The cliffs of Cairn Lochan
It’s many, many years since I first reached the Cairngorm Plateau and gazed in wonder at the vast mountain expanse stretching out before me, then by far the biggest I had ever seen. After over 20 years living in the area with a view of the Cairngorms from my windows and trips on the hills most months the Plateau is a familiar friend. The Cairngorms are my home hills. My sense of wonder hasn’t diminished though. I still find them as splendid and overwhelming as ever. The first startled and magical impression faded long ago of course but hints of it are rekindled when I take someone on their first trip to the Plateau. I also now feel a totally unjustified sense of pride at seeing their reaction. These are my hills. I like people to be impressed.
Yesterday was particularly gratifying in this regard when I took Rhodri Lewis of Nordic Life, importers of Brynje clothing from Norway (a brand I remember from the past but haven’t seen in the UK for many years), up on to the Plateau on his first visit to the Cairngorms. Rhodri had come up from the deep south (somewhere in
Southern England, an area
of mystery to me) to show me Byrnje products and have a day out. After an hour or
so looking at clothes and piling them precariously on a table rather too close to
coffee cups and milk jugs in the Mountain Café in Aviemore we drove up to Coire
Cas. The sky was cloudy and a cold wind swept the car park. The forecast though
was for clearing and even some sun during the afternoon, after snow in the
morning. The snow never came and we didn’t see much of the sun. The wind did
continue and the cloud continued to envelop the Plateau. On the ascent the wind
increased in strength and spindrift blasted in our faces. Maybe, I thought, this
would be a short trip. However on reaching the big cairn on the edge of the Plateau
the wind eased a little and the spindrift vanished.
Rhodri Lewis on the Cairngorm Plateau
Not wanting to venture into the heart of the Plateau and follow compass bearings through the cloud, seeing little, we followed the edge of the Northern Corries over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and Cairn Lochan. The cliffs abutting these summits were plastered with hoar frost and rime ice and dotted with the dark figures of winter climbers. The cloud sweeping the Plateau broke and dispersed as it passed the edge of the cliffs so that we often had views of the grand rock scenery below us and out over the dark pine forests of Rothiemurchus and Glenmore and the pale waters of Loch Morlich to the distant snowy Monadh Liath. To the south the cloud hung low and we had no views. Crunching over the thin snow and ice on the stony ground, and occasionally through deeper, wind-sheltered snow drifts, we revelled in the wild landscape and the wild weather, which was just on the edge of challenging without being severe enough to impede our delight in being there. Rhodri was captured by the area and bought a map when we were back down to see where we’d been, emailing me later to say he would be back soon. The Cairngorms had worked their magic again.
As to Brynje, Rhodri was clothed head to toe from the skin out in the stuff – everything except boots in fact - and stayed comfortable and dry in what were fairly difficult weather conditions with high humidity (my beard was full of ice much of the time and dampness was freezing on clothing as well) and temperatures oscillating around zero. I’ll be trying some of the garments soon for test reports in TGO magazine (and probably on the TGO website too).