Last weekend I travelled to the Cairngorms, and walked from the busy Coire Cas ski centre up to the Cairn Gorm – Ben Macdui plateau. A lot of the winter snow had gone from below about 700m altitude, but above that height the snow cover was complete and on the plateau itself there were full winter conditions with deep snow.
My route up to the plateau was along the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais ridge, and from here there were excellent views of skiers in the bowl of Coire Cas and into Coire an t-Sneachda, which looked very impressive with large amounts of snow on the cliffs. I could see some walkers climbing up the Goat Path in the coire, but I think that this would have been quite a difficult route in these winter conditions.
Once on the plateau, I walked along the eastern side of Coire Raibeirt towards the cliffs above Loch Avon, and had great views eastwards towards Beinn a’Bhuird and southwards to Beinn Mheadhoin. Then I walked to the summit of Cairn Gorm and eastwards to Ciste Mhearad. Conditions on the high-altitude plateau were quite extreme, with a high wind-chill and intermittent whiteout conditions between breaks in the cloud.
At one point I navigated on a compass bearing in almost nil visibility towards the Ptarmigan Restaurant, and was able to locate it by the smell of chips from the kitchen! It was a very odd feeling to be walking in such extreme conditions and looking in through the large windows of the restaurant at people sitting comfortably in the warmth inside having their lunch!
Since my walk last weekend there has been a lot of heavy snowfall in the Cairngorms, so the snow cover is now back down to low levels, and will give skiers many more weeks of skiing in the area. There will almost certainly be large snow patches at upper levels until well into the summer months.
You can see the photos I took on the walk on my website here.
I hope you went in for a meal
Hikers are not supposed to go in! It’s only for daytrippers and skiers who travel up to the restaurant on the funicular railway. This is to limit access to the high altitude plateau to stop erosion from lots of boots, although I don’t think this is rigidly enforced.
I’m just thinking about the idea of being able to get a plate of chips while up in the hills. I’m glad it’s not actually like that everywhere, but there are times when I’d welcome somewhere to get cooked food and a drink just to keep me going.
This BBC video looks like it was filmed the same day I was walking near the summit of Cairngorm – I think I saw this group in the Ciste Mhearad area. The video gives a good idea of the conditions on the day.
Well, it’s all change now in terms of access to the mountain for funucular passengers:
In the battle of revenue against concerns for the environment, revenue considerations win.