Monday 18 April 2011

Quick Cairngorm Overnight

A sudden opportunity for an overnight trip combined with fine weather and a good forecast saw me hastily packing gear and heading for the Cairngorms late in the afternoon. As I climbed up to the Cairngorm Plateau the shadows were lengthening and the low sun was highlighting the cliffs, making the always dramatic rocks look more jagged and splintered than usual. Once on the tops the stones were glowing gold, the snowfields shining white and the darkening blue sky streaked with fine tendrils and smears of cloud. There was no wind and the air was warm. The last few day walkers started their descent and I was alone, in sole possession of the vastness and space. Dodging round the soft and slippery snowfields I took a circuitous route to the heart of the Plateau where I camped beside a still half-frozen lochan, settling into the tent just as darkness fell. Then as I lay looking out at the silent hills the sky started to brighten again with a yellowish hue on the clouds and a pale grey-blue cast on the snow. A sharp curve of light edged the clouds and slowly an almost-full moon rose over a distant ridge. As the moon crept up the sky I fell asleep to be woken hours later by a restless wind rustling the tent and blowing cold damp air over my face. Zipping up the tent door shut out the breeze and I was soon snuggling deep in my sleeping bag and sinking back into sleep.

Waking again to the very different pale grey of dawn I looked out to see clouds covering the summits. The temperature was not far above freezing and the wind, sweeping over the snow, was chilly. Coffee and muesli set me up for the morning and I was soon climbing the snowfields to Ben Macdui. The summit was cloud free but there was little in the way of views as all around the clouds swirled and surged. Then as I returned across the plateau the clouds began to dissolve, revealing summits and snowfields. A great sweep of shattered blocks and cracked slabs of snow marked avalanches on the Great Slab in Coire an Lochain. The burns running out of the corries were heavy with snowmelt, taking away the last of the winter.

Twenty hours after it began my trip was over, a short but intense immersion into the wild world of the Cairngorms, a familiar landscape but one that never fails to impress with its power and beauty.

From the top the pictures are:
Evening light on the Cairngorm Plateau, April 17.
Early morning at the Lochan Buidhe Camp, April 18.
Across Lochan Buidhe to Cairn Gorm as the clouds clear, April 18.


  1. Magical Chris, thanks for sharing your night in the wilds.


  2. Just beautiful. Such a privilege to have these things on one's door step. If only those guys down at Holyrood understood it, eh?

    That looks like the new Vaude Power Tokee??

    I expect you'll be reviewing it before too long? Must be quite small and with limited headroom, but perhaps less flappy than the Lizard?
    (verification word for this post: lizid!)

  3. Thanks folks.

    Andyy, yes that is the Power Tokee. I'll be reviewing it along with nine other single hoop tents in the July TGO. It is quite small without much headroom and not that flappy.

  4. Thanks for the info, Chris.

    I suppose you won't be able to say much until TGO comes out in June, but did you find it less flappy than the Laser Comp? I got rid of it because for summit camping it's just too noisy most of the time. The Tokee seems tauter, so I'd be tempted to get one..

    Your pitch seems fairly close to the Feith Buidhe??

  5. Andy, my pitch was just above Lochan Buidhe.

    I did find the Tokee a bit less flappy than the Laser Comp but with both tents it depends on the pitch. I'd try the Tokee for size before buying - it is small.

  6. Cheers for that, Chris.

    Aye, I meant near the site of the Curran Bothy.

    It's a magical place and you captured the spirit of the place with those photos.

    Must go back there for an overnigher one of these days...

  7. As for the Tokee size, this picture speaks volumes... (he's a big bloke though, 6'2")

  8. I really enjoyed reading this Chris. I wish I lived closer to Scotland but am trying to make the most of doing the equivalent short overnighters much closer to home, and very much enjoying this instead.
    I do like how you write; it's what I look for in real prose, something I find lacking nowadays. It really takes me into your environment and I thank you for sharing!

  9. Thank you Helen. I'm enjoying reading your accounts which capture the places and experience well.

    For those who don't know Helen's blog it's here -