From the heat of the desert in Death Valley to November snow in the Cairngorms is an abrupt change. My first day out in the hills since returning from California was in heavy snow and a near white-out on Meall a’Bhuachaille, chosen because the forecast suggested conditions higher up would be even more challenging.
Down in Glenmore it was raining as I started out through the woods. The sky was grey and the thick clouds covered the tops. However the bright yellows and golds of the birches and willows dotted amongst the sombre dark pines gave colour and life to the forest. The rain was spattering the surface of Lochan Uaine and dripping from the trees. By the time I reached Ryvoan Bothy it was turning to sleet. I ducked inside the little shelter to adjust clothing and have a snack out of the wet.
The path up Meall a’Bhuachaille began muddy and ended almost invisible. As I climbed the sleet turned to snow that quickly built up on the hillside. Soon I was in the cloud and only bits of heather and rocks poking out of the snow stopped it being a white-out. Twice I lost the path when it vanished completely under the snow. On the summit a cold north-east wind blasted the snow against the cairn. There were no views and I didn’t linger long.
As I began the descent two figures appeared through the swirling snow. “Is it far to the top?” “Just up there”. I saw no-one else. Lower down the first trees appeared hazily in the distance. The snow was now down into the forest.
This afternoon walk confirmed that I’m home now, and that winter has begun. The desert is in the past.