Monday, 19 October 2015

A Frosty Autumn Night on Sgor Gaoith

After sunset

A few days ago I took advantage of the fine October weather to camp high in the Cairngorms on a glorious frosty night. 

Autumn birches
The birches glowed gold and yellow in the low evening sun as I followed the path through the woods and out on to the open hillside above Glen Feshie. The air was warm and still and I was soon damp with sweat as I climbed steadily towards the long broad ridge high above and the summit of Sgor Gaoith.

The sun sets behind Creag Meagaidh
I reached the shoulder of the mountain just as the sun was setting. The air cooled rapidly as a crescent moon hung above the fading remnants of a bright sunset. I was soon in my sleeping bag and firing up the stove for hot soup.

An occasional breeze drifting into the tent and chilling my face woke me a couple of times during the night. Through the open door I could the constellation of Orion on the horizon and high above the dense curving band of the Milky Way. 

Waiting for the first warming drink
Awake before dawn I watched the eastern horizon turn a hazy pink. Cloud filled the glens far below. Up here the ground was white with frost. The tent door crackled as thin slivers of frozen condensation slid off. My pot steamed on the stove as dampness on its sides evaporated.

A very frosty morning
Once the sun appeared the air heated up quickly, though the frost remained everywhere out of reach of the sun. From Sgor Gaoith I looked down to shaded, cold Loch Einich and west to sunny sharp peaks – Ben Nevis, Creag Meagaidh – rising above the clouds.

View down to Loch Einich
Heading down a long spur I watched the cloud below rising and falling, advancing and retreating over Loch an Eilein and Rothiemurchus Forest. It was dissipating fast when I reached the first trees and my walk ended as it had begun, admiring the autumn birches shining in the sun.

View down to Loch an Eilein


  1. Hi Chris, If you approach Sgor Gaoith across the ridge, from the direction of Carn Ban Mor, is there a decent path, or is it more a case of make your own way? Even on an OS 1:25000 it's not entirely clear.

    Just doing a bit of research for next year.

    1. Hi Dave, there's a path much of the way and it's mostly fairly clear. It's not a built path but one made by the passage of feet over the years. In clear conditions there's another path close to the edge of the drop down to Loch Einich that gives great views.

  2. I'm always interested in the footwear used for a trip like this, at this time of year Chris. If you had been camped a bit lower down in longer wet grass you would have had wet (and probably cold) feet in trail shoes simply by wandering about in camp. Do you take Sealskinz socks for trail shoes or, do you normally go for light weight boots at this time of year?

    Stunning conditions by the way.

    Dave Porter

    1. I had wet shoes anyway as the ground was boggy in places both high and low. I was wearing medium weight wool socks and my feet stayed warm while I was walking but felt a little chilly when I was standing still taking photos. In camp I was mostly in my sleeping bag. I did have some spare socks with me but didn't need to wear them. I do sometimes take SealSkinz for camp use - not for walking - and probably will on my next trip. I sometimes wear lightweight boots too - I usually have some to test - though my feet usually get just as wet. Once there's much snow on the hills I'll definitely wear lightweight boots when walking - or ski touring boots if there's enough snow for skis.

  3. Thanks for that detailed response Chris. There doesn't seem to be a magical solution to avoiding cold feet in winter camps (especially when the trail shoes and socks have got wet in the day). After 30 years of wet feet I have to admit I'm reaching for boots slightly earlier in the Autumn season and leaving them on until later in Spring than I used to!
    Dave Porter

  4. Fantastic photos. Spent the night myself up next to 'Stob Dearg' in Glencoe and have to say it was an amazing trip with the weather. Spent most of the night watching meteorites falling until it got too cold. Filmed the trip and have to say it was verging on spiritual. Have added link below if you don't mind me doing so. It is only my 5th or so attempt at trying to record and share my adventures.

  5. I'm hoping to see some meteorites tonight wildcamping in the Lakes, but its a bit overcast at present. Re waterproof socks, Anonymous/Chris, have you looked at Goretex overstocks such as Trekmates? They seem more durable than some other brands of waterproof socks I've tried.

    Great photos Chris. I really must get up there more often. There's nothing better than a frosty morning wildcamp.

  6. Rocky Goretex sox are by far & away the most durable & totally waterproof oversox money can buy IMHO, I've had 2x pairs of sealskinz & they BOTH failed within a few rubbish in my experience !