Sunday, 6 September 2009

Mountaineering Council of Scotland Gathering & The Northern Corries

The weekend just gone saw the annual Mountaineering Council of Scotland AGM and Gathering at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms. As President I attended five meetings at which much business was done involving resolutions and motions and other unexciting sounding but essential stuff. There was some voting and an election too. The result is that we have a new streamlined and more flexible structure that should prove more efficient and simpler to run than the old one. In between the meetings I went to an excellent presentation by Geoff Monks of the Mountain Weather Information service, who answered a series of questions with detailed explanations (but not too technical for none meteorologists) that showed just how difficult it is to predict mountain weather when one glen can be dry and the one just a few miles away wet due to the complex nature of the interaction of terrain and air movement. After the AGM leading Scottish climber Dave Macleod gave a very interesting talk about his motivations for climbing and his latest project, a 500 metre route on the sea cliffs of Hoy in Orkney. This climb is still to be completed and Dave is reporting on it on his blog. The scenery looks spectacular, the climbing terrifying and the whole venture exciting and committing. Just descending to the base down wet, slimy and slippery looking rocks and vegetation looks hazardous enough. And then there are the fulmars on the cliffs vomiting up fish oil at you, just to add another element of wild nature.

Sunday morning saw more meetings while outside the clouds were low over the hills and drizzle filled the air. Once the business was over I wanted to go up into the hills to shake my head free of paperwork and organisational details and to remind myself just why the indoor stuff is necessary. The forecast was for a clearance in the afternoon, though with winds strengthening later. Watching and waiting for this to occur I had an early lunch/late breakfast (fried egg roll and coffee) in the Glenmore Café, from where I could watch the red squirrels and birds on the network of feeders and ropes just outside and look up at the grey clouds sweeping over Cairn Gorm. Inevitably other MCoS members drifted in and discussion of the AGM and the future continued.

Then, as the drizzle died away, the clouds rose above the summits and the sky showed bits of blue and touches of sun I headed across the mouths of Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain. The burns running out of these great rock-backed bowls were white water torrents, foaming and splashing down the rocks, heavy with the recent rains. A rough path led up the side of Coire an Lochain and onto its parent peak Cairn Lochan. A strong and cold south-west wind swept over the stony expanse of the broad summit. All the hills to the west and the south were still thick with cloud. Only those to the east were clear and beyond them the sky lightened and shone. I guess it was a lovely sunny day on the coast. The wind and the cloud turned me away from my idea of heading for Ben Macdui and I turned east, along the tops of the corries, gazing down gullies to the little blue lochans far below. That these were full showed the wetness of the summer. Often at this time of year they are shrunken and diminished. Rock climbers were edging up the top of an arête on Stob Coire an t-Sneachda. A scattering of walkers, most clad in hats, gloves and waterproof jackets, dotted the slopes. The sun strengthened again and with the promise of late good light I ambled up Cairn Gorm but by the time I reached the summit the clouds had regained dominance and all was dull and flat. So I ambled back down again and descended the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais. These familiar hills, visited many times every year, had worked their magic again, as they always do. It is to protect them, to ensure they are there in the future for others to enjoy as well as for us now that the meetings and papers and discussions are needed.

Photo info: Looking down into Coire an Lochain from Cairn Lochan. Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55 IS@29mm, 1/250 @ f5.6, ISO 400, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.4.

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