Scottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UKScottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UK
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Castlegates gully is the deep cleft between Carn Etchachan on the left and Shelter Stone Crag on the right.
Castlegates Gully Map Photos
This route takes you way from the crowds in the Northern Corries, 'over the back' to Loch A'an and the impressive cliffs of Shelter Stone Crag and Carn Etchachan.
Area: Northern Cairngorms
Grade: Winter grade I   what does that mean?
Total Distance: 13 km
Total Ascent: 1050 m
Time: 7 hours
Maps:
  • Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 Sheet 36
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer 403
  • Harvey Superwalker Cairn Gorm Map (1:25,000).
  • Avalanche hazard: Both the approach to and return from Loch A'an cross a good deal of avalanche-prone terrain. It is best to avoid this route altogether after heavy snow or during thaw conditions. In such circumstances, consider other options such as the Fiacaill Ridge (of Coire an t-Sneachda), possibly continuing to Ben MacDui.
    Avalanche Forecast area: Northern Cairngorms   more
    Gear: A 50-metre rope, a small set of nuts and a couple of slings. Wear a helmet in the gully. Eminently solo-able.
    Tips: Best left to later in the season when there is more daylight.
    Alternatives: There are numerous other excellent climbs in the area. Refer to the SMC or Cicerone guidebooks for route decriptions.
    Start 

    Park as for the Fiacaill ridges route.

    Approach 

    Walk up the ski road alongside the funicular railway, passing under the railway and continuing up into Coire Cas. Break off the trail about 600 m beyond the railway and head for the ridge on your right, the Fiacaill a' Choire Cas. Climb the ridge to reach a large cairn at its top (point 1141).

    From the cairn, descend SSE into Coire Rairbert towards the Loch A'an basin. The descent is gentle at first but soon steepens and care must be taken both to avoid a slip and to assess any avalanche risk. As the ground opens up above Loch A'an, start bearing right towards the western end of the loch. There is a small path alongside the loch but this may well be obliterated by snow.

    At the end of the loch, you need to cross the Feidh Buidhe. If this is in spate, it may help to head upstream a little. Once across the Feidh Buidhe, walk across the boulder field beyond Shelter Stone crag to the far side of the cliffs. Start heading up the slopes towards the large cleft of Castlegates Gully.

    Castlegates Gully 

    Although the surroundings are impressive, the gully is not steep, although it can be corniced, and you soon reach the plateau.

    Carn Etchachan  

    You may as well take in the summit of Carn Etchachan, which is just 300 m (SSE) beyond the exit of Castlegates gully.

    Descent 

    The descent requires careful navigation. First head east into the bowl of Garbh Uisge Beag. Traverse the bowl and make towards the head of Coire Domhain (NH992028). This is the start of the Goat Track, a steep descent from the plateau to Coire an t-Sneachda.

    Escape Route!
    In avalanche prone conditions, it may be better to avoid the Goat Track. Head over to point 1178 then to point 1141 and descend via the Fiacaill a' Choire Cas as per the approach.

    Return 

    From the floor of Coire an t-Sneachda, make your way through the boulder field (lochans!) and pick up tracks heading back to the ski centre.

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