Friday 25 September 2020

A Wintry Day In The Cairngorms


A week ago I wandered over the Cairngorm Plateau. The day was warm and I described the Plateau as 'benign, friendly, and welcoming'  and wrote 'hard to imagine the blizzards raging here but they will be soon'. (See this post). A week later and all has changed. The wind raged, clouds swirled, hail and snow fell. Gloves, hat, hood, waterproofs. No wishing I'd worn shorts on this walk! This felt like the start of winter.

The sky was grey, the land dark and sombre, colour drained away. The golden hills of the week before just a memory. Yet I enjoyed the walk just as much. Indeed, the contrast was wonderful. How different the same place can look when the weather changes. The hills have many moods. They are all to be experienced and revelled in.
This was not one of those days when you walk into the cloud and wander through the greyness seeing little nor one of those days when you walk through the cloud into sunshine and see the mountains floating above a sea of mist. This was a day of constant change, the wind ripping and tearing the clouds, sending them spinning and whirling round the corries and over the summits. The landscape did not feel static. It felt mysterious and mobile. Cliffs appeared and disappeared in seconds. Distant views opened up then vanished. The world shrank then expanded then shrank again.

The ever-changing light was fascinating. I saw the mountains in a new light. Features I'd never really noticed before suddenly stood out, sharp and clear. Occasional bursts of sunshine lit up patches of distant hillside. On Cairn Lochan traces of snow and frost formed a pattern of windblown white against the stones.

Away from the edge of the cliffs the wind faded away though I could still hear it roaring, coming up the corrie with such force that it must have burst into the sky above and passed over the lee slope. Every time I went near the edge or crossed a low point the wind caught me, sometimes sending me staggering sideways. Across the Plateau Ben Macdui was spattered with snow.

Then as my high level walk was nearing its end blue sky appeared above Cairn Gorm and the clouds beyond the mountain turned white. The colour and brightness was dazzling, the grey world gone. Temporarily.

As the clouds shifted the sun picked out patches of distant hillsides, illuminating shapes I'd never seen distinctly before. 

I started down debating whether to take my gloves off. A few minutes later I was shielding my face with my gloved hand as another squall blew, blasting hail at me. The brief lull was over. I kept my gloves on until I reached the car. Away to the west I could snow on Braeriach.

1 comment:

  1. I feel a bit wind blown after reading that Chris,great photos, great evocation of a changeable day out! M&Hxx