Wintry wander in the Cairngorms but great to be out for a 4 Seasons Day. The El Alamein’s bothy (Dec 2015)

I was feeling very tired after a long day in Aberdeen  and had arranged to go for a walk with Rachel and do a winter navigation trip to the Cairngorms. In winter this is a wild area and with regular white – outs on the plateau it is the place to ensure your navigation skills are up to speed. It is also great to get the basic winter admin sorted out like gloves, goggles and gear, we all need this so it was an early start. The drive to the Cairngorms was  wintry with snow on the roads and heavy snow clouds  promising more. I took it easy with the drive my snow tyres doing the job and the light on the way was incredible. Our local Corbett Ben Rinnes looked magic in the snow and the pink and yellow sunrise was just what I needed and felt better. I love the drive by the distillery’s which are abundant in this land of Malt Whisky and their beautifully  kept buildings and with the snow it all looked exceptional.

A bit of a sand blasting on the plateau.

A bit of a sand blasting on the plateau. The snow moving about into the Corries.

I always try to drive the back road from Grantown along to Collumbridge it was a bit snowy and now icy and the forecast was for a mixed day a typical winters day in the Cairngorms. I call it a 24 seasons in a day weather” and the winds and white outs forecast it would be just what we needed to test us. We arrived at the Ciste car park full of snow with a dark sky and the hills snow blasted and we were the only car about. We got a snow blasting as we sorted out our kit and it was a bitter wind. The walking was interesting and Rachel is pretty good and the changes in weather kept the navigation interesting. The snow in places windblown was sparse but at times deep. We got some great views in the ever-changing light and were soon on the plateau and then onto the ridge with views of Strath Nethy and this wild area.

The bothy marked interesting to find in the winter

The  El Alamein bothy marked interesting to find in the winter!

I love this place it is wild and despite the new winter climbing venue of   Creagan Coire Cha-no  this is a place to be in the winter.  The Cairngorm granite Tors and the shapes rounded and weather worn on the plateau a barren place but so wild and spacious with no one about, how can you not love this environment?   I enjoy the views down to Strath Nethy and the great views of Bynack Mor and the Loch Avon Basin add to that the light and good company it was a place to be. The weather came and went and the beard makes a difference and I nearly needed my goggles as the snow came and blasted the face at times.. The wind gusting, the hands cold from using the compass and getting used to the winter “faffing”. Then it would change and with the spindrift blowing the beauty,wildness and the light make this a winter wonderland.

The crag is Creagan Coire Cha-no

The Gullies full of snow1

The Gullies full of snow1

This small east-facing winter crag was developed in the 2010/11 season, and has around 30 routes to date. Its short approach (less than one hour from Coire na Ciste car park) How long?  will probably ensure popularity for years to come.

I hoped to get to the famous El Alamein bothy a ruin now

The El Alamein’s bothy  (Dec 2015 NJ 01579 05394 –  968 metres

update Aug 2016 –

Update 23 Jan 2016 – Heavy – Thanks for your interesting post. Four of us visited the refuge on Saturday  23 January 2016. It was a fine day, although very windy indeed on the way up from the ski car park, it was less windy by the refuge. The condition of the refuge appears similar to the photo you show. My location for the refuge is NJ 01579 05394, elevation 968 m. This is the average of three very similar readings with my Garmin GPSmap 62S. I was inside the refuge, but had a full GPS signal. The location you quote, NJ 01651 05358, is about 70 m away.

El Alamein – I am here NJ 015 053

Door back on (still dodgy) and bolt works from outside. Preping Al sheet for roof. Need a good dry stone man up here.

 

JimF

 

 

Update 23 Jan 2016 – Heavy – Thanks for your interesting post. Four of us visited the refuge on Saturday  23 January 2016. It was a fine day, although very windy indeed on the way up from the ski car park, it was less windy by the refuge. The condition of the refuge appear similar to the photo you show. My location for the refuge is NJ 01579 05394, elevation 968 m. This is the average of three very similar readings with my Garmin GPSmap 62S. I was inside the refuge, but had a full GPS signal. The location you quote, NJ 01651 05358, is about 70 m away.

El Alamein bothy in the Cairngorms location was accidental – intended to be sighted at the plateau’s edge just above the gently sloping grassy Coire na Spreidhe (Coire of the Cattle), a mistake in the map reference saw it constructed some distance beneath this coire, on the steep and boulder-strewn slopes of Strath Nethy. This is a lovely part of the Cairngorms with great views of Strath Nethy and Loch Avon. It is a place to sit and enjoy the views and peace away from the industrial Ski area.  It is amazing what wild life you see so close to this busy area but in summer and early winter it is usually peaceful and enjoyable.

The weather clears and there it is.

The weather clears and there it is.

In November 1972, there was the so-called Cairngorm Tragedy when six children and an adult in a school party perished in the winter weather. The subsequent Fatal Accident Inquiry concluded that the existence of Curran Bothy caused the school party to head for it to spend the night, and hence if it had not been there they would not have headed for it and not gone on and perished. There are other arguments against bothies on the highly vulnerable plateau.

The plateau bothies, the Curran Bothy and the St Valery were demolished and the El Alamein left to its own devices. Jean’s Hut and the Sinclair Hut have gone, for various reasons. The Fords of Avon bothy on land owned by the RSPB has recently been rebuilt, but not for overnight accommodation. Basically it is an emergency shelter for those marooned while crossing the Lairig and Loaigh. It had been credited with saving several lives over the years. Whatever your views these places were and are part of the history of this place and make a good navigation exercise locating where they were and how they effected this wild area, This is from Ray Sefton the guru of the Cairngorms – However, I have to make a minor correction to the history of the bothies. They were not built by the 51st Highland Division, but in memory of the Division. They were built by the Artificer Apprentices from HMS Caledonia, Rosyth, led by CSM Jim Curran of the Royal Marines. Jim married a local girl and lived in Aviemore for many years. The metal work for the El Alamein, Curran, St Valery and Fords of Avon were made in the workshops at Rosyth and carried to the sites as part of adventure training exercises and the walls were then built. I think the reason the El Alemain survived is that it was located in Inverness-shire, whereas the others were in Moray or Banffshire. Thanks Ray Sefton!

Incredible light as the weather changes.

Incredible light as the weather changes.

It was hard work in the deep snow but the navigation was spot on and it is hard to see the bothy until you are right on it. It is in a poor state of repair but what a position and the views were magic, the light, the sun, the snow made this a wonderful place to be.  We had lunch and drunk it all in.

There!

There!

It was then a wander back above the cliffs and looking at the climbs then the weather came in again it got wild and the navigation went well. It went from sunshine to white out and big winds and snow in a few minutes. Head down,getting battered into the wind and then you are in the world of white and wind. Winter is back

Changing Light

Changing Light

The gust got a bit blowy about 30/40 knots and uncomfortable walking but it was a short walk back and soon we put the compass away and were on familiar ground. It was getting dark and snow was falling again and we were soon down at the car park only 3 cars and the reindeer were there. It was a quick change and then off home in the dark, the roads were fine but I was tired and the face a bit blasted. We had only been out for 5 hours but it was a grand winter wander, lots learned and navigation skills updated and there was no one about. It will soon be busy on the hills as the snow brings everyone out and the forecast is good for the weekend. I dropped of my companion and had a cup of tea and then home tired and a bit sore but a lovely day with good company.

Sunshine over the Gorms.

Sunshine over the Gorms.

Today’s tip:Always look at the weather forecasts  there are many sites I use.

MOUNTAIN WEATHER INFORMATION SERVICE – MWIS

WELCOME TO THE MOUNTAIN WEATHER INFORMATION SERVICE

MWIS currently produce forecasts for 8 different mountain areas of the UK as an aid to mountain safety.

Forecasts are produced manually using information from a range of forecast models and forecasters knowledge of mountain weather. New forecasts, for the next three days are produced by 4:30pm daily, normally earlier in the winter, and amended as necessary.

The production of the Scottish forecasts is fully funded by the Scottish Government through sportscotland with the support of The Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

OBSERVATIONS FROM MOUNTAIN SUMMITS

Friday 11th December 07:00 BST
Cairngorm (1245m) -4.7C SW     45 gusts 68mph
Aonach Mor (1130m) -3.6C SW     30 gusts 52mph
Cairnwell (933m) -3.3C SW     22mph
Great Dun Fell (N. Pennines) (847m) -2.4 WSW 37 gusts 50mph
Bealach na ba (Wester Ross) (773m) -1.4C SSW   35 gusts 45mph

and the Avalanche Service which starts on the 17 December. There is a lot of snow blowing into the gullies and lee slopes a lot more than you may think.  Take care and enjoy the winter.

Another good sourse of information the Cairngorm Summit recording station.

Another good source of information the Cairngorm Summit recording station.

http://cairngormweather.eps.hw.ac.uk/

 

About heavywhalley.MBE

Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist
This entry was posted in Avalanche info, Bothies, Enviroment, Equipment, Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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