Coire an Dubh-lochain – Beinn a’Bhuird

4th March 2023

The destination for today’s observations was the remote Coire an Dubh Lochain on Beinn a’Bhuird. This is one of the Cairngorms many remote Coire’s far from the popular honey pots. It also happens to be a beautiful and wild coire where you could be mistaken for believing that you were the first and only visitor.

It is of course a popular climbing destination albeit with a long approach from Deeside or Tomintoul, but it is arguably more famous as one of the best crystal hunting areas in the Cairngorms. The days of the quartz miners (or diggers) and their search for smoky quartz  are long gone, but even with a dusting of snow their past presence is apparent.

Close to ‘Dividing Buttress’ there are signs of small spoil heaps of broken angular pegmatite indicating the previous presence of quartz veins close by. Another popular spot is the Allt an Dubh-lochain where the shallow gravels once held smoky quartz which had been washed down from the crags above.

Back to the snowpack… There has been a cosmetic dusting of new snow above 700 metres, as showers track through from the north. This really doesn’t amount to much and isn’t particularly significant, other than it disguising the hard snow below in many locations.

As the day progresses tomorrow there will be some isolated and avoidable deposits that will increase in depth. These will contain weaknesses in the cold conditions on East to South aspects above 1000 metres. The avalanche hazard will be low.

Snow amounts and windspeed are likely to be greater in the Northern Cairngorms area tomorrow. It is worth checking the Northern Cairngorms avalanche report if you are visiting the northern periphery of our area, as conditions will evolve quickly over the Cairngorm plateau.


The back wall of Coire an Dubh Lochain. Not much snow in this image, many of these buttresses are covered by this point in a normal season.


The Smith-Winram Bivouac at the base of ‘Dividing Buttress’, separating Coire an Dubh Lochain from Coire nan Clach. it is easy to think that the climbers were making use of these “howffs” first, but quartz miners were probably here well before. The small ruins along the River Gairn and a ruin at around 900m on Ben Avon are other examples of their presence.


Coire na Ciche and ‘Slugain Buttress’ seen from the upper reaches of Quoich Water on the approach.


Looking north towards Glas Allt Mor and Clach a’Cleirich.

Comments on this post

  • Hugh Spencer
    5th March 2023 2:47 pm

    Summertime a few years back revealed a fresh rockfall from the buttress above this howff – sharp edged pink granite shards here and there around the howff. Might no longer be a safe place – sadly.

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