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Lairig Ghru

The Cairngorms In late spring

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The Cairngorms In late spring

Late spring in the Cairngorms is a great time to wander. The snow patches add more drama to the scene and cool spring air makes very pleasant walking. At the end of April I was in Aviemore so decided to wander up to the plateau from the ski centre. Going up to 1141, the clouds were low with poor visibility and really cold wind chill. 30 minutes later the cloud lifted and the sun came out and I was treated to an excellent day. I went all over the place and up to Ben Macdui for views into the Lairig Ghru.

Ben Macdui Snow Bunting

Ben Macdui Snow Bunting

Views from Ben Macdui down in the Lairig Ghru

Views from Ben Macdui down in the Lairig Ghru

I walked between the small snow patches to look into the lochs from above and views from different angles. I walked along the west side of the plateau just above the Lairig Ghru and found a couple of new camping spots for a later date. Views to Cairn Toul (from the Gaelic Càrn an t-Sabhail, 'Hill of the barn'), Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (peak of the little green loch, also known as Angels Peak) and the big Braeriach (Am Bràigh Riabhach, ‘the grey upper part’) were excellent. I could see the ice still covering the lip of the green lochain and the longest lying snow patches in the Garbh Choire Mòr looked quite small for late April. As I walked along the side of the plateau I could see some Ptarmigan sheltering amongst the boulders. 

Loch A’an

Loch A’an

I was surprised by the lack of snow, especially down at the Pools of Dee which was bare. I’d be passing there a couple of weeks later on my first Lairig Ghru trip of the year. Having no snow makes that section easier to contend with...

The Pool of Dee

The Pool of Dee

On the way down to the van I had an encounter and great conversation with the local reindeer, topping off what had been a fantastic day. 

Resident Cairngorm reindeer

Resident Cairngorm reindeer

Later that week I had the pleasure of guiding a group out of Linn o’ Dee to Beinn Bhreac (speckled hill) then on to Beinn a' Chaorainn (hill of the rowan tree) in what can only be described as damp conditions! We had a good day though, first two Munros for some of the group, a great achievement for them!  

Having fun in the snow patches, no dangers at the bottom!

Having fun in the snow patches, no dangers at the bottom!

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

May began with a trip up the Glenshee west Munros with my brother on an excellent visibility day, highlight being the white tailed eagle!  

Views from

Views from

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Then the day after I guided a repeat client up Lochnagar. Another memorable day as I’ve never seen the loch so still, perfectly reflecting the corrie and snow patches. The air was so still at the top too, the only noises to be heard being birdsong and running water. We strolled over the White Mounth and down to Dubh Loch for lunch on the beach. By this time the wind was picking up and heavy rain came on. 

The stags were in the valley as we returned back to the car, happy and fulfilled with our day.  

White Mounth Ptarmigan

White Mounth Ptarmigan

Dubh Loch

Dubh Loch

Forward a week and winter returned! Some of the heaviest snow we’ve seen all winter. The plateau is white again and the bare Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru are filled with snow only a few days before my planned guided walk which is now rescheduled! I walked up to the Munro Beinn Bhreac to gauge conditions and wet snow met me at 700m followed by blizzards all the way to the top. Late spring can still surprise!

Beinn Bhreac winter returns

Beinn Bhreac winter returns

Blog by Garry, lead guide at Hillgoers.

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The Lairig Ghru

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The Lairig Ghru

The Lairig Ghru - A walk to remember

One of our favourite walks in Scotland, the Lairig Ghru was once one of the main routes used for driving cattle and transporting goods through the Cairngorm mountains. This walk has everything, old Caledonian pine forests, stunning views and crystal clears waters. The sparkling waters of the Lui, Luibeg, Dee and Druidh travel with you as you journey along the route. The source of the mighty river Dee can be seen falling from its beginnings at the Wells of Dee beside the mighty Braeriach, down the falls and into Garbh Choire Dhàidh. The Garbh Choire being Scotland’s most remote Choire and up until the summer of 2018 held snow longer than any other snow area. 2017 and 2018 has sadly seen this snow melt consecutively for the first time in recorded history. These long lasting snow patches named Sphinx and Pinnacles can usually be spotted from Lairig Ghru, more info here.

As you walk a short while over the boulder field at the top of the Lairig the beautiful Pools of Dee appear. They are just small pools but the water is so pure and very transparent on a calm day. Brown trout minnows can sometimes be seen darting around or coming up for air. It’s worth stopping here for a moment to absorb your remote surroundings.

The Pools of Dee

The Pools of Dee

The Lairig also has some human history to share. There’s the sad story of Clach nan Taillear, the beginnings of Corrour and Bob Scott’s bothies, Sinclair memorial hut and the old archeological settlements along the route.

Corrour Bothy

Corrour Bothy

It’s a challenging walk and not one to be taken lightly, a degree of fitness is required and some long walks prior is a good idea, especially if your breaking in new boots! Snow can accumulate here well into late spring. The walk reaches an altitude of 835m at the high point where you will find a boulder field and the wonderous Pools of Dee. From Linn o’ Dee to Coylumbridge you’ll travel 32km!

The surrounding mountains on both sides of the Lairig Ghru tower above you creating a ‘V’ shaped gap, with the massive Ben Macdui on one side, Braeriach on the other. The pass gives a rich variety of woodland and mountain scenery. It had a wide variety of mountain flora too. It truly is the best mountain pass in Scotland.

We run guided walks throughout the summer months with return transport included. contact us to discuss and have a look at our events.

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Ben Macdui and the Cairngorm Plateau

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Ben Macdui and the Cairngorm Plateau

There are a few ways to approach the summit of Scotland's second highest mountain, Ben Macdui.  The walk from Linn o' Dee, near Braemar, was recently voted as one of the best in Britain. I also like to approach from the Aviemore side, starting at the ski centre gives more time to explore the vast plateau of the Cairngorms. 

Ben Macdui summit

Ben Macdui summit

Either way you go, if you look closely, you'll be sure to see some rare wildlife and fascinating mountain flora. The views from the top of Ben Macdui can be vast on a good day. A short walk from the summit and you can peer into the Lairig Ghru and watch the river Dee start it's journey to the sea, passing the door of Corrour Bothy and heading down Glen Dee.

Mountain Bike heading down into the Lairig!

Mountain Bike heading down into the Lairig!

Nothing compares to strolling over a high plateau. As Nan Shepherd said, "these hills hold astonishment for me. There is no getting accustomed to them".  This is so true.  Anyone that's been on the Cairngorm plateau, the true summit of the hill, knows how it feels to walk up there.  On a summer's day you can wander over the soft woolly fringe moss and skip over the slabs of granite, looking down into the lochs and drink the fresh spring water from the burns. In winter, the hills turn to mountains and they can be unforgiving, not a place for the untrained.  Even a summer's day can be brutal, so pick your day carefully and know how to navigate if you go alone. 

If you'd like to join me on a guided walk of the Cairngorm plateau please get in touch.

Looking down into Loch A'an

Looking down into Loch A'an

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