Walk into Coire An T – Sneachda in the Cairngorms

The weather forecast was not friendly so it was a later start to go for a short wander in the Cairngorms. I picked Bernie up in Forres at 0800 and it was a slow drive across the Dava Moor on icy roads. I always take it easy and at least daylight was coming when we reached Grantown On Spey and a lovely pink – yellow sky across the Spey Valley and Cromdales. We met a few gritters on the way being overtaking by cars who must have some where to rush to on these icy roads?

December daybreak over the Spey and Cromdales

December daybreak over the Spey and Cromdales

We kept to the main road and headed up to the Cairngorm car park it was pretty white and about 50 cars were there. There were young climbers heading in to try for a climb with all the eagerness of youth. We took our time and I must be getting old I felt the cold and waited for a flurry of snow to go before we headed out all ready for the weather. The hills looked very scoured with the high winds and we could see the spin -drift devils on the ridges. I am taking it easy after the operations and watching my feet the ground was icy in places and within 5 minutes the wind had dropped and we enjoyed the walk into this very familiar Corrie. There was a bit of snow early on the path and the burns had just begun to build up small cornices it was here that we saw lots of Ptarmigan. I counted about 30 in total in a covey. They were very close and we watched them walking in the snow between the small drifts it looked hard work and then as soon as I got my camera out they were gone. How do they live in such a wild arctic environment and cope with the weather but they made our day and we spent so much time here.

Small drifts of snow near the burn plenty of snow in that sky?


Small drifts of snow near the burn plenty of snow in that sky?

As you get higher the wind picked up and I was reminded of many interesting drop off by helicopter in the past on Rescues and Training where the wind always sneaks in and seems to throw the helicopter about. I was telling Bernie this when we got hit by several gusts and spin – drift blast through the corrie like a whirling dervish. Bernie was amazed he has done so little in winter and at over 60 was wondering about the wisdom of this walk! It was great to get blasted by the weather and feel the power of nature but a problem here only an hour from the road could be serious as this corrie history tells you.

Bernie getting a battering in the wind the crags covered in spin-drift and a few views.

Bernie getting a battering in the wind the crags covered in spin-drift and a few views. 

It cleared and we saw a couple of climbers heading for a route on the Mess Of Pottage they would have a typical Scottish winter climbing day on the scoured crags and it would be a battle all day against the elements for them. I have been here in the past and I am glad that those days are over and I only climb in reasonable conditions maybe not this winter till my health and operations are over. Yet I still get jealous and miss this feeling as another group raced by us full of enthusiasm for a climb they had planned , oh to be young again?




Even in a short walk like this it is easy no matter how often you have been here to keep an eye on where you are going. I was telling Bernie how hard it is to carry someone of from the cliffs through the boulder field after an accident. I have wandered about here in a few epics with some of Scotland’s finest in bad weather it all changes so easily but not today. We stopped at the big boulder in another blast of spin – drift and Bernie was amazed how it gets everywhere. I asked what climb he wanted to do and he declined so after a few minutes we wandered back into the wind. It was wild walking into the weather and I nearly put my goggles on but my new Buff was magic and it acted as a face mask until we dropped down a bit into better weather and the ptarmigan again. I met Al from Glenmore Lodge and his lovely wife  having a walk and we caught up and the sun came out and then headed of down to the car park meeting a few out for a wander. I always enjoy the walk off and the low Scots Pines battered by the wind and by the path mean to me that I nearly home. How many times have a been glad to see them after a wild day in the Cairngorms. Just to pick them out in a head torch-light in a wild night is magic and sometimes the only feature recognisable. These wee tough battered trees survive in such a hostile place, they survive the winds and snow and  yet they are still there every year to greet us on our way home.

The "Glad to see" trees!

The “Glad to see” trees!

The car park was busy when we got down and headed into Aviemore to see Ian and Glenda and were soon enjoying home – made soup and festive mince pies. After a few plans for the future it was off home a lovely drive back the roads fine and the views across the Dava Moor and the sunlight Moray Firth a refreshing change from a grey day in the Cairngorms.

It was only a short walk but really good to get out and feel the winter at last. What next?


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Avalanche info, Friends, Gear, Local area and events to see, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Walk into Coire An T – Sneachda in the Cairngorms

  1. razzah says:

    Loved hearing about the glad to see trees!


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