Saturday, 26 July 2014

A Night On Creag Meagaidh




Hot weather in the Highlands might seem the ideal time for wild camping. And it is, as long as you can find somewhere breezy to keep off the midges. That means a high camp and a windy forecast. These two came together a few nights ago on Creag Meagaidh, that massive plateau mountain in the Central Highlands. I’d been thinking of camping on the summit for many years. This seemed the perfect time to actually do so. Up high I hoped the temperatures wouldn’t be too high for comfortable sleep while the predicted wind should keep off the midges.
 
View back to Coire Ardair

Wanting to avoid the steep climb to the plateau in the heat of the day I didn’t set off until the late afternoon. The initial walk through the lovely regenerating birch woods of lower Coire Ardair was energy sapping due to the high humidity and high temperature. However by the time I reached the lochan at the head of the corrie I was in shadow. The cliffs making up the back wall of the corrie still held a surprising amount of snow. I hope there would be more higher up.

After sunset on Creag Meagaidh

The steepest section of the climb over I returned to sunlight and a view of big snowfields strung out along the steep north side of the mountain. One of these would be my water source. As I crossed the plateau the sun subsided into distant clouds and the far hills turned hazy and grey. The promised breeze was sweeping the slopes, leading me to don long trousers and a windproof jacket as soon as I stopped. I made camp just 50 metres below the summit cairn.

Camp with Snowfield

Late in the evening as the sky grew dark and the first stars appeared I left the tent and climbed to the summit. All around hills faded into blackness. The breeze felt chilly now. Briefly as I set the camera on the tripod and began to take photographs the wind dropped. I felt the first bites seconds later and dived for the insect repellent. Thankfully the wind soon returned. It was after midnight before I slid into my sleeping bag and went to sleep. 

Still breezy in the morning

Dawn came softly with a hazy sun struggling through low clouds far to the east. The glens were filled with mist. Above camp the sky was clear. The night had been humid and the tent was soaked with dew and condensation. I was happy to wait for the sun to strengthen and dry it. This was not a place to leave quickly.
The early morning light became hard and harsh, losing its subtlety. The sun was high and hot and hammering down. I wandered back across the plateau and then walked the long fine ridge stretching out over Stob Poite Coire Ardair to Carn Liath. The wind kept me cool but every time I dipped into shelter I could feel the power of the sun. From Carn Liath I dropped down into the mouth of Coire Ardair. In the glen the air was sultry and heavy, the heat overpowering. Even descending felt arduous and I was soon dripping with sweat. My mind though was full of the high camp, of the glorious night on Creag Meagaidh. It had been a good trip.

A vast expanse

4 comments:

  1. The problem with that kind of prose is that it'll make too many folk want to get out there, and the hills could get all busy. ;)

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  2. Great story. Thanks for sharing. love your pics!

    Cheers
    Frank

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  3. Excellent, Chris. Nice wee 'microadventure' you had there eh? ;) ;)

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  4. Looks like a great camp! I still haven't made it to Meagaidh. This must be rectified!

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