Friday 15 December 2023

Mist & Snow in the Cairngorms

Walker descending towards the mist in Glenmore

There has been much fog this week. In fact there has been much fog this autumn. Even more than usual. Not for the first time I drove cautiously to Aviemore in the dense grey blanket and then on up the ski road to Coire Cas, only coming out of the fog as the I climbed above the forest. Fog is wonderful when you are above it.

Loch Morlich almost appears

The path below the Northern Corries was icy with refrozen show trampled hard by many feet. Only small patches of snow down here. Just once there was a glimpse of Loch Morlich as the fog below me rolled back a little. Ahead the sun was almost rising above Cairn Lochan, its light turning the cloud along the rim of the cliffs a brilliant white. It was midday.

The sun almost makes it above Cairn Lochan

Clouds rolled along the edges of the Cairngorm Plateau, occasionally tumbling over then dissolving in the corries. Where the sky was clear it was a brilliant blue. 

No sign of mist on Cairn Gorm

Across the rolling mass of fog covering Glenmore the summit of Meall a’ Bhuachaille occasionally appeared.

Meall a' Bhuachaille pops out of the mist

Once the climb up the long ridge leading to Miadan Creag an Leth-choin began there was complete snow cover, deep and soft in a few places but mostly shallow and crisp enough not to impede walking. Ahead mist brightly lit by the sun rolled along the crest of the hills. A few walkers passed me descending., Ahead a man and a dog were disappearing into the cloud.

Almost sunshine, not quite a white-out

The gentle little plateau of Miadan Creag an Leth-choin was in the cloud when I arrived, the world mysterious and closed-in, visibility limited. I left the path and tramped across the crunchy snow to the little cairn at the high point. I suppose it is a summit though it doesn’t feel like it, just a slight rise on a flat plateau.

Creag an Leth-choin

I was heading for Creag an Leth-choin, which is 30 metres lower but feels like a real mountain with its narrow rocky summit ridge. On the descent to the broad col between the two tops at the head of Lurcher’s Gully I came out of the mist. Creag an Leth-choin was still shrouded but slowly and hazily appeared as I threaded a way up through the rocks. There were cornices on the steep slopes above the Lairig Ghru pass.

The summit of Creag an Leth-choin

The summit was just above the clouds and for a short time I was in sunshine. Mountain hare tracks dotted the snow. There was a cold breeze. Hood up and icicles in my beard I was soon heading down into Lurcher’s Gully.

Skiers on the side of Lurcher's Gully

The snow in the gully was deep and soft and I envied the two skiers I watched traversing the far side. Skies or snowshoes would have been useful here. Forty years ago Creag an Leth-choin was the first hill I ever went up on skis.

After sunset

Most of this day I’d have been carrying skis though and I was soon on the icy path back to Coire Cas. Ahead the sky was turning pink. The sun had set. 

Here's a few more photos from an atmospheric winter day.

Sun-catching mist

The inversion stretching north from Glenmore

Almost out of the mist. Creag an Leth-choin on the left, a distant Meall a'Bhuachaille on the right

Cloud-capped Sgor Gaoith and Sgoran Dubh Mor

A glimpse into the Lairig Ghru


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