Saturday 14 April 2012

April Showers, April Snow

On the descent from Meall a'Bhuachaille

After the heat wave of March, the winter of April. Snow on the hills, frost in the glens, a chill in the air. This is how winter should be. The weather has turned and spring is on hold.

View down Ryvoan Pass to the Northern Cairngorms

Having a few hours to spare in Aviemore before a meeting I decided on a taste of the changed weather with an ascent of Meall a’Bhuachaille above Glenmore, a favourite walk that combines many of the features that make the Cairngorms so wonderful – ancient pine woods, a lovely lochan, a fine summit and a great sense of space – yet can be easily done in half a day. The frosty morning threatened fine weather with clear skies and touches of sunshine over Glenmore Forest, though the high tops of the Cairngorms were cloud-capped, just the ragged white edges protruding below the greyness showing the snow that had fallen overnight. As I admired the regenerating forest spreading up the slopes either side of An Lochan Uaine I knew that the forecast was for heavy wintry showers. The Green Lochan itself lived up to its name, glowing a rich green with the reflection of the pines on its shores. At one end a new construction – a wooden viewing platform on a steep slope with a pseudo-rustic bench and rail – was a jarring reminder of some people’s inability to leave nature alone. Why ever was this completely unnecessary edifice constructed here? I guess when the bright new wood weathers it will be less brash and obtrusive but that’s no justification.

An Lochan Uaine

Beyond the lochan the trees started to thin out and I could feel the chill edge of the north-east wind. By the time I was on the climb up Meall a’Bhuachaille the first slashes of sleet were whipping across my face. Soon the sleet turned to snow, great wet flakes driven sideways on the wind. Visibility shrank as I entered the cloud and I felt as though I was inside the storm. The summit cairn and stone windbreak was rapidly disappearing under the settling snow. I lingered briefly, wondering if this was a squall that would soon pass, but soon decided the dense cloud and icy blast was here to stay and skittered off down the slippery stones of the descent path. Below two hazy walkers were also making their way down. Beyond them a shining patch of lighter air was all that was visible of Loch Morlich.

The summit of Meall a'Bhuachaille

Back down at the forest’s edge it was still snowing, though I was out of the cloud. Glad of the shelter of the trees I walked back down to the glen floor, the snow soon changing to rain. Later in the afternoon a quick clearance showed the hills shining white with new snow, as wintry as they’ve looked all year. 


  1. your right about that wooden structure, i think its part of the "touristification" of the hills.
    when i was there in the school holidays, it was swarming with kids.
    i know its good to get people out in the hills, but having them all swarming around outdoor honeypots is not good at all.
    i think the main problem is massive overpopulation. not just in the uk, but on a global scale.
    the lochan looks amazing from the flanks of the hills thou!!.

  2. I think I'll second one of those opinions.

  3. Not content with the industrialisation of our wild land, we now have the 'urbanisation' of what's left in the form of unnecessary signposting, the viewing platform you mention, seats in innapropriate places and so on.

    The last time I was at An Lochan Uaine two cars were parked with the occupants listening to loud music. We hurried on.

  4. An Lochan Uaine is still a lovely spot. It's only a short walk from a public road of course and so bound to be popular. You can't drive there without having a key to the locked gate so those people listening to loud music in their car must have had permission - probably Forestry Commission or RSPB people. They shouldn't have had music on!

  5. The gate was open and these were young people. One of the girls who got out of a car must have been in her teens. Perhaps they just took advantage of the gate being open and I like to think that it was locked when they tried to get out!

    As you say, An Lochan Uaine is still a gem.

    Thanks for an interesting blog Chris.