Thursday 25 April 2024

April Snow on Creag Meagaidh

Camp in Coire Ardair

High pressure building. Wind dropping. Clear skies. The forecast for the Cairngorms looked good. My friend Tony Hobbs arranged to come up from England for his third trip this winter to gain experience in snow in the mountains. There was still some left high up, as often in April. The first trip, in January, we had crossed the Moine Mhor and camped in the snow but hadn’t needed to use ice axes or crampons, something Tony was keen to do. On the second trip in February high winds had prevented us even reaching the snow.

Once arrangements were confirmed the forecast began to change until strong winds and fog were forecast despite the high pressure. The weather looked better further west so I suggested Creag Meagaidh, almost as high as the Cairngorms and still likely to have snow.

Lochan a' Choire

Late on a cloudy, breezy afternoon we walked up Coire Ardair to Lochan a’ Choire below the huge impressive Creag Meagaidh cliffs, still encouragingly splattered with snow, where I’d camped many times before. Not this evening though. The few places flat enough for a tent were sodden, oozing water at every step. We retreated back down the path and soon spotted what looked a suitable spot on the other side of the Allt Coire Ardair. With care we crossed the rushing water on mostly submerged rocks, managing not to get water over the tops of our boots. The area we’d seen was dry in places and fairly flat. It would do.


The view up the corrie to the cliffs was magnificent. However a cold wind sweeping down the corrie meant we pitched our tents facing the other way.  The sky was cloudy but began to clear at dusk, the sky briefly turning pink and orange. Later a moon started to pierce the thinning clouds. It’s light soon dimmed though as the clouds thickened again. The night was quite warm, with a low of 4°C. A gusty breeze blew.

No need to hurry! Tony has a brew.

At dawn mist covered the top of the cliffs. The forecast was for a clearance in the afternoon and sunshine by 4pm. A good excuse for another brew and a slow morning. It was after noon when we finally set off back up the corrie to the lochan. The joys of the long hours of spring daylight!

Tony reaching the top of the steep snow in The Window

The way on to Creag Meagaidh leads up a wide rocky gully known as The Window. It’s just a steep walk but can require the use of ice axe and crampons when filled with snow. This day the lower section was snow free but at the top we had to climb a snow slope. There were big steps from previous walkers and the snow was soft. Even so we used our ice axes, a good opportunity for Tony to use his for the first time.

Tony going through The Window

At the top of The Window we met a walker coming down from Creag Meagaidh. Mist up there, he said, and lots of snow. He was right about the latter but not the former for us. As forecast the clouds began to lift and although the sky was dark the summit was clear. The sun began to appear, right on cue. Also as forecast there was a strong cold wind though so we didn’t linger.

Tony and his dog Lassie on the summit

We did stay high for a while, relishing the feeling of space on the vast Creag Meagaidh plateau and enjoying the views of other peaks fading into the hazy distance. From the summit we crossed big snowfields to Puist Coire Ardair on the edge of the cliffs and then less snowy terrain on the gentle descent to Sron a’ Choire. 

Descending snowfields to Puist Coire Ardair

The views from the edge of Coire Ardair were superb but the wind rushing up from below was ferocious and we mostly kept back from the edge.

View down to Lochan a' Choire. The Window is the notch in the centre.

Steep boggy slopes with a few snow patches led back down into Coire Ardair and a walk back up the corrie to our tents. A great late winter day.


That night the sky did clear, the temperature falling to just below zero. The strong wind that had me lowering the edges of my tent to keep it out was gone by dawn. I woke to cliffs glowing golden brown as the sun rose. Glorious, glorious light!

Walking out. (Thanks to Tony for taking the photo).

Without time to do anything more we packed up and walked back down the path to the cars, satisfied.

In camp (thanks to Tony for taking the picture)

Tony in the Window

Crossing the snow on the plateau

Cornices on the cliffs

View to Stob a' Choire Mheadhoin and Stob Coire Easain

Golden dawn light



  1. Looking forward to a return visit there during the TGOC in a couple of weeks time. My planned high camp by the lochan just south og The Window may be snowbound!?

    1. There's plenty of snow there at present but it is thawing quickly.