Tuesday 29 November 2022

Winter in the Cairngorms, at last: a day on Cairn Lochan

Cairn Lochan

The first real winter weather this year finally arrived in the Cairngorms last week, which is very late. November has mostly been wet, windy, cloudy, and, for the time of year, warm. Now the weather has turned frosty, cold, clear, and calm, at least for a few days, which is wonderful.

Cairn Toul

Taking advantage of the sunshine I headed up onto the Cairngorm Plateau to see how the frost and snow was changing the landscape. As the morning was forecast to be misty I set off late, intending to stay up high for the sunset.

Walkers on Miadan Creag an Leth-choin

Reaching the Plateau took longer than expected as the stony paths were slippery, with a thin glaze of invisible ice on many of the rocks. Trekking poles kept me upright, but I did slip off one boulder at a stream crossing and added some unwelcome cold water into a boot. Despite the freezing weather my foot stayed warm as I never stopped for long. I expect my thick merino wool socks helped too.

View down the Lairig Ghru

A surprise as I gained height was to look across Strathspey to thick clouds burying the Monadh Liath hills and stretching out along Strathspey. Aviemore was cloud-free but just to the west the strath was blanketed in white.

Cairn Lochan

As I rounded the side of Cairn Lochan and looked along the Lairig Ghru I could see more clouds filling the land beyond with just the highest tops of Beinn a’ Ghlo poking through. For once the Cairngorms was sunny when other areas were not.

Cairn Toul after sunset

High up the walking became easier as the rocks were ice-free. The ground was frozen solid. There was much frost to crunch through and some patches of hard snow left from a recent fall to cross. I had microspikes with me but didn’t need them as previous walkers who’d crossed when the snow was softer had left nice big bootprints.

Cairn Toul & Sgor an Lochain Uaine

I paused on the summit of Cairn Lochan for a snack and a hot drink. There wasn’t a breath of wind. The streaks of cloud high in the sky were turning yellow, orange and red as they caught the last rays of the setting sun.

Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda

By the time I was descending the colour was fading from the sky. A waxing moon rose over Derry Cairngorms. The first stars appeared. I left it as long as possible but eventually had to switch on my headlamp.

A great winter’s day out at last. I hope there will be many more in the next few months.


  1. Glorious photos! many thanks for yet another inspiring posting :-)

  2. Thank you for your photos,you are having better luck in your area than here in the Galloway,which is freezing fog.So I am pleased to see some nice mountain views from my sick bed.I cannot get to the Hill anymore,bedbound mostly these days,so I enjoy your wee blogs,it brings back fond memories.Thank you,and I hope that the winter you are looking for will be with you at last!