I HAD in mind a jaunt round the northern corries of the Cairngorms, but with a forecast of wind gusts up to 40mph I was a little apprehensive.
However, with a pressing need to give my new pair of boots a serious mountain trial before going to the Dolomites, I decided to bite the bullet.
With my long-suffering wife for company, we arrived at the Coire Cas car park and booted up along with others who had their own plans in mind, while a few tourists milled around waiting for the first funicular train up Cairn Gorm.
Passing the Day Lodge we made our way along the path beside the funicular track and up into the lower part of Coire Cas.
The ski road here forms part of a signed mountain trail with finger posts providing information about the landscape features along the way.
A narrower, well made path diverts to the right, leading up to the Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais ridge, dividing Coire Cas from Coire an t-Sneachda.
The wind was beginning to make itself felt as gusts blasted us from the west, forcing us to stand still on occasions until they passed.
Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais ends at a huge cairn, with the summit of Cairn Gorm just over 100 metres above. It would have been churlish not to visit the Munro, so we set off, wind assisted now, up the eroded path to the top.
We were greeted by the usual throng – people who had walked and others who’d come up on the funicular – and took refuge from the wind behind the weather station.
Refreshments consumed, it was time to face the wind again, but at least the tops were clear and the sun was bursting through every now and again. The views across Coire Raibert to the cliffs above Loch Avon were impressive as we rounded Coire an t-Sneachda and I was reminded of many days spent winter climbing in these parts.
We made our way up to Stob Coire an t-Sneachda, gazing every now and again into the corrie and south to Aviemore and Loch Morlich in the distance.
The wind was fierce at the high point and poor Rosemary, at a few stones lighter than me, was struggling to make forward progress.
Slowly down we went, taking any advantage of a lull in the blast to move a bit quicker, to the bealach below Cairn Lochan.
A path to the left leads to Ben Macdui and streams of walkers were heading our way from the peak and towards Cairn Gorm – a popular double Munro outing.
Our target lay above, on the lip of the second of our northern corries, Coire an Lochain. The rock architecture of the corrie hove into view as we approached the edge and I spotted two rock climbers nearing the end of their route on one of the buttresses. They would have been sheltered from the wind on the climb but were about to feel its full force as they topped out.
The towering buttresses soaring above the lochans in the bowl of the corrie look like giant Lego blocks piled on top of each other, and I thought about the Ice Age forces that must have shaped them. And at the western end of the corrie the great slabs, so prone to winter avalanches, come into view – another stunning feature of this corrie.
We continued, descending once more, to easier ground at Miadan Creag an Leth-choin where a path down a long ridge would take us back to the car park.
We hid behind some boulders partway along the path for another food and drink break, out of the wind.
That gave us the impetus to finish the job and get going on the last leg of our walk, not really out of the blast until we were near the base of the ridge with a couple of kilometres to go.
We’d experienced gusts of 40mph-plus and I couldn’t help but think of mountain rescuers who venture out in much more fierce conditions in winter to save people in trouble.
The Cairngorms are beautiful but can be an unforgiving place for the unwary.
Distance 6 miles / 9.5km
Terrain Well-maintained mountain paths all the way
Start/finish Coire Cas car park, Cairn Gorm
Maps Harvey BMC British Mountain Map, 1:40,000, Cairngorms and Lochnagar; OS Landranger 36, Grantown & Aviemore
A high-level round of the northern corries of the Cairngorms visiting Cairn Gorm summit