Monday 23 March 2009

Welcoming the Spring

The dark days of winter are passing and the light of spring is now upon us, an event that always leaves me feeling light-hearted and restless to be in the wilds. Winter in the Scottish Highlands can be marvellous and it has been especially wonderful these last few months but even so the long nights and short days can feel confining and limiting. To welcome the spring and the lengthening of the days I went into the mountains and walked the ridge of hills from Beinn Eibhinn to Carn Dearg that lies between Loch Ericht and Loch Laggan. The morning of the equinox I was camped beside a stream below the ridge. I woke before dawn to a frost covered landscape and watched as the spring sun rose over the mountains, bringing warmth and colour. The sun shone all day and I needed no jacket, warm hat or gloves for the first time since last autumn. The hills though were still mostly snow covered and I needed my ice axe in places as I edged down narrow ridges close to sagging cornices. The gently swelling dome of the highest hill, Geal-Charn, was completely white with not a rock in sight. The snow at the summit was two feet deep. That evening I camped on the lip of a high corrie near a still frozen loch. The first day of spring had been a shining welcome to the months to come, to the increasing hours of daylight and the opportunities for long days, wild camps and light loads.

Photo info: Sun rise on the Equinox. Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS@21mm, 1/1600@F5.6, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.


  1. Beautiful sun rise. How is the Scarp performing under these conditions, are you satisfied with it thus far? I'm from Finland, and looking into getting the Scarp for extended hikes in Lapland, and would value your opinion =)

  2. Hendrik, I am very satisfied with the Scarp so far. I think it would be fine for extended hikes in Lapland. It's great advantage is that it's a four season mountain tent as it can be either an ultralight single hoop tent or a three pole snow resistant winter tent that is still very light.

  3. Have you given up the Akto Chris? I noticed on the SAIS Northern Cairngorms blog winter has returned. Might need that ice axe a while longer.

  4. I certainly haven't given up the Akto, Martin. It will always be one of my favourite tents. During any year I use at least half a dozen different tents anyway as there's always new ones to test.

    It's been snowing here all day but not settling. Higher up it will be. And there's still plenty of snow on the tops anyway. I reckon an ice axe could be necessary for several more weeks.

  5. I have to admit the Akto is one of my all time favourite tents. Just wish it was a bit taller and I might still have one.

    Do you think Challengers will need an Ice Axe in May for the Cairngorms.

  6. I guess not being very tall is a bonus with regard to the Akto!

    I think it's too early to say whether an ice axe will be needed in May. Conditions and weather during the week before the Challenge will be key if the snow hasn't gone by then.

    I've only once needed an ice axe on the Challenge and that was in 1983.