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Loch Avon Basin

Loch Avon Basin.   Photo: Scott Muir

The Loch Avon basin is a fine place to ski, offering easy uncomplicated descents down relatively wide gullies.  It's a popular area for skiing, due to the proximity of the ski area at Cairngorm which makes access easier.  As a result, you can easily combine several descents in a day. (e.g. from the car park over to the top of Stag Rocks, down Y or Diagonal Gully, then up onto Carn Etchachan and down either Castlegates or Pinnacle Gully, then up Coire Domhain and down Alladins Couloir in Coire an t-Sneachda).  Hells Lum, the gully that gives the cliff the same name, has been skied and is a different proposition to the other gullies described, being steep and narrow. 

Approach

The Cairngorm Ski car park is the most logical starting point to access these lines, and has the advantage that you can sneak a descent in Coire an t-Sneachda on the way back.  The easiest route back out is up Coire Domhain and onto Stob Coire an t-Sneachda. 

Relevant Weather Forecasts

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Relevant Avalanche Forecasts

There is one relevant Scottish Avalanche Information Service forecast for Loch Avon Basin.

The wide corridor that descends (diagonally!) to Loch Avon from the top of Stag rocks, and is almost a mirror image of it's neighbour Y Gully.   It is steepest at the top, but entry to the gully is often possible on skiers right.  Once out of the gully, the snow filled debris runnel often offers a run almost down to the loch itself.

Telemarking Diagonal Gully, 19th of April 2008  Photo: Scott Muir
Looking down Diagonal Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
The entrance to Diagonal Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
A great place to ski - Diagonal Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
Diagonal Gully, late April 2010  Photo: Scott Muir
In Diagonal Gully, April 2008  Photo: Scott Muir
Telemarking Diagonal Gully, April 2008  Photo: Scott Muir
The top of Diagonal Gully, April 2008  Photo: Scott Muir
Grid Reference: NJ002022

Approximate Start Height: 1040m

Approximate Descent: 290m

General Aspect: South

Climbing Grade: I

Notes: Fairly easy for Grade I
 

A companion to Diagonal Gully on Stag Rocks.  It is less defined, and a good bit wider, but worth doing.  It is split at the top by a rocky island - hence the name.  The skiers right option gives the most straightforward entry.  The upper half is fairly mellow, but it steepens a little towards the exit of the gully.

Y Gully from Pinnacle Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
Looking back up Y Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
The easy upper section  Photo: Scott Muir
The steeper lower section  Photo: Scott Muir
In Pinnacle Gully, looking across to Y Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
In Pinnacle Gully, looking across to Y Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
Grid Reference: NJ000022

Approximate Start Height: 1030m

Approximate Descent: 230m

General Aspect: South

Climbing Grade: n/a

Notes:
 

The imposing gully of Hell's Lum splits the cliff of the same name.  With an overhanging rock wall on the skiers left, and the icefall of "The Chancer" on skiers right, it is an intimidating, steep line.  The gully can contain a substantial ice pitch, and realistically, should only be attempted when it is banked out.  In these conditions, the cornice is likely to be problematical, but should be easiest on skiers left.  You may be faced with a short drop just below the cornice as well, depending upon build up.  Where the gully narrows approximately mid way down, there is likely to be some easy angled ice, even if the main ice pitch is buried.

The southerly aspect of the cliff means that "The Chancer" can be badly affected by the sun, and falling ice can be a problem.  There have been descents involving abseils, but it has also been skied without. 

Hell's Lum is the prominent gully midway along the cliff.  Photo: Peter Mackenzie
Hells Lum banked out, early March 2016  Photo: Scott Muir
Helmet cam still, Hell's Lum 5th of May 2013  Photo: Peter Mackenzie
Helmet cam still, Hell's Lum 5th of May 2013  Photo: Peter Mackenzie
Helmet cam still, Hell's Lum 5th of May 2013  Photo: Peter Mackenzie
Helmet cam still, Hell's Lum 5th of May 2013  Photo: Peter Mackenzie
Grid Reference: NH995016

Approximate Start Height: 1050m

Approximate Descent: 150m

General Aspect: Southeast

Climbing Grade: II/III

Notes: Only worth attempting when completely banked up.
 

The wide gully that bounds the northern edge of the mighty Sticil Face.  The name is derived from the impressive Forefinger Pinnacle which is situated at the top of the gully.  This is one of the widest gullies you are likely to ski! 

Below Pinnacle Gully, heading for Coire Domhain  Photo: Scott Muir
Forefinger Pinnacle at the top of Pinnacle Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
In Pinnacle Gully, looking across to Y Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
In Pinnacle Gully, looking across to Y Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
Nearing the end of Pinnacle Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
On the runnout below Pinnacle Gully  Photo: Scott Muir
Grid Reference: NJ000013

Approximate Start Height: 1020m

Approximate Descent: 270m

General Aspect: North

Climbing Grade: I

Notes: Easy for Grade I, and very wide.
 

Sandwiched between the cliffs of Carn Etchachan and the Sticil Face, this well defined gully offers a fine descent. In lean/late season conditions, the boulders at the top can be bare and necessitate a short down climb to the snow on skiers left.  Once past the initial narrow 10m, the angle relents a little until the gully opens out, where the angle increases a little.  The exit is through a narrowing in the gully to the bouldery scarp slope below.  When the snow is not plentiful, the best options from here are either hard left under the Sticil Face, or staying right below Carn Etchachan.

Castlegates Gully, with the Sticil Face to the right, 18th of April 2010  Photo: Scott Muir
About to set off on a fantastic powder descent.  Photo: Scott Muir
At the point where the gully opens out (and steepens again).  Photo: Scott Muir
Exiting the final narrow section.  Photo: Scott Muir
Below Castlegates Gully, April 2010  Photo: Scott Muir
Heading for Loch Etchachan, with Castlegates Gully behind.  Photo: Scott Muir
The top section of Castlegates Gully.  Photo: Jean-louis Delauney
Grid Reference: NJ002013

Approximate Start Height: 1050m

Approximate Descent: 300m

General Aspect: East

Climbing Grade: I

Notes: Easy for Grade I
 
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