After a week of thawing and mildness the weather turned abruptly and a north-west wind brought snow and freezing. A day and night of snow turned the land white. The strength of the storm fading I set out for Glen Feshie and the vast upland expanse of the Moine Mhor – the Great Moss. It being Sunday the minor roads had not been ploughed or gritted and the drive was slow and slippery. Perhaps that was why there were few vehicles in the car park in Glen Feshie. The sign for the Cairngorm ski resort said the car parks there were full. Those roads are ploughed of course, to ensure the skiers and tourists make it to the funicular railway, the ski lifts, the shops and the cafes. There are, thankfully, no commercial facilities where the road ends in Glen Feshie, just the river and the forest, the meadows and the hills.
The track up onto the Moine Mhor was snowy and icy and frozen hard. Across Strathspey the Monadh Liath hills glistened in the patchy sunlight. The air was calm and the sun warm as I climbed out of the trees but soon I felt the north-west wind that was driving the clouds across the sky. Once on the heights I headed for the great rounded hulk called Mullach Clach a’Bhlair (summit of the stone of the plain) that dominates upper Glen Feshie. Crossing the Moine Mhor was awkward as the snow varied from soft, and in places ankle and more deep, to hard and icy and was mixed with areas of scoured crunchy black peat and protruding granite stones. Zigzagging across the slopes, I tried to search out the firmer ground where I could stride out rather than the energy sapping soft snow that slowed me down. All the while the biting wind lashed against me and the clouds rolled and twisted across the sky.
|View across Strathspey to the Monadh Liath|
The summit reached I paused momentarily to take in the view but there is no shelter here, just a small cairn, and I was soon heading down the long Druim nam Bo ridge that led down into Glen Feshie, passing frozen Lochan nam Bo, its surface grey with the slush of snow that had started to melt in the afternoon sun and was now turning to ice. Thick clouds in the west meant sunset was no more than a brief golden flash as the sun passed between two layers. As darkness fell I reached the first trees and turned up the glen in search of a camp site, soon finding one on a gravel bank close to the River Feshie itself. There was no wind down here and the clouds faded away, leaving bright stars. Owls called from the scattered pines as I pitched the tent and there was an air of peace and cold beauty.
|Across the Moine Mhor to Mullach Clach a'Bhlair|
As I dropped off to sleep the temperature was below zero and ice was forming in my water bottles. The cold and calm was not to last. Not long after midnight I was woken by the wind rustling the tent flysheet and a feeling of stuffiness. I was too hot. The temperature was now a few degrees above zero and I needed to open the hood and the top of the zip of my -9°C rated sleeping bag. Cooler again I dozed off only to wake an hour later as the strengthening wind buffeted the tent even more. A continuously disturbed night followed as tiredness and the noisy tent fought each other for dominance. Dawn came with a shower of rain and general sogginess as the snow was melting fast. Packing up I headed back down the glen, my mind more on reaching the car before the light showers turned to heavy rain and on the cafes of Aviemore. The rippling waters of the Feshie were a pleasure to watch as always though and I was delighted at the rampant regenerating Scots Pine that were springing up everywhere. Glen Feshie never fails to delight.