Monday 18 January 2016

Craigellachie: One of the great viewpoints of the Cairngorms

View over Lochan Dubh

Craigellachie, that rugged little hill rising above Aviemore, is one of the finest viewpoints in the whole of the Cairngorms National Park. A short though steep and stony path leads through lovely birch forest onto open moorland and the summit.

With just a few hours before nightfall two of us set off through the trees on an unplanned spontaneous trip up the hill. There was a scattering of snow on the ground and ice on the paths. The air was freezing but down here it was also still and the climb kept us warm.Above ranks of icicles hanging from the crags that give the hill its name ('crag of the rocky place') showed how cold it really was.

Once we left the trees an unexpected biting wind had us zipping up jackets and donning hats and gloves. This hadn't been forecast. Across Strathspey the Cairngorms were draped in cloud, their snowy slopes fading into the pale sky. The path was steeper here and slick with ice, some of it hidden under a dusting of snow. Micro-crampons and trekking poles would have been useful but as we had neither, this not being a planned trip, we just took care and edged round the icier bits.

As we approached the summit the world opened out. A vast sweep of the rolling Monadh Liath hills rose above long wide Strathspey which vanished into the hazy west where a weak low sun shone through the clouds. To the south the Northern Cairngorms were split by the Lairig Ghru with the dark crags of Creag an Leth-choin standing out. Sgoran Dubh Mor was a white cone above the dark forests. Just below us Lochan Dubh was a sheet of snow dappled ice. A small pool near the summit was frozen enough to bear weight.

The Northern Cairngorms
Far below Aviemore stretched out beyond the trees with the hills fading away to the east and the Meall a'Bhuachaille - Creagan Gorm ridge a distinct massif rising above Glen More.

View over Aviemore
The wind made lingering on the summit for long unattractive and soon we were skittering back down the icy path to the shelter of the trees, thinking of hot drinks and food in Aviemore. It had been a quick  and fun wintry adventure.

Sgoran Dubh Mor

All photos taken January 17.

Note: January 18. A friend has pointed out that the photos look flat with no contrast on his screen. That's what it was like! Flat light with sky and snow merging. I could process the photos to increase the contrast but they would then be far from the reality at the time. 

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