Thursday 20 February 2014

Contrasting Conditions

Sunshine over Glenmore

Bright sunshine, sleeves rolled up, sunglasses and sun hat on. An unusual way to start a February ski tour in the Cairngorms in any year but especially this one of seemingly endless storms. But today the weather was becalmed, at least below the summits.

Wondering if I was risking sunburn on my bare arms (also very unusual at this time of year but the sun felt hot) I climbed the slopes above a crowded car park. Clouds drifted across the face of Meall a'Bhuachaille away over the dark green of Glenmore Forest. Above the summits came and went in the cloud.

The Cairngorm Weather Station

A cool southerly wind on the ridge had me donning my jacket and a warmer hat. The summit of Cairn Gorm was shrouded in cloud but it didn't look very dense. I climbed on into the thick mist. The vast expanse of views suddenly shrank to a few yards. Eventually the summit cairn and weather station hung in the air ahead of me, ghostly and pale. The weather station was plastered with thick snow and ice and crowned with a huge multi-layered snow mushroom. In many winter visits I've never seen it like this before. Above the mist blue sky tantalised. Just fifty metres more and it would be clear. Or so it seemed.

Almost sunny

Turning away from the wind and the cloud I skied down the northern side of Cairn Gorm. The snow was hard and crusty, blasted into firmness by the wind. Once out of the mist I could let the skis run and enjoy the descent. The sun shone again. It was a different world.

Walkers descending

Returning home I stopped by Loch Morlich and looked back to the mountains. A narrow band of cloud followed the contours of the summits, rising and falling with the terrain. An extra fifty metres would have made no difference.

Cairngorm Cloud Cap

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