Monday 30 April 2018

A visit to a favourite place: Coire an Lochain in the Cairngorms

Coire an Lochain, the easternmost of the Northern Corries, is one of my favourite places in the Cairngorms. Although not far from Coire Cas and the Cairngorm Mountain ski resort it feels remote. The paths into the corrie are rough and stony - it's not that easy a place to reach. The flat floor of the corrie, much of it filled with Loch Coire an Lochain, comes on you suddenly. The great cliffs that tower far above the lochan are distinctive and can be seen from afar - they're visible from Aviemore. But only when the loch starts to appear does the full magnificence of the scene burst into view.

In winter this is a wild place, often swirling with snow that hides the cliffs. The frozen lochan is invisible. Avalanches crash down the gullies and rock slabs. It can feel ferocious and terrifying. Come spring and the snow begins to melt, colour comes back to the land, the loch thaws and there's a feel of softness amongst the harsh rocks. That's when I think the corrie is at its finest.

I went up there late this April to see how the spring was progressing. Snow lingers here and distant views showed the steep headwall below the cliffs still mostly white. What would the loch be like? As the snow melts ice floes float around on the water, sometimes into May and June. Cold weather in recent days with a touch of new snow on the summits would have slowed the recent rapid snowmelt though as I approached I saw that the stream pouring out of the corrie was full and white and fierce. Then I came over the outer lip of the corrie to see a pool of water clear of snow and ice. This small lochan is shallow and dries up completely in hot summers. Today it led the eye to the snow and the cliffs reflected in the shimmering water.

Soon the bigger loch appeared. A few small ice floes remained, a few snow banks still ran into the water from the slopes above. And there was a skim of soft ice over part of the surface. The loch was freezing again. At one end broken sheets of snow and ice were up on the grass, driven there by the wind.

Mountain hare tracks laced the snow on the soft marshy ground at the edge of the loch. I wasn't going to rely on it holding my weight and stopped my circuit of the water here. On the far shore snow slopes running down from the cliffs were cracking and breaking into the water. They'd have stopped me anyway.

I sat on a rock and stared into the clear water, the boulders under the surface sharp and colourful, and across to the snowfields and the dark cliffs. I felt relaxed, at peace, calm. After a while, reluctantly, I turned to go, and wandered slowly out of this mountain haven, looking back frequently until all I could see were the cliffs rising into the sky. I'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. Great photos Chris. You've captured the atmosphere perfectly 👍