|The summit of Meall a'Bhuachaille|
3rd January. Cold, windy. Clouds streaking across the sky. The ground frozen and hard and snow-streaked. The first hill walk of the year. The high Cairngorms were in cloud and I only had a few hours free so it was to an old favourite I went, Meall a’Bhuachaille above Glenmore. Good to start the year’s walking this way anyway, with a walk I love.
Glenmore Forest was calm and silent, the wind not reaching down into the trees. Families wandered back from trips to Lochan Uaine and Ryvoan Bothy, the children enjoying sliding on the icy puddles and making snowballs from the patches of snow beside the track. Soon I left the woods and felt the first chill breeze on my face. The path grew icier and I was glad of my trekking poles.
|Ryvoan Pass and Cairn Gorm|
Once the ascent really began, above Ryvoan Bothy, and the slopes steepened I had to take care as there was much ice, some of it hidden under a thin layer of snow. I skidded a few times but kept my feet as I climbed into the increasingly strong and cold wind. Across Ryvoan Pass clouds raced over Cairn Gorm.
|On Meall a'Bhuachaille|
I caught the full force of the bitter north-west wind on the last exposed walk to the summit cairn. Here I crouched in the shelter of its ragged rocks while I warmed up with a hot drink and donned some warmer gloves. Out to the west lines of clouds were streaked red and pink by the rays of the setting sun. The snowy landscape that stretched out on all sides was harsh, bleak and beautiful. There was no friendliness or warmth in the view, just a detached magnificent chilliness. To the east an almost full moon rose into the sky and a last pink wash from the sun suffused the thin clouds.
|The moon over Abernethy Forest|
Leaving the summit I soon dropped below the worst of the wind and was able to pause more often to admire the darkening forest and shining Loch Morlich below me. Back down in the forest although the temperature was dropping rapidly I felt warmer in the shelter of the trees. It had been a fine way to start the hill year.
|View west from Meall a'Bhuachaille|