Saturday 29 December 2018

Christmas Walks in Strathspey and the Cairngorms

Christmas Day

Quiet weather, calm, misty, mild. A gentle Christmas with little sign of winter. The snow on the hills thawing, the ground soft and damp. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day we went for  strolls in the local woods and fields. The land was silent. Mist drifted slowly across the meadows. Rabbits scurried for cover. A flock of rooks. A wood pigeon. Little else. Nature slept, waiting.

Christmas Eve

Thin clouds streaked the sky. Thin sunshine trickled down, cool and pale. Only as the sun sank to the horizon did colours brighten and glow, the sky turning pink, the birch trees glistening gold.

As the days went by the air warmed. No frosts, no winter chill. On the 27th I went to the Cairngorms and up Creag an Leth-choin. There was no need for hat, gloves, warm jacket. A thin fleece over a base layer sufficed even in the wind. I've needed more in August.

The burns were flowing strongly and only in Coire Lochan was there much remaining snow. The land was brown and faded yellow. Mountain hares and ptarmigan in their winter whiteness stood out, easy prey for any eagles.

On the summit ridge the wind blasting out of the Lairig Ghru was strong and cold enough for more clothing but as soon as I dropped down a little it came off as I was too hot. On Creag an Leth-choin the going was rough - something I know but just how rough always fades between ascents so I'm always surprised. Deep heather, big boulders, steep ground make for slow progress. I came down in the dark looking across Glen More to the orange lights of Aviemore. There were no other lights on the hills, no-one else descending. I saw no-one all day.

Now we wait for winter. Maybe it will return at New Year? Maybe.

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