Monday, 15 November 2010
A Real Winter's Day
Dawn came with a hard frost and a clear sky. The evening’s rain had frozen into hard, sharp whiteness on every surface. The ground was rippled with rock solid ice-bound mud. The forecast was good, with light winds and maybe the occasional shower predicted. The mountains shone white in the low early sun. Time, I thought, to go and see how much snow was up there. In the glen a breeze flickered, cold and piercing. Once I was on the mountain, above the trees, the wind was much stronger, sweeping chilling spindrift across the slopes, a hazy mass of moving snow slithers that undulated over the ground like water. Within half an hour of setting out I was labouring through knee-deep drifts and my hands and head were cold. I stopped to clip on snowshoes, don overmitts and pull up my jacket hood. As I climbed the wind strengthened and gusted, sometimes blasting the spindrift head height. The landscape was mobile, flowing with the wind. In lulls distant views were suddenly clear and distinct. Loch Morlich steel blue amongst the dark green of the forest. The white summit cone of Meall a’Bhuachaille a bright white above brown moorland. Then the wind whipped the spindrift up into the air and the views dissolved into indistinct and muddled shapes. Distance became hard to judge and boulders loomed up like huge cliffs. The eastern slopes of Cairn Gorm gave some protection, the full blast of the south-west wind muted by the mountain. Then on the summit all was grey and white as cloud and spindrift mingled and swirled together. The weather station came and went in the shifting mist, a rime ice plastered strangeness. The wind was bitter and powerful and I didn’t linger but continued west down from the summit. The sun was a silver orb, brightening and dimming as the clouds shifted. For brief moments the Northern Corries appeared under a blue sky. Then I was back in the icy air, struggling to stay on my feet and not be blown over the rapidly growing cornice into Coire Cas. Struggling on into the wind seemed both unwise and unpleasant so I dropped down into calmer air and gentler weather. Back down in the glen the sun shone and the pines hardly moved in the breeze. The white mountains looked calm and serene with soft white clouds drifting over the summits. But up there, I knew, it was a real winter’s day.
Photo Info: Top: Cairngorm Weather Station. Bottom: Across the Northern Corries from the western slopes of Cairn Gorm. November 15, 2010. Sony NEX-5, Sony 18-55 lens@52mm & 18mm, 1/4000@f9, ISO 800, raw file processed in Lightroom 3.