Yesterday I had planned to meet an old pal and go down to the A9 and walk the Munros, as we left and passed Dalwhinnie we were in a rain funnel and turned round after Drumochter. My need to go out in such a day nowadays is not great after getting battered by many years in the hills on my job in Mountain Rescue . These were the days whatever the weather we went out! It was the only way to train for what you have to operate in on Call – outs. After over 40 years the toll on my body and mind is pretty hard, so I try to pick my days now.
We drove back to the Cairngorms and I wanted an easy day as the World Rugby Cup final was on at 1600. We had a coffee in the Squirrel Cafe as the rain poured down as the rain and wind battered down. But Paul does not get out much and wanted to test his new jacket out so we drove up to the Cairngorm Carr Park meeting the RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team who were off for a day out. The forecast was still not great with the weather changing for the better in the afternoon. Wind speeds were projected at 40 – 60 knots. The wind is a killer and no matter how tough you think you are you have to be aware of what a 60 knot gust can do, it can blow you off your feet so you have to pick a route to suit the days.( Well worth noting)
We wandered into Coire An Sneachda (my second time in two days) and it was pretty wet but not cold but gusty. The wind is fairly sheltered in places in the walk in as you near the moraines and boulder field the winds get stronger and many times I have been battered here in a helicopter as the wind picks up. The colours were still great with the Deer grass blowing in the wind looking incredible and giving a new view of this tough plant. The plateau in places is covered by these amazing grasses and just now are looking special. We found some shelter in the boulder field for a break and decided to use the wind and go up by windy ridge past the crag as it was sheltered.
We passed many familiar winter routes on the way up and the crag was soaking but we were out of the wind. This is a great place for modern mixed winter climbing that the Cairngorms are famed for. I was feeling not great but had a poor nights sleep despite an early night in the Hotel I had a busy few days. I was staying at the Newtonmore Highland Hotel for the RAF Mountain Rescue Re – Union weekend.
We were soon on the plateau there were few people about and were just going to go up onto Cairngorm summit and then off for the rugby. It was a wee plod onto the top and pretty gusty at times and I was a bit slow but the views were great and the hills were clear, there were only a two others about. The last bit to the summit was gusty about 30/40 knots and you had to watch as the stronger ones could blow you about and it is easy to go over on an ankle or worse.
We had a brew and then followed the path to the Ptarmigan Restaurant, it was awful to walk on and sore on the knees. From here the path has been up graded and was very windy in places. We got hit by some big gusts unexpectedly at times and took our time on the way off. There is lots of work been done but I still think the buildings could have looked more natural, they have the Cairngorm granite facing but the tin roof looks like and industrial site place on the mountain. I had a vision of a natural wood building like in Canada made of local Scots pine but that would have been so costly and maintenance would be high? Is this just me that thinks that? There are also new fencing all over the area this will catch the snow better for the skiers, a lot of money is being spent.
I was glad to get down and my knees hurt on the path it was hard work. The gusts were so powerful and blew us about and the face was a bit sand – papered by the wind. It was straight back to Newtonmore for a shower and a brew and then watch the Rugby. A short day about 3 hours but enough for me in the wind, a fun day with Pam and lots of memories of past climbs and days. Pam and me did so many great summer and winter routes when he was young team member and still is going well. It was great to be out but maybe I need to take it a bit easier yet not much stamina just now. Maybe I should accept that after 4 operations it will be a slow process but I will get there. So much to do, so little time!
Today’s tip – Look at the weather forecast if big winds take it slowly place your feet and be aware that gusts can blow you off your feet, if possible stay away from narrow ridges.