Thursday 27 February 2020

Sunshine, spindrift and snow: a walk over Meall a'Bhuachaille

View over Ryvoan Pass to the cloud-capped Cairngorms

Sunshine but high winds. The forecast was tempting and off-putting at the same time. I wanted to experience the heavy snowfalls of recent days, real winter conditions in the hills. An old favourite called. Meall a'Bhuachaille. Not as high as the Cairngorm Plateau, easy to retreat from, and much of the walking in the forest.

The snow was deep in the woods but the popular track through Ryvoan Pass was beaten flat, in fact hard and icy in places - microspikes or crampons might be advisable soon. An Lochan Uaine was part-frozen, the wind driving an arrowhead of open water into the ice.

I spent some time watching the interaction of the water and the ice. Edges are always fascinating but this one I find particularly so. The same substance existing in two different forms in conjunction at the same time. A wonder of nature.

Once out of the trees the wind was fierce. The path up the lower slopes of Meall a'Bhuachaille was a boot-made trench through the snow. Across Ryvoan Pass the Cairngorm Plateau was capped by fast-moving clouds.

Higher up the full force of the wind hit me. Spindrift raced across the slopes, sometimes spiralling up into head-high blasts. The path vanished. The steps of two descending walkers who'd passed me ten minutes earlier were gone. In some places the snow drifts were knee-deep, in others the wind had scoured the snow down to a thin icy covering.

The summit appeared, floating on a sea of spindrift. I wasn't sure if I was walking or wading. The rough stone walls round the cairn provided little shelter. My anenometer gave a steady wind speed of 24mph. Gusts were much stronger. The still air temperature was -3.5C. It felt very cold. I donned a down jacket, grabbed a quick selfie with my phone, then headed down.

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