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Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan

By Ian Tupman   

on December 19, 2020    5/5 (3)

Posted as a walk in – Cairngorms National Park, Europe, Scotland

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan

Further Details

Route Summary:

Route Summary: A strenuous route to Ben Macdui but with the reward of visits to the Loch Avon basin and Loch Etchacan

This walk includes the Munro of Ben Macdui (Beinn Macduibh)

Route Start Location: Cairngorm ski area car park

21 kms 1220m 5.5 - 7 hours

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Activivity Type: Hard Walk

Summits and Places on this Route


Cafe and toilets at the ski area but no facilities on route


In poor visibility good navigational skills are essential as it is easy to become disorientated on the featureless plateau, especially on Ben Macdui.

The descent into Coire Raibert requires care and if the burn is in spate it should be crossed at the bottom.

Between June and September, the Highland midge can really spoil your day if you are not well-protected. There are various products available but Smidge seems to be effective for most people.

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Parking : Not applicable

Parking: At the time of writing (July 2020) there is no charge at the ski area car park but there are plans to erect a barrier and charge for entry

Public Transport:

The bus service between Aviemore and the Cairngorm ski area is currently suspended (July 2020) but check to see if it has re-commenced.

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Recommended Maps


Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan

At 1309m, Ben Macdui is the second highest mountain in Britain. This route is not the shortest but gives a full day’s circular walk and takes in Loch Avon and Loch Etchacan before returning via Coire an Lochain.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan

1 Start at the ski area car park.

From the car park, walk between the funicular station and the main building  and take the stony track which runs parallel to the funicular railway.

The track adjacent to the funicular railway

2 Pass under the railway and climb gently on the ski piste keeping to the right side if it is in use. When the piste track swings east, take the pitched path which rises steeply away to the south.

Continue on the good path as it ascends the west shoulder of Coire Cas before reaching the large cairn at spot height 1141m.

The cairn at spot height 1141m

3 From the cairn head due south over the broken ground for approximately 100 metres. Take the path which turns south-east and drops towards the head of Coire Raibert.

Heading down into Coire Raibert

4 The path steepens as it descends on the left of the burn and care is needed on areas of loose rock.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan
Waterfall in Coire Raibert

5 At an easing of the gradient, look for a faint path on the other side and cross the burn.  If the burn is in spate it is better to continue all the way down the left hand side to reach the path along the shore of the loch.  Whichever route is taken, the views are superb.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan
The head of Loch Avon and Shelter Stone Crag

6 Continue to the beach which makes an excellent spot for a rest and refreshments before the ascent to Loch Etchacan.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan
Beach at west end of Loch Avon

7 Cross the Feith Buidhe and if time allows, visit the Shelter Stone, a huge boulder used as a bivi site which has its own visitors book!

The obvious path now climbs steeply before reaching more gentle ground and a small lochan. The flatter ground is boggy and rocky in places but the path soon reaches the eastern side of Loch Etchacan. Munro baggers may take the opportunity to ascend Ben Mheadhoin from here  before continuing on our route.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan
Loch Etchacan

8 Cross the outfall from the loch and pick up the good path which rises gently as it traverses the north-west flank of Creagan a’ Choire  Etchacan.

The path comes close to the rim of Coire Sputan Dearg providing an excellent view of Derry Cairngorm to the south.

Derry Cairngorm

9 A short section of steeper ground brings us onto the summit plateau of Ben Macdui. There are numerous shelters around the summit but the best is an old ruin before the actual summit is reached. Chances are you will have this to yourself as it is not visible from the summit and most people will have come up from the north side.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan
Shelter on Ben Macdui

10 Continue the short distance over broken ground to the summit of Ben Macdui.

Ben Macdui summit cairn and trig point

11 The view across the Lairig Ghru to the west provides a spectacular panorama in which Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Braeriach dominate.

Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Braeriach

12 From the summit head north-north-east and pick up the line of cairns which mark the descent across broken, bouldery ground.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan
The rocky descent from Ben Macdui with Cairn Lochan on the horizon

13 Before reaching Lochain Buidhe turn half left and pick up a parallel path which soon swings north-west as it rises and continues around the west flank of Cairn Lochan.

The good path descends steadily down the west rim of Coire an Lochain and there are excellent views into the coire.

Coire an Lochain

 14 The path crosses two burns as it continues north-east and eventually enters the ski area and the start/finish of the route.

Walk up Ben Macdui via Loch Avon & Loch Etchacan
Loch Morlich (left) and the ski car park (centre left)

Ian lives In Ardrossan and being only a fifty five minutes ferry crossing to Brodick, the Isle of Arran is his 'back yard'. He knows the mountains of the north of the island well and has walked every permutation of routes over the various summits. He is now spending more time further north exploring the Cairngorms, the far north-west and the mountains of the west of Scotland.

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