Saturday, 14 February 2009

The Thaw Begins


The weather forecast suggested that yesterday would be the last fine day for a week or more so I decided to take the skis up onto the Cairngorm Plateau and maybe go over to Ben MacDui. However even as I set out the first clouds were drifting in from the west, a hazy grey web sliding towards the sun. With climbing skins on the skis the ascent was quite easy and quite fast, certainly when compared to the walkers I passed trudging through the knee deep snow. But I wasn’t fast enough to reach Cairn Gorm before cloud covered the summit. With visibility down to a few yards continuing on to Ben MacDui seemed unappealing so instead I skied down the long, gentle north ridge of Cairn Gorm. As I did so a light mix of sleet and drizzle began to fall. The air felt warmer. The snow was changing too. Losing its lightness and softness and becoming thicker and heavier and stickier. The steeper descent off the ridge was slow as I skied down in wide traverses, keeping the speed down as I couldn’t see anything other than the dark smudges of the occasional rock. At times the sky and snow merged. Little streams presented big obstacles. Their banks were piled high with snow, overhanging in curling cornices in places, and it took time and care to find safe ways across without getting my skis or boots wet and having great clumps of snow stick to them.

Today the temperature at home at 1,000 feet reached a balmy +5°C, the first time it’s been much above zero in over a week. The snowpack in the garden is slowly dwindling, though it will be many days before it all melts. The huge bulbous drapes of snow on the trees are crashing down in huge chunks, the branches, released of the weight, springing back up. With mild weather forecast for the next week the thaw seems to have really begun.

Photo info: Walkers climbing Cairn Gorm. Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS@23mm, 1/500@F5.6, ISO 100, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.

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