In Search of snow in the Cairngorms.
I had a meeting in Aviemore with Mark Diggins who heads the Avalanche project and I enjoyed the drive down from home, the trees many have still a lovely yellow orange tinge. The hills were clear and it was a lovely late autumn morning. We managed to get all our business done and I was meeting my old pal Ian / Ned Kelly for a wander up onto the Cairngorm plateau. It was late start and we set off after 1100 from the Car Park at Cairngorm. There is lots of work being done in the car park by the new owners of the Ski area but I would have loved to see a big natural wood building as the Centre piece instead of the modern build that is there!
It was raining as we walked in and a bit of a wind and we wandered into the “Corrie of the snows” and were soon at the lochans that are nearly dried up. Ian is a bit of photographer and was enjoying the changing light and the sun came out as we walked up the Goat Track that gives access to the plateau. We stopped at the Mountain Rescue box in the Corrie and it was a place to enjoy the views. There was a bit of loose rock about but the place is still wild with the huge Cairngorm Granite boulders making this a interesting steep walk to the plateau. In winter there are many accidents as this area is an ascent and descent for climbers. This is a place well known to us and we chatted about great days on these popular routes in previous winters. The big winter cliffs in the Corrie were looking damp and uninviting and soon would be busy with climbers after the snow falls. It was a cold wind, hat and gloves were on and we wandered along the plateau in search of the eternal snow and found some near Feith Buidhe across this wild place that soon would be a testing place in the winter weather. We broke down into the slabs and had a wander round. There are some interesting rocks with definite man made markings about and places where in days gone by the gemstone hunters were looking for Cairngorms stones, Scotland rare crystals. There was still tons of rock hard snow in this area and we went in behind the snow where it has left a gap behind the slabs to get some photos. It is incredible that this snow will stay with us now for all year, the start of a glacier? The snow picks up a cold wind and the temperature dropped. There were bigger snow patches further on but we were running out of time, so left them for another day. We had lunch Ned forgot his and ate mine and a hot flask out of the wind and what a joy to be here off the path and with the views of Loch Avon and these wild cliffs. I love the ever expanding views of Loch Avon and the Shelterstone cliffs, with the clouds coming and going all afternoon make this a wild place. There were 6 tents down near the Shelterstone and they would have a cold night as it was not far off freezing. Time was moving on and we had a wander over to Hell’s Lum and looked at the cliffs and then back across the plateau to the Northern Corries as the sun was setting it was just after 1630 and we were in mist and the temperature dropped.
The light was changing all the time and we did not get the sunset we wanted but we got great views as the clouds poured over the cliffs and the views came and went. This is a great time to be on the hills we were alone and just enjoying the changing light and a few fun hours out in these big hills. Ian has a powerful new head- torch and the light saved me using mine as we wandered down of the tops it is amazing how equipment has moved on so well over the years. We were soon down amongst the Industrial Ski area and back at the car. I took Ian home, where we had some incredible spicy soup thanks Glenda and then we watched Ian’s photos on the Television as we ate. How things have changed and it’s incredible to be able to see the day you had as soon as you come off the hills.
I was heading for the Kinloss / Leuchars Re – Union at Newtonmore straight after so it will be great to catch up with old pals over the weekend. The internet is slow so this may be a bit late. I am a bit tired now and it was a grand day and I am going to take it easy and hopefully get a wander in the hills tomorrow. I feel so much better than last year feeling stronger and loving to be out in these wild hills.
Winter is not far away make sure you get out and enjoy the weather while it lasts and the shorter days mean take a head torch and spare batteries with you and some warm clothes.