Scottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UKScottish Winter Climbing And Mountaineering Routes in Scotland UK
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In The Couloir.
The Couloir Map Photos
A nice, reliable gully route with quick access from the Cairngorn ski centre, the Couloir is often one of the first routes to come into condition. Although the gully is not steep, the approach involves an airy traverse above the 'Great Slab'.
Area: Northern Cairngorms
Grade: Winter grade I   what does that mean?
Total Distance: 9 km
Total Ascent: 630 m
Time: 5 hours
Maps:
  • Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50,000 Sheet 36
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer 403
  • Harvey Superwalker Cairn Gorm Map (1:25,000).
  • Avalanche hazard: Avalanches may occur on the approach slopes or in the Couloir itself so avoid in new snow or thaw conditions. In avalanche prone conditions, an excellent traverse of Carn Lochan can be made by ascending the Fiacaill Ridge (grade II) and descending by the descent route described here.
    Avalanche Forecast area: Northern Cairngorms   more
    Gear: A 50-metre rope, a small set of nuts and a couple of slings. Put your helmet on when you arrive in the corrie as this is a popular venue and there are likely to be other climbers in the Couloir or on other climbs overlooking it!
    Alternatives: There are numerous other excellent climbs in Coire an Lochain. Refer to the SMC or Cicerone guidebooks for route decriptions.
    Start 

    Park as for the Fiacaill ridges route.

    Approach 

    Walk in a westerly direction below the ski lifts along a well used path. When the path forks after about 500 m, take the lower path heading towards Coire an Lochain.

    Follow this lower path for a further 500 m until it forks again, shortly after a stream crossing (allt Coire an t-Sneachda). Take the left branch towards Coire an Lochain.

    After a further 1¾ km, you will reach a large boulder field. Weave your way through the boulder field to arrive at the lochan at the foot of the corrie.

    The Couloir  

    Bear left (E) of the lochan and head up steep slopes on the right hand edge of the 'Great Slab'. The Great Slab is a large area of smooth glaciated slabs at the centre of Coire an Lochain. It is renown for large full-depth avalanches!

    Traverse beneath the crags above, passing under one large bay (the entrance to Y-Gully) before reaching the entrance to the Couloir. This can be awkward, especially under icy conditions. The exposure is considerable and some people may want a rope here. If so, you may be pleased to know that this section is arguably harder than the Couloir itself.

    Climb the Couloir (2 or 3 pitches, about 100 m ascent), which slants right and brings you out on a small ridge, abutting the corrie rim. Thanks to this feature, cornices are rarely a problem. Follow the ridge over a short step to the plateau.

    Cairn Lochan  

    Head left (E) for about 100 m to reach the summit of Cairn Lochan (only a small cairn). Reverse this last leg and then continue along the rim, watching out for in-cut gullies, until it is safe to head towards the north ridge of Cairn Lochan . In poor visibility, it may be better to make a 'dog-leg' to avoid the rim altogether.

    Return 

    Follow the north ridge until the drops on the right (E) peter out and you can head back in a NE direction to pick up the path you followed on the approach

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