Thursday 27 June 2024

A Hot June Day In The Cairngorms

Loch Etchachan from the North Ridge of Cairn Gorm

Two weeks after I was battered by hail and snow in the Cairngorms  I had the opposite problem on my next venture onto the tops. Heat! Too much heat! And sticky humidity. Not that I’m really complaining. A dry sunny day was actually very welcome.

Too hot for socks! Those ankles haven't seen the sun a while.

Wandering into Coire an Laogh I was soon sweating heavily. My feet felt like they were exploding out of my shoes so off came my socks. My short-sleeved shirt was unbuttoned to the waist. Hard to believe just a fortnight earlier I’d been wearing boots with thick socks, four layers of clothing, two hoods, a warm hat and gloves. Today the essential equipment was sunscreen, baseball cap, dark glasses, and water.


The mountains were unrecognisable. Instead of snow and cold grey rocks the hillsides were green, the rocks warm brown, Instead of a swirling mist full of sleet and hail there was blue sky and high white clouds.

Lochan na Beinne & Meall a' Bhuachaille from the edge of Coire an Laogh

Only one feature remained from the earlier trip. The wind. It was still strong and when the sun was hidden in the clouds cool enough to have me donning a thin windshirt, which came off every time the sun reappeared as I was instantly too hot.

Bynack More

The views were extensive – two weeks earlier they’d been a few hundred metres – fading into the hazy far distance. With the fast moving clouds and the sun coming and going there was an ever-changing contrast between light and dark. The long ragged whaleback of Bynack More seemed to have a cloud permanently fixed above it as it was always dark though.

Cnap Coire na Spreidhe with Beinn a' Bhuird in the distance

Just below the summit of Cnap Coire na Spreidhe I found a sheltered spot to sit and watch the clouds and the mountains. Peaceful, restful, I could have sat there, my mind drifting, for hours.

To the south I could see tiny figures going up and down Cairn Gorm. I’d met no-one all day and decided not to join them. After the previous week at the Outdoor Trade Show with constant conversations and the busy streets of Liverpool and the crowded trains I was relishing solitude.

Ciste Mhearad

Just below Cnap Coire na Spreidhe is the shallow bowl of Ciste Mhearad, whose southern side gathers deep snow every winter. As there hadn’t been as much snow as usual this year and there’d been two weeks of hot weather in May I was surprised at how much was left. The old snow was hard and dirty, with tiny streams emerging from tunnels below it. Big scoops showed where there had been snow holes, a popular activity here.


Leaving this remnant snow I returned to the sunshine. The wind was strengthening now and carving shapes in the clouds. I descended back into the stuffy humidity, pleased with a summer’s day out.

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