Cairngorms Wild Camp, With Reindeer for Company.

Munros: Cairn Gorm

Date walked: 09/07/2014

Distance: 16km

Ascent: 1300m

My wife had been asking me for some time now to camp out in the mountains & she wanted to add another Munro to her newly started list. Our first plan of camping near the Moine Mhor and climbing the Munros surrounding the Gharbh Coire, was stopped because of a forecast of heavy thunderstorms, so we decided to wait a day and re-visit Cairngorm and camp near the Feithe Bhuidhe.
Cairngorm was my first Munro, climbed from Glenmore campsite when I was about 7 or 8 in the early 1960’s and although I’ve climbed it many times since then, it had been nearly 20 years since my last ascent.
It was a decent day, with clouds gradually dispersing and a cool, stiff breeze as we started off in the afternoon from the ski ground car park after leaving a route note & to let them know the car would be there overnight. We decided to use the renamed “Windy Ridge” path that climbs East from the funicular station. The correct name of An t-Aonach just translates as “the ridge” I believe.

Cairngorm car park from the Windy Ridge path
Loch Morlich from path

Carrying a tent, cooking equipment, food, clothing and plenty of water etc. ensured that we were overtaken by almost everyone else, including groups of small children, but we were in no hurry and took the time to take in the views and sit and chat over a drink and food.

Cairn Lochain with snow patches

The constructed footpath had sections of steps that I’m certain must have been quite an obstacle to some of the smaller kids. One little girl looked about 3 years old and she clambered her way up the steps with her parents until they too disappeared from view. We met a fair few people coming down the path, some running.
There were quite a lot of walkers milling around the top funicular station, with only a few actually heading up the very rough stone path to the summit.

The path to the summit of Cairn Gorm

We met some of the walkers that had passed us on the way up, including the couple with the wee girl, who was now being carried by Dad and was fast asleep. There were only four other walkers at the top of Cairngorm, quite a change from the hundreds that used to make it in the days when they could exit the chairlift and climb the last few hundred feet. The distant views weren’t brilliantly clear, but across to Braeriach, Ben MacDhui and Beinn Mheadhoin were superb.

View west from near Cairn Gorm summit

Derry Cairngorm and Loch Etchacan

I have to say that it was reassuring to see the paths up Cairngorm so litter-free compared to the past. Maybe this shows that genuine walkers who are prepared to put in the effort are less likely to drop litter.
We chose not to use the stepped path down from Cairngorm to the head of Coire Raibert, because the steps were all covered in a layer of grit, a sure way of having an unwanted slide when going downhill. I noticed that the top part of the “Goat Track” was still covered in snow and there were large snow beds above the head of Loch Avon and at the top of Coire Dhomain.
Coire an t-Sneachda, with snow patch over top of Goat Track

Beinn Mheadhoin from head of Coire Raibert

Snow bank at the head of Coire Dhomain

The clouds came and went all day, with some very black ones passing without rain falling.
At the top of the rise to the West of Coire Dhomain we saw a couple of parties of climbers head along the skyline, presumably after spending the day on Hells Lum Crag.

Distant view of Beinn Avon

When we reached that point we headed downhill towards the Feithe Bhuidhe, where we found an excellent flat area of nice soft grass to pitch the tent on, although in the Cairngorms you are spoilt for choice when wild camping.

Perfect camping spot.

We put up the tent and had a wander across to where the Feithe Bhuidhe tumbles dramatically from the plateau, towards Loch Avon, then cooked a meal.

Loch Avon & Beinn Mheadhoin

Shortly after, at around 7.00pm, we spotted a few reindeer coming down towards the burn. They crossed and were followed, a few at a time by over 20 more, showing little interest in us or our tent other than a quick glance. The reindeer headed off up the side of a snow patch, in the direction of the Garbh Uisge Beag, although 4 of them returned within an hour and settled down on the hillside above the tent.

Cairngorm Reindeer Herd

We took plastic bags with us and went to have some sledging fun on the largest snow patch. It was hard and bumpy, but great fun, although the run-out was into a boulder field.
Back at the tent I found that I’d dropped my camera & it took us another hour or more to locate it, half hidden under a small rock about half way between the tent and the snow patch.
At about 9.30pm, I noticed a figure appear from the direction of Hells Lum & after standing a while he started to walk towards us. He then crossed the burn and walked up the opposite bank. Giving a wave as he passed by.
Because we had to meet someone in Edinburgh, I set my alarm for 5.00am. I got up and dressed and just as I stood up outside, the sun hit the tent and lit up the area with a yellow/orange glow.


View East above Loch Avon at sunrise

Beinn Mheadhoin at Sunrise

The tent was wet with dew, but we packed up, crossed the burn and set off towards Lochan Bhuidhe on short cropped grass and heath – brilliant for walking on. Another huge snow bank filled the hollow to the East of the Lochan. I’ve often seen snow there in August.

Easy walking at 6.00am

Snow bank near Lochan Bhuidhe

The Lochan Bhuidhe and the headwaters of the March Burn shone blue in the clear warm air and the mountains across the Lairig Ghru were sharp and clear.

Lochan Bhuidhe

March Burn, Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine

We reached the Ben MacDhui path and followed it North, high above the Lairig Ghru, then cut across to have a look into Coire an Lochain. A large snow bank lined the West wall of the coire.

Lairig Ghru

Coming down the ridge towards the burn that rises in Coire an Lochain, the view across to Loch Morlich was superb, with Morlich like a mirror it was so calm.

Glen More and Loch Morlich

Cairn Lochain

At this stage and all the way back to the car park, there was no wind and even though it was so early, it was rapidly becoming very hot and we were glad to get back to the car to cool off as we drove away.

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Border Reiver

User avatar
Location: North East England
Occupation: Retired
Interests: Exploring Scotland on foot. Don't climb many mountains now, but enjoy taking the tent into the hills for longer walks like WHW, Minigaig, Lairig Ghru, Lairig an Laoigh, Tilt- Geldie - Feshie, Road to the Isles. Have also started adventure cruising, so I've now been to Greenland, Iceland and Norway. Greenland is amazing. Also like exploring Scottish Islands by bike and on foot.
Activity: Wanderer
Mountain: Braeriach
Place: Cairngorms
Gear: Swiss Army Knife
Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ8
Ideal day out: A wander through the mountains, just going where the mood and my curiosity takes me, with frequent stops to take in and remember the views.
Ambition: To visit Antarctica

Munros: 202
Corbetts: 7
Grahams: 3
Donalds: 1
Wainwrights: 68
Hewitts: 61
Sub 2000: 2

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