OTHER SIDE OF THE CAIRNGORMS
WINTER IS BACK
GLOOMY IN THE NORTHERN CORRIES
|Difficult walking at 600m|
|One of the calmer moments|
|battling against the gales|
|Into the calm of the trees|
We've enjoyed 7 days of fine wintry conditions with some beautiful sunshine this last week in the Highlands. All that came to an abrupt end today. A sharp rise in temperatures has the Atlantic weather front brought warm air to our shores. Along with the mild temperatures came the gales. With a forecast of 70+mph winds on the high tops we decided to stay at lower altitudes this morning .
Euan was out on his second day of his 2 day winter course. Navigation was the order of the day. The most important hill skill, summer and winter. We worked on the ground above Lochan na Binne. The hills here are featureless and pathless so perfect for map reading skills. Even at 600m we were being hit with 60-70mph constant winds. Coping with walking in a straight line in these conditions is bad enough. Having to read a map and take compass bearings add to the fun! A massive rainbow seemed to be with us for most of the day, beautiful. In the afternoon we decided to do some navigation and orientation lower down in the Rothiemurchus forest. A wonderful respite from the gales. Some under-used trails make for good navigation on our route back up to the Ciste carpark.
A top two days out and a huge contrast in weather for Euan. Colder conditions by the end of next week. Winter will be back soon.
SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW
FIRST WINTER COURSE THIS SEASON
FIACAILL COIRE AN T- SNEACHDA
|Five Sisters ridge, Kintail|
Winter has definitely arrived in The Highlands. The last few days have been constantly below freezing on the Munros, the North West and Cairngorms seeing the best cover of snow. I've had three excellent days out starting on Sunday with Karen who ticked off another two new Munro summits in the Creag Meagaidh area, Carn Liath and Stob Poite Coire Ardair.
|Coire Ardair from the summit of Stob Poite Coire Ardair|
|The ridge from Carn Liath|
Sunday was a glorious day to be out. Clear skies were to be found the further west you headed. You didn't need to travel too far from Aviemore to find the best of the weather. So we chose the two summits of Carn Liath and Stob Poite Coire Ardair which are the two outlying Munros off the Creag Meagaidh plateau. These hills give super views into Coire Ardair, the main feature in this area.
|Good snow cover|
|Dusk on the tops|
We mad a late descent off Stob Poite Stob Coire Ardair. We reached the top at 2.45pm only to realise one of us had dropped their mobile phone somewhere! Guess who! So we retraced our steps, 4 times! Eventually after the third ascent to the top we found it! All good and of course we had a fabulous sunset on our route off to 'The Window'. It was torches out on the descent down into the coire. An excellent covering of snow amongst the boulders which was well trodden so much easier walking than in the summer months. A beautiful star studded evening and a beautiful moon rising at the car park.
The North West Highlands has been the best place in the UK if you like your mountains to be snow covered and sun kissed over the last few days. So on Monday I headed up to Kintail to get some of it! The area boasts some of the finest ridge walks in the country and spoilt for choice. I arrived late morning at Shiel Bridge under beautiful blue skies and sunshine. With the shorter days it had to be just a quick romp up to one of the peaks. I chose Sgurr nan Saighead, the most westerly of the Five Sisters of Kintail ridge. A fine viewpoint from it's summit looking out west.
|Looking out to the peaks of Knoydart|
|Sgurr Fhuaran, Ciste Dubh & Glen Shiel|
The snowline was around 600m but of course the snow is unconsolidated and hard going once you come off any trodden trails. There has been no melt/freeze cycles taking place since the falls of snow so its quite powder-like at the moment. Over toward Knoydart it looked very wintry with even more snow. I stood on the top for over 30 minutes photographing the sun setting and the light changing. A magical time of day, chilly too.
|The distant summits in Glen Affric|
|The Saddle, Knoydart and Skye|
|Aonach Meadhoin & Dgur an Fhurail|
Tuesday dawned fine and cold again. Today's jaunt was on Sgur an Fhuarail & Aonach Meadhoin, two Munros above the Cluanie Inn. It is not a big day and a good winter choice when the days are shorter. Another wonderful ridge walk. It was slightly milder by late morning with lighter winds and the approaching Atlantic weather front. Very fine views in the morning. The cloud rolled in from the west during the day.
|South Cluanie Ridge|
|A' Chralaig & Mullach Fraoch-choire|
For two days I saw no one on these hills. Brilliant. Some fine mountains and always a pleasure to walk in this area. It felt like it could be any month in winter with the unusually cold conditions plus good snow cover. It's still only October. Will this be another cracking winter? Probably, maybe. Watch and see!
|Winter ridges, love 'em|
|A' Chralaig and Loch Cluanie|
A FEW DAYS OF REAL WINTER CONDITIONS
|First of the season's Fiacaill travers|
|Rime and soft snow|
|Awkward for crampons?|
|In cloud all day|
|Snow in depth in places|
Last month we received a few odd days of snow high up but today saw the first proper 'winter's day'. Overnight the cold front had swept across much of the Highlands on a Northerly wind. North winds, of course are much colder and any precipitation will fall in the form of snow. This morning the snow was down to around 600m. So was the cloud base! Not much in the way of views all day. But what great fun and excitement as always for the first real taste of the winter season to come. I had my first traverse of a winter Fiacaill Coire Sneachda this afternoon. The first of many to come, no doubt. Rime, soft snow and some frozen turf along the ridge. It was well sheltered for much of the way from the chilly winds. There was a strong 40mph blowing across the Cairngorm plateau and visibility was poor. Only other souls I saw today was a gentleman from China at 850m walking behind me into Coire an t-Sneachda. He wasn't quite dressed for the wintry weather and his mapping consisted of a photograph he had taken of the ski piste map in the Cairngorm car park! Thankfully he turned back after I gave some valuable and completely free advice. The other person I met was a Cairngorm Mountain Rescue guy who was out on Cairn Gorm checking out the wonderful wintry conditions. It was great to have a chat with him on the way back through the ski area.
Of course it is still October and there will be a rise in temperature next week, probably. Good to get the ground cold in preparation for a good base when we do get the winter season arriving for real. Until then enjoy this weekend has it's due to be cold for quite a few days, until mid week at least. Looks like plenty of sunshine about and lighter winds on Sunday. Welcome back winter!
AND SO WINTER BEGINS
NO CAPERCAILLE BUT A LOVELY RED SQUIRREL
CLOUDSCAPES IN THE CAIRNGORMS
REDWING & FIELDFARES, AUTUMN COLOURS & CALENDARS
CHANGING LIGHT & GOLDEN EAGLES ON BEN MACDUI