Hill: Carn Etchachan
Date: Sunday 14th August 2016
Company: Myself and Cuillin
Distance: 18km, Ascent: 820m
Time: 5Hrs 20Mins

Within fifteen minutes of waking up yesterday morning, I had quickly packed a rucksack and the dog into the car to set off for the hills. It was the final day of my summer holidays; no point wasting it doing housework or the garden!

It was forecast to be another day of low-cloud with drier conditions in the east. I therefore drove towards the Cairngorms with a view to ascending one of my outstanding Munro Tops. 54 of the 227 Munro Tops are located within the Cairngorm National Park. On arriving at the Coire Cas car park, I put on my boots and we set off up the hill on the path leading to Ben Macdui. It was Cuillin's 3rd birthday, so he deserved a nice walk out on the hills .

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

The excellent track made for fast progress as did having a slightly hyper dog always trying to keep just ahead of me.

Looking back towards Loch Morlich from just beyond Coire Cas:

On the track leading towards Ben Macdui:

Looking back towards Loch Morlich and Meall a' Bhuachaille:

As we progressed up the hill, it wasn't long before we disappeared into the low cloud which was sitting around 850-900m.

Clag right down in Coire an Lochain:

An hour after setting off and we were onto the level section of track near the 1083m top.

Onto the level section of track near 1083m top:

We continued along the track towards Ben Macdui until passing the March burn. A short distance beyond the March burn, we left the track to begin making our way out to Carn Etchachan.

Within minutes of leaving the track, we encountered several ptarmigan.


To save taking bearings and counting steps in the mist, I made use of modern technology, using the excellent Viewranger app on my iPhone to pick out a route towards Carn Etchachan.

There is nothing wrong in my opinion with using modern technology on the hills. Reading a map on a screen is not that different from reading a paper map. It is important to have the skill to read and interpret the map regardless of whether it is on screen or on paper. It is also important to know the limitations of the technology as it is to know the limitations of using a paper map and compass. Electronic maps can run out of power, fail due to water ingress, fail due to lack of satellite signal, etc. Paper maps can get wet and disintegrate, compasses can be affected by magnetic rock, etc. They are all just tools in your hillwalking toolkit.

A misty wander towards Carn Etchachan:

It was somewhat disappointing to undertake this walk in the mist as I missed out on some great views.

Looking towards the top of Shelter Stone crag:

To get to Carn Etchachan, we had to cross both the Garbh Uisge Beag and the Garbh Uisge Mor.

Crossing Garbh Uisge Beag:

Getting cold feet:

Heading towards Carn Etchachan:

Within an hour of leaving the Macdui track, we were approaching the summit of Carn Etchachan.

Final stony ascent to summit of Carn Etchachan:

On reaching the summit cairn, I took several photos of Cuillin before heading back. Had there been any views at all, I would likely have extended the day to visit further tops. Not doing so, gives me good reason to revisit.

Cuillin at the summit of Carn Etchachan:

I decided to head back via a different line, skirting along the edge of the Carn Etchachan cliffs above Loch Etchachan.

Looking towards Hell's Lum crag:

Loch Etchachan is a beautiful loch but it was barely visible thanks to the mist. Had I set out walking several hours later, I would have had much better views as my friend Natacha was also out on these hills and got good views a little later in the day. Turns out my friend Rachel and my friend John were also out on Ben Macdui but we did not meet.

Looking down to Loch Etchachan:

Looking back to Carn Etchachan:

During the return, I decided to visit the lochans at Garbh Uisge Mor. I wasn't sure if these were the highest lochans in the UK, as they are situated about 150m higher than Loch Etchachan which is the highest loch. Having since pondered the maps, I believe there may be a higher but smaller lochan on Braeriach.

At one of the Garbh Uisge Mor lochans:

Cuillin in one of the Garbh Uisge Mor lochans:

Looking back to the Garbh Uisge Mor lochans:

Beyond the lochans, we encountered a long, deep snow patch and decided to walk its length.

Cuillin on a large snow patch:

Looking back at large snow patch:

On regaining the Ben Macdui track, near the March burn, I could see a number of reindeer approximately 1km away in the distance. Had Cuillin not been with me, I may have been tempted to take a detour to get some photographs of them.

Reindeer circa 1km in distance on southern slopes of Cairngorm (zoom):

Beinn Mheadhoin just coming into view:

As we made our way back to the Coire Cas car park, the cloud level was getting higher and higher. Lurcher's crag was already clear of cloud and the cloud would also soon clear the tops of Coire an Lochain, Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire Cas too.

Lurcher's crag:

On passing Coire an Lochain, I could see two climbers on one of the buttresses. I don't know which route they were on.

Climbers on Coire an Lochain crag:

Coire an Lochain:

On making our way down, we saw our first glimpse of blue sky and first view of Cairngorm's summit. Just my luck that the cloud cleared as we were completing our walk!

Cairngorm with Ptarmigan restaurant on skyline:

Looking back to Coire an Lochain:

Approaching Coire Cas car park:

A good day out but disappointing to walk mostly in mist and to not bump into any of my friends. Already looking forward to my next visit to the Cairngorms; great hills!