|The best views of An Teallach today|
That beautiful image of An Teallach's Sgor Fiona & Corrag Buidhe seen from Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill is one of the finest panoramas in the Scottish mountains. The best time of day is dawn, like most landscape photography. Raphael was keen to come out with me to hopefully capture this stunning image. Raphael came on a 1 day winter course last year and was keen to combine another winter guided day with some landscape photography.
|The snowy drive over to Dundonnell |
I met up with Raphael on Wednesday afternoon in Ullapool. He lives in North Uist so a long journey over. We had already shelved this da way back at the beginning of February. One of those many named storms put pay to any day of photography back then. Rescheduled to end of February and I was free for 3 days so we had a choice for the best possible weather day.
|Snow to sea level|
We looked at weather sites all the way up to the final evening before setting off. Unfortunately the reasonable forecast for Thursday had changed somewhat. With the NW airflow the North West Highlands were in for the snowiest, least clear sky conditions. There was just a small period of 1 in 3 chance of some brightness by late morning. We decided to give it a try and set off for Dundonnell to camp overnight on Wednesday. There was fresh snowfall down to around 100m and by the time we arrived at Little Loch Broom it had lowered to sea level.
|Shin to knee deep fresh snow|
After a breezy and snowy night under canvas we set off early morning. If it was to be any chance of a good sunrise then our plan was for an Alpine 3am start. As it was unlikely we set off at a more normal 8am. From the word go it was hard work trail breaking in soft snow. Some big drifts above 200m making progress very slow and tiring. On top of this we had limited views and constant snow showers throughout the morning, some of these were bouts of graupal.
|The North side of Ghlas Meall Mor looking icy|
It took us double normal time to wade up to around 850m beside the Allt a' Mhuillin. We made a decision to bin the day. Probably the deciding factor was whiteout conditions at this point and a strong wind. An Teallach would have to wait another day.
We turned tail and headed back to Dundonnell. Of course we just reached the road when some sunshine came through a break in the cloud. Were we cheated? Driving back over the Destitution road we saw we were not! The grand view of An Teallach from the high point of the Braemore to Gairloch road was absent. We sighed a relief. Nothing worse than conditions improving after binning a day.
|Our scenic highpoint|
|The Destitution road and An Teallach |
|The Western Fannaichs|
An Teallach will always be there, as they say. With these snowy, cold conditions continuing well into March then we still have plenty of opportunity for a winter sunrise. Watch this space.
AN TEALLACH PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP
SNOWSHOEING ON BEN MACDUI
CALM, ICY AND BUSY
CAIRN GORM, THE FINEST WAY
SOME FABULOUS WINTER CONDITIONS
DEEP SNOW, WHITE OUT & NAVIGATION
GREAT SNOW COVER, LESS WINDS
DENNIS THE MENACE & SNOW
DENNIS THE MENACE
WINDY, BUT BEARABLE
LOVELY WINTER DAY
CALEDONIAN PINE FOREST AND SUNSHINE
Day Walks in the Cairngorms 20 circular routes in the Scottish Highlands
by Helen & Paul WebsterVertebrate PublishingCurrent Retail Price: £14.95
This pocket-sized guidebook is the latest offering from authors Helen & Paul Webster, most widely known for their popular and informative Walkhighlands website. This handy-sized guidebook covers 20 circular routes in the Cairngorms National Park. This is a fresh approach to the local walks in my area, many of which I walk and guide on a regular basis.It can’t have been an easy task to select twenty from the huge number of fabulous walks in this area. However, the Websters have managed to choose a mixture of well-known and less well-known trails that range from low level, short walks (around 6km) to full-day high-level mountain hikes that involve Munro summits. There is a walk that will suit everyone’s individual taste, fitness level and navigation skills. Not forgetting to take into account that day’s weather forecast, of course!The routes are described using Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale maps which are clear and easy to follow. Having said that, I would hope that most experienced hill-walkers would carry a map and compass as well. There is an amazing amount of information packed into this small guidebook including stats on distance, timings, height gains and descents. There is also information on those all-important refreshment stops, cafes, accommodation and outdoor shops. It has never been more important for guidebooks to describe the local wildlife, conservation issues, geology and history, and the Websters have done this expertly. Paul & Helen are keen photographers, so it is no surprise that this thoroughly well-researched portable guidebook to Cairngorm National Park walks is punctuated with beautiful photographs of this unique and fascinating landscape.
BOOK REVIEW - DAY WALKS IN THE CAIRNGORMS
LOW LEVEL SNOW, LOTS OF IT
|Braeriach plateau from Ben Macdui on Thursday|
Catching up on my blog from the last few days. A grand spell of fine, settled weather with some welcome sunshine. It's always a joy to get an high pressure system over The Highlands in winter. We've not had that many this season!
THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY
The best day of the week. Light winds, wall to wall sun and temperatures above freezing on the high Cairngorm summits. Despite the 'warmer' temperatures there was still icy conditions on the lower paths aswell as high up on The Cairngorm plateau, all day long. Even in Februray the sun still needs time to make a big impact on melting.
|The Reindeer enjoying some sunshine|
I took a wander over to Ben Macdui via Coire an Lochain. There seemed to be a few fairwether wildlife photographers heading out, presumerbly to photograph the ptarmigan. There was a beautiful wee temperature inversion in the morning, this soon melted away to leave blue skies. Paths were icy at lower elevations and from about 800m there is now good snow cover.
|Improved snow cover|
Up on the plateau there is excellent snow cover, surprisingly. The Cairngorm plateau has been bare of snow for a big chunk of the season. I would say you can even get a ski tour in, if you take your old skis :) .
|The Lairig Ghru from the Cairngorm-Ben Macdui plateau|
|Bod an Deamhain and a distant Beinn a' Ghlo|
I headed away from the crowds and over to that finest of views in the entire Cairngorms, The Loch A'an Basin. It's a fine, easy stroll following the Feithe Buidhe which gently trickles across the high plateau before suddenly plunging down into the basin. 'Easy' in good weather and snow conditions of course. The burn is almost buried in snow but water is still running underneath the snow pack. I always arrive here around mid day, it's a great spot for lunch.
|Loch A'an with the slabs buried under snow|
Now I have wandered around the Cairngorms for may a year and have seen some amazing wildlife. Ptarmigan, Dotterel and Snow Bunting of course. I've seen some beautiful and amazing wildlife. On two separate occasions I have spotted the very rare Purple Sanpiper in summer (there are only 1 or 2 breeding pairs in the mountains) the second time she was with her newly fledged chick. But never have I seen the elusive, rare, almost mythical Snowy Owl. Of course this Arctic Owl doesn't belong here in the UK but apparently there is one on the Cairngorm plateau and some lucky folk have had the privilage to spot it. So with this in mind I wandered around into some obscure locations between the Feithe Buidhe and Ben Macdui. The answer is no, I never saw it! There's always another time.
|The NW slopes of Ben Macdui's North top, no Snowy Owl|
By the time I reached the summit of Ben Macdui it was deserted. Everyone had headed down so I lingered a while and had a notion to spend the night out, just bivvying, on the top. But that idea soon vanished with the thought of spending about 13 hours in my bivvy bag with nothing to read.
|Ben Macdui's summit|
|Rime iced rocks and The Lairig Ghru|
|Cairn Toul - Braeriach plateau|
The best view is not from the trig point on Macdui. Get the map out and walk a few minutes to see one of the finest sights in The Cairngorms (after Loch A'an of course).
|Nice light and clouds|
Heading back across the plateau towards dusk was just beautiful. The full moon was up as the sun was setting. It was magical walking across crisp, icy snow with nightfall approaching. There were a couple of folk in Coire Domhain snow holing. Would have been a great night for it. There was an Aurora Amber alert for the Northern Lights. Anyone know if they were visible?
I didn't require a head torch on the way down, the moon was so bright.
|Coire Domhain at dusk|
|A bright, full moon over Cairn Gorm|
FRIDAY 7 FEBRUARY
|Ptarmigan in croaking mode|
Another beautiful clear skies morning across The Cairngorms. The winds were up thus morning. 50, gusting 60mph towards the end of the day. It was hard going walking into the strong blast. Temperatures had dropped with freezing levels around 1000m. A day for the coire and checking out the ptarmigan.
|More cloud out to the NW|
|Less windy here|
Once into the coire there was some respite from the winds. Now we have reasonable snow cover the ptarmigan are a bit more camouflaged. With these higher winds they will usually come into sheltered areas. It's nice to now see the numbers are up again. I stayed with a group of around 10 birds today. They were quite happy feeding from some heathery places poking out from the snow. They must know we have a big dump of snow heading our way over the next few days. I was down lying in the snow for over an hour with this wee group. One reason you should always have plenty of warm, waterproof clothing for winter wildlife photography.
|In the sun|
SATURDAY 8 FEBRUARY
Storm Ciara on it's way, not quite arrived yet. It was extremely windy in the high Cairngorms though with winds of 60mph+. So we settled for a low level, relaxing walk with some wonderful wildlife along the way. Just an hours easy walking from the middle of Aviemore and you get to see some beautiful countryside. A stroll along the Speyside Way then off track and down to a lovely unnamed loch, one of those 'hidden gems' that seem to be the latest buzz words.
|Great birdlife habitat|
|Long Tailed Tit (hiding)|
During our meander by the lochside we spotted Whooper Swan, Long Tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Goldeneye. Back home before the clouds rolled in.
The next few days should get lots of snow into the mountains. Gales and heavy snowfall forecasted from today and all next week. Looks like we will get a bumper snow cover. Finally!
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM