Friday, 4 January 2013

Strong Winds, Big Thaw, First Hill



 
Descending to Ryvoan Pass

The start of the New Year has been marked by exceptionally warm weather, leading to a big thaw of lying snow, with strong westerly winds sweeping the hills. The 3rd was the first day I had the opportunity to mark the dawning of 2013 with a hill walk. Unable to start until late in the morning I decided on an old favourite, Meall a’Bhuachaille above Glenmore in the Northern Cairngorms, as this hill can be traversed in half a day. The forecast was for very strong winds too – with the wonderful prediction of a lull in the afternoon when the wind would drop to 35mph – so a lower hill (Meall a’Bhuachaille is 810 metres) looked like being more enjoyable than a windblown stagger across the 1000+ metre giants.

Into the Forest

Down in Glenmore Forest there was no wind and a bright sun was warming the air. The sky above was bright blue. It could have been May rather than January. I followed the always tempting path into the woods. I just love trails leading into the wilds. Even ones I know well seem to offer hidden wonders. The forest was quiet and lit by shafts of low sunlight. Even in the shade it was warm and I soon had my sleeves rolled up.

Early January?

Leaving the trees I looked back over the forest to the distant snow-streaked ridge of Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoith. The sky to the west was cloudy and the cloud was spreading eastwards. Turning back to Meall a’Bhuachaille the sky was still mostly clear and a wonderful deep blue. It really was hard to remember it was early January. Only as I approached the summit did I climb into the wind, gusting hard and chilling my sweat-dampened clothing and skin. On the summit I recorded a blast of 36mph and a steady speed of around 30mph, just enough to make walking a little difficult. I was glad to be no higher. The temperature was +4ºC. Other walkers were sheltering behind the big summit cairn and looking out over the spreading greenness of Abernethy Forest.

View across the Forest to Sgor Gaoith

The wind was bringing the cloud and the sun was fading as I set off down the path into Ryvoan Pass. In front of me rose snow-spattered Bynack More. Just a few days ago this 1090 metre peak had been completely white. Then towards the end of the walk I looked across the trees to the long northern ridge of Cairn Gorm and was surprised at just how little snow was left. Winter conditions were retreating fast. But it’s early in the season and the snow will return before the spring arrives. 

Cairn Gorm

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