Thursday 25 April 2013

April Squalls on Meall a'Bhuachaille

The Northern Cairngorms from Meall a'Bhuachaille

Spring progresses slowly. At least this year. Yesterday I walked through Ryvoan Pass and over Meall a’Bhuachaille. There was no sign of leaves appearing on the birches, rowans and willows, no buds on the tips of the pine branches, no new green shoots amongst last year’s faded dead grass, no colour in the brown heather. I did though find the first frogspawn of the year; a thick, gelatinous mass in a shallow ditch.

The first frogspawn
The waters of An Lochan Uaine were ice free, unlike three weeks ago when it was frozen solid. The waters were rippled by a cold north-west wind, a wind I felt once I left the trees for the open slopes of Meall a’Bhuachaille. The bulk of the hill blocked the full force of the wind though and it was only as I approached the summit cairn that it really hit me and I needed to zip up my jacket and don a warm hat. The temperature was just +4ºC and the wind was gusting to 32mph. That makes for a windchill factor of around -8ºC and my face certainly felt very cold. If I’d stayed long I’d have needed more clothing.

An Lochan Uaine

Meall a’Bhuachaille is a splendid viewpoint for the Northern Cairngorms, showing the great dark green sweep of Glenmore and Rothiemurchus Forests rising up to the high corries and the Cairngorm Plateau. Far below I could see the wind ruffling the surface of Loch Morlich. The mountain tops were still snowy. Up there the wind would be fiercer. I was glad I was going no higher than Meall a’Bhuachaille’s 810 metres.

Cairn Gorm & the Northern Corries from Meall a'Bhuachaille

Out over Strathspey I could see grey squalls streaking across the land; hazy masses of precipitation. One arrived just as I was leaving the summit with a quick blast of hail soon followed by wet snow. It was over in minutes but a reminder that winter still lingers. Buffeted by the wind I was happy to descend back to the trees and shelter. On the edge of the forest a walker was sitting under a big pine and heating water over a fire of pine cones in a wood-burning stove. We chatted for a while and then walked together back down into the glen. It had not been a winter day but it had not felt like a spring one either.

Squalls sweeping over Loch Morlich

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