Sunday 23 December 2018

The Winter Solstice In The Cairngorms

Sunset on Cairn Gorm

The shortest day, the longest night. Midwinter. The turning of the light. Every day is longer now. A time for celebration. The sun is returning. The winter solstice is always special. And a hill is the place to be.

Slippery rocks on the ascent

The lower slopes of the Cairngorms were very treacherous to negotiate. Verglas on rocks, frozen ground and frost-slick vegetation made for slippery going. Without my trekking poles I'd have fallen more than once.


Once on the snow walking became easier, firm steps giving secure grip. Then the terrain steepened and the snow became much harder, my boots making little impression. On with the crampons, for the first time this winter, and then the always startling revelation as to the security they bring.

Cloud building over Cairn Lochan

On reaching the Cairngorm Plateau I was met by a fierce westerly wind. Clouds were surging into the sky over Cairn Lochan. I had intended to head that way, maybe even crossing the Plateau to Ben Macdui. But above Cairn Gorm just to the east the sky was clearer with patches of blue. Go that way and I'd have the wind at my back. Plans changed I started the climb. It was to prove a fortuitous decision.

Cairngorm Weather Station

The first inkling that the summit of Cairn Gorm was the place to be came as the weather station rose into view with behind it a splendid sky of streaked clouds and deep blue. The wind was bitter but I was going to linger here awhile and watch the icy world. I wandered over to the summit cairn to see the sun slowly sinking into the clouds behind Cairn Lochan.

Solstice full moon

Then I turned and looked out towards the flat lands beyond the mountains. A pale light shone through the clouds then they parted and there was the full moon rising into the solstice night.

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