The long cold winter is proving slow to fade away. For several days now snow showers have been falling in the Cairngorms and a bitterly cold wind has been blowing down from the north. Today I walked over the three Munros rising east of the Glenshee Ski Centre and the Cairnwell Burn – Carn an Tuirc, Cairn of Claise and Glas Maol – and for most of the day it could have been February rather than May. Only in brief bursts of sunshine when the wind dropped away did it seem like spring. Then the temperature rose rapidly and my cold weather clothing suddenly seemed ridiculous. Mostly though a succession of squalls blasted across the hills, bringing driving snow and stinging hail. The temperature was below zero and the snow was settling in windblown drifts. All three summits were enveloped in swirling clouds, out of which I occasionally wandered to see a wintry, monochrome landscape. The wind and snow kept me moving, with only brief stops for snacks and photographs. Wildlife was about on the high tops despite the weather. Deer trotted away into hidden corries. Mountain hares raced across the snow, dark now in their summer coats. Ptarmigan were in summer plumage too but their speckled grey feathers make for better camouflage. A flock of eight dotterel skittered across stony slopes then rose and flew away in one smooth sweep, the birds moving almost as one. I met no other walkers and saw no tracks in the new snow. Scoured by the savage wind and the sharp hail I was relieved to drop out of the weather and into the slight shelter of the slopes below the exposed summits. When will this winter end?
Photo info: Fresh snow on Glas Maol, May 11. Canon EOS 450D, Canon 18-55 IS at 18mm, 1/800@f8, ISO 100, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.7.