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Cairn Gorm
An Càrn Gorm
Cairn gorm.jpg
Cairn Gorm from across Coire an t-Sneachda
Highest point
Elevation 4,084 feet (1,245 m)
Prominence 478 ft (146 m)
Isolation  2.78 miles (4.47 km) (
Parent peak Ben Macdui
Listing Munro
Naming
English translation The Blue Cairn or The Green Cairn
Language of name Scottish Gaelic
Pronunciation Scottish Gaelic: [əŋ ˈkʰaːrˠn̪ˠ ˈkɔɾɔm]
Geography
Location Cairngorms, Scotland
OS grid NJ005040
Topo map OS Landranger 36
Climbing
Easiest route Hike
Listed summits of Cairn Gorm
Name Grid ref Height Status
Cairn Lochan NH985025 3,986 ft (1,215 m) Munro Top
Stob Coire an t-Sneachda NH996029 3,858 ft (1,176 m) Munro Top
Cnap Coire na Spreidhe NJ013049 3,773 ft (1,150 m) Munro Top
Creag an Leth-choin NH968033 3,455 ft (1,053 m) Munro Top

Cairn Gorm is a mountain and listed Munro in the Scottish Highlands. It is part of the Cairngorms range and wider Grampian Mountains. With a summit elevation of 4,084 ft (1,245 m) AMSL, Cairn Gorm is the seventh-highest mountain in the British Isles. The high, broad domed summit overlooking Strathspey is one of the most readily identifiable mountains from the nearby town and regional centre of Aviemore.

Since the 1960s over 600 hectares (6 square km or 2.3 square miles) of the north-western slopes of the mountain in Coire Cas and Coire na Ciste have been developed for alpine skiing. The ski lift infrastructure includes a funicular railway in Coire Cas. The corrie south of Coire Cas, Coire an t-Sneachda, is separated from the ski area by a ridge known as Fiacaill a' Choire Chais. The southern slopes of Cairn Gorm overlook the remote Loch Avon (pronounced Loch A'an).

Etymology

The mountain shares its name with the wider Cairngorms mountain range and the Cairngorms National Park of which it is a part. This is despite that it is neither the highest nor the most prominent mountain in the range. The Cairngorms mountain range was historically known as Am Monadh Ruadh, a Scottish Gaelic name meaning The Red Hills. The Scottish Gaelic Gorm means "blue" in English; but when describing vegetation can mean "green" or "greening", so Cairn Gorm can mean either Blue Cairn or Green Cairn.

Climate

Cairn Gorm has a tundra climate (Köppen ET). There is an automated weather station (AWS) controlled by Heriot-Watt University on the summit of the mountain providing temperature and wind speed data. There is also a separate AWS run by the Met Office (synop code 03065) that publishes temperature and frost data. Cairn Gorm averages 194.4 frost days per annum, making it the coldest weather station in the United Kingdom. Winter low temperatures are not extreme when compared with some other UK stations, but the severity of the climate is illustrated by its cool summers.

The highest temperature since 1985 is 25.5 °C (77.9 °F), recorded on 23 May 1989. The coldest temperature is −26.9 °C (−16.4 °F) on 6 March 2007. Daytime temperatures staying below 0 °C (32 °F) all day occur most frequently between October and May but have been observed during every month of the year. Daytime maximum temperatures below −10 °C (14 °F) and night-time temperature above 15 °C (59 °F) are uncommon. However, the highest minimum temperature on record was 20.8 °C (69.4 °F) on 4 July 2004. Whereas, the lowest daytime maximum was −12.7 °C (9.1 °F) on 28 February 2018. The Foehn wind can affect the mountain, particularly during late autumn and winter. This phenomenon resulted in the November record high.

The warmest month on record is July 2006, with a mean temperature of 9.9 °C (49.8 °F). Conversely, the coldest month on record is March 2013, with a mean temperature of −6.7 °C (19.9 °F).

Climate data for Cairn Gorm Summit, Elevation: 1,245 m (4,085 ft) (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13.3
(55.9)
15.2
(59.4)
18.9
(66)
20.2
(68.4)
25.5
(77.9)
22.0
(71.6)
22.5
(72.5)
21.7
(71.1)
18.4
(65.1)
14.2
(57.6)
18.8
(65.8)
16.4
(61.5)
25.5
(77.9)
Average high °C (°F) -1.3
(29.7)
-1.5
(29.3)
-0.9
(30.4)
1.5
(34.7)
4.3
(39.7)
7.1
(44.8)
9.5
(49.1)
9.2
(48.6)
6.9
(44.4)
3.9
(39)
0.8
(33.4)
-0.5
(31.1)
3.3
(37.9)
Daily mean °C (°F) -3.4
(25.9)
-3.8
(25.2)
-3.0
(26.6)
-1.0
(30.2)
1.7
(35.1)
4.4
(39.9)
6.9
(44.4)
6.6
(43.9)
4.5
(40.1)
1.6
(34.9)
-1.3
(29.7)
-2.8
(27)
0.9
(33.6)
Average low °C (°F) -5.5
(22.1)
-6.1
(21)
-5.0
(23)
-3.4
(25.9)
-0.9
(30.4)
1.7
(35.1)
4.2
(39.6)
3.9
(39)
2.1
(35.8)
-0.7
(30.7)
-3.3
(26.1)
-5.1
(22.8)
-1.5
(29.3)
Record low °C (°F) -14.7
(5.5)
-17.0
(1.4)
-26.9
(-16.4)
-12.7
(9.1)
-7.4
(18.7)
-11.8
(10.8)
-9.4
(15.1)
-3.5
(25.7)
-4.5
(23.9)
-17.8
(-0)
-15.7
(3.7)
-18.6
(-1.5)
-26.9
(-16.4)
Snowfall cm (inches) 57
(22.4)
62
(24.4)
49
(19.3)
43
(16.9)
17
(6.7)
3
(1.2)
trace 0
(0)
trace 9
(3.5)
36
(14.2)
47
(18.5)
Avg. rainy days 1.8 1.3 1.2 3.4 8.6 14.9 16.6 16.6 12.2 9.8 4.1 2.6 93.1
Avg. snowy days 15.6 15.5 14.7 13.1 8.2 2.6 0.2 0.0 0.8 4.8 11.2 14.0 40.9
Source: Met Office, Tutiempo.net, and snowforecast.com
Dates of temperature records
Month Maximum temperatures Minimum temperatures
°C °F Year °C °F Date
January 13.3 55.9
  • 2013
−14.7 5.5
  • 1987
February 15.2 59.4
  • 2009
−17.0 1.4
  • 1991 and 2018
March 18.9 66.0
  • 2021
−26.9 −16.4
  • 2007
April 20.2 68.4
  • 2012
−12.7 9.1
  • 1998
May 25.5 77.9
  • 1989
−7.4 18.7
  • 2012
June 22.0 71.6
  • 2006
−11.8 10.8
  • 2015
July 22.5 72.5
  • 2004
−9.4 15.1
  • 2007
August 21.7 71.1
  • 2003
−3.5 25.7
  • 1993
September 18.4 65.1
  • 2003
−4.5 23.9
  • 2003
October 14.2 57.6
  • 2015
−17.8 0.0
  • 2003
November 18.8 65.8
  • 2005
−15.7 3.7
  • 1985
December 16.4 61.5
  • 2005
−18.6 −1.5
  • 1986

Hiking and climbing

In clear, calm weather, the ascent of Cairn Gorm is a straightforward hike via the alpine ski area on the northern slopes. But when the mountain is stormbound, particularly in winter during blizzard and high avalanche risk conditions, any ascent or descent can be potentially lethal - particularly during white-outs when it is easy to lose one's bearings near the barren, featureless summit which is ringed in many directions by precipitous drops. In common with all the highest Cairngorm summits, ascents during winter conditions (which can and usually do extend well into springtime) will often require good navigation skills and winter climbing equipment such as crampons and ice-axes. The Windy Ridge path on Sròn an Aonaich lying to the northeast of Coire Cas is a steep and direct route, and is generally recommended by local Rangers, guides and guidebooks. Another route to the summit is the access road up the centre of Coire Cas, however this route is a track used by the railway operator's vehicles, and gives an indirect route with several steep sections. It is not recommended as an ascent route, especially during the skiing season, though it gives good views of the Cairngorm Mountain Railway in its lower sections. Also in Coire Cas, Fiacaill a' Choire Chais offers a good walking route to Cairn Gorm and the adjacent plateau. A circuit of the cliff tops overlooking the Northern Corries of Cairn Gorm is highly recommended in many guide books and publications, giving one of the finest views in Scotland. Walkers are advised to consult the local map and call in at the Ranger Base at the car park.

There are many climbing routes at the head of Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain, and in winter these corries form one of Scotland's major ice climbing areas.

1971 disaster

On 21–22 November 1971, five pupils from Ainslie Park High School in Edinburgh and a trainee instructor from Newcastle-under-Lyme died in a blizzard at Feith Buidhe on the Cairn Gorm plateau. It stands as the UK's worst mountaineering disaster.

Wildlife

The mountain is home to a number of bird species, including dotterel and ring ouzel (in the spring and summer) and snow bunting and ptarmigan (also known as rock ptarmigan) (all year round). Mammals inhabiting the mountain include mountain hare, red deer and a herd of reindeer. Wildflowers found on the mountain include dwarf cornel, cloudberry and butterwort. For many of these species of flora and fauna, Cairn Gorm is one of their key strongholds.

Cairngorm Mountain ski resort

Cairngorm Mountain
Cairngorm Mountain base station in June 2008
Cairngorm Mountain base station in June 2008
Location Cairn Gorm, near Aviemore
Highland, Scotland
United Kingdom
Nearest city Inverness - 40 mi. (65 km)
Vertical 1,607 ft (490 m)
Top elevation 3,757 ft (1,145 m)
Base elevation 2,150 ft (660 m)
Runs 35
Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg - 11 easier
Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg - 10 intermediate
Ski trail rating - red rectangle.PNG - 11 difficult
Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg - 3 very difficult
Lift system 14
- 1 railway (120 person)
- 2 doubles (mothballed)
- 11 surface
Snowmaking 4 TechnoAlpin T40,

1 TechnoAlpin TF10, 8 TechnoAlpin TR8,

1 TechnoAlpin double decker Snow Factory
Night skiing occasional
Website CairnGorm Mountain

History

The ski resort was developed on Cairn Gorm from 1960 onwards. A chairlift and chalet opened in December 1961. It is the second largest in Scotland (after Glenshee). By the 1980s, thousands of skiers were using the resort on busy weekends, and the slopes could become very crowded.

By the 2000s, the number of skiers at Cairngorm and Scotland's other ski areas had dropped, partly as a consequence of budget airline travel making access to the Alps easier.

Snow conditions in the Scottish Highlands are unpredictable and Global Warming has emerged as a potential threat to the viability of the Scottish ski industry. In 2004, Adam Watson predicted that there would be no more than twenty years left for the industry. However recent winters have had excellent snow cover and ski conditions and winter sports usage has recovered significantly resulting in improved finances. In 2011–12 the resort trialled a TechnoAlpin T40 snow cannon, and in 2012–13 three more were leased. A larger TF10 cannon was added for the 2013–14 season

In April 2014 Natural Retreats was chosen by HIE as the new operator of Cairngorm Mountain Ltd.

Cairn Gorm Locomotive

A locomotive operated by Caledonian Sleeper, a train operator that offers sleeper trains from London Euston to Scotland. The locomotive is the only Class 67 locomotive to be operated by Caledonian Sleeper. The locomotive is the subject of a Hornby model with TTS Sound, in 00 Gauge.

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