Tuesday, 10 February 2009
A Camp In The Snow
With deep snow in the woods and on the hills, the local road still icy and no sign of a thaw I decided to make an overnight trip from home and camp out in these unusual conditions. Skiing through the local woods was still difficult due to the soft snow and fallen trees and branches and after an hour I was barely a mile from home. Reaching a road I was surprised to see it had not been ploughed. Skiing down it I reached a barrier of great blocks of snow. This was as far as the snowplough had managed to reach. Leaving the road I skied out of the trees onto open moorland where the snow was a little firmer and progress a little faster. The hills here, in the north-eastern corner of the Cairngorms National Park, are rolling and rounded and covered with heather. Walking away from tracks is arduous due to the thick vegetation. But with snow burying the heather and on skis travel was surprisingly easy and I was soon on the summit of the highest hill in the area Carn na Loine. At just 549 metres (1801 feet) it’s only a small hill. However with snow stretching out in every direction to distant white summits I could easily have been in the Arctic rather than just a few miles from home. The snow was a foot or more deep on the summit and it took a while to create a firm platform for the tent.
That evening a full moon rose in the sky and the temperature plummeted. The hills glowed palely in the moonlight. Down in the glens and straths I could see the orange lights of villages, isolated farmsteads and the bigger, brighter town of Grantown-on-Spey. From up here it all seemed far away and a different world. Camping on a hilltop in the snow, even such a little hill so close to civilisation, had taken me back into a different home, that of wild country and nature.
Overnight the temperature inside the tent dropped to -8°C. Back home my thermometer recorded -15°C while Strathspey Weather said the low was -19.5°C. I didn’t mind the cold. In fact, I relished it, relished the sharp air and the snow, relished the brief return of this little hill to a wild state. Dawn came with a clear sky and a sun with a hint of warmth. The descent from Carn na Loine was on wonderful snow that I swooped down with delight, amazed to discover such conditions up here. Mountain hares started at my approach and raced away across the snow. Soon I was approaching the trees and a sudden slowing of my progress as I hit the deep soft forest snow. But the sun shining through the snow laden trees and the sparkling of shards of snow in the air shaken off the branches by the breeze made the woods magical and beautiful and I didn’t mind the twisting, turning, stumbling skiing as I made my way back home.
Photo info: Camp on Carn na Loine. Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS@24mm, 1/640@F5.6, ISO 100, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.