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Cairngorm: Coire an Lochain

Cairngorm: Coire an Lochain.   Photo: Scott Muir

In contrast to neighbouring Coire an t-Sneachda, Coire an Lochain is small and enclosed.  The short buttresses that sit high above the lochan are home to many hard miixed winter climbs, separated by much easier gully lines.  The Couloir is the obvious ski descent, but there are rumours The Vent being descended (a very steep narrow slot to the East of The Couloir), and the right branch of Y-Gully gets talked about (to the West of The Couloir, usually topped by a massive cornice).  Both are likely to be utterly terrifying.

Access

You have many choices, but the obvious start is the Coire Cas car park:

  • Head up through the ski area and onto Fiacaill a' Choire Chais and round the top of Coire an t-Sneachda, past the top of the Goat Track, and onto Cairn Lochan
  • Head for the Fiacaill Choire an t-Sneachda, the excellent ridge that separates Coire an t-Sneachdsa and Coire an Lochain.
  • Go past the foot of Coire an Lochain and ascend the West side of the corrie to the Miadan Creag an Leth-choin (1083m) via Lurchers Gully or the ridge, and continue onto Cairn Lochan
  • Follow the path into the corrie, and ascend the slope and gully.  

Relevant Weather Forecasts

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Relevant Avalanche Forecasts

There is one relevant Scottish Avalanche Information Service forecast for Cairngorm: Coire an Lochain.

The Couloir is a sought after descent, despite being short in length.  A significant feature of the descent is dealing with the Great Slab - a large area of granite that is often the scene of some specatular full depth avalanches in the spring.  Glide cracks often appear well in advance of this, and can be a hazard in themselves.

The gully doesn't actually start from the corrie rim, but 5m below it from a small saddle just to the West of the summit of Cairn Lochan.  This point usually offers a break in the cornice.  The short slope to the saddle is at an easier angle than the gully itself, but can feel exposed with the chasm of the Left Branch of Y-Gully on skiers left.  Despite being short, the gully is quite steep.  In good conditions, there should be plenty of room to manouver, but when relatively lean, it will be a lot narrower.

Once out of the gully, and you are in any way concerned about the snow on the Great Slab, stay hard right, almost to below The Vent, and head down to the lochan from there.

The Couloir is the obvious diagonal corridor, taken on the walk in from the Coire Cas car park.  Photo: Scott Muir
A few turns in, looking back up the gully to the saddle.  Photo: Scott Muir
On the corrie rim, looking down into The Couloir  Photo: Scott Muir
On the saddle above the gully in good conditions.  Photo: Scott Muir
The run out down the side of the Great Slab.  Photo: Scott Muir
Grid Reference: NH984026

Approximate Start Height: 1200m

Approximate Descent: 270m

General Aspect: Northeast

Climbing Grade: I

Notes: The gully is steep for Grade I, but short.
 
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