Recently the Mountaineering Council of Scotland issued a warning about the amount of snow still lying in the Scottish hills. Whilst there is usually a little snow left in June this year there is far more than normal, the remnants of the extremely heavy snow falls of the last winter. Plateaus and ridges are mostly snow free and any patches can be easily circumvented. However many gullies, corries and steep north and east facing slopes still have much snow and some summer walking routes are still hazardous.
|Coire an t-Sneachda|
A few days ago I wandered into the Northern Cairngorms to see how much snow remained. Initially I went into Coire an t-Sneachda where there was much snow in the gullies and on the headwall. The Goat Track, an excellent steep route up the back of the corrie, was still mostly buried. I wouldn’t risk it without an ice axe at present.
|Coire Lochan 'glacier'|
Next I had a look into Coire Lochain and was astonished. The west wall of the corrie was one huge sheet of snow that ran right down into the lochan itself. Here the end of the snow fractured, calving off small icebergs that floated in the water. A couple were camped nearby, giving scale to the scene. This is a splendid camp site at any time. In these conditions it was spectacular and I envied them. Beyond the lochan the cliffs at the head of the corrie were still streaked with snow whilst broken and cracked deep drifts lay on the notoriously avalanche-prone Great Slab.
|The Cairn Lochan cliffs|
Picking out the shortest section of snow high on the west wall of the corrie I climbed the steep wet and slippery grassy slopes below it and then kicked steps up to the top. The snow was surprisingly hard and certainly a test for my trail shoes. It was only a hundred feet or so but my toes were sore by the time I’d climbed it. Continuing on to Cairn Lochan itself there were dramatic views down the cliffs to the tiny lochan far below. The gullies were still packed with snow – I estimated the top of the drifts as 10-15 feet deep – but this had peeled away from the top of the rocks. Looking across the Cairngorm Plateau I could see many big snowfields but nothing that would impede summer walkers. I didn’t cross snow once as I traversed Cairn Lochan and Stob Coire an t-Sneachda before descending down the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais.
|Snow in a gully on Cairn Lochan|