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Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)


Postby malky_c » Wed Jul 08, 2015 12:36 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Macdui

Date walked: 06/07/2015

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 19 km

Ascent: 1090m

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Munros: Ben MacDui
Date: 06/07/2015.
Distance: 19km.
Ascent: 1090m.
Time taken: 8 hours.
Weather: Warm and sunny, becoming overcast and wet.

My parents were up in the Highlands for their annual holiday. I usually try and con them into the ascent of some Marilyn I haven't been up before, but there aren't too many of them close by any more. As the weather looked best to the east, I decided to give my dad a proper introduction to the Cairngorms. We went up Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda and Cairngorm in 2008 but the weather was poor so we didn't see a great deal. I thought a good wander around Loch Avon or the crags above it would be a good bet - some of the best bits of the Cairngorms are very easily accessible from the Coire Cas ski carpark, so none of the long walk-ins that Dad would moan about from this direction!


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Mum was going to walk around Loch Morlich and up onto the moorland behind Rothiemurchus Lodge so she dropped us at the ski centre just before midday. We were planning to use the Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda to get onto the plateau again, so headed up into Coire an t-Sneachda. Once we crossed the burn, we left the path and went up the side of the ridge. I think this is the least bouldery way onto the ridge.

Cairngorm from the Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda:
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Across Creag Leth-choin to Creag Meagaidh:
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Shortly after the small summit on the ridge, we caught up with a guy who was roping his 10 year old son up the ridge. He made such light work of the scrambly parts that he barely needed the rope.

Fiacaill Coire an Sneachda:
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Dad on the Fiacaill:
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Fun bit:
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Looking back:
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Cairngorm and Coire an Sneachda:
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We followed on, and bypassed a short section of scrambling, taking us to the most difficult moves before the guy and his son. While dad is getting even more wary of scrambling than me these days, he didn't hang around too much on the steep bit.

On the crux moves:
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Last bit:
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Coire an Sneachda:
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Back down the arête:
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Cairngorm from Cairn Lochan:
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We had a good long break once we reached the plateau, before carrying on to the summit of Cairn Lochan. Then we took a meandering route down to the top of Hell's Lum. A small herd of reindeer appeared on the skyline but we didn't get very close to them.

Coire Domhain:
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Crags of Cairn Lochan:
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Across the plateau to Carn Etchachan:
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I didn't want to repeat my route from a few years ago (scrambling across snow-covered slabs) so after crossing the Feith Buidhe (wider than it looked from a distance), we re-ascended a little before dropping down again to the Garbh Uisge Beag.

Carn Etchachan and Loch Avon:
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Loch Avon and Beinn Mheadhoin:
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In amongst the crags and blocks, we spotted some very high stands of bracken. This route was more pleasant underfoot than it looked from a distance and very dry underfoot.

Some very high bracken:
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The Garbh Uisge Mhor was flowing high enough to give me a couple of concerns from a distance, but ended up being easy to cross.

Garbh Uisge Mhor:
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Dad crossing the Garbh Uisge Mhor:
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We then contoured to the gully above the Shelter Stone, before turning left for the last few meters of ascent onto the top of Shelter Stone Crag. This little offshoot of Carn Etchachan is fast becoming one of my favourite places in the Cairngorms. Just like on other visits, I lay on the edge of the cliffs and took photos looking straight down onto Loch Avon. Unlike other times, a couple of climbers appeared in front of us. I forgot to ask what route they had been on, but The Needle seems most likely. Unfortunately they'd left lots of gear at the foot of the crag, so no quick wander back over the plateau for them!

Castlegates Gully:
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Loch Avon:
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Carn Etchachan:
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Hell’s Lum:
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Looking down on the end of Loch Avon from the top of Shelterstone Crag:
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Beinn Mheadhoin and Stacan Dubha from the top of Shelterstone Crag:
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Hell’s Lum and the Feith Buidhe:
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Walkers on the beach at the head of Loch Avon:
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Beinn Mheadhoin:
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We were probably up here for a good 40 minutes before carrying on up to Carn Etchachan. The sky was noticeably greyer now, with the evening's forecast rain well on the way. I liked the next bit of plateau as well, but with the sun away it did seem like a bit of an anti-climax. Dad wasn't too keen on the endless boulder hopping either. As I had never taken this precise route to Ben MacDui before, I wasn't aware there was a beach up here on one of the lochans. I'll be back with my bucket and spade in the next heat wave :wink: .

Loch Etchachan:
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Highest beach in the UK (on the Garbh Uisge Mhor):
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Dad pulling up onto the summit plateau of Ben MacDui:
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Purple Saxifrage on the plateau:
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We finally reached the crest of the plateau and the path up from Loch Etchachan. I had intended us to wander over and look down onto Lochan Uaine, but I did this little detour by myself in the end, as time was edging on. Just managed to get the last of the sunshine before the high tops became engulfed in cloud.

Lochan Uaine:
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Crags along Coire Sputan Dearg:
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Towards Carn a’ Mhaim:
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Cairn Toul:
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Last sunshine towards Cairngorm and Beinn Mheadhoin:
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I don't recall spotting the ruined bothy last time I was up this way - perhaps it was buried in snow. I caught dad up and we trudged to the summit, which was a bit of a disappointment now the cloud was down anyway. I had already warned him of this anyway, as the best bits of Ben MacDui are not particularly close to the high point.

Ruined bothy near the summit of Ben MacDui:
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We weren't deep in the cloud and there were glimpses of scenery on the way back, but following the trade route brought home how much you can miss in the Cairngorms if you don't leave the well-trodden routes.

Cairn Toul and Braeriach from the path back from Ben MacDui:
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North up the Lairig Ghru with Creag Leth-choin:
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There was the odd spot of rain while crossing the plateau, but once we began descending to the west of Coire nan Lochan, it came on more heavily and stayed with us most of the way back to the car.

Coire nan Lochan:
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We got back just before 8pm - the last hour of rain was a small price to pay for the good weather above Loch Avon :D
Last edited by malky_c on Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby gaffr » Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:43 pm

Nice images...you must have a new camera nowadays?
The image wild thyme is perhaps purple saxifrage.
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby spiderwebb » Wed Jul 08, 2015 3:03 pm

Lovely photos.....its a fascinating area to explore and for all those who see this range as rounded and uninspiring your report shows different. You just have to get in amongst it :D
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby Beaner001 » Wed Jul 08, 2015 11:02 pm

Great trip Malky, well done to your dad too, something special about getting out with your dad eh :D :clap: :clap:
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby dogplodder » Thu Jul 09, 2015 3:04 pm

These photos from Shelterstone Crag are the best I've seen of this end of Loch Avon. Slightly vertigo-inducing but awesome. Well done your dad too. :wink:
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby litljortindan » Sat Aug 15, 2015 2:08 pm

Like the look of the views from Shelterstone Crag. In fact, intended to go there last Wednesday but did something shorter instead. Still, next time...
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby mountainsofscotland » Sat Aug 15, 2015 5:49 pm

Great pics Malky and great weather too.
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby mamoset » Sat Aug 15, 2015 9:45 pm

Well captured pics to describe the route them :clap: . It has opened my mind for a future walk, thanks.
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby dav2930 » Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:22 pm

Have to agree with dogplodder that your photos taken around the head of Loch Avon are excellent. What an awesome place.
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Re: Shelterstone Crag and Loch Avon (oh - and Ben MacDui)

Postby malky_c » Sun Aug 16, 2015 9:46 pm

Cheers all :D . Plenty more exploration left in the Cairngorms - can't wait!

gaffr wrote:Nice images...you must have a new camera nowadays?
The image wild thyme is perhaps purple saxifrage.

Still a cheapish compact camera but it is noticeably better than my last one. My usual flora and fauna identification skills are on show again :lol: . Decided it was wild thyme after describing it vaguely to my mum later on in the evening. I have updated the caption - cheers :)

Beaner001 wrote:Great trip Malky, well done to your dad too, something special about getting out with your dad eh :D :clap: :clap:

Role reversal these days. Used to be me that complained about long walk-ins and false summits, now it's him :lol:
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