Monday 7 November 2022

In Search Of A Path In The Cairngorms

Sron na Lairig catches some hazy sunshine

On my trip with Tony Hobbs last month (see here) we descended the north ridge of Creag an Leth-choin in the Cairngorms. I couldn’t remember ever coming this way before but my maps showed a broken path much of the way. The maps also showed a path angling down the steeper western side of the hill, a route that would have been shorter and probably quicker. However as we descended the ridge I didn’t spot the start of this path and I didn’t want to take Tony down into possibly tricky terrain so we stayed on the upper path until it ended at a boulder field which wasn’t steep and so not too difficult to cross.

Cairn Lochan

Afterwards I wondered about that other path and decided to go back and see if I could find it from below. The stormy weather was meant to ease in the afternoon I did this so I had a late start. Initial sunshine was promising, and deceptive. I could see traces of snow high on Cairn Lochan and the sky appeared to be clearing. The change came very fast. In just a few minutes the clouds thickened, a cold wind roared, and torrential rain fell. Walking straight into it I felt scoured. 

Storm blasted

As I entered the rocky defile of the Chalamain Gap the storm cleared and the sun appeared, shining straight into my face. I welcomed the sunshine but would have preferred it anywhere else on the walk. The boulder scramble through the Chalamain Gap isn’t difficult but concentration is required and being dazzled by the sun didn’t help in selecting which rock to step on next. After the rain the boulders were greasy too, as a walker coming the other way warned me. I slipped a few times, bruised my shin, then decided slowing down, testing foot placements, and taking short steps was advisable. Two walkers coming the other way were also moving cautiously. “Slow and steady”, said one. They were the last people I saw all day. 

The Chalamain Gap

Down in the boulders it felt warm as the air was calm. However once out of the ravine the cold wind reminded me of the time of year. The sun vanished again as more thick clouds rolled in. I soon found the path up Creag an Leth-choin, the start marked by a small cairn. I’ve walked this way many times, including twice previously this year, but couldn’t remember ever noticing it.

The path was narrow and overgrown in places but quite clear. As it reached steeper ground it took a careful line, avoiding boulder fields as far as possible. It had been designed well. As the angle eased I lost it a few times. Eventually it disappeared altogether, or maybe I couldn’t see it. The terrain was easy here, just short vegetation and stones, so I just angled up to the ridge. I was recording the route on Topo GPS on my phone and looking at this afterwards I could see I’d paralleled the path and was only a hundred metres or so from it. I’ll have to go back and see if I can find this top section.

The Lairig Ghru

This wasn’t the day for that though as I was now in the cloud and the wind was very strong and cold. Rain was starting again too. I went over Creag an Leth-choin, with fleeting views down the Lairig Ghru pass, and then descended to the Sugarbowl car park, the last hour by headlamp as night fell.


  1. Great post and interesting about that path. Those boulders looked interesting to say the least! I'd still be trying to get from one to the next!! Tony (for some reason it won't log me in!)

  2. I remember you saying in the Winter in the Cairngorms dvd that you have been on the Cairngorms so many times,in all weathers,but there is always something new to see.This seems to be another find.Thank you.