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Macdui and Cairn Gorm in autumnal splendour

Macdui and Cairn Gorm in autumnal splendour

Postby Allyw » Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:11 pm

Route description: Ben Macdui and Cairngorm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm

Date walked: 20/10/2015

Time taken: 4.8 hours

Distance: 17.5 km

Ascent: 932m

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Am getting brave, thought I'd have a go at a '4 boot' walk today. Having looked long and hard, I chose Macdui and Cairn Gorm, mostly because the views looked so spectacular from everyone's photos, and it seemed one of the easier ones - and I always like a day that ends in success!

The drive up to the furnicular railway took rather longer than I thought, as I queued my way through roadworks on the A9, looking miserably at the blue skies and autumn sunshine, knowing full well that cloud was forecast for later. So I arrived in a grump, already sure that the day was a flop. Well, it only took stepping out if the car to put that right. I was staggered, both by the Arctic wind whipping round the car park, and by the simply stunning view down over Glenmore forest and Rothiemurchus.

Cheerfully pulling on warm gear (I love those good-to-know-you're-alive days in the mountains; much less fun when walking to work with my umbrella blowing inside out), I was further heartened to see a few other people similarly rugging up - maybe I wasn't too late after all.

The car park and funicular looked fairly uninspiring, but the parking was free, and the loos lovely and clean, and it was certainly visible from quite a distance, so made a useful landmark.


The walk starts right from the car park, you literally cross a bridge and are on the hillside in all it's Autumn glory. With your back to the furnicular and a path to follow, it was easy to get lost in the magic of the Autumn colours. The wind when it blew was bitter, but not overly strong, and as there was no mistaking the path, and the gradient was pretty mild, only gradually crossing the contours, there was no real excuse for stopping. I did take one photo though, looking back towards the car park.


Eventually, the path heads up a steeper section alongside the impressive Lairig Ghru. You're not in any danger of falling in it, the path you follow us in the other side, but the incredibly steep sided valley rising to Cairn Toul is incredibly impressive. I had to stop to take another picture (gave a breather).


As you can see, there was cloud drifting over, and the wind was ferocious on this stretch, so I ate a milky way and sped on my way. Over the crest of the hill and Macdui came into sight - ominously covered in cloud - might not be my day on the photos after all...


My attempt at hurrying was somewhat curtailed by the next section, which involved some careful balancing over a boulder field, and then the cloud engulfed us and I was like Moley with my hands out in front, squinting to get a glimpse of the next cairn. Persevered and did make the summit, but honestly it was a slight anticlimax with no views. Met another walker up there, who said they'd been up 8x and never yet had a view - so perhaps I was hoping for too much!

The boulder field just before the cloud come down...

After one if the shortest stays on the summit ever, I retraced my steps down the Boulder field, and of course once at the bottom, the skies cleared - and the view was spectacular. I nearly went back up again, but the clouds were drifting in and out, so eventually decided against it. I was envious of those behind me - still in with a chance if getting a clear 5 minute window!

The walking from here was easy, with a lovely contour-following path, and beautiful views of the next challenge, Cairn Gorm, in the distance. I took a photo and another looking back at Macdui - it still looked pretty dark.

The path to Cairn Gorm

Macdui looking dark and forbidding, and still with some cloud on top

Just before turning to go up Stob Coire an t-Schneachda, there is the most incredibly natural viewpoint down over the forests towards Glenmore and Aviemore. I had thought the view from the car park was spectacular, but this was an even better vantage point. I have some lovely panoramas of it, but can't get them to upload unfortunately, so the photo below is the best I can manage. It reality, it was even more incredible, and more than made up for the disappointment on Macdui.

Amazing view

A final spurt of effort, and the double ascents of Stob Coire an t-Scheachda and Cairn Gorm itself where behind me. And, oh was it worth it! Bitterly, bitterly cold and windy, but stunning views in every direction. The gloves were off and the camera out, frozen little fingers trying to line up some half decent photos. Not sure I got many, but I enjoyed trying. I particuarly loved the view south over Loch Avon, and have decided that a trip to some of the big boys surrounding it in the very near future is a must.

One final push to reach the summit of Cairn Gorm

My favourite view, over Loch Avon

Finally, the cold won out, and I started to descend the other side of Cairn Gorm. In no time at all, the infamous steps and blue rope were in sight, as was the furnicular upper station. Suddenly, the wild splendour of the mountains had been tamed - back to reality. I walked down one of the ski runs, back to the car park, shedding layers as I went, (now that I was out of the wind, I felt ridiculously overdressed, and everyone walking up looked at me like I was mad) and munching on an apple. Not at all the day I had hoped and planned for, but glorious all the same, and I think, even better...
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Re: Macdui and Cairn Gorm in autumnal splendour

Postby gyles » Tue Oct 20, 2015 10:04 pm

I was up Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui today. We walk the same route but opposite way round, we must have crossed paths at some point.
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