A ‘rest day’ on Cairn Lochan

Cairn Lochan, Cairngorms

After returning from my short backpacking trip in the Cairngorms I planned to have a rest day before working at the weekend. But as I sat in my caravan on the camp site where I work (and live on work days and others) eating a leisurely breakfast the sun came out and lit up the Cairngorm. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so I changed my mind and changed my clothes into hiking gear. I may make some of you a wee bit jealous now when I tell you I walked into the Cairngorm mountains directly from my ‘home’. No cars or buses needed – I simply shut my door and set off on foot.

I love the wee walk from Glenmore up to the ski and funicular parking area at 640m on Cairngorm. The Forestry Commission has done a good job in creating this path – the Alt Mor Trail – and I often recommend it to campers.

In about one hour I was at the start of several paths leading up Cairngorm, but today I was heading to the western edge of the Cairngorm plateau to Cairn Lochan.

Approaching Corie an Lochain

As I climbed higher I had a view back down to Loch Morlich where I’d started and Meall a’ Bhuachaille, Creagan Gorm and Craiggowrie beyond.

View down to Loch Morlich

I have walked into the corrie previously and know and like this easy path. Despite this being the middle of summer I didn’t see another soul after leaving the parking area until the summit a couple of hours later. The path into Coire an Lochain is a gradual climb and as I reached the bowl of the corrie I was delighted to see the sun glistening on the rock face at the back of the corrie known as The Great Slab. On previous visits the corrie walls have been shrouded in mist or low cloud and I had not been appreciated the grandeur of the place.

Corie an Lochain

The Great Slab, Cairn Lochan

Just before the two lochans I veered off towards the western wall of the corrie to pick up the path that climbs the ridge and leads up on to the plateau. The path continues on to Ben MacDui but I left it and followed close to the lip of the corrie. As I ascended this edge, I heard thunder a wee ways off to the north and I had a moments worry about the possibility of lightening striking my trekking poles as I usually carry them uphill. Then I remembered I didn’t have them with me today.

Lingering snow on Cairn Lochan

It is possible to hug the very rim of the corrie and at several places I stopped and sat gazing down at the crags, mesmerised by the sheer scale of the cliff faces and the rock formations.

Cairn Lochan, Cairngorms

Cairn Lochan, Cairngorms

Cairn Lochan, Cairngorms

As I finished my last bite of lunch at the summit the clouds which had descended in the past half hour gave a hail shower. I was glad of my waterproofs to pull on over my cropped trousers. With having plenty of time, and this being a rest day 😉 I hadn’t planned which way I’d go beyond the summit. So after dithering a bit, I zigzaged around a bit on the plateau. With the cloud down and fairly poor visibility, I practised a wee bit of map and compass work to hit the Ben MacDui path and the 1083m point using my GPSr to verify my position. I couple of my colleagues had walked the Lairig Ghru earlier in the week, so I headed to the edge of the pass to take a couple of pictures of the glacial trough from above.

Looking south along the Lairig Ghru to Pools of Dee

Lairig Ghru looking south to Pools of Dee

Looking north along the Lairig Ghru

Lairig Ghru - looking north

As the cloud descended again I decided to head back round to the ski centre to where I’d started

Cairn Lochan, Cairngorms

I got back to the ski centre and picked up the Alt Mor trail down to Glenmore, all the time racing the rain downhill. The rain won and I got caught in a cloud burst for the last 20 minutes. Back on the road a couple of tourists stopped to offer me a lift literally 100m from the camp site, but I declined!

More photos on Flickr

6 comments on “A ‘rest day’ on Cairn Lochan

  1. The walk round the rim from Cairn Lochan towards Cairngorm is one of my favourites. Last time I went up the Fiacall ridge which gives some excellent scrambling. I’ve ski toured up there a few times so it’s possibly one of my most visited Scottish summits

    • I walked from Cairngorm around the corries to Cairn Lochan in 2009. I wish I was good enough at skiing to be able to ski tour in the area. On of my French friends came over from the Alps and ski toured in the ‘Gorms at Easter in 2010.

  2. Sheila, Good trip report for a rest day ! I haven’t been up there for years. Good area for walking. I up to Scotland end of next week for two weeks but not in this area – NW Higlands

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