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I am putting together my first multi-day winter expedition and am looking for some advice.

During Dec 2018 to February 2019 I am planning a solo traverse of the Cairngorms in Scotland, camping wild or using bothies if the conditions deteriorate too far. The route will either be from Clova to Aviemore or the reverse, Aviemore to Clova and capturing between 9-14 Munro's en route.

I am looking for some advice or guiding thoughts for those more experienced in the region in winter.

Plan in General

  • The route will be two main legs split by a re-supply in Braemar (the half way point)
  • Northern leg will definitely include a summit of Macdui and a descent into the Linn of Dee
  • Southern leg route is undecided
  • I am ex-military and confident map reader in all conditions
  • I have completed multi-day hikes before but always using mountain huts and with good re-supply
  • I am not planning any ice-climbs or route-finding through dangerous gullies
  • I plan to break mid-way in Braemar to re-supply and let Mountain Rescue and family know I am safe before the second leg of the journey
  • I will be using 4 season equipment and carrying an ice axe and crampons
  • I will be taking some photography equipment including an SLR and a spare batteries
  • Depending on the journey I may do the return journey as well

This will be a step up in terms of ability, self-sufficiency and comfort zone

Questions

Any thoughts or comments appreciated, specifically;

  • Any avalanche black spots
  • Any spots unsuitable for a tent due to known high winds
  • Additional safety advice
  • Suggested Munro route
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Nice walk. I have done it many times.

Avalanche black spots are not really an issue on the Clova leg, Driesh, Mayar etc assuming you are taking Jock's Road but as you enter Callater section of Jock's road then you can get into some avalanche areas and the glen deepens. If you are taking the summit route then Avalanche issue only really apply on descent but the area is more prone to cornicing then avalanche in my experience. In the northern Section I would suggest Luibeg to Macdhui via Sron Riach. As a well defined ridge it is fairly clear of avalanche issues. Once on the plateau avalanches are less of an issue. Coming off the plateau and heading towards Aviemore the risk increases but if you descend via the ski area it is less of a problem and there is a cafe for coffee!

In high winds you have the irony that if you take the 'safe' route through the Laraig Ghru then you have an increased risk of avalanches due to the steep sides and breaking cornices triggering avalanches if there has been sustained winds building the cornices.

As with any winter walking, assess and change your route as conditions dictate.

If you are walking the high ground then you may have to camp due to the lack of bothies but if you have a shovel (and I suggest you should in case of needing to build a snow hole) and can build a snow berm then your tent should be OK. I have had a tent collapse on me due to weight of snow in the Cairngorms and a Vango flysheet that broke due to getting wet then freezing when I was packing it away. However this was the 80s and it was a cotton tent.

Otherwise Bothies are best. Luibeg bothy is a must before hitting the Cairngorm massif proper. Hutchison hut is fairly good as well and easy to find and I would suggest Corrour if you plan on covering both sides of the Laraig Ghru. Personally I hate crossing the Laraig Ghru as you lose all that hieght and have to climb back up again. Fords of Aan refuge is basic but easy to find. The Shelter Stone is great but a pig to locate in the snow and can be difficult to climb into and out of the coire in winter conditions. I prefer Bothies over tents simply because you can get up, walk about and stretch.

A lot depends on your actual route and the weather. Good luck.

  • Many many thanks AndyW. I am going to post the same question to Walk Highlands later today so if you see it then you know it is me :-) – Venture2099 Aug 16 '18 at 11:35
  • How many days did it take you in winter? – Venture2099 Aug 16 '18 at 11:38
  • I mostly did it as a summer walk. When in winter I just walked Jock's road avoiding the tops then Luibeg and either Laraig Ghru to Morlich, Laraig an Lui to Bynack stables or straight up Sron Riach and down off the plateau via the ski centre. Usually 3 to 4 nights in summer and 4 to 5 in winter depending on route and weather. – AndyW Aug 16 '18 at 12:52
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    If you are taking in the tops then it will be a lot longer depending on how many and what tops you choose and you should factor in a couple of extra nights in case of bad weather, better to wait out the weather than fight it. I once got snowbound for a night in the Jock's road shelter which is a tiny cramped little place but still better then being outside. I get the impression that you are doing more of a peak bagging trip that I used to do, I preferred a walking route with peaks on the way that were not too far off the main route. – AndyW Aug 16 '18 at 12:53
  • It is not purely a peak bagging route, I wanted to get onto the tops for the experience in winter. It is less about the number of Munro's and more about the challenge of route-finding, ascending and descending under winter conditions. Also, I just want to see how furious Macdui can be... – Venture2099 Aug 16 '18 at 13:12

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