logo Walking Britain

Cairngorm Walk
Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda

Nat Park - Cairngorm - Cairngorm North

County/Area - Highland

Author - Andy Smith & Alwyn Williams

Length - 6.0 miles / 9.8 km    Ascent - 2270 feet / 688 metres

Time - 5 hours 20 minutes    Grade - mod/hard

Start - OS grid reference NH990060
Lat 57.133768 // Long -3.670283
Postcode PH22 1RB (approx. location only)
what3words start rules.cookbooks.finalists

Maps Ordnance Survey Logo Anquet Maps Logo

Ordnance Survey Explorer OL57Sheet Map1:25kBUY
Anquet OS Explorer OL57Digital Map1:25kBUY
Ordnance Survey Landranger 36Sheet Map1:50kBUY
Anquet OS Landranger 36Digital Map1:50kBUY

It is recommended you take a map. The preferred scale is 1:25k.

Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Photo from the walk - Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Photo from the walk - Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Photo from the walk - Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Photo from the walk - Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Photo from the walk - Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda
Click thumbnails for larger images.

In winter conditions the possibilities for walkers and mountaineers in the Cairngorms are endless providing a real arctic challenge. The Northern Corries are within easy reach from the Coire na Ciste Ski Centre and consist of a huge ridge containing two Munros stretching from east to west. Without snow and ice this route provides an excellent route to Cairngorm's summit with clear paths and one steepest ascent out of the corrie.

Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda 
Click thumbnails for larger images.

This route includes a grade one winter climb and should only be undertaken by those competent to do so. It is passable without ropes, but two ice axes, crampons and great care is needed as the area is prone to avalanche conditions between October and April. A stop at the ranger station is well worthwhile where advice on the risk assessment that day can be obtained. The station is located in the ski centre car park.

After parking the car at the ski centre (grid ref. NH990060), take the path leading away to the west passing the ski tows. Within ten minutes an upper path splits to the left, this will take you due south towards Ston Coire an t-Sneachda. The crossing of a huge boulder field is quite typical of the Cairngorms and can be tricky as the drops in between are quite precarious! Once the Loch is reached, bear left and swing round the east side of the loch where a faint path appears at NH995033 underneath the Central Gully/Vent. The path starts to climb and cross diagonally towards the Goat Track.

By now the going is quite tough, we took a faint line to the left and straight up due to an avalanche assessment that day, but if you are lucky enough to enter the gully, maintain your line to the left next to the rocks as the snow is at its thinnest providing good axe and foot holds. The climb is quite demanding and you should expect to take around an hour. Constant spin-drifts mean visibility can be impaired so beware of any over-hanging cornices near the top ledge. Again if you stay left, you will be out of danger as most collect in the centre. Once the top is reached, turn left following the edge toward Cairngorm Mountain (not yet in view) as the winds buffet you from all directions!

As you follow the edge it starts to turn northwards and dropping downhill slightly. On a rare clear day you can now see Cairngorm summit with its radio mast slightly south of the summit. Follow the edge leading towards the ski tows. Continue until the 1141 metre spot height is reached marked by a large cairn at NH999039. From here turn directly east and head up the final slope of Cairngorm Mountain. Once you reach the flat summit expect to be slightly off target as it is a little bit hit and miss! The summit marker provides a little break from the wind as you take in the 4081ft giant. When leaving, simply follow the line of large cairns north away from the summit until a roped path appears, although this can be under snow! Within half hour the Ptarmigan Station is reached, the highest building in Britain.

Leave the station and head north with the tows to your right. The route follows the fence for around 500m before slowly turning left where it descends to the rear of the day lodge, where you walk through and onto the car park thinking back on what you have achieved.



Other walks nearby

Walk 1881 Ben Macdui & Cairn Lochan from the Ski Centre - hard - 10.4 miles/16.9 km

Walk 1390 Cairn Lochan via the Fiacaill Buttress from the Ski Centre - very hard - 5.7 miles/9.3 km

Walk 1276 Loch Avon Circular via Cairn Gorm Mountain - hard - 9.0 miles/14.6 km

Walk 2314 Cairngorm & Ben Macdui from the ski centre - hard - 11.0 miles/17.9 km

Walk 2421 Braeriach via the Chalamain Gap - hard - 15.0 miles/24.4 km

Walk 1605 Loch an Eilein & Rothiemurchus Forest - easy/mod - 10.0 miles/16.3 km

Walk 2607 Lairig Ghru & Chalamain Gap from Glenmore - mod/hard - 11.0 miles/17.9 km

Walk 3579 Meall a'Bhuachaille & Ryvoan Bothy from Glenmore - moderate - 5.5 miles/8.9 km

Walk 3218 Eag a' Chait gap Via Rothiemurchus Lodge from Glenmore - moderate - 8.2 miles/13.3 km

Walk 1020 Glenmore to Linn of Dee via Lairig Ghru & Corrour - hard - 21.0 miles/34.1 km

Recommended Books & eBooks

Walking in Torridon

Walking in TorridonThis guidebook contains 52 day walks in Torridon, a remote and much-loved area of the Scottish Highlands. Based around Shieldaig and Slioch, the routes are split into 3 sections: easy walks, long and high level walks and mountain ascents over 2000ft including 9 Munros, and 5 outline suggestions for major ridge walks.
More information

Walking in the Cairngorms

Walking in the CairngormsGuidebook describing a selection of over 100 walks in the Cairngorms National Park and Lochnagar, covering low-level, mid-level and mountain routes (including 18 Munro summits) and both day walks and multi-day treks. From gentle sandy trails to rocky scrambles, the routes suit most abilities, taking in mountains, forests, lochs and moorland.
More information

Map and Compass

Map and CompassAn instructive guidebook explaining map and compass techniques, to help readers enhance their outdoor experiences. Whether you are experienced in map-reading, or have never used a compass before, this guidebook will sharpen your skills and have you exploring new areas in no time. There are also tips for GPS and digital mapping technologies.
More information

Social Media

Follow Walking Britain for the latest news.

Facebook Twitter

CBD For Walking & Hiking

Discover the benefits of CBD for walkers and hikers. More info.

Mountain Weather

Stay safe on the mountains with detailed weather forecasts - for iOS devices or for Android devices.

Digital Mapping Guide

Digital Mapping Guide - a simple guide of how to start using digital mapping. Includes advice and useful links.