|The evening before|
‘Red sky at night’. The beautiful deep red and orange sunset over the Cairngorms suggesting the storms of the past week might be fading was backed up by the weather forecast, which said a weak ridge of high pressure would bring fine conditions, though only for a day. A good time, then, to go up into the high Cairngorms for the first trip in many weeks.
|The cold Cairngorm Plateau|
Sure enough the following day dawned cold and clear with a frost. A hazy sun rose above thin high clouds. The mountains were sharp and hard against the pale sky. In Coire Cas a breeze was blowing, as it almost always does, and I set off in windshirt, fleece, hat and gloves. Not long into the climb the wind died and I was soon too hot and stripping off clothing. There was ice on the rocks though and puddles were frozen. It wasn’t warm. Just calm. Reaching the Cairngorm Plateau I stared out over a cold grey-brown rock landscape. There was no snow. For the first time for over a year not even a tiny patch was in view.
The stillness of the air gave an air of waiting, of expectation to the landscape, as if it was pausing, holding its breath before the weather changed again. It is so rarely calm up here. Lochan Buidhe was like a mirror, without a ripple. I’ve never seen it so flat and still. Two ravens croaked loudly as they soared high overhead, the only sounds other than the crunching of my boots on the gravel. In shaded areas the streams were frozen, smears of ice spreading over the rocks.
|On Ben Macdui|
On Ben Macdui I stopped and watched the mountains. The temperature was around freezing. And still there was no wind. Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochan Uaine were dark silhouettes against the bright sky as the hazy sun sank through the clouds towards them. To the north the clouds were lower, brushing the tops of the Monadh Liath.
|Cairn Toul and Lochan Uaine|
I descended below Cairn Lochan, two small snow patches high on its cliffs the only ones I saw all day. Winter is coming though and soon the snow will return. The streams running out of the corries below the Plateau were fast and full, swollen with recent rain. Today it is raining again.
|The last snow|
|Allt Coire an Lochain|