Sunday 5 December 2010

A Ski Tour in Strathspey

With complete snow cover from my front door to the tops of the nearest hills and the roads icy and slow to drive a local ski tour seemed a good idea rather than heading for the bigger mountains further west. Packing a flask of hot ginger cordial and a down jacket in my daypack and digging out an old pair of waxless skis and my leather touring boots, with the supergaiters that have been on them for over a decade, I set off down through the woods and across the glen to little 484 metre Tom Mor, which lies at the end of a broad and rather indistinct ridge of rounded heathery hills at the north-east edge of the Cairngorms National Park. It’s a nondescript top but does give good views across Strathspey to the higher Cromdale hills and, further west, the Northern Cairngorms. Ironically, the name means big hill. In a straight line Tom Mor is less than three kilometres from my house. With a large boggy meadow, a stream, two minor roads, several fences and a dense plantation in the way that’s not a good route however. My more roundabout way was nearly three times as long but meant I didn’t have to remove my skis to overcome any obstacles. The snow was a mix of deep windblown powder which deadened and slowed the skis and crusty, icy snow over which the skis skimmed fast or else broke through and sank, sometimes knee deep. Higher up the wind had whipped the snow into undulating waves, some soft, some hard. The air was bitingly cold and on the summit a brisk wind had me feeling chilly as soon as I stopped. I was glad of that hot drink and the snug warmth of the down jacket. The weather was mixed with short periods of sunshine and patches of intense blue sky but also sheets of grey clouds and occasional flurries of snow. I didn’t linger long on the summit but was soon swinging down the wide snowfields below the summit, a more direct line than my ascent route. I would like to say I swooped down in graceful turns but the combination of crusty snow and my old gear meant I played safe and descended in a series of long traverses linked by slow, careful turns. Returning up the glen I had the best light of the day as the low sun shone under the clouds, turning the snowfields a delicate shade of pink.

Photo Info: View across Strathspey to Carn a' Ghille Charr in the Cromdale Hills, December 5, 2010. Sony NEX-5, Sony 18-55 lens@55mm, 1/80@f8, ISO 200, raw file processed in Lightroom 3.


  1. Hi Chris,

    What wonderful quality of light we have up here at the moment with the sun so low on the horizon.

    The Cromdales looked stunning from the hill behind my home (Ben Aigan) and your photo captured it very well. I do like the Cromdales, I get my wife to drop me off on the road between Grantown & Bridge of Brown every June so I can walk the length. It is a lovely plateaux walk, I’ve never seen anyone else up there, and in June the bird life is tremendous with all the golden plover, the flora outstanding with all the cotton grass and cloudberry. The views of the Cairngorms are great too. I do love these lightly trodden hills for the peace and quiet.

    Rob fae Craigellachie

  2. Still waiting for a reasonable covering of snow before I can start this year's 'skiing from the front door' that I enjoyed so much last winter. I even managed to ski to the shops for my weekly groceries.