Tuesday 15 February 2022

Winter's Not Over Yet!

So far this winter has seen less snow in the hills than in many years, leading some to declare it the worst winter for snow ever or that the winter is over. No, no, no! It's much too soon to say either of these. Come May we'll know what the winter has been like but not before. Some years the greatest amount of snow is in April Some years you can go ski touring in May. 

What this winter has been is very windy. Changes in temperature have been even more rapid than usual with snow starting to melt almost as soon as it's setlled. The coming week looks like more of the same, with another big storm coming in with very high winds. There's snow forecast on the Cairngorm Plateau every day too. How long will it last this time?

With a brief window of low winds forecast two days ago I wandered into the Cairngorms to see just what conditions were like. The day was cloudy with the highest tops mostly hidden though Cairn Lochan did appear occasionally. There were big drifts of snow and scoured areas with patches of ice. The freezing level was around 800 metres and the temperature change was immediately noticeable. I went from being a little sweaty to chilly in minutes and soon stopped to don jacket, hat and gloves. The cliffs in Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain came and went hazily in the clouds, looking massive anf foreboding.

I climbed the broad ridge leading to the little 1083 metre bump called Miadan Creag an Leth-choin then wandered over to the edge of the trench of the Lairig Ghru and the dramatic view along this tremendous pass.

Cloud-shrouded summits had me returning the same way. I had no desire to navigate in the mist. A walker I met descending as I ascended said he'd been to Ben Macdui and had had just one brief view of Braeriach. He seemed to have enjoyed his day anyway.

I met few other people but I did see many farther away. On the big snow drifts on the west side of Coire an Lochain many groups were practising winter skills. High on Cairn Lochan I could see tiny figures. 

The path was obliterated by snow in places and icy in others. I almost donned crampons - Alan, the walker I talked to, was wearing them and I could see the marks of others. If it had been icier or steeper I would have done. And probably also if I hadn't had trekking poles, these keeping me upright when I slipped a little occasionally. 

The temperature change was just as noticeable on the descent and suddenly I was far too hot, needing to stop and strip off the warm layers. By the time I reached the car park rain was falling. High up this would be snow.

Maybe winter is really just beginning.

All photos taken February 13. Converted to black and white. There was little colour anyway.

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