Thursday, 4 August 2011
Sunshine, Clouds & Midges
Compared with the Western Highlands and islands like Skye the Cairngorms have a reputation for less fearsome midges. Now I’ve always felt this was exaggerated. Yesterday I found it to be completely untrue as I was engulfed in clouds of ravenous beasties within seconds of stopping to take water from a burn. I’d set out earlier for an ascent of Bynack More, the easternmost of the 1,000 metre summits of the Northern Cairngorms.
I left late as the forecast suggested the low damp mist of morning would clear to give a fine afternoon and evening. And so it proved. The long walk-in from Glenmore round the eastern edge of the hills was in some of the hottest weather of the summer so far with a blazing sun and a sharp blue sky. Yet to the north and east it was hazy and towering clouds suggestive of thunder heads drifted by.
Sweating heavily in the still air I climbed the final rocky north ridge to the jumble of boulders at the summit. A westerly breeze cooled me down as it dried the sweat on my t-shirt. South and west the mountains shone in the sun. Turning the other direction and the sky was grey and the hills indistinct. A giant cauliflower cloud was building just east of the top. This not being the place to be caught in a thunderstorm I didn’t linger but was soon cutting across the stony slopes to the lower top of Bynack Beg, whose north-east ridge I took down into Strath Nethy, a rough descent on sketchy gravel paths and through deep heather.
I was under cloud cover now and the air was hot, humid and heavy. It was during this descent that, having emptied my water bottles, I stopped for a refill and the midges found me. Using my sun hat as a whisk to repel the hordes I was very quickly on my way. Down in the glen I forded the shallow River Nethy and crossed the ridge above before descending into the lovely natural forest above the Ryvoan Pass path. This is an interesting and unfrequented route, with only traces of paths and much rough terrain that slows progress. On this occasion I rarely stopped to look around, let along take photographs, as the second I did the midges poured over me. Indeed, on the ascent out of Strath Nethy I could barely move fast enough to stay head of them. It was with relief that I reached my car and was just left with the problem of how to get in it without bringing in too many midges.
Pictures: from the top - the summit of Bynack More; clouds building up over the shoulder of Meall a'Bhuachaille above Ryvoan Pass; Bynack More and Bynack Beg; Strath Nethy with Bynack More top left.