Friday 12 April 2013

Strange Days of Snow & Blood: Cairngorms In Winter

Terry Abraham filming at Stag Rocks

It began with a nose bleed. After half an hour of nose pinching it was over and I forgot about it. Just one of those things. Not worth bothering about. The next day I was due to meet Terry Abraham for a trip up onto the Cairngorm Plateau for more filming for the Cairngorms in Winter. We were now at the stage of filling in bits and pieces and redoing some audio.

Terry filming on the Cairngorm Plateau

I was putting my ski touring boots on in the Coire na Ciste car park when the next nose bleed began. Suddenly thick drops of blood were staining the snow. This one was heavier than the day before but was still over in half an hour or so. Once on the hill I forgot about it. We climbed to the Cairngorm Plateau, Terry with crampons, me with climbing skins on my skis. The sky was overcast but the clouds were above the summits. There was no wind but the temperature was below freezing. However, as soon as we reached the top of the ridge a bitterly cold east wind hit us. It was certainly still winter up here. In fact there was more snow and ice than there’d been in February when I was last up here with Terry.

Terry crossing Coire Raibert

Removing the skins I skied round the curving sides of Coire Raibert to the top of the Stag Rocks that overlook the Loch Avon basin, a lovely fast traverse. Terry was soon far behind, tramping along on foot. There was no wind at Stag Rocks and I sat on a bare rock looking down into the depths of the narrow corrie far below with the great cliffs of Carn Etchachan, the Shelter Stone Crag and Hell’s Lum rising into the sky. Beyond the dark rocks of the crags the higher summits of Ben Macdui, Derry Cairngorm and Beinn Mheadhoin were hazy white domes fading into the pale sky. Loch Avon was a pure white slash between the hills, the ice covered with a blanket of snow. I watched as two tiny figures crossed the centre of the lake. 

Loch Avon

Returning across the Plateau I swapped skis for crampons for the start off the descent of the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais as there were too many boulders showing for safe skiing. Once below the rocks it was back on with the skis for a good descent down to the now empty pistes and then all the way beside the ski road to the car park. By now Terry was far behind again so I drove back up the road to collect him. It had been a successful day.

The next day was an indoor writing one. It was accompanied by another nose bleed. Again once it stopped I forgot about it. The following morning I was in the Rothiemurchus Café waiting for Terry. A friend from the past I hadn’t seen in many years turned up. I was just speaking to her when the next nose bleed started and this one was copious and long. Terry turned up and said, as he had the other day, that I should see a doctor. I ignored this advice. The nose bleed eventually stopped and off we went to Lochan Uaine and Ryvoan Pass. The frozen lochan was patterned with cracked ice and sheets of snow, contrasting with the green pines and the brown shores. We wandered through the pass to the bothy, the ground here snow free now though there was ice on the puddles.

Lochan Uaine

Another writing day saw another nose bleed. But this one, late in the evening, did not stop. Eventually I phoned for medical help. Terry had been right. There followed a rather surreal three days in which I was seen by six different doctors, had my nose cauterised three times, went to two health clinics and spent two nights in hospital. During all this I attempted to join Terry again, along with his friend Mark, one of our big Kickstarter supporters. I was wandering through a boggy forest in search of their camp when my nose, which had been cauterised once at this point, started to bleed. A hasty retreat ensued and then a rather blood-stained drive back to the nearest clinic where the doctor decided I needed hospital treatment. (I must add that my care by all the NHS staff who dealt with me was excellent and made me yet again grateful that such a wonderful service exists – so thanks to the staff at Raigmore Hospital, Aviemore and Grantown-on-Spey Medical Practices and the Scottish Ambulance Service).

After eight days of problems two days have now elapsed since the last nose bleed. I hope it’s over and I can join Terry in a few days time for some more filming. (While I’ve been dealing with this minor but annoying medical problem Terry has been out in the Cairngorms dealing with white-outs, thawing snow and avalanche conditions.) It has been a very strange time.

Terry filming at Lochan Uaine


  1. Sounds gruesome, hope you're ok Chris!

  2. Best Wishes Chris. I'm impressed with your fortitude though. I'm sure I would have curled up in bed/sleeping bag feeling sorry for myself. What did they say caused it?
    Dave Porter

  3. Hi Chris. Glad to hear you are better now! Weather looks very much on the change now,so I suppose the filming will be completed soon.

  4. Thanks everyone. The nose bleeds seem over now. The doctors didn't know the cause. They said it's a common problem.

    Still masses of snow in the hills but the filming in the hills is now just about complete. There's still some audio and interviews to do but no more stuff up high - unless Terry has thought of something!