Ben Macdui – Loch Etchachan – Loch Avon

05 May 2011

18.2 km/1248 m/08:00 hrs

For my last walk before the TGO Challenge, I had arranged to meet a friend from Germany who was on a two week holiday in the area. After I picked Jochen up at the Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel, we drove up the road to the Ski Centre car park and started our walk at about 10:00. After a long spell of gorgeous weather, this was the first day with dull skies and strong winds.

We were buffeted around quite a bit as we ascended the gentle ridge to the West of Coire an Lochain.

But when we arrived on the plateau, the wind suddenly eased and the walk to the summit of Ben Macdui was much more pleasant. We reached the summit at 13:00 and after a short lunch break, we headed in an Easterly direction to pick up the path leading down to Loch Etchachan. On our way we had to traverse some large snow patches, but the snow was soft und caused no problems.

Path along the cliffs of Coire Sputan Dearg.

Impressive cliffs.

Descending to Loch Etchachan, there was no wind at all, and it almost began to feel warm, although it doesn’t look like it!

At this point we saw two walkers on the path leading from Loch Etchachan to Loch Avon. I thought it might be two walkers from Germany who I knew from an online outdoors forum. They were on a backpacking trip in the Cairngorms and had planned to be in this area today, but it would have been difficult to arrange a meeting at a certain time, so I was hoping that with a bit of luck we might just bump into them. Actually, I was so confident that we would meet, that I had brought some small presents 😉

Loch Etchachan and the cliffs of Carn Etchachan.

The path leading up Beinn Mheadhoin.

On the descent to Loch Avon we had to cross another steep snow patch, but we took our time and it wasn’t too bad. Further down we could see the other two walkers, apparently looking for a camp site – they had not seen us yet, and I kept wondering if they were really the ones I was looking for or complete strangers?

But when we eventually caught up with them on the shores of Loch Avon, it turned out it was them – Rainer and Jens aka Stompy! We celebrated the occasion with some cans of Strongbow that Jochen had kindly carried all the way in his rucksack (much appreciated!), while I had brought some strawberries and a newspaper clipping of a football match report – the team Rainer supports had been playing the Champions League semi-final the night before and I knew he was keen to find out about the result. Happy faces all around (ok, let’s not mention the football)!

In the meantime, the wind had picked up again and suddenly it felt very cold, so Jochen and me said our goodbyes and headed up the path on the other side of Loch Avon. After traversing diagonally up the slopes, we crossed the Allt Coire Raibeirt and climbed up the steep path beside the stream. Dark clouds moved in behind us, and when we got to the plateau, the visibility was down to a few metres. We headed straight on towards the cliff edge, then turned right and walked along the cliffs until we picked up the path leading down the Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais ridge and back to the car park.

Although the clouds cleared further down, the weather stayed windy and wet, and I was really glad to be at the Cairngorm Lodge YH that night, and not in a tent beside Loch Avon…!

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