|The classic view of An Teallach|
We've had some fantastic snow and weather conditions over the last few days here in The Highlands. Another blast of cold and snowy conditions to transform the mountains, then some wonderful clear skies.
Just catching up on my blog after four magic days in the hiils. At the weekend it was the fabulous NW Highlands. Monday and Tuesday, The Cairngorms.
SATURDAY 17 MARCH
The 'Beast from the East' made a return visit to our shores at the weekend. Heavy snowfall and high winds due to hit The Cairngorms. With this in mind Karen and I headed away to the NW Highlands for a couple of days. This area was to be the finest weather on Saturday and Sunday. Sunshine and dry conditions almost guaranteed. Just by chance some of the finest mountains are up that way. We had two nights in Dundonnell, base camp for An Teallach, the finest mountain on the planet!
|Windy at sea level!|
There was a stiff wind blowing down at Dundonnell when we started up the hill. We trusted the forecast and made a leisurely start and a stroll up the trail. Afternoon wind speeds were to be much lower on the tops.
One of the easiest routes on An Teallach leaves direct from the village of Dundonnell on an easy angled path, up beside the Allt a' Mhuillin. It is usually boggy and wet in places. With the sub zero overnight temperatures all the bog was frozen solid. From about 700m onwards we were walking on fabulous frozen snow in the stream bed. Over a metre of snow in here.
|The Allt a ' Mhuillin|
|Ice falls on Glas Mheall Mor|
Some wonderful looking ice on the NW aspect of Glas Mheall Mor. These are less than an hour from the road. If this was Glencoe or The Cairngorms climbers would be queueing up for these! We saw no one all morning on the trail. We reached the bealach below the north ridge of Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill expecting to be hit by a savage wind. It was almost calm! The views from here suddenly get spectacular. The western seaboard under blue skies looked beautiful. From the bealach to the top of Bidean a' Ghals Thuill (one of two Munros on An Teallach) it is just 30 minutes. Easy slopes in summer along the narrowing ridge line. Under a winter mantle it feels more serious. There was a full cover of snow today, axe and crampons for sure.
|The final slopes to Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill|
|The 'Dearg's' & The Fannichs from the summit|
|Sgurr Fiona and the Corrag Bhuidhe|
From the Munro summit of Bidean you get one of the classic views of An Teallach. Ice filled gullies plunge down from the pinnacled ridge line to the wonderful Toll an Lochain. This is a view to savour. There was some cloud around but within 30 minutes of taking photographs the cloud was blown away to leave bright sun and some beautiful late afternoon blue skies. Hardly any wind by on the top.
|Lovely light on the descent|
Just one summit of An Teallach today. We will be back, for sure!
SUNDAY 18 MARCH
Another beautiful day in store. We had an easier day today but equally spectacular. An Teallach again, not the tops but a visit to the wonderful, spectacular and seldom visited Toll an Lochain, the main coire of An Teallach. Here lies a lonely lochan and for Karen a chance to swim in a stunning location.
|Loch Toll an Lochain & An Teallach|
|Alpine An Teallach! |
It's approx a two hour walk into this loveliest of corries. The cloud broke up just as we arrived. Perfect timing! The winds had died down and we enjoyed the sunshine amidst a spectacular backdrop. Luckily for Karen there was some open water at the outflow of the lochan so no ice axe required to chip away the ice. What a place to swim! Not for too long in these conditions.
|Swimming in Loch Toll an Lochain|
We saw no one all day. Another beautiful late afternoon. The Fannichs on the way back home looking absolutely stunning. Another day!
MONDAY 19 MARCH
|Alpine conditions Fiacaill an Coire Sneacda |
Back home in Aviemore and 'The Beast' had had it's say. Apparently it was wild and snowy in The Cairngorms with the ski road once again closed due to heavy drifting. High windchill on the tops by all accounts, for those who struggled up. Today it was calm and a blue skies throughout, what a difference. It was an absolutely stonking day to be out on the mountains. Full cover of snow. Eastern aspects were wind scoured with fabulous hard neve. It was quiet and peaceful up on the hills. Many instructors from England & Wales now gone home for the remainder of the winter. As always my winter courses run right through to Easter and beyond....!
It was just magical on the Fiacaill. Th ridge covered in snow and rime plastered rocks. It was an easy romp up.
|What a day!|
|Loch A'an in all it's glory|
|Cairn Gorm & Coire an t-Sneacda|
A stroll up to Cairn Lochan then over to Loch A'an for the afternoon. What a place to linger for a while. Hardly any wind but still cold. Must bring the sunscreen tomorrow!
TUESDAY 20 MARCH
All things come to an end. The final day of cold, dry days and fabulous snow conditions. A big change to come on Wednesday with the dreaded Atlantic lows back on our shores. So today was a day to linger and soak up the views and sunshine once more.
|Cairn Toul - Braeriach plateau from Ben Macdui|
There was a bit more in the way of cloud this morning, but by the time I reached Ben Macdui it was starting to break up and some fantastic views. One of the finest sights in the Cairngorms is the enormous Cairn Toul to Braeriach plateau. From just West of Macdui's summit, the second highest peak in the British Isles, you get stunning vistas of the third, fourth and fifth highest mountains in the british Isles!
|Full snow cover on the plateau|
|Cairn Toul & Sgor an Lochan Uaine|
|Coire an Lochain|
Still chilly on the tops of course. Down in Coire an Lochain it was like a furnace. Sunbathing time and chance for some ptarmigan photography. The air was still and the croaking ptarmigan could be heard from some distance. They are just coming into Spring plumage. Weather forecasts suggesting more cold, wintry weather to come. This winter has a long way to go yet!
|Male ptarmigan, Spring plumage visible|
|Climbers on the Fiacaill in afternoon sun|
|Coire an t-Sneachda & Coire an Lochain in the sun|
AN TEALLACH & THE CAIRNGORMS
BRAERIACH'S NORTHERN CORRIES
|Cairn Lochan above the temperature inversion|
|Temperature inversion, fog bow & Brocken Spectre!|
|The cloud creeping up Coire an Lochain|
|The two folk in the bottom right give the scale|
|The cloud creeping up Coire an t-Sneachda|
|What a sight!|
|Cairn Gorm and a fog bow|
|It's creeping higher!|
|Approaching Cairn Gorm summit, the cloud wins! |
|Would rather have this!|
One of the finest weather phenomena in the mountains has to be a temperature or cloud inversion. If you go into the mountains on a regular basis, you will no doubt encounter one of these sooner or later. If you're really lucky you may even get a Broken Spectre too. If you're very, very lucky you may get a Temperature Inversion, Brocken Spectre
and a Fog Bow
all in one day. There were all three in the Northern Cairngorms today. For any weather forecaster, these must be quite difficult to predict. A period of high pressure, light winds and relatively warm air are the ingredients. Most occur during the Autumn and Winter months. I guess there is an element of luck involved too. There has been warm air during the day and colder nights recently. All good to get the snow pack stable. It was definitely much easier to walk over the last few days and the avalanche risk has reduced in the melt/freeze cycles. Some lovely walking underfoot. All the stream beds are well filled in with snow to lower altitudes in the Northern Corries.
Another leisurely 10.30am start this morning. It was cloudy and clagged in at 630m. It was so warm I was down to base layers on the approach to the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. Above 850m the sun was trying to burst through the thin cloud cover. Was it going to be clear skies soon? The anticipation on days like this is fantastic. How could you not get excited, even if I have been up the Fiacaill Ridge more times than I care to count! At an altitude of 1000m it was gloriously hot and there were clear skies. What a sight! 'Below us only cloud', as the song goes. There were a few parties on the ridge enjoying the Alpine conditions. Half-way up and a glorious Fog Bow was arcing over the ridge. Down toward Coire an t-Sneachda the Brocken Spectre made its appearance. Magic!
By the time I reached the plateau, the top of the cloud had started rising again. I headed up to the summit of Cairn Lochan. The only mountains poking out of the sea of cloud were Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Ben Macdui, Beinn Mheadhoin and Cairn Gorm. I sat sunbathing in the warm, still air for over half an hour before the cloud finally crept up over all the summits.
I wandered across the plateau and up to Cairn Gorm in the hope that the cloud would sink again, but it never did. Well, mustn't be greedy!
SEA OF DREAMS
WARMER , WINTER WILDLIFE
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE TIMING
STUNNING DAY FOR WILDLIFE
THE RETURN OF THE SUN
WHERE ARE THE CAIRNGORMS?
COLD, WINDY & SUNSHINE AGAIN
WINDY, ICY, SUNNY
|Sgor Gaoithe , afternoon sun|
|Teasing blue skies|
|Charlotte on the navigation again today |
|Poor visibility above 1000m|
|Descending in sunshine|
A change from yesterday's weather, well you can't have two days like that on the trot! It was a tad breezy on the tops with freezing temperatures again and cloud firming with the higher mountains of the Cairngorms. Perfect conditions for a Navigation Day. Charlotte on her fourth and final day of her course this week. Most of the last few days we have been doing lots of navigation. The number 1 'winter skill'. The 'Sgorans' or Glen Feshie hills are brilliant, featureless plateau with many undulating summits in the region of 900-1000m altitude. The snow was solid again and crampons for much of the day. We had poor visibility above 900m. Not much in the way of views today but great day for hoping your map and compass skills. We did lots of paceing and Charlotte was spot on every leg of the navigation. A great 4 days and some fabulous snow conditions. 4 Day courses popular this season.
NAVIGATION DAY, WINDY
WELCOME BACK THE COLD