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October snow on the Cairn Gorm corries

October snow on the Cairn Gorm corries


Postby denfinella » Sun Oct 21, 2012 5:23 pm

Route description: Cairn Gorm and the northern corries

Munros included on this walk: Cairn Gorm

Date walked: 20/10/2012

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 775m

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My first walk report - hope it displays correctly!!


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As the weekend approached, the BBC and MWIS both displayed encouraging signs for Saturday's weather, following a week of grey cloud and outbreaks of rain in Aberdeen. Light winds, bright sunshine and excellent visibility were forecast for all of the Cairngorms, along with a day of dry weather on the Friday to let the ground dry out beforehand. On Friday, the forecast changed, with suggestions of excellent visibility replaced by coastal fog and a cloud base of 600-800m, only gradually improving throughout the day, and 'an hour or two of rain' only drifting about slowly. Plans for a sunny coastal walk or a foray into the Angus glens were shelved for another day. However, a window of hope appeared in the far northwest corner of the Cairngorms, where there remained the small chance of the odd glimmer of sunshine.

So on Saturday morning we drove northeast rather than south from Aberdeen. The sun was struggling to break through persistent morning fog, and conditions slowly improved as Aberdeenshire was left behind. The original plan had been to head for Meall a' Bhuachaille and its ridge above Glenmore - we hoped its position as an outlier from the main plateau might allow it to shed cloud more readily. We arrived at Loch Morlich at about 10.30am, but Meall a' Bhuachaille unfortunately still had its head stubbornly wrapped in a white blanket. However the plateau appeared surprisingly cloud-free, with a dusting of the white stuff forming a headband draped around the northern corries. It looked so enticing from the lakeside that we changed plans again.

Loch Morlich.jpg
View over Loch Morlich

Ten minutes later we were heading west from the rapidly-filling car park at the Cairngorm funicular base station. By now, Meall a' Bhuachaille was free of cloud too...

Meall.jpg
Last one to get out of bed!

...but the view of Fiacaill Ridge with Cairn Gorm beyond wasn't bad either.

Fiacaill.jpg
Fiacaill Ridge from just beyond the car park

Ahead, the views of Coire an Lochain were magnificent, only improving as the ridge to the west was gained. The crags and gullies overlooking the tiny lochan looked foreboding, their jet-black colour contrasting with the covering of snow above.

Coire.jpg
Coire an Lochain

After negotiating a surprisingly treacherous section of bog covered by half-melted ice and snow, there was a steep pull up to Cairn Lochan in snow which was half a metre deep in places. The cold wind happily faded as the gradient eased, and the summit was soon reached. A cascade of frozen waterfalls dangled from the edge of the cliffs, where a mini-cornice had already begun to build up (although it might not last for long!). The views in other, less vertical directions were equally frosty.

Ice.jpg
Ice overlooking Coire an Lochan

Cornice.jpg
Cornice

Braeriach.jpg
Braeriach (?)

The next few kilometres were a blur of hastily-taken photos on a camera which kept saying that battery failure was imminent, playing hopscotch around snowdrifts and sheer enjoyment. The views remained far-reaching and dramatic in all directions.

Coire 2.jpg
Coire an t-Sneachda

The sun had been threatening to break through ever since we'd left the car park. Finally, the clouds parted properly and sunshine lit up the snowy slopes. It even felt pleasantly warm.

Mheadhoin.jpg
Beinn Mheadhoin

And finally onto the solitary Munro. Cairn Gorm may not be the most dramatic of summits, but it's still a fantastic viewpoint.

Cairn Gorm.jpg
Cairn Gorm

Back.jpg
Looking back towards the corries

SW.jpg
Southwest panorama (I'm happy!)

The cairned motorway down from the summit to the Ptarmigan station was the most slippery part of the day, with the snow already compacted by other walkers.

Lost.jpg
Difficult to get lost

Path.jpg
Down the slide...

Beyond the funicular top station, the Windy Ridge path was straightforward and easy to walk on. I know many people despise the ski developments, but the few runs and fence-lines we crossed here didn't really detract from the walk. It's still possible to have the hills to yourself and a feeling of isolation here, with the added bonus of a starting point 600 metres above sea level complete with good parking and other facilities. It's an excellent walk, and not too taxing - especially compared with Cairn Gorm's neighbours scattered elsewhere on the plateau.

Glenmore is a long drive from Aberdeen and we might not be back in that neck of the woods until daylight hours are longer again. But some nice memories to take back to the granite city. My boyfriend even said he "actually enjoyed the walk"... so I'll be able to drag him out somewhere again soon! :lol:
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denfinella
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1116
Munros:66   Corbetts:34
Grahams:22   Donalds:13
Sub 2000:60   Hewitts:11
Wainwrights:6   Islands:45
Joined: Mar 19, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

Re: October snow on the Cairn Gorm corries

Postby RicKamila » Sun Oct 21, 2012 6:03 pm

Nice report. Looks lovely over there at this time of the year. Was hoping to get a walk in around that way in the next couple of weeks, but a dislocated and broken toe has put pay to our walking plans now :( Thanks for posting!!
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RicKamila
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Posts: 2358
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Location: Aberdeenshire

Re: October snow on the Cairn Gorm corries

Postby Paula Hubens » Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:38 pm

Nice first report! I love your pictures, they all look very dramatic. 8)
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Paula Hubens
 
Posts: 272
Joined: May 23, 2011

Re: October snow on the Cairn Gorm corries

Postby denfinella » Mon Oct 22, 2012 1:53 pm

RicKamila wrote:Nice report. Looks lovely over there at this time of the year. Was hoping to get a walk in around that way in the next couple of weeks, but a dislocated and broken toe has put pay to our walking plans now :( Thanks for posting!!


Thanks :) Still plenty of shorter walks around there for the winter months, although it is a long drive. Hope the toe isn't too painful and heals quickly!

Nice first report! I love your pictures, they all look very dramatic. 8)


Thank you, it was definitely a good day to be out :D
User avatar
denfinella
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1116
Munros:66   Corbetts:34
Grahams:22   Donalds:13
Sub 2000:60   Hewitts:11
Wainwrights:6   Islands:45
Joined: Mar 19, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

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