Cairngorm October Snow and Sunset

Snow on the Scottish summits in October is a normal occurrence and always a welcome one to those who relish taking to the hills in winter conditions. In the third week of October the weather turned cool and a dusting of new snow appeared on the Cairngorms and other high summits around the Highlands. On a cold and blustery morning I set off from the Cairngorm ski centre with a vague plan to get up on to the plateau and decide where to take it from there. I was desperate to be out having been kept subdued and at sea level in Skye the week before by a persistent cold and cough.

I’ve experimented a bit below having put together a wee video comprising of an animation of my route created with the help of OS Maps, and a series of photos from the outing. I hope you like it and I’ll see about doing something similar again if it seems to work, but please also read and see more below.

I ascended through the lower slopes of the ski area and then headed up the Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais ridge west of Cairngorm itself. Over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda a cold rain was being blown in on strong westerly winds and the way towards Ben Macdui was cloud covered and did not look very welcoming. Plan B seemed a better idea and I descended into the high Coire Domhain and then more steeply down towards the head of Loch Avon, taking time to admire and photograph the streams tumbling down from the plateau; the beautifully named Allt Coire Domhain, Feith Buidhe, and Garbh Uisge.

I continued on along the north shore of Loch Avon heading for The Saddle between Cairngorm and Bynack More. From The Saddle there is a path heading north-north west in the direction of the top of the ski area. Heading west instead, to the south end of the Saddle Slabs, the ground is rough, steep and pathless but the slabs and teetering boulders are atmospheric and lead to gentler ground above that can be followed up easily towards the summit of Cairngorm.

I reached the summit of Cairngorm at about 17:15 as the sun was getting low. There is a granite tor 200 metres or so east of the summit and it was lit up beautifully by the low angled sunlight. To the west the sun descended towards a bank of cloud over the Monadhliath hills lighting mist still clinging to Ben Macdui and then shining through a break in the cloud above Sgoran Dubh Mor, between Glen Feshie and Loch Einich.

As the sun dropped behind the cloud in the west the high cloud formations in the east and north east were bathed in a warm red and orange glow.

With the sun gone it was time to descend past the Ptarmigan restaurant and the funicular top station through the ski area back to the car park. Cairngorm Mountain have loads of snow cannon in place ready for winter. I came across this one with the bright lights of Aviemore behind not far above the car park and enjoyed capturing the shifting clouds and last light with a long exposure.


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