Tuesday 31 January 2017

A Real Winter's Day on Cairn Gorm

Bynack More

The snow that fell in the middle of the month (see posts for January 13 and 15) didn’t last long even high in the mountains and until a few days ago the weather had been mild. Then the temperature dropped, frost returned to the glens and snow to the tops. Will it last awhile? Maybe!

View down to Glenmore Forest and Loch Morlich
Watching the weather forecast closely it looked as though the eastern Cairngorms on the 29th were going to have the best weather – sunny and cold without really strong winds. Checking the Met Office summit forecasts (a really useful way to pinpoint the most likely tops for good conditions) I saw that Sgor Gaoith above Glen Feshie was predicted to be in cloud all day but that Cairn Gorm would be clear. Thinking about this I realised that I hadn’t been to the easily accessible but little-frequented long north ridge of Cairn Gorm for a while. That would be my destination.

Lochan na Beinne and Meall a'Bhuachaille
Climbing up to the ridge past frozen Lochan na Beinne was arduous. The fresh unconsolidated snow smoothed out the terrain, hiding holes and rocks and covering the heather. Wading through this stuff made for slow progress. I didn’t mind. The sky was blue, the snow shining, and there were lovely views over the forest to Glen More, Loch Morlich and Meall a’Bhuachaille. I was warm too as the air was still. It didn’t stay that way. On reaching the ridge I was hit by a bitterly cold wind. Time for more clothing.

View across the Cairngorm Plateau to Ben Macdui and Cairn Toul
The walk along the ridge was rather jerky as I went through sometimes knee deep drifts, over hard windblown snow, and across icy rocks. Again the landscape more than compensated for the difficulties. The east side of the ridge falls steeply into Strath Nethy and across this deep valley rose Bynack More, looking very dramatic. From the northern top of Cairn Gorm, Cnap Coire na Spreidhe, more hills came into view, a great sweep from distant Lochnagar round to Cairn Toul. To the west and north the further hills were cloud-covered, even the Monadh Liath just across Strathspey. The Eastern Cairngorms really were the place to be. 

The Cairngorm Weather Station
Two people with two dogs passed by descending the ridge. ‘Hard going in the soft snow’, they called out. I saw no-one else until I reached the summit of Cairn Gorm where a party of four arrived from the west. The weather station was iced up but not as snow-covered as it often is at this time of year.

The Moon and Venus
The sun set into thick clouds as I descended. A thin crescent moon rose. High above it Venus appeared, shining brightly. Across the pale waters of Loch Morlich and the dark of the forest the orange lights of Aviemore glowed. It has been a grand day.

Loch Morlich and Aviemore


  1. Meall a'Bhuachaille is an interesting hill, isn't it? Visible from virtually anywhere in Speyside and a good few other places as well, despite keeping close company with plenty of much higher hills.

    Last summer we bumped into a couple of young lads who'd run it from Glenmore Lodge and were just taking a breather (30 seconds, maximum) by the summit shelter before they were off and running again.

  2. Yes, it's a great hill. I climb it half a dozen times or so a year. The view is tremendous. I think the deep cleft of the Ryvoan Pass makes the difference. It means Meall a'Bhuachaille is just far enough away from the main Cairngorm massif to stand out.