The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 14 February 2014

Cairn Gorm

With a lull in the windy weather being forecast for this morning, before the next weather system moved in this afternoon, we made haste up to the Coire Cas car park for a circuit taking in Cairn Lochan.

Not far up the road to the ski centre, my breath had been taken away as the view of the hills opened up before us. All of the tops were clear of cloud and they looked absolutely splendid. About half an hour later, my breath was taken away again, although this time it was more to do with the ascent.

Lots of snow has fallen over the last couple of days, but most of our walk wasn’t a trudge. The strong winds and low temperatures had left icy scoured areas or a nice thick crust, so the going was (mainly) easier than it might have been as we headed up to the Fiacaill a’ Coire Chas ridge.


Alas, part way up, cloud came in, and by the time we got up to the cairn at the top of the ridge, it was far murkier than this photo makes it look:


I think this photo was taken in the same place (albeit looking in a different direction) last February:


The lack of visibility led us to change our minds about where we were going. Cairn Gorm is navigationally easy even in the appalling visibility in which we found ourselves, and so that’s where we went instead. That was quite a contrast to last year too. Here’s today’s view looking south back to the weather station:


The two people in this photo were the hares in our hare and tortoise race today. They almost sprinted past us twice on the way up, but our slow plodding saw us just pip them to the top.

And here’s last February’s view of the weather station from the north side:


We may not have had any views, and it was bitingly cold up there, but incredibly the fastest wind speed I recorded as we tarried by the weather station was 2mph! (As forecast, the calm didn’t last for long; by the end of our descent it was decidedly breezy again.)

The old joke of “Two blond women walked into a building; you’d have thought one of them would have seen it” came to mind as we headed down to the Ptarmigan Hut as I began to believe that we would walk into the building before we saw it. It did, of course, reveal itself before we made impact, but not by many dozen yards.

It took quite a while to drop back down below the cloud, and it was very welcome when we did. In common with most (sane) people, I’d much rather be on a hill with good visibility.

The entire outing was only a little one, covering about 4.75 miles with around 2000’ of ascent, but (even with the lack of visibility) it was good fun and quite hard work what with a heavier pack than is my norm, and with heavy boots and crampons weighing down my feet.


  1. I haven't done that route. I should.
    (Word on the last comment - chocolates. Is there something special today?)

  2. It must be about as easy a circuit as you can take on Cairn Gorm. That's the third time we've done it, in winter each time. I'd really like to go and see what it's like in summer some time (and, if I can be picky, I'd like a nice sunny, warm summer's day for it).