start of the ridge, along with a good bit of that infamous Cairngorm plateau wind as we lost the shelter of the ridge.

The start of the scrambling followed shortly with a few easy granite tor pinnacles leading up to the main bit of rock, where the scrambling then begins properly. The difficulty increases gradually up to the crux as the pinnacles become increasingly exposed. At the crux the moves become technically more difficult due to the blocks of rock getting bigger (moves require a bit of a stretch in places), but the exposure disappears as most of the crux section is a chimney type formation. Pulling up over the top of this section ends the scramble (Boo!!! :( ).

Each section is avoidable by bypassing to the right up the steeps slopes of Coire an Lochan if conditions are to hairy. We had ice free dry rock and the wind was around 20-30mph and the grades indicated were about right (high 1 to a low 2 depending on the book/website). The route is definitely high quality, generally considered 2 stars in the guides.

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Fiacaill Buttress

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Granite tor including the crux of the route (most obvious ascent starts to the right then moving to the middle - left=cliffs= :shock: without a rope)

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Looking back from the top of the Fiacaill ridge

Walking to Ben MacDui was simple after this, picking up the path and following past the lochans (NH 984 011) where we walked into the cloud. Plenty cairns mark the route to the summit from here along a heavily worn path. Got a bite to eat in one of the numerous shelter walls before heading off the summit.

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Cairngorms Plateau (from the top of the Fiacaill ridge on the side of Carn Lochain) - Carn Etchachan is in the middle with Derry Cairngorm behind to the right, mainly free of cloud. Ben MacDui is out of shot to the right (in the cloud anyway) and Beinn Mheadhoin summit is off to the left.

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Adam and I at the cloud bound summit of Ben MacDui

Navigation off the summit was tricky. The idea was to walk cautiously in the direction of the cliffs then turn and follow the ridge down using the compass. We turned too early as it turns out, coming off the NNE ridge instead of the NE one. Would have been better to aim for the gully and contour out of it to the right.

The cloud eventually cleared and crossing over to regain the path was easy enough. We crossed the ridge and picked up the path to Derry Cairngorm. The summit ridge was very windy and standing up was becoming difficult. The cold was unpleasant as well so we didn't stick around, and we quickly headed back to Loch Etchachan (looking amazing covered in broken ice).

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Derry Cairngorm from the NW ridge of Ben MacDui

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Loch Etchachan from the path to Beinn Mheadhoin

At this point Adam was running out of steam (he did do the 5 Munros at Lochnagar the previous day :o ), so I carried on to the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin while he headed directly to Cairn Gorm. After clambering over the tors for 10 minutes I left the summit, passing to the south of Stacan Dubha before heading down to the shelter stone. After all the enthusiasm I had for climbing Beinn Mheadhoin I had exhausted myself, but nothing left to do but push on. Down at the head of Loch Avon some great views of scrambling routes for another day on the Avon Slabs and possible winter gully routes (Shelter Stone Gully and Pinnacle Gully). Crossing the river I mistakenly went for the speed tactic. Wet feet doesn't even begin to describe it :( .

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Beinn Meadhoin tors (summit tor in the middle)

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Loch Avon from path down to the Shelter Stone

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Avon Slabs (between Garbh Uisge and Feith Buidhe)

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Shelter Stone Crag (gullies on each side of the large buttress)

The climb back onto the plateau was hard going after such a long day - especially with the extra weight of the water in my boots! Going past the waterfall in Coire Raibeirt was spectacular despite the tiredness. After the simple ascent to the Cairn Gorm summit along a path weaving between the rocks I had not yet caught up with Adam. He descended via ptarmigan station into Coire Cas and I started back down the west slope before going straight down the Coire backwall. Conveniently I caught up not long before getting back to the car. We both welcomed the sight of the car and the promise of a comfy seat.

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Cairn Gorm from earlier on in the day - I was too tired to remember to take a photo from the slopes of Beinn Mheadhoin

For more pictures of the scramble check the 'extra photos part1' on my walks diary.

Map of route follows...

Re: Fiacaill Ridge then 4 Munros

PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:36 pm
by Gable Gable End
nice work that man!

Re: Fiacaill Ridge then 4 Munros

PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:10 pm
by Johnny Corbett
Thats a big round, well done, i did Cairngorm along with Beinn Mheadhoin and found it hard going. Good day for it as well. I love the area around Loch Avon :D

Re: Fiacaill Ridge then 4 Munros

PostPosted: Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:33 pm
by LeithySuburbs
Great effort and thanks for the pics of the ridge which is a route I fancy soon :D .

Re: Fiacaill Ridge then 4 Munros

PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:12 am
by adamarchie
Good work on the camera, Alex. Saved me getting my hands out of my gloves!

Surprisingly, my blisters weren't at all bad the following day.

Re: Fiacaill Ridge then 4 Munros

PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:12 am
by blanchie
Great effort with loads of interesting stuff going on.

How was the Coire Raibert path? When I was there a couple of years ago we were told it was very loose and so went up the path to the west of Loch Avon towards Coire Domhain. Which turned out to be one of the most unpleasant paths that I can remember!

Re: Fiacaill Ridge then 4 Munros

PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:27 am
by alex_140
blanchie wrote:Great effort with loads of interesting stuff going on.

How was the Coire Raibert path? When I was there a couple of years ago we were told it was very loose and so went up the path to the west of Loch Avon towards Coire Domhain. Which turned out to be one of the most unpleasant paths that I can remember!


The path is great, only a few parts were loose. The path is mostly up over angular bits of rock, almost like a staircase in places. There was some scree next to the waterfall that could be mistaken for the path, but the path actually goes right along the side of the waterfall where it's almost a scramble to get up.

It could be slippy when wet, but mainly it is simply hard work on an incline like that.