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Walk 2672 - printer friendly version

Cairngorm Mountain via Coire an t-Sneachda Walk

Author - Andy Smith & Alwyn Williams

Length - 6.0 miles / 9.8 km

Ascent - 2270 feet / 688 metres

Grade - mod/hard

Start - OS grid reference NH990060
Lat 57.133768 + Long -3.6702834
Postcode PH22 1RB (approx. location only)

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.

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.

Walk 2672 Route Map

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